Stanley Bing

The best advice I never took

Buy high, sell low, that's me. I'd like to change the pattern, but I don't know how.

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(Fortune Magazine) -- One of the great tragedies of life is that when we really need advice, we're unlikely to listen to it. When we are young and clueless, people give us the benefit of their wisdom, and we sneeze at it. Later, when we finally see that what we do not know exceeds that which we do, we're already too calcified in our opinions to heed the answers that are blowing in the wind. Thus we go our own way, sometimes staying on the right road, sometimes toddling off merrily into the ditch.

Oh, if only we had listened to the many smart things that have been offered to us over the years! Or maybe not. Let's look at the record.

Eat your vegetables. I never took this advice until recently, and now it's almost too late. It turns out that vegetables are not all that bad. They're tasty, and good for you too! I find them best enjoyed after two jumbo martinis. They are delicious raw and dipped in bleu cheese, or immersed in flavored bread crumbs and deep-fried in olive oil.

Study your math, you'll need it later on. Boy, did I think this one was a honker! Now look at me. I don't know a differential from a derivative! Don't think that doesn't come up and tweeze my winkle when we're doing numbers at the end of each quarter. The Comptroller looks at me holding that spreadsheet upside down and just rolls his eyeballs skyward. I can't even tell you at what angle, because I never did well in trig.

Don't get so serious

Don't get so serious about that girl. This one hit me in my teens. I didn't listen. Debbie broke my ticker, both ventricles. This made me bitter. Later on I used that bitterness to propel myself into a business career. Had I not become such a hard-hearted S.O.B. due to this emotional reversal early in life, I might have become a farmer or a traveling mummer, as I believe God intended for me. Now I'm here for the duration, with limited returns, depending on when you talk with me. Today is not so good. I blame Debbie.

Don't buy that car! My whole life, I've gotten the wrong car because I listened to what people told me and did the exact opposite.

In my 20s, I purchased a well-worn MGB convertible. It was about the size of a St. Bernard and came with a roll bar and a cloth top. "Don't get it!" my mother said. She was right. The first day I owned it, the choke came off in my hand as I pulled it out. The following week it would no longer drive in reverse. All told, I was able to drive it only three times between fix-ups. I sold it to some other doofus for chump change.

More recently, I did not listen to the advice of those who told me not to get a big gas guzzler that would give me less than ten miles per gallon. I bought it anyhow. When the cost of weekly gasoline approached $150, I sold it to some other doofus for chump change.

Commingling of equals

Don't believe anything anybody tells you during a merger. Wise men and women have told me this time and time again. The news comes that we'll be accomplishing some kind of wacky "commingling of equals," and I'm excited about all the wonderful value creation that's going to go on ... and then these nattering nabobs of negativism start advising me that all my friends, relatives, and pets are going to be dumped in the new world order. "Nonsense!" say I. "The senior managements of both entities promise this is going to be a boon for us all!" About six minutes later, everybody I know is liquefied and fed to the worms.

Don't take that ARM. Okay, people said I shouldn't, but they threw in a toaster.

Buy low and sell high. This is a genuine stumper for me, and somewhat different. Since I was a tot in the fiduciary establishment, I have tried to take this guidance and failed. It's one thing to get a good recommendation and ignore it, as is my wont. It's another to have every intention of complying and still fall short. At every turn, I have bought high and sold low, for some reason. I'd like to change my pattern here. I just don't know how.

Any advice? Believe me, I'll take it!

Stanley Bing's new book, "Executricks, or How to Retire While You're Still Working" (Collins), will be published in June.  To top of page

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