The Age of Distractions

​On our current trip to Monaco we had the opportunity to drive a 1946 MG through the hillsides of France. The car had no doors, windows or even seatbelts. When the kind Frenchman gave me instructions on driving it and Launa asked about seatbelts he just laughed and said, “Ah, you don’t need seatbelts.” This car didn’t’ even have a radio, but boy it was fun to drive.
 
This car was significantly different from the one I rented at the John Wayne airport on a recent trip. That car was a mobile communication center. As I left the airport and was trying to negotiate through busy traffic to make a turn onto the freeway, a big red warning sign flashed across the computer screen. I struggled to read and drive at the same time so I asked Launa to read it to me.
 
She then read the following: “WARNING. Distracted driving can be very dangerous. Do not let this system distract you.” I was dumbfounded. So the system distracted my driving to warn me not to let the system distract my driving. I just knew there had to be an article in there somewhere.
 
In the 80’s we started hearing about the coming age of information and we were excited for all the benefits it would bring. Now, well into the 21st century, we have automobiles, cell phones, and talking boxes in our kitchens controlling our lives and sometimes making things worse. We even wonder perhaps, if maybe we weren’t a little better off back before we were being constantly bombarded by all this endless information.
 
It may not actually be the information that is the problem, but how we respond to it. The warning message on my rental car would not be a problem if I could learn to ignore it until a more convenient and safer time. The problem with information is that it has a way of making us feel like we need to stop what we are doing and act upon it. I wish I could get modern information-overloaded investors to understand this principle that just because you get a piece of information doesn’t mean you need to act on it, and in most cases you shouldn’t.
 
Let’s take the trade war as a current example. It has driven stocks for months and people keep asking what they should do about it. Here is how I see this tariff “distraction.” President Trump believes the trade war is hurting China more than the U.S.. Our current strong economic numbers seem to support that belief. Trump believes our economic strength puts him in a position to negotiate for a better deal. Long term investors should see that as a positive. So why all the fuss?
 
In my opinion, the trade war, as big as it seems, is another distraction that needs to be kept in perspective. It blares its warnings while our economy powers on. Resist the temptation to feel you need to act on this distraction.