One question posed to me many times in my life – – and it’s a question I’ve silently asked of myself – – is: “Why are you a bear?” Yesterday, after years of struggling with how to answer this question honestly, I hit upon the truth, and it was a relief to finally undo this Gordian rubric. So here’s the answer: I’m not.
Let me back up a bit and explain my point of view.
Nature versus nurture is a dichotomy which has been pondered for thousands of years. Do we enter this world pre-programmed, or are we blank slates, and our surroundings and the events in our lives write upon that slate and thus form our story?
My intuition has always been the former. Certainly, our environment and circumstances – – and the times in which we live – – shape and guide our ultimate destiny. On the whole, however, I believe a newborn baby already has their personality, mental construct, and talents pre-planted and ready to blossom as the years of his or her life go by.
Thus, I do not think we know ourselves. Instead, we discover ourselves slowly, and only as circumstances permit. Our nature is not consciously understood. It is revealed.
Take the trait of generosity, for example. Obviously, no one is going to look at a newborn and decide how stingy or generous the little chap is going to be. In a person’s adult life, however, that characteristic will reveal itself. It’s more obvious to judge generosity when looking at a very wealthy person, of course, but all people have the opportunity to be selfish or munificent in plenty of ways besides large cash donations, such as with their food, their time, their emotional energy, and so forth.
For my own self, after I made my first meaningful amount of extra money when I sold Prophet, I stumbled upon the fact that I was actually of a generous disposition. Let me hasten to add here this is not an attempt to toot my own horn. I do not congratulate myself for my generous feelings. Sure, acts of generosity are a conscious choice, but I honestly think I was just made that way, and I really don’t have much say-so in the matter.
This occurred to me as I was waking up this morning, because I was thinking of someone who is helping me with an exciting new project, and he has asked for very little with respect to payment. I already made a mental note to myself that, should the project succeed, I want to send him lots of extra cash as a thank-you. It isn’t expected. It isn’t required. It’s just what I want to do, because I think it’s fair. And a feeling of gratitude came over me because whatever gears in my brain decide whether or not to horde or to share, they are tilted toward sharing.
Let’s just say that I’m appreciative to my creator that I’m not a total choad.
I’ve written about this kind of thing before. Many years ago, I did a piece about heroism, suggesting that heroes are born and not made. This is an example of how I do not know myself, and by simple statistical fact, the vast majority of you reading this don’t know this about yourselves, either.
If a child wandered into a street, or across railway tracks, would you put your life in danger to try to save them? If someone was being attacked by a wild animal, would you jump into the fray? If you heard screaming from inside a burning building, and no one else was around, would you rush into the searing, painful heat to try to rescue a stranger?
I don’t think you know. I certainly don’t. Maybe we both would. Maybe we wouldn’t. We can’t know until we have to make that split-second decision, and then our programming is revealed to us, and that revelation of our nature is now knowledge to us for the rest of our lives. Surely there are people out there who are burdened by the surprising knowledge that they are, in fact, cowards.
Perhaps I’m a coward. I could certainly see myself being afraid. Or perhaps, in emergency circumstances, I am actually a hero. I don’t know, because I’ve never had the opportunity to find out. It’s a part of my internal programming whose code is unknown to me, and because I have a sheltered life, I imagine I will die without knowing if I have balls or not.
Which brings me back to the more gentile subject or bull versus bear.
All these years, I agonized over why I couldn’t Be Like Everyone Else and just buy stocks and be done with it. Did I have some innate hatred of capitalism? Of the success of others? Of Americuh?
Yet my recent experience with crypto flies in the face of all of this. I have been nothing but long. I’ve never shorted anything crypto-related, nor will I. Of all things, I am……….a permabull.
But how could this be? These are financial instruments too, and I’m the first to agree that, compared to the likes of Apple and Amazon, these “coins” are jokes, since, unlike the aforementioned companies, they don’t have a worldwide tidal wave of sales, profits, and growth. So what’s the deal, Tim? How can you be a permabear and a permabull, too?
Because, I realized, I’m neither. I simply want the application of my skills and knowledge to work. As Spock said in the Court Martial episode:
SHAW: Please instruct the witness not to speculate.
SPOCK: Lieutenant, I am half Vulcanian. Vulcanians do not speculate. I speak from pure logic. If I let go of a hammer on a planet that has a positive gravity, I need not see it fall to know that it has in fact fallen.
SHAW: I do not see what that has to……..
SPOCK: Gentlemen, human beings have characteristics just as inanimate objects do. It is impossible for Captain Kirk to act out of panic or malice. It is not his nature.
My “letting go of a hammer” is what I do every day. My expectation is that the hammer will fall in a certain direction, at a certain rate, and will impact the ground at a certain time.
My frustration with stocks has been, over the past dozen years, that I drop the hammer, and it floats, bobbles, weaves, springs higher, and does a somersault. I keep asserting that it should hit the ground, but it rarely does.
This outcome isn’t natural. It isn’t right. And it destroys the efficacy of my applied talent. Thus my “perma-bearishness” is simply a repeated assertion that what’s happening shouldn’t be happening, and that it isn’t proper.
It isn’t because I believe the hammer has a moral imperative to fall. I simply believe that it should fall, because that’s what it is supposed to do, based on all logic and all my skills and knowledge. So I’ve never been a bear at all. Instead, I have been a voice crying in the wilderness. If stocks had been falling for the past 13 years, against all good charting logic, I would have been just a vocal a “perma-bull“.
With crypto, as I keep saying, it just plain works. The hammer behaves As God Intended, and the more it behaves properly, the more faith I have that I’m in the right place.
Perhaps the day will come, against all the wishes of the Fed, that stocks return to their organic nature as well. Until such time, however, I’m going to continue to focus my cash and energy on what is being successful, knowing that I actually am not mentally shackled to a perma-bear state of mine, which for all these years I thought was my principal handicap.
I simply wasn’t made that way.