- Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
The trick to successful stock investing is to know something others don't and use it to your advantage. It's truly that simple (but that doesn't mean it's easy).
Our headquarters in Woodside, California, overlooks the majestic Half Moon Bay, where nature is all around us. No concrete jungles and sprawling heaps of steel and glass, but tall, olden foliage and breathtaking views.
- Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.
Thus, we make our study of free markets each day within the context of nature. And here we can glimpse a special connection. There is no value more natural, more inherent to basic life, than freedom. From an observance of nature comes a deep belief in freedom, and from that flows a true conviction in capitalism and free markets.
But we are not the first to observe such a connection. As the United States continued its development from a fledgling nation to a one day world leader in the 19th century, as the metropolises were built up and the industrial revolution began transforming the world, a few strong American voices emerged with a message of Self Reliance, and its value.
- What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the seminal American thinkers (he would abhor it if we called him a philosopher), and laid much of the foundation for how we continue to define ourselves. Originally a church pastor, his wife of only two years died before he was thirty years of age. Emerson was a stoic, stubborn man, and quickly his views diverged with the Church's dogma. He vacated society and the church, pursuing a life of solitude in nature—a life of his own accord and volition—where he could study and encounter his own path.
- A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
- To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius.
Classically educated, Emerson wrote the majority of his most important works by age 33. He observed that all the world's geniuses were rugged individualists, men and women who bore not a shred of conformity in them. Shakespeare, Galileo, Da Vinci, Franklin…they all reveled in unreserved individuality. There were not afraid to explore, to be wrong at times, and to give voice to what lay deeply within them.
Emerson was most concerned with the penchant of Americans to try to assimilate the cultures and sensibilities of Europe rather than develop a new and unique way of living. He urged a doctrine of self support, where a person does not look to another for confirmation or acceptance—he looks inward to find the right path.
- A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this.
- The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. Act singly, and what you have already done singly will justify you now. Greatness appeals to the future.
After all, what master could have bestowed Socrates with his greatest insights? None. Before Socrates a Socratic doctrine did not exist. His genius could only be achieved through the individual journey and self trust.
To know something the crowd does not, to fathom things others find unfathomable, we must be skeptics and reliant only upon ourselves. We cannot take the consensus view as fact—we must corroborate it or falsify it for ourselves. There can be no unique insight in conformity, and no success in investing among the common denominator.
- Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.
This is the way of freedom, the way of capitalism, how civilization moves itself forward, and the way of successful investing. Emerson was no man of finance, but his ideals hold firm the groundwork for much of what we do as participants in a free society and as investors today.
Emerson's works are free to all in the public domain. Visit the link below for more, or find him in any bookstore.
- When private men shall act with original views, the lustre will be transferred from the actions of kings to those of gentlemen.
Have a great weekend.
All quotes are sourced from Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay, Self Reliance.
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*The content contained in this article represents only the opinions and viewpoints of the Fisher Investments editorial staff.