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Homefa playbookOp-ed: What the Rolling Stones can teach us all about investing

Op-ed: What the Rolling Stones can teach us all about investing

  • The best lessons investors can learn from the Rolling Stones do not come from charismatic lead singer Mick Jagger; they come from drummer Charlie Watts.
  • Every investor portfolio needs its equivalent of a singer, a rhythm section and a lead guitarist.
  • When we invest, embracing the idea of "enough" might help us to stop reaching, stop trying to be someone who we are not and avoid the most damaging lessons.

Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones on stage during the band's 1997-98 Bridges to Babylon tour.Paul Natkin | Archive Photos | Getty Images

One of the greatest rock 'n roll bands in the world recently lost their beat.

Charlie Watts, who died on Aug. 24 at age 80, had been the drummer for the Rolling Stones since 1963, never missing a show for more than 50 years. He delivered what you might least expect from a band fronted by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards: steadiness, discipline and cool detachment from the drama.

There are lessons for investors in the story of a rock band defined by excess and success. For the Rolling Stones, writing good songs and being great musicians was not always enough. As Mick Jagger once said, "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing." Bigger. Better. More.

That insatiable appetite is not exclusive to rock stars. Investors can be prone to the same emotional highs and lows. The best lessons that investors can learn from the Stones do not come from the charismatic lead singer, they come from Charlie Watts.

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Charlie avoided the spotlight. He was quiet, thoughtful. Sure, he played night after night in front of thousands of adoring fans, but he did not let fame influence who he was.

In many pictures of the band, there was Charlie standing out in a Savile Row suit making his own quiet statement. Despite all the drama of the market, investors also have an opportunity to make their own quiet statements. Here are three lessons that investors can learn from Charlie Watts' experience in the Rolling Stones:

1. Be the drummer, not the singer: "If you don't know who you are, this is an expensive place to find out." — Adam Smith.

This quote was written about the stock market but the same can be said of the rock 'n roll lifestyle. Generations of rock stars have learned the hard lessons of finding themselves while playing in a traveling band. Investors can be the same way. We chase trends, follow crowds and let ourselves be influenced by culture. Then we learn the hard way that some of those paths weren't right for us.

As a rock star, Charlie Watts was different. He knew who he was and who he wasn't. He contributed to and benefitted from the spectacle, but he wasn't always part of it. He didn't need it.

He described himself as an accompanist, someone whose job was to drive the big idea forward to something larger than himself. That awareness and humility can help us all to understand when it is enough, when we are enough.

When we invest, embracing the idea of "enough" might help us to stop reaching, stop trying to be someone who we are not and avoid the most damaging lessons.

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