by Craig Stark

27 July 2009

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars

It seems that many of us are primarily interested in learning how to win in life, and this phenomenon is perhaps no more apparent than among those who seek their fortune in the stock market. If one investment system doesn't work, instead of investigating why, another system is tried - and on and on, the thinking being that one need only search until the right system is discovered, and all will be well. This is how we learn to win, right? Try, try again?

Okay, there's some truth in this, but like everything else we assert to be true, there's an opportunity to flip the coin and see something that wasn't visible on the other side - in this case, learning how not to lose. This is what Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan's What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars is all about. If you know much about the stock market (or other investment venues), you know that there are countless ways to make money, but the reasons for losing stay essentially the same - and in fact they can be expressed as principles (as opposed to strategies, techniques, etc., that systems of winning often use). That's why this book is so much sought after. And once you learn how not to lose, what happens? You'll consistently win.

If you've read BookThink's Gold Editions on investment books, you've probably spotted the pattern that What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars conforms to: Often the books that express timeless principles are those that hold their value best.

Note that this book has been recently reprinted but still sells so briskly that prices for used copies cluster closely to new copies - near $40. First printings have become collectible, so expect significantly more than this if you acquire one.

Before I close, read the following paragraph (from the publisher's website):

"The first part of the book is Jim Paul's personal odyssey of an unbroken string of successes which took him from dirt poor country boy to jet-setting-millionaire and member of The Executive Committee at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, before a devastating $1.6 million loss brought him crashing down. One of the premises of this book is that the rise sets up the fall; the winning sets up the losing. You can't really be set up for disaster without having it preceded by success. If you go into a situation in a neutral position having neither successes nor failures beforehand, you acknowledge that your odds are maybe fifty-fifty; you may have a winner, you may have loser. But if you start from scratch and have a run of successes, you are setting yourself up for the coming failure, because the successes lead to a variety of psychological distortions. This is particularly true if you have unknowingly broken the rules of the game and won anyway. Once that happens to you, you think that you are somehow special and exempt from following the rules."

Sound familiar? Yes, this same scenario has also been played out thousands of times by booksellers - early success followed by a sustained downturn, downturns accelerated, by the way, in the tough economic times we're experiencing now. Many booksellers entered this game at a time when you could sell anything you tossed up online; others entered when they began to sell their collection of books or a collection that they had somehow acquired. In these situations, you don't necessarily have to play by the rules to win, but if you don't, your success is simply setting you up for later failure.

As I see many, many booksellers leave the business now, most of them are leaving because they didn't play by the rules. They didn't learn the business; they simply exploited it until they couldn't.

You'll see 100 profit-producing books like this in BookThink's Quarterly Market Report of Common, Profitable Books, each one presented in a clear format with bibliographic essentials and links to photos. Here is the actual entry for What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars, #1 in QMR, issue #7 (soon to be published):

AUTHOR: Jim Paul, Brendan Moynihan
DATE: 1994
PLACE: Nashville, TN
IMPRINT: Infrared Press
FORMAT: Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0963579495
ISBN-13: 978-0963579492

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