If you know me by now, you know how much I enjoy all things Japanese. For me, it’s the best cuisine on earth. The architecture in Japan is spectacular. I can’t take the smile off my face whenever I’m there. If you can believe this, I even passed the Japanese Sake Advisor Exam earlier this year.
There’s a blog post I’ve been working on for a while I titled, “Investing Like a Sumo Wrestler”. But that’s a conversation for another day.
This week I was watching the new documentary, “The Delicacy”, about sea urchins and the divers who harvest them. Uni, which is what the Japanese call the edible part inside the sea urchins, is one of my favorite snacks in the world. You can get good ones from Hokkaido, Santa Barbara and off the coast of South America.
The documentary was awesome, even if you don’t like to eat Uni, like my wife. She also loves visiting Japan, but she’ll tell you she prefers Italy or Greece. I’m torn.
Anyway, watching this while having a glass of Junmai Daigingo sake, they brought up the concept of Ichigo Ichie. This is a philosophy that I learned about while visiting Kyoto a few years ago and unfortunately never had a chance to write about it.
Ichigo Ichie is a cultural concept of treasuring unrepeatable moments. It’s most often used to remind people to cherish any gathering as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even if that moment is with the same group of people in the same place, each time will be different than the last. So if we let it slip away without enjoying it, the moment will be lost forever.
I think this is important to remember for life in general. We’re always so focused on what’s going to happen next, where we’re going next, what we’re eating next, what we’re watching next, who we’re meeting next. I think we can all be more present. And the idea of Ichigo Ichie is a great reminder.
As usual, there are parallels between the market and life. They are the same in so many ways. We’re always trying to compare the current environment to some other year. “Oh, this is 1929 all over again” or, “Oh, this is exactly like 1995”. The truth is, it’s not any of those things. It’s always a new, somehow different, environment. Rates aren’t like they were then. Commodities are behaving differently this time. Certain sectors are doing better this time, than that other environment you’re comparing it to. While there may be similarities (there always are), every environment is unique. And I think we need to treat it that way.
Every single day the market does something it’s never done before, or hasn’t done in a long time. The media will find a way to exaggerate it as best they can, but if you can remember the concept of Ichigo Ichie, you know that each day is a distinct moment in time and this rare occurrence is precisely what should be taking place. That’s how each environment forms its own fingerprints.
JC, Technical Analysis only looks at the past!”
We have to use information from the past to help us make decisions in the present. That’s simply just a function of the fact that information from the past is all we have. Whether you use Technical Analysis, Fundamental Analysis, Economics, Quantitative tools, or you’re looking at the moon and stars, we’re all forced to use backward looking data. If you can find me some information from the future, I’d be happy to take a look.
Like in life, we take what we’ve learned and use it to help us make decisions today. I crossed the street too fast once when I was 7 or 8 and almost got hit by a car. I never did that again. I burned my finger touching one of those sandwich makers when I was like 5 year old, and never touched one again. I went all in on Uranium Stocks in 2010 right before the Fukushima earthquake. I never did that again. I felt great after the first time I did yoga. So I did Yoga a lot more after that.
These were all learning experiences that help me make decisions every day now. But all of these lessons came from very specific moments in my life that I have learned to treasure. Some of these moments were happy ones, some were scary ones, some were neither. But I wish I could go back and focus more on what I was thinking at the time those things were happening around me.
People ask me all the time what it was like to trade throughout 2008. I remember a lot of it, but did I cherish it enough? People will most certainly ask me 5, 10, 20, 30, hopefully 40 years from now, what this current experience was like, both personally and from the perspective of a market participant.
Fortunately, I have this blog that I can always go back to, which brings up that concept of writing things down you always hear me preaching about. But I think whether it’s this year’s stock market crash, or a 2017 where stocks just grinded higher, if we don’t enjoy it, if we don’t embrace it, if we don’t learn from it, the moment will be lost forever.
We have charts that help us go back and see what happened to price, but our emotions, our feelings, and most importantly, the lessons, are not able to be visualized on a chart. That’s where we come in. That’s where we have to be responsible.
Are you practicing Ichigo Ichie? Or are you too focused on next week or next month to appreciate what’s taking place at this very moment?