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What Is Pneumonia, Anyway?

An old Pulmonolgist once told me that the longer he practiced medicine, the less sure he became exactly what Pneumonia was. I was in medical school when he told me this, and I thought he was a little crazy. I mean, pneumonia is a very basic and common infection, and this guy was a lung specialist, for crying out loud. I thought he must have been getting a little senile.

Now I've been practicing Pediatrics for 13 years, and every time I see a borderline chest X-ray of a fairly well child get read as "Pneumonia," I can't help but smile to myself. I totally get it.

I have these same thoughts when it comes to investing. I read an article that says "Do this," or "This is going to happen," or "Buy this company," and I shake my head.

My point is simply this. The longer you do something, the more you know about it, the more of an expert you become on a given subject, the harder it is to succinctly express your opinion.

And, in a very real sense, that is what investing is. It is saying, with your money, "This is what I think is going to happen." And I just cannot succinctly guess. Maybe it's the times; maybe the future always looks like this.

So I can't help but be drawn to an investing philosophy like Nassim Taleb's, where one just makes option bets on lots of unexpected, and therefore underpriced, events. But I can't for the life of me figure how to apply that to actual investing. Options are sold by really smart people that make their living off doctors that have more money than knowledge or sense. Still seems like a sucker's game to me.

I don't know how to make money off it, but I am certain that shocks both directions are in store in the next 12 months. How about that for a earth-shattering prediction?

12/3/2012