We Still Have a Lot to Celebrate

 | Nov 23, 2011 | 9:15 AM EST
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It is that most magical time of year again. Thanksgiving is fast upon us once again, and as always, I look forward to what I consider to be the absolute best holiday of the year.

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday from my point of view. There will be massive amounts of food, rivers of good wine, football all day, and I do not have to buy a present for anyone. I love to cook, and I will start the day before, and all Thanksgiving recipes start with "open wine and pour into cook," so I can bang around the kitchen the night before and the morning of the big day, and no one will complain about the mess (much).

We tend to have a crowd on this holiday, so family and friends will be in and out all day, and somehow on Friday we will wake up to find that we have more wine than we started with and that I have again overcooked and we can feed a small nation on leftovers. I absolutely love Thanksgiving.

Without being overly sappy or sentimental, we do have to take some time before the orgy of food, football and fermented fruit to remember the meaning of the day.

There is much to be thankful for, even in difficult times like we have experienced the past few years. For those of us in and around the financial markets, it has been a frustrating time to say the least. Every day it seems there is some tidbit of news out of Europe or China that blows our trading strategy to pieces in the blink of an eye. High-frequency trading and levered exchange-traded funds have changed the nature of the game, and strategies that had worked for years flounder badly in the current market. It has been difficult. If you are among those who have studied, fought, worried, learned, adapted and succeeded in the past few years, you should be grateful indeed.

What if you are not one of those? A lot of market warriors have left the arena on their shields in the past three or four years. Quant traders have seen their strategies blow up on a pretty steady basis. Many of the once-profitable arbitrage opportunities have simply evaporated, taking traders' livelihoods and net worth with them.

I have been there. Before I fully embraced "safe and cheap" as the core of my investing approach, my forays into commodities, index trading and even real estate left me sitting on my backside, counting my bruises. Away from the market, I have taken some pretty hard shots in the back pocket this year as well. It is not a lot of fun, but there are still reasons to be grateful.

We live in a world where failure is not permanent. We can get up and move on to the next venture. That is not possible everywhere in the world, and those who have the opportunity to fail, learn and move forward should be grateful for that chance.

The current landscape of poor politics, bad monetary policy and too-big-to-fail can be maddening. I am thankful that somewhere out there in this country, there are two or three kids with an iPhone, a computer keyboard and a bunch of silicon chips, tinkering around to see how they can make it better. Some young engineer is staring at a solar panel, thinking, "I can make that smaller and more efficient." A group of students is thinking about power storage and thinking, "You know, I bet this will work." Someone is driving by an empty storefront and thinking that in this day of e-readers, a specialty bookstore would do well in that spot. I am grateful for all of them and for the innovation and entrepreneurship they represent. They are the reason I believe that in spite of the politicians, bureaucrats and big bankers, our future is still bright.

No matter how much you are up or down in the markets this year, there is still a lot to celebrate around the table this year. The place and time in which we live is amazing, no matter how well or poorly your last trade worked. There are books from which to learn and get better at your craft and books to entertain and relax you at the end of the day. There is music for quiet contemplation and music to inspire and elevate you. There is champagne to celebrate the wins, and cheap scotch so you can join Mr. Cramer to drink under the table on the rotten ones. On the best and worst days alike, we have our spouses, partners, children, and friends around us, no matter whether we are enduring or enjoying life at that moment.

Sometime those of us in the financial markets take it all too seriously and think our lives are either good or bad based on our P&L. This time of year, we should set that aside and look around the table and all the things and people that are the true measurements of our success in life and be thankful. There is a lot wrong with the world we live today, but there is a lot right as well. Be grateful for all that is right.

One last thing I'll mention is that I am very thankful for all the readers and fellow contributors at RealMoney who make this such an enjoyable endeavor.

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