Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oldies ... so, do you want us or not?

This weekend's WSJ has two stories, reflecting opposite views.

Michael M. Phillips' "The Old Soldier Who Didn't Fade Away" tells the story of a 59-year old U.S. Army staff sergeant who is currently deployed in Afghanistan. He has my admiration and appreciation for his dedication, patriotism, bravery, and sacrifice.

In the same section of the paper we find Joe Queenan's "Revenge of the 60-Year-Old Has-Beens," where he takes aim at Mitt Romney (who in Joe's eyes is "dull as dishwater," who "could be the first president that no one in this great country actually likes"), Bill Clinton (who "will not, will not shut his trap"), along with a host of other sexagenarians.

As one who has made it to the 60-year old level (coincidentally, eight days after Joe did), I prefer Phillips' story of someone who refuses to let age slow him down. And because the U.S. Army restricts enlisted men from serving in combat once they hit 60, he is now looking to get a commission, since officers have a higher age limit. Bravo!

In a sense, these stories speak of performance; granted, not performance in investing, but human performance nonetheless. Can "Has-Beens" continue to perform? Obviously the answer is "yes," and often better than the young folks. Granted, my body is a bit more creaky than it was a few decades ago: for example, unlike SSG Don Nicholas, who can run two miles under 12 minutes, my orthopedist will not allow me to run any more (and I'm not sure I could ever run two miles at such a pace); but, I have no intention of slowing down. Plus, I'm having too much fun!

Looking at age from multiple perspectives isn't much different than looking at risk or returns from multiple angles, too. We can learn a lot, and perhaps draw some great insights and conclusions.


  1. Old cowhands like you and me can help greenhorns find their way, at least to the extent they’ll let themselves be steered, and we can make conceptual and historical connections far beyond their range. My hope is to die — in due time — with my boots on. Sorry, I just heard Tom T Hall’s “Faster Horses” on the radio. But it’s up to us, Dave, to keep ourselves intellectually fit by taking courses, reading everything, talking with everyone, and using new technology in the course of our work. (I think we’re both doing these things.) Otherwise there’s no reason for the young’uns to listen to us!

  2. Philip, thanks for your comments: and I agree!


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