This site’s goal is to become a resource for people interested in investments. Therefore, almost all posts will be investment specific. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Arnold Van Den Berg’s life lessons are one of those exceptions.
Last week I attended an investment event organized by MOI Global. I enjoy those events because the community of investors is a truly amazing group of people. Therefore, I was intrigued when I saw a group of people gathered around a table at a cocktail hour. I figured some investing legend was waxing poetic about the merits of his/her investments. Naturally, I went to the table.
When I got to the table I saw Arnold Van Den Berg. I liked Mr. Van Den Berg’s talk at Google so I was excited to hear what he had to say. I was mesmorized the minute I sat down.
Mr. Van Den Berg was telling stories about his parents surviving Auschwitz. The most memorable story described his father surviving death marches. A death march was a 24 hour hike through deep snow. The participants had “normal” clothes on. If someone’s knee touched the snow, the Nazis beat them. If the person didn’t get up, the Nazis killed them.
Mr. Van Den Berg said his dad survived by focusing on locking his knee the second his foot touched the ground. Why? Because that was the only way to:
- keep his knee high enough out of the snow, and
- support his body weight given how depleted his body was.
His father attributed his survival on his ability to singularly focus on that task. His ability to focus was driven by his will to survive. And, his will to survive existed because of his family. Regardless of his circumstances, he focused on his wife and children.
Throughout his time at Auschwitz Mr. Van Den Berg’s father would see young, able bodied men come into the camp. Almost all of them withered away within 6 months. Arnold’s father said many of them lost the will to live because they didn’t have a larger purpose. Once they lost the will to live, death was inevitable.
I tried to absorb everything I could from Mr. Van Den Berg. Some lessons include:
- When your life is more important than your principles, you sacrifice your principles. When your principles are more important than your life, you sacrifice your life. Mr. Van Den Berg is alive today because a young woman valued her principles enough to risk her life in order to smuggle him out of Amsterdam.
- Never underestimate the power of the subconscious mind.
- Focus is key to success.
- Never give up. Whatever failure brought you to the point where you’re considering giving up also took you closer to success.
- In order to be successful you must:
- (a) be totally honest with yourself,
- (b) repeat the actions necessary to become who you want to be,
- (c) do good (the universe rewards those that legitimately add value),
- (d) believe in yourself and your life direction.
Some of this advice may sound like self help BS. But, it’s coming from a man that grew up with a father and mother that survived the Holocaust. Moreover, he survived being in an orphanage while his parents were in Auschwitz. He lost 39 family members over that period. Therefore, I think his perspective on life is one worth taking seriously.
This post isn’t going to help anyone outperform the market. It won’t bring anyone back from sizing a position too big or making some analytical mistake. But, hopefully it keeps the world in perspective and helps someone realize how lucky they are. There’s a lot to be grateful for. Take a moment, remember that, call your loved ones, then get back to trying to outperform.
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mans-search-for-meaning-with-new-foreward-viktor-e-frankl/1028813627#/ – Haven’t read this but @jerrycap recommended it and his book choices are pretty solid.