Ernest Hemingway, one of the greatest writers ever lived, master of words, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.
Hemingway was born in 1899 in the Illinois, USA. He lead a tumultuous and colorful life, going through four wives, having fought in and being awarded for bravery in the World War II, and surviving two plane crashes. He traveled extensively and lived in many different countries in Europe, Africa and Central America, most notable of which was Cuba in which he spent a good many years and maintained a residence called the Finca la Viaga.
By any account, Hemingway was not a prolific writer. His writings were sparse, just about a great work every decade. During his lifetime, his published works included 7 novels and a few collection of short stories. They included the classics ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and ‘For Whom the Bells Toll’. Yet, till this day more than fifty years after he took his own life with a shotgun, his flamboyance and influence amongst the literacy set resonates strong.
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Legend has it that Hemingway was in the company of a few other writers in a Manhattan restaurant when the conversation drifted to short stories. Being the character he was, Hemingway boasted that he could write the shortest story ever and yet have everyone moved.
He challenged all the writers at the table to come up with their own short story so that there could be competition. He also demanded that everyone contribute ten dollar to a pot, a sizable sum in those days, and that the person with the most moving story would lay claim to the prize money.
The writers were skeptical but they chipped in their money nevertheless. Hemingway scribbled on a napkin, passed it around the table and left the restaurant that day considerably richer. On the napkin were these six words
For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn
Half a dozen words. No more, no less. On their own they are innocent and simple. Primary school vocabulary definitely. Yet, strung together in this manner they become haunting and poignant.
These six words left me pondering for a long time. They made me wonder what had happened to the baby for whom the shoes were meant for. They made me wonder what were the parents feeling when they realized that they have no use for these shoes anymore. Leaving so much unsaid, yet saying so much. These words spoke to me; they made me think and they made me feel.
The ‘story’ will never make the bestseller list. It will never be made into a blockbuster movie. But these simple six words put together this way only goes to show how a craftsman can transform the simplest of material into such a classic. Ernest Hemingway has elegantly demonstrated that less is more. He is a Master indeed.
Less is More for Investors
When it comes to investing, the wisdom of Hemingway would come in very handy.
Investors go to the ends of the world in search of the holy grail of investing. They are always on the lookout for an investing strategy or opportunity that will allow them to make a killing.
In the process, investors tend to be attracted to complex strategies. The more esoteric (pun intended) terms the strategy throws up the more it attracts investors, simply because investors believe that the only way to beat the market is to be smarter and take more factors into consideration.
In writing For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn, Ernest Hemingway did not fear losing out to a longer, more complex story. He did not for a moment fret about the suspense he could have created with a few more sentences or how he could have built the characters with yet another paragraph. He understood the elegance of simplicity.
At BigFatPurse we always tell people that investing is simple. The best strategy is useless unless an investor can implement it on an individual level. We built our CNAV Strategy strongly on that principle. It is simple enough for every retail investor to understand and successfully apply. Do read about it here or come learn with us in person here.
On a personal front
As we creep up to the last week of 2014, I cannot help but look back at the year gone by. On every account it has been an exciting year. There are hits and there are misses. I had wanted to achieve more but I am happy enough at the state of affairs as it is.
And as I look forward to 2015 and set out my priorities for the year ahead, Hemingway’s For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn could not have served as a more timely reminder. It is a great shout-out for me to keep things simple and dump everything that is not essential. Less is More.
Here is wishing everyone an awesome year ahead!