Are you Waiting for Godot when it comes to investing?

“Have you seen that play called ‘Waiting for Godot’?” asked the wealthy man living in the sprawling bungalow next to my house. He was known to speak sparingly and in a cryptic manner when he did. We had just met him at a common friend’s wedding reception.

“Have heard and read about it, but never got myself to watch the play,” I remarked.

“It could be called either funny or absurd or nonsensical on the one hand; or, it could be called philosophical, existential or even having a spiritual message on the other hand. I get reminded of it a lot when I see the constant chatter and commentary on the markets and economy in today’s media.”

The wealthy man looked up Wikipedia on his smart phone for Waiting for Godot and narrated to us what he found:

“Waiting for Godot follows two days in the lives of a pair of men who divert themselves while they wait expectantly and in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. They claim him as an acquaintance but in fact hardly know him, admitting that they would not recognize him were they to see him. To occupy themselves, they eat, sleep, converse, argue, sing, play games, exercise, swap hats, and contemplate suicide – anything ‘to hold the terrible silence at bay’.”

The wealthy man chuckled when he read that. He said “If you see or read the play, your first reaction would be ‘what kind of absurd play is this?’ It is about two men Vladimir and Estragon waiting for someone called Godot. There is a sequence of events that happen over the two days where we are shown three characters –  Pozzo and his slave dog Lucky who keep forgetting, and an unnamed boy who keeps getting messages from Godot. During the two days, many times the two men decide to leave, but every time say that they can’t as they are waiting for Godot. At the end of the two days, eventually no one knows who Godot is, and he never appears!”

Elaborating further, he continued, “I am just an audience, not an expert on the play, but I have found it funny, boring or profound based on my mood. People who study the play have called it everything from absurdist, meaningless, humorous, philosophical to a ‘representation of repetitiveness of life itself’ in which the two men represent mankind and Godot is God.” Obviously it looked like depending on how you saw it, there were multiple interpretations of it.

I asked him, “So why do you see parallels between the play and life in the markets?”

He said, “Indeed. most people seem to be like Vladimir or Estrogen, waiting for a Godot or a set of Godot’s who never come. And then there are the people who complicate things more than required – seeing patterns where none exist.”

“So what did the author actually mean when he wrote this play?” I asked eagerly, not quite sure I was able to comprehend it completely.

He smiled and replied, “You know, Beckett who wrote this play was always a bit cryptic and non-committal when asked this question. Beckett clearly realised that one of the reasons for the play’s success came down to the fact that it was open to a variety of readings and interpretations, and that this was not necessarily a bad thing. Beckett was actually surprised when people started analysing it, and had once remarked in honesty, ‘Why people have to complicate a thing so simple I can’t make out.’ Not very different from what we see around us in the markets, I guess – the complications, the analysis and interpretations, the lack of simplicity, the various characters, and the endless waiting for Godot.”

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The psychology of happiness: Why money has little to do with it

It is unusual for a large global investment bank to present research on the psychology of happiness as part of their Global Equity Research. But that is exactly what I found in this attached document from Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein.

If you are looking for investment related advice, read no further. Also, if you invest in the hope of being financially well-off – so that you will be happy one day – you perhaps will learn from a reading of this piece of rational financial philosophy. Because according to them (and well – no surprise perhaps for a lot of Indians or followers of Eastern Life Philosophy), Money is not the source of happiness – beyond the point of lifting you out of poverty and giving you the basic means of a decent life.

MoneyHappinessAnd the source of happiness (or as they say – the contributors of happiness) revolve around three factors. First – your genetic make-up which you inherit from your parents or family is a 50% contributor to your happiness. Some people are just genetically pre-disposed to being happier than others. Second – your life circumstances – things like demographics, marital status, income, health, religious affiliations – are only a 10% contributor to your happiness. And Thirdly – the remaining 40% is determined by intentional activities that you do to increase your happiness by focusing on your happiness one day at a time.  These activities include 3 types: behavioural i.e. habits like exercising; cognitive i.e. mind-related like consciously focusing on living in the moment; and volitional i.e. discretionary activities like devoting yourself to serving a cause.  Basically – you make 40% your own happiness by doing activities that increase them!

So there it is – the writing on the wall – from people who advise other people on how to make more money – telling their clients that, after all, it won’t make them happy. Happy Reading!

Happiness

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