This saying recently inspired me when uttered by a person near and dear to my heart. And no, it was not somebody famous, and more emphatically no!, these thoughts are not to be construed to be political in any way. That I feel I must stress this point is, to me, a sign of our times — the era which I have come to call that of the “politization” of everything. I indeed fear (even resent) that we appear to live in an age when just about everything ends up being about politics. I also see this era as one of extreme polarization, just about everywhere in the world.
But this is as far as I will go into politics this Sunday morning. I have been absent from Medium for over a year now, spending instead much of my writing time on LinkedIn. My writings are mostly about the markets, my top professional passion. This is also what has over my adult life dominated my reading. I love to read, but the vast majority of the books and publications with which I occupy myself have at least indirectly something to do with the economy and markets.
There are few exceptions, but the indirect link is definitely there, as with much reading I have done over the past year in the areas of virology and epidemiology. So I hope any and all readers here will indulge my largely ignorant musings in fields on which I really know nothing. While my investing is more ‘humanities-based’ than what I would perceive to be the average, much of what I have studied, formally and not, has been of a rather analytical and quantitative nature.
I never took a course in philosophy or read any single book on the subject. In recent years, and in a process which has intensified exponentially in recent weeks, philosophical issues have become more dominant in my conversations and thinking. I am increasingly interested in the humanities, particularly sociology. Psychology has long been a fascinating field to me, although I have done very little reading even in this field, but because markets, in my view, are very dependent on psychological issues, I have tried to at least have some understanding of the psychology of investing.
I often write that one can (and should) learn something new each and every day, and that one can learn something from just about anybody. I thoroughly enjoy the many daily learning experiences, and I have increasingly fascinating conversations with a growing number of people, both off and online. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be learning much from individuals who have done a lot more reading on topics such as philosophy.
A similar learning opportunity has come from observing people who have learned to operate extremely successfully in the financial markets without having any kind of formal education in the field. Indeed, some of the most successful investors I personally know are not people who studied finance, but individuals with either no college degree or rather a formal education in one or more of the humanities.
Perhaps I have been unusually fortunate to embrace a successful life philosophy while not formally knowing anything about the field, but in a learning process centered on philosophical discussions with people who do know what they are talking about when it comes to that discipline.
Thus, those self-taught market practitioners with whom I have had the fortune to cross paths have, at least tangentially, contributed to an open-mindedness in me to embark on the path of becoming more a layperson philosopher. I am excited about a future rife with learning in new fields.
Some of those key lessons will undoubtedly come from readings in disciplines completely new to me. Others — and possibly the most enlightening ones — seem likely to continue to come from long conversations with more formal experts in such fields new to me.
But back to the title of this note. One of my key learning experiences in the last few weeks was the full truth to me behind the phrase “it takes a village.” Again, a discipline in which I have done no reading, but my understanding now is that humans, through the evolution of the communities in which we predominantly live, have tended to stray away from the natural setting in which our closest animal species still inhabit.
Chimpanzees, as far as I understand, live and learn in a way which resembles my understanding of how early humans did. In relatively small communities, everyone knows each other, and the adults help one another to raise the young. It really takes a village to raise a child. I am more than ever convinced that no single approach can succeed in what is (to me) the toughest job I have come across: raising children. Every individual is indeed unique and quite different from all others. I am convinced that a single parenting approach, even when applied consistently to identical twins, may yield completely different results in each of the genetically-identical siblings.
The whole issue of nature versus nurture, where I have heard solid arguments espousing both extremes — that nature is overwhelmingly important vs. that it is really all about the upbringing. I must do a lot more thinking, let alone reading, on the subject, but I currently believe nature and nurture are both extremely important, and one really no more than the other. In the end, it all depends on the individual in question, in my view.
Be all that as it may, I have come to believe that the more adults involved in a child’s upbringing, the better, everything else being equal. It does take a village to raise a child. And that is, as I understand, the way our closest relatives still do it. In the evolution of our communities, ever more of us now live in urban areas much, much larger than our original villages. At the extreme, in megacities, it is not uncommon for individuals to find themselves more isolated than ever.
A concept of community, it increasingly seems to me, is crucially important. Even in large metropolitan areas, I believe we must strive to develop more of a sense of community living, a sort of ‘urban village’, where our entire smaller community helps us in the key task of raising our young. I intend to have this be to me one of the key indirect lessons from this last pandemic-dominated year. There is always a silver lining!