35 years ago on the night of June 27th, a friend of mine and I slept on very uncomfortable concrete outside of Dane County Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin. The catalyst for this was fear of missing out as we were intent on doing our best to position ourselves to secure a great location for the next night’s concert being put on by the Grateful Dead as all seats were general admission. I guess even back then I was focused on location, location, location.
General admission has no assigned seating so the first ones in the stadium naturally have the best chance of being situated most ideally for the show. I bring this up because I was on the treadmill the other day and I went to my Vibe Vault app which houses concerts from hundreds of bands over many years that one can access on any device. The app is populated by an enormous number of live Grateful Dead shows as they played approximately 2,300 concerts over their 30-year life and virtually all of them were recorded. I was in the mood for a little nostalgia so that influenced my choice of music for my exercise session.
In honor of the 35th anniversary of my attending that Grateful Dead show which, as I recall, was number three out of 35, I chose to listen to some of the concerts while on the treadmill. And it was a very enjoyable experience. It brought me back to the experience and how great it was. Or was it?
This brings up the classic dilemma that is written about extensively by Daniel Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow and in other of his writings about how we often find ourselves deluded by mistaking memory for the experience. He asserts that we have an “experiencing self” and “remembering self”. For example, we may look at a picture from a vacation we took a few years ago and have fond memories but we also may have been very much ready to come home by the end of it. Thus, our memory could in some cases be very different than what we experienced at the time. We may end up booking another vacation there because of our “remembering self” and be very disappointed because it was disconnected from our “experiencing self”. This is what is said about the two in an article that appeared in the Huffington Post:
“The experiencing self is the “you” in the moment who lives through the event. The remembering self is the “you” that writes the history. It is also the remembering self that is consulted when planning the future. Choices are made based on the remembering self’s construction of what happened in the past. Now here’s the problem. The experiencing self and the remembering self-don’t agree on what happened. In fact, Kahneman has shown that certain discrepancies are hard-wired.”
The article discusses an interesting experiment about how the two selves can be radically different which I encourage you to read.
From my perspective, all I have is a memory of my concert experience. Of course, the experience has come and gone because something can only be experienced at the moment and after that we are left with only a memory of that, assuming it was memorable. Now my memory is at risk of diverging greatly from the experience because so much time has gone by. In addition, I’m a different person as well as I have had more life events stored in my memory, and my memory is hazier so what I think I remember may not be as accurate. What I do remember was being very sore from having slept (or trying to) outside all night and being very uncomfortable and tired and yet really enjoying the experience and having ended up with a very good position near the stage. This afforded me the opportunity of seeing the band from a close vantage point and still remembering certain aspects of the show that really stuck out. These include a few members of the band wearing masks for a couple of songs (something I had never seen before)as well as a three or four person jam after one of the songs, which was highly unusual and quite memorable.
I bring all of this up because I am really fascinated by and admire people, organizations, and entities that can create content that can live for a very long time and continue to provide a lot of value for those consuming the content. I have come to appreciate that many of the best things in life are gifts that keep on giving, whether they be strong relationships, works of art, great books, films, or memories from wonderful experiences. Another example is the home we live in. Hopefully, it too is a gift that keeps on giving as a source of togetherness for a family and friends, enjoyment, entertainment, memories, connectivity. All of these are gifts that keep paying emotional, intellectual, social, and even financial dividends, as has been the case with CWS.
I put our CWS investments in the same category as gifts that keep on giving (assuming they perform over the long-term) because they typically produce a total return over a long period of time in which about half of it comes from dividends. This allows people to have continuous reminders of the investments that they have made and the results they are producing via those dividends and other streams of cash such as a refinance or sale. These proceeds can really enhance people’s lives, which is much of what CWS is all about as embodied in our purpose statement:
The CWS Way
When we send out our quarterly distributions it is a reminder to people of many positive things that they have worked hard to achieve. They have taken the fruits of their labor and invested some of it with CWS in the hope that their money can now do some of the work for them, rather than them having to shoulder all of the burdens. They can see the benefits of them deferring gratification by putting their money to work versus using it for immediate consumption. They have also taken some of the behavioral risks off the table by delegating it to a firm like CWS which in turn puts that money into operating businesses that are not easily traded like stocks and bonds and hopefully over time can provide returns that more than compensate for the risk that’s incurred and for not having access to the money on a continuous basis. We can take advantage of time being a friend to allow compounding to kick into high gear as a result of the prudent use of leverage and being invested in well-located properties in growing and improving areas.
I have long thought one of CWS’ greatest strengths is our long-term investment horizon that we possess. This has been a byproduct of nearly 50 years of being in business and seeing the benefits of that and the value of gifts that keep on giving for our investors and their heirs. And while they may not have the aesthetic beauty of a great song, film, or work of art, our investments have been able to enhance the lives of our investors in other ways.
From a personal standpoint I have strived to live my life in ways that avoid as much of the ordinary moments as possible and to try to create those neural connections and a heightened focus and levels of intensity such that I am deeply engaged in ways that produce joy, laughter, expansiveness, personal growth, and strong memories. And hopefully, the memories won’t diverge too much between the two if possible.
As memories are a byproduct of powerful experiences, I want to thank the Grateful Dead for the incredible memories that they have given me and the lasting content that allows me to listen to their shows and enable me to relive the experiences via powerful memories. And I’m sure the memories would not be as strong without them being triggered by this timeless content that truly has the chance to live forever. And hopefully, our investors are able to have that experience with CWS in many ways as well. I hope they have found our investments to be gifts that keep on giving in ways that have enhanced their lives and added to the quality of it such they can have wonderful experiences converted into beautiful memories.
Here is a song I encourage you to listen to that speaks to the subject of this blog in some ways.
Enjoy your Fourth of July holiday!