Iocane Powder, The Stock Market, and the Meaning of Life

I’ve decided to include “The Meaning of Life” in the title of every blog post from now on. Honestly, what’s the point of life if you’re not going to discuss the meaning of life?

Iocane Powder

There’s a scene in the movie “The Princess Bride” where the protagonist, Wesley, offers his foe, Vizzini, a battle of wits. He will poison one of two drinks, switch them back and forth behind his back, and make Vizzini guess which was poisoned by drinking the other one. Vizzini argues himself into a pretzel, makes an arbitrary guess, and then switches the drinks again at the last minute. He chose wrong. It turns out Westley poisoned both drinks.

Assuming Westley didn’t poison both drinks, if we had to choose a drink, could we have done better? Could we use chemistry, biology, physics, human psychology, etc? Could we gather data and draw a conclusion? It might scare you, in an existential way, if the answer is “No.” After all, knowing what is safe to eat is something we take for granted on a daily basis.

But the really scary answer is “yes.” We absolutely could, and would, gather data, and draw statistically significant conclusions… And still be absolutely 100% factually wrong. And yet, even being wrong, it’s possible to get the answer right just by probability. What if Vizzini picked the right drink, not by being smart, but by being lucky? After all, he has a 50/50 chance.

How do we know if we are right for the right reasons? 

The Stock Market

We live in a world of Vizzinis. Everyone is 100% confident they have a trading strategy that works. They use all sorts of data, graphs, logic, math, and formulae. Sometimes they’re right, and they point to the data, graphs, logic, math, and formulae and say, “See! I told you!” And sometimes they don’t make money and they scratch their heads and say, “Huh.” Should we say these people are imbeciles who have no idea what they are doing, just because they don’t make money? How else can we judge someone, other than how much money they make? I mean stock traders.

The Meaning of Life

As a young man who lacked money, I was dissatisfied! How is it, whether you are the President, or the pizza guy, you never have enough money? I left the comfort of my home to discover the answer. I started by getting a job where I made lots of money, but I was dissatisfied. Thinking maybe I got it backward, I got a job where I made almost no money, but I was still dissatisfied. 

I have meditated on the issue for many years. I have finished my journey exactly where I started with nothing to show for it except gained wisdom. Like the Buddah, I have come to the conclusion that I knew the truth the whole time: Raising our status quo feels good. Keeping it the same feels bad. And dissatisfaction is inevitable. 

I once embarked on a journey to discover the secrets of the stock market. I have returned to reveal the Truth. The Truth is that there is no Truth. Lots of people are partly right, part of the time.