Monday, March 05, 2007

following the herd

Some time back, I talked about this phrase that really irritated me. People keep saying that you need to 'think outside the box'. It has become so cliche that actually saying it these days could be construed as the person NOT thinking outside the box.

But that really isn't the only thing people do these days that seem to be following the herd. Following the herd can sometimes be beneficial, like when you are new in town and want to find the best char kuey teow shop. Otherwise, some cliches are best left to the herd.

I had an argument with this bloke the other day at the mamak shop when he insisted that we all MUST learn Mandarin so that we can one day go to China to do business. According to this wise bloke, we MUST go to China if we want to be rich, because 'China is an emerging superpower with a potentially huge market'. I must say, I was so impressed by his astute powers of observation, I had to resist the temptation to kneel before him and kiss his toes. I settled for lighting an incense and offered a libation to him.

And because he was a little too wise for me to be considered to be in the same league as he is, I didn't really understand what he was saying about how it is only possible to make loads of money in China and not anywhere else in the world. Could it be possible that even the biggest morons could make money in that heavenly market?

But if you ignore the wisdom of these enlightened ones and think about it, while Mandarin is a very good choice of language to learn, Arabic is not given the credit it should get. Considering the fact that a huge chunk of the world's oil and gas reserves sit in the Middle East, and the Arabs are starting to shoo away white people, a golden apple is waiting to plucked from the tree.

I wouldn't blame you if you say that that theory about Arab is similarly following the herd, because in reality, money is to be made anywhere in the world IF you are good enough. A friend's father has a business venture in Papua New Guinea in all places, and I cannot pretend to know whether that is doing well, but I think it suffice to say that real money is made by people who do not think as the herd do.

And speaking of which, I was reading this article the other day of how Joseph Kennedy (father of former American president, JFK) made the chunk of his fortune. The year was 1928 and the American economy was booming. One day, he was walking in the streets and he decided to get his shoe shined. As he was getting his shoe shined, the shoe shine boy was telling him about the stock market and giving him tips on what to buy. He went home and sold off all his shares the next day. Not long later, the Great Depression hit and the rest is history. Later, he famously said, "You know it is time to sell when the shoe-shine boy tries to give you stock tips."

The other day over Chinese New Year I heard loads of people boast about how they had made lots of money in the stock market. With the little contacts that they have and a very limited knowledge in reading stock trends, these guys were boasting over how it was so easy to make money simply by relying on tips by other friends.

I would have paid a bomb to be able to see their faces last week.


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