A couple of months ago I had a post up on coming to terms with “the Grind.” The idea being that doing anything of note, whether it be in the arts, business or investing takes a dedicated, sustained effort. To say nothing of the role of luck as well. I was reminded of this post when I saw this morning the news of the successful public debut of Potbelly Inc. ($PBPB).*
Another lifetime ago I was a regular patron of the original Potbelly store in Chicago. At that time it was a single location that had been converted from an antiques store into a thriving neighborhood sandwich shop with a dedicated following. I have no first or secondhand insight into how Potbelly got from that into where it is today. My guess is that it took a great deal of time, effort, capital to turn this single store into a now public company. From the Chicago Tribune:
Potbelly started in 1977 with a single location on Lincoln Ave. The original owner sold that spot in 1996 to an entrepreneur who grew the chain into 100 stores within 9 years and 200 three years after that. Potbelly currently has 286 locations.
Nor is Potbelly the only example of the importance of the grind this week. Author Tom Clancy passed away this week. A quote from him on the writing process surfaced on a number of outlets including Business Insider. Clancy stated:
You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf… You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work.
Writing is hard work as is investing. Howard Lindzon writing about the debut of AngelList Syndicates wrote about the circuitous path that successful angel investors will have to take to be successful. Lindzon wrote:
Like picking entrepreneurs themselves, picking ‘Syndicate’ leaders will be HARD…Angel Investing can be extremely thrilling and rewarding, but it is not very neat and tidy. It will take time along with a lot of trial and error to get ‘Syndicates’ packaged just right.
Josh Brown at The Reformed Broker looked at this aspect in regards to the public markets this week as well. He notes the mentality of many soon-to-be failed traders is that a quick hit or two will make their careers. The fact is that success is the markets comes from a sustained effort recognizing that losses are a regular part of doing business (and a grind to boot). Brown writes:
Trading is a business in which you have to work. Larry Benedict will tell you that, Greg Harmon will tell you that, and anyone who’s made it will probably say the same. Bernard Baruch, one of history’s greatest market participants, made his first rule of investing “Don’t speculate unless you can make it a full-time job,” and this is still pretty elemental advice decades later – in fact, in today’s markets it’s probably even harder for the hobbyist trader.
The bottom line is that achieving something of note requires hard work, luck and willingness to embrace the grind. Investing is hard and anyone thinking it isn’t is being set up eventually for disappointment.