Stock lesson I

Grass is always greener on the other side. I first heard this from a coworker and I found it describes human nature very well. Remember when we were kids, some of us felt the meals at our neighbours or relatives’ home taste better the our own home?

I made this mistake when I first started trading into stock markets a few years ago. It ususally happens like this: so I bought this stock, hope it to go up higher (it did not); on the other hand, other stocks in my watch lists went up. So what did I do? I became impatient, I swap out of my stock with the one went up. The results? Not so good (certainlly this is not the only mistake I made in past 2 years).

This year I took a different approach. I bought Symantec (SYMC) last December and I still hold some of them (the reason I sold some is another lesson I will talk in another day). So far this security/storage software giant did not disappoint me: it went up more than 20% from the price I bought. From time to time I also had the distractions I mentioned above. I had about 10 stocks in my watch list and some times I felt it’s a real good time to buy a stock because it’s cheap (relative to its intrinsic value). Panera Bread (PNRA) fell to $48 about a month ago, it traded at $60 lately. But when I examine more carefully, the percentage gain for those stocks is similar to Symantec stock I have, if we ignore the duration of time, for instance, NBR (large cap oil service) went from $56 low to $70 high, JCG (retailer new IPO) went from $25 to $32, and AGIL (small cap software) went from $5.50 to $6.50. Note the new IPO or small cap stocks usually has more risk, and we should expect more rerurn for more risk (otherwise, why all these sleepless nights before quarterly earning reports :-)

By the same token, sometimes we make the same mistake on work and personal lives. When I first started programming job (using C and C++), I wasted a lot time taking certifications on Java and some other areas in IT because I thought those are “cool”. I also thought about moving back to China because I thought life back home is much more colorful than midwest; and the development in China means more opportunities in career development. This probablly has some merits. But again we should not ignore the downside of the other side either: more competition, more stress at work, more crowded (on street and housing), and hard to drive a car :-)

I believe we should resist this “greener grass on the other side” thinking when looking for the life partner. For instance, when you look at other attractive girls when you are with your girl friend, you know what you will get from your girl friend :-(    

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