This was written by media expert Harold Mitchell in the Fairfax press last week. I think it is one of the best articles I have read in my life. Only sorry I didn’t write it myself.
Real estate is still booming despite the doomsayers and everyone’s house, should they be lucky enough to have entered the market, is appreciating very well.
Not so long ago I was chatting with one of our most distinguished Australians who had made a pile in real estate and the sharemarket. He was starting to feel the heat of the cash in his pocket and he asked me, “where shall I invest?”
Not an easy question because we all know that what goes up, must come down and the choices at the moment are quite limited.
I remembered Warren Buffett’s words, “When there is nothing to do, do nothing”.
So I passed on Warren’s sentiment to this great Australian who replied in his quiet voice, “but I want to do something”.
“Well,” I said, “if you really must do something right now, my advice is to go for a walk.”
In considering his predicament, my mind had turned to my late mate Kerry Packer who famously sold Channel 9 to an overenthusiastic Alan Bond for a billion dollars.
Kerry had learned over the years that Bond got fidgety if he wasn’t doing something. Kerry also knew that he had made mistakes himself when he was in such a mood.
Few people know that he took a whole year off to settle down his acquisitive reflexes and it was in that year he discovered his great love of polo. He knew it was time to take a walk, or a canter in his case, and keep his head down. He allowed his long-standing companies to stick to core business and build their value.
And he gave Bond the time to destroy the value of Channel 9 so that he could rebound spectacularly by buying it back for $200 million – one-fifth of the original sale price.
Hence his famous words, “You only get one Bond in your lifetime”.
I’ve always had plenty of nervous energy and it took me many years to heed the advice about going for a walk. Decades ago I bought a modest apartment in Coffs Harbour to get away from it all with my young family. However, I was never one for relaxing with a Joan Collins novel and a bucket and spade.
By day two of a week-long break, I’d be saying to myself, “what do I do now?”. Then one year I went into town in this mood and bought The Big Banana.
“You did what?” gasps Louise.
Yep, I bought The Big Banana with a mate of mine. It was the height of the 80s boom and just before the infamous airline pilot’s strike that brought holiday resorts such as Coffs Harbour to a crashing stop. I was wiped out.
I should have stayed in the sand with the kids or better still, at home in the business I knew back to front. I don’t like downturns or even planning for them, but I’m mindful of all those people with their superannuation funds. It might be time to make sure that your debt isn’t too big and that you’ve got plenty of flexibility.
And with that, life can go on steadily by just doing what you know best. I know it’s hard when there is an overwhelming urge to “just do something”, but think about going for a walk instead and doing nothing for a moment or two at least. That’s what I’m planning to do.