This week, for Launa’s birthday, some dear friends invited us to stay with them in Branson, Missouri. Launa loves music, and with more theater seats than New York City, I knew we would find plenty to enjoy. Though we expected wonderful performances, what we found inspired us in ways we had not imagined. In Branson we discovered not only talent and beauty but the very foundation of what has made America great.
Branson has many treasures but I was uniquely touched by the world class violin playing of Amy Dutton. From playful children’s tunes to the challenging works of the great masters, in a seemingly effortless fashion Amy exhibited the skill and beauty of one of the world’s finest musicians. As I enjoyed her music, I considered what lay behind the masterful performance. I wondered how many long hours, aching fingers, missed childhood activities, and perhaps even the occasional frustrated mother (there is certainly one behind every great musician) combined over many years to result in that special evening. Yet when it was over this phenomenal musician likely went to her dressing room still contemplating ways to do even better. Each performance, though flawless to the crowd, would certainly leave room for improvement to the one for whom perfection would always be the goal. In a world where mediocrity is increasingly rewarded with a participation trophy, it was inspiring to witness those still dedicated to achieving greatness.
It was not freedom alone, but our relentless pursuit of excellence that made the United States the greatest country in the world. Our future strength lies in returning that American Spirit, that thirst for greatness, not only to our boardrooms, but to our classrooms and even to our playgrounds. Merely being participants will get us nowhere.
In my career I often run into people who think they can become great investors by taking the casual approach. They read a couple of books, consult a few neighbors, listen to a radio show and then proceed to risk their entire life’s savings on their new wisdom. In so doing, they fail to understand the harsh reality that Wall Street never awards participation trophies. Like anything in life, greatness in investing requires more than skimming the surface. Those who are very good at it spend their entire lives in the pursuit of learning, while continually honing their skills. Like a great musician, no matter how good you have become, the work is never done, the learning never stops. To think you can do it any other way violates the very laws of nature, as if a would-be violinist might take the stage and perform Vivaldi after watching a few YouTube videos on the subject.
Amy Dutton, her family and so many other great Branson performers reminded me this week that greatness requires discipline and absolute dedication. We can take shortcuts if we choose, but such a course will leave us holding a worthless participation trophy, or, as it relates to investing, perhaps even worse.
Hi, I'm Dan. I'm a CFP® Professional.
Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®.
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