Three cheers for Michael Caine! Yep, I’m talking about the famous actor. I started reading his autobiography last night.
I was two thirds of the way through by the time I put it down.
It’s a cracking book.
There’s the best of Britain about him. He clearly has a sense of common decency and doesn’t take himself too seriously. I was in stitches a couple of times.
But you’re not here to hear about his Hollywood tales or turns on Broadway. My lot is to write about money and finance. And look at what jumped out at me last night.
This is Michael Caine — Oscar winner, Hollywood superstar, 60-year cinema veteran plus multimillionaire — reflecting on his wealth:
‘No matter how much money I make, I never lose that feeling of panic and dread at the thought of being poor again. I never feel completely secure. I think when you’ve been really poor, that feeling goes deep and never leaves.’
Surprised? Here’s the story.
Michael Caine was born in the Great Depression and then evacuated from London during the Blitz as a child. His father was an illiterate labourer.
Young Michael only got one meal a day for a time.
Even as an adult, he spent the first nine years of his acting career in poverty, trying to find his big break. He slogged through years of soul-crushing rejections and criticisms.
He writes that when his career took off, his first massive buying binge was not for flash cars or holidays.
It was for soaps, aftershaves, towels, toothpaste and shampoos.
That’s because all his life Michael Caine had lived in dirty houses and worn old clothes, with no money for these ‘luxuries’.
Why do you care about this?
Much of finance and business writing is based around data points and cold analysis.
Very few people discuss the emotional or psychological elements of money.
But these are important. Look at the quote above. Michael Caine must be worth tens of millions.
And yet there he is, telling us he’s still a little bit worried it will all disappear on him. Logically, it’s madness. Emotionally, it’s at his very core.
Here’s the broader point. There’s a well-known thing we all have called confirmation bias.
Your brain goes looking for information to back up your existing beliefs. I’m not immune, nor I’m sure was Mother Theresa.
But it’s worthwhile to check in on your beliefs from time to time.
For example, if you’re convinced the world is a scarce place and there’s not much opportunity about to make money, you’ll have no trouble finding plenty of evidence to support this belief.
And you will create this reality because your mind cannot stand for a conflicting state that says otherwise.
There’s a psychologist called Carol Dweck who puts people into two broad buckets: Those with a ‘growth’ mindset and those with a ‘fixed’ one.
A growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure as a springboard to further learning and wisdom.
You could put Michael Caine in the ‘growth’ mindset. He puts his success down to sheer determination and relentless pursuit of opportunity.
His mindset comes through as this: If one movie was a failure and critically caned, maybe the next will be better.
Or maybe he got to work with an actor he can learn from. Or he banks a bit of money for it anyway. Perhaps he got to visit a great location.
And, underneath it all, it sure beats carrying fish for a living! (That was his dad’s job).
I reckon Michael Caine’s attitude is a pretty good way to go about things.
He tells young actors that you’re never just ‘auditioning’ when you’re in front of the director at a scheduled time.
Your whole life is an audition because you never know when someone in the industry might be watching you. You’d better be ready to go whenever!
I find this true in the market. I was chatting to two gents in the office yesterday.
They were asking some probing questions for some potential opportunities coming up in the market.
Coming up? There is always opportunity in the market. Every day, the pieces shift a little and different scenarios present themselves.
The key is to just keep watching and be ready for when something moves.
Sometimes you have to be quick. The rally in iron ore stocks is a good example of this.
It’s not something I could have predicted for you last year. Because most of it has come about from a random and unpredictable accident in Brazil.
There’s just no forecasting that kind of thing with any precision.
Sometimes you just need to be ready to go as the market moves.
You won’t catch these kinds of moves if you’re not watching in the first place.
And you’ll only keep watching for them if you believe in the first place that profitable opportunities will keep presenting.
Luck follows the prepared mind. Michael Caine is living proof of that.