Skip to main content
No. of Recommendations: 2
In her most recent book, Seaworthy: A Swordfish Captain Returns to the Sea, Greenlaw reflects on what is takes to be a successful commercial fisherman.

“Like Neptune’s trident, commercial fishing is a three-pronged entity. The most obvious aspect of the three is in the physical realm. The physical part was easiest for me. It’s manual labor. It’s the part I had always felt best suited for. With persistence and determination, I had been able to bull my way through any physicality.” (p. 194)

Success on the physical level would not be possible without successfully meeting the second of the three elements—the psychological/emotional challenges. Jockeying for position [for making a set] with a real strategy [for identifying where the fish would be], holding that position once gained [amongst competitors], and balancing ethics with competition could only be learned from experience. I could jockey with the best of them. (p. 195)

The third prong in this business of fishing is more obscure. It’s difficult to articulate, but I think of it as conquering “the fishing ocean” as opposed to the physical ocean. The fishing ocean is never a level playing field but is at least consistent in its unpredictability. Sure, I can calculate drift and find thermoclines. I can place gear in water that birds seem to like and that color and temperature indicate fish will, too. But the fishing ocean is less explicit. It can be, in its most profound moments, esoteric to the point of being devious. I suspect that success on this level, however vague, would be considered having “business sense” or some innate ability. There is no Fishing Made Easy course that can teach this part. Either you have it or you don’t. (pp. 195-6)

I suspect that if you are someone whom the market gods have favored with some investing talent and investing success that you will agree with her. If you aren’t, then you won’t, and you will probably argue that this bond-investing stuff can be taught (as Locicious does argue), but you will never be able to explain why so few achieve notable success or why most people lack the passion for the game itself that characterizes the best fishermen, the best rock climbers, and the best investors.

Where did that passion, and at least some of that success, come from if not from being born with it and then working hard to develop that talent? So the question, always, isn't solely a matter of Nature versus Nurture. But training alone, which is the current hope held out to the investing public, isn't enough by itself and most people would be better off if they didn't chase a will-o-the-wisp they won't ever capture.

The physical aspect of bond-investing is obvious. It's the hours and hours of manual labor of grinding through the offering-lists, trying to find out where prices are and where the risks might be. There's a bit of math involved, but it's rather basic stuff.

The emotional/psychological aspects of bond-investing are no different than any other endeavor in which decisions have to be made under conditions of uncertainty. How you manage your Fears, Greeds, Hopes, and Despairs determines your survival and success.

The third aspect of the bond-game, a feeling for the game itself as a game, is the thing --as she argues -- that you either have, or you don't. It cannot be taught, and without it notable success cannot be achieved. Sheer "book learning" just isn't going to cut it.

Print the post  


What was Your Dumbest Investment?
Share it with us -- and learn from others' stories of flubs.
When Life Gives You Lemons
We all have had hardships and made poor decisions. The important thing is how we respond and grow. Read the story of a Fool who started from nothing, and looks to gain everything.
Contact Us
Contact Customer Service and other Fool departments here.
Work for Fools?
Winner of the Washingtonian great places to work, and Glassdoor #1 Company to Work For 2015! Have access to all of TMF's online and email products for FREE, and be paid for your contributions to TMF! Click the link and start your Fool career.