The Case for Conservative Optimism
“We should never despair. Our situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new exertions and proportion our efforts to the exigencies of the times.” – George Washington, to one of his generals, July 1777.
These words recently appeared in a Wall Street Journal article that sought to bolster the spirits of conservatives, but Washington’s sentiment should resonate with advisors of all political stripes. The kind of optimism he described is the key to finding success as an investor, as a businessperson, and in life.
In my 30-plus years as an advisor, I have seen many "crises" predicted: panic over food shortages and epidemic starvation, trade deficits, the Y2K computer bug, a collapsing real estate market, concerns about “peak oil,” growing U.S. dependence on foreign energy supplies, the collapse of the European economy and banking system, and now the fiscal cliff.
Another recent Wall Street Journal article depicted the struggles many individual investors face staying invested in stocks. Many have not returned to the market since the decline in 2008 and have suffered both emotionally and financially by missing the run-up we’ve seen since. Others who have gotten back in have agonized as they watched the market move on a daily basis, worrying they may not get out before the next big crash. For many investors, their happiness and unhappiness hangs on how the market is doing by the day or even by the hour.
Investors are struggling with the dangers we face today today, which are causing them to lose sleep, and in many cases running, if not ruining, their lives. They are the ones who most need to recall Washington’s Revolutionary War exhortation.
"We should never despair. Our situation before has been unpromising."
We no longer lose sleep over most of the crises mentioned above. Mass starvation has been averted, thanks to brilliant people who figured out better ways to grow things. (The most precious resource we have is the human mind and creative spirit, which can never be depleted.) Y2K, too, was a non-event (unless you believe that it led to the tech sector collapse – perhaps everyone spent their 2000 and 2001 technology budgets fixing their Y2K problems in 1999!).