Everything in life should be made as simple as possible - and no more

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
May 1, 2005

After 20 years of stumbling around the pages of the Wall Street Journal, reading Peter Lynch books and listening to the pundit-of-the-day on television, I've finally found the fountain of investment wisdom: wee-ball practice.

If you're not familiar with wee-ball, imagine kindergarten recess - but without all the organization and discipline. A kid is a great wee-ball player if he gets through practice without crying.

I told you this was like investing.

Investing is more complicated than wee-ball, but only because there is some algebra involved in investing. Other than the math, there are a lot of similarities between the two. In both activities, many participants have a tendency to move around a lot more than they need to. Some players get depressed, sit and play in the dirt. Other kids, not knowing what to do, just mimic the person next to them.

The part of the game wee-ball players look most forward to is when everyone gets together afterwards for the drinks ' just like on Wall Street.

At practice last week, one parent spent 15 minutes trying to teach his four-year-old son about footwork, leverage and balance. All the kid wanted was for his dad to race him to the third 'pillow.' (Sorry, son; we'll race this week. But they're called bases, not pillows.)

Other parents were worried about batting stances, throwing motions and jersey colors. We forget that wee-ball just isn't that complicated. Even if your goal is to develop your four-year-old into the world's all-time best wee-ball player, a parent would have a better chance by encouraging his child to be very physically active, play catch and have fun. It's not that complicated.

* * * * *

In the late 1990s, a group of astrologers held an investment conference in New York. I imagined a few dozen middle-age Star Trek fanatics telling each other that the key to a long, wealthy retirement was to 'live long and prosper.' Instead, the meeting drew more than 500 people, many of them with suits, ties, briefcases and Barron's subscriptions. These were seemingly serious investors ' seemingly. The only clue that they had been beamed off the galactic reservation was that they were picking stocks and committing real dollars on the basis of star and planet alignment. Move over Warren Buffet; make room for Mr. Spock.

* * * * *

Years ago at an art show, I quietly admired the depth and feeling in an oil painting of a farm meadow and adjacent river. The artist had captured not only a visual impression of where I grew up; he also understood and communicated the emotions that permeated my childhood. Using colors and brushes he was able to show the juxtaposition and conflict between the beauty and the destructive forces of nature that simultaneously existed in this one place. Standing next to me also enjoying the painting was a young man, probably in his teens. He was a tad disheveled and looked more than a bit out of place at the show. I glanced at him and said, 'This artist must have lived an amazing and full life to be able to capture such human emotion without even putting a human being in the picture. I wonder what inspires this guy?' The kid next to me''the artist, as it turned out''replied, 'I don't know; I just paint stuff I think I can sell.'

Sometimes things are much simpler than we think they are.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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