Just One Thing
“…a well-researched work goes against the grain”
—Gulf Business, January 2006
In Just One Thing, author John Mauldin offers an incomparable shortcut to prosperity: the personal guidance of an outstanding group of recognized financial experts, each offering the single most useful piece of advice garnered from years of investing. Conversational rather than technical in tone, each contributor’s personal principle for success is illustrated with entertaining and illuminating real-life stories.
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“The first step toward making money is not losing it.”
Just One Thing
I got 11 of my friends to give me that one idea, that one bit of hard-learned wisdom, added my own chapter and put it all in my book called Just One Thing.
One of the great things about working in my world is that I get to run around with some very smart, very successful people, who also happen to be very good investors. I get to pick their brains and learn from the best. If you could get a chance to sit down with Richard Russell or a Gartman or Kessler or Gilder (or Shilling or Arnott or the rest of the writers featured in my book) most of us would leap at the chance. What is one idea worth, if it helps us become better investors, or saves us from the pain of losses?
The authors of these chapters have all learned a lot along the way. "Why not," I thought, "ask them to share the wealth of their wisdom?" And so I did. The rules of the book were pretty few. I told them to write me a chapter on a subject in which they had expertise and thought was one of the special insights they had picked up in their time. I gave them no minimum or maximum word length—just make the chapter long enough to cover the topic. As you will notice, some chapters are quite short and others are feature length.
"Make it readable and understandable to the average person," I told them. "Nothing is more frustrating to me than a great idea you can't understand. I want something you are passionate about. Make it something that will give my readers an 'aha' moment. It will probably be something you have worked on for a long time. Maybe you already have the basic outline or material done. Just share it with us."
Now, I could guess what a few of them would write about before I asked. Mark Finn was going to write about the problems of past performance. He is absolutely brilliant on that (and a lot of other things), which is why he gets big institutions to keep coming back for his consulting. And you knew that Dennis Gartman would write on his Rules of Trading. Gartman has forgotten more about trading than most of us will ever know. Which, he would tell you, is why he writes his rules down so he can remember them and follow them! You break these rules, you are gonna lose. If you want to trade, you need these near your desk.
But a lot of the others had me curious as to what they would contribute. Many of them could have done several chapters or even books (and most of them have!). But to cut it down to Just One Thing? That was hard.
OK, Andy Kessler gives us two. But when you turn $100 million into a cool $1 billion, and get out at the top, two ideas are a good thing. Kessler shows how investing in what everyone already knows is how to get average returns (or less!). Better, he says, to invest like you are walking in a fog. This chapter is so compelling and well written, I guarantee you cannot put it down once you have started.
Gary Shilling shows us the value of one really good idea. It made his career. George Gilder tells us that in fact inside information is the best information. I leave it to you to read why. Bill Bonner tells us that we need to first start with a principle if we want to succeed and then shows us his idea as to what that is. Mike Masterson looks at the same thought, but comes away with an entirely different take.
Want to average almost 3% a year better on your funds? Rob Arnott writes compellingly that the way index (and many mutual) funds are currently constructed is inefficient and offers a new way to invest. This powerful analysis could be worth a lot to you. My side prediction? The revolutionary new indexing method that Arnott lays out will be the dominant index investing style within ten years. Arnott will go from running almost $10 billion today to several hundred billion in a few years and within ten will eclipse the large index funds like the Vanguard S&P 500. A bold reckless prediction? Not at all when you understand what Rob has done. Rob has found a way to put fundamental value into index investing. It is worth an extra 3% a year. Now THAT is a chapter you will want to read.
James Montier gives us a very thorough overview of the latest research on the human foibles in investing. He is an expert on the psychology of investing, having literally written the book. In fact, his book is one of the textbooks used to teach the subject. I got him to give us a very easy to read summary. This is one you will want to read and re-read and come back to often.
Richard Russell, who has been writing The Dow Theory Letter since 1958 and is the dean of economic writers, gives us his thoughts on time, hope and the power of compounding. Anytime Richard talks, we should listen.
My good friend Ed Easterling shows us that risk is not a knob. "The first step toward making money is not losing it," he writes, and shows us how to avoid unnecessary risk while making it our friend when we do encounter it. Isn't that something we all want to do? Ed shows us how.
And finally, I weigh in with a few thoughts on the power of change in our future. The pace of change is accelerating, and we not only need to know what is changing but how to take advantage of it. The best investments of the next 20 years will be those that are a part of the process of change. I call my chapter "The Millennium Wave." I have been working and thinking on this topic more than any other for the last ten years.
I am proud of this book and the work my friends have done to bring you their one best idea. I believe you will find many nuggets you can use in your own life and investing. As to the order of the chapters, it was just too much to decide who should be first and then second and so on. Each chapter is a "lead" chapter. So I let the way they were organized in my inbox be the prime factor. So, start at the beginning or in the middle or the end, but read them all.
And Just One More Thing. There are a lot of great ideas in the few hundred pages of this book. So as you read, think about how you will put the principles, tips and ideas to use in your personal life. And that will make this book be a very good thing.
“Make it readable and understandable to the average person.”
Editor, Just One Thing