Public Service Announcement For Entrepreneurs: Ignore the Dow

Today is Finance Friday and post #2 has been drafted by the Finance Friday team from University of Chicago Booth and is waiting for my edits. I’m procrastinating so I thought I’d write one of my periodic public service announcement for entrepreneurs. This one is more specific than “ignore the macro economy” – instead, it’s “ignore the Dow and the stock market and get back to work on your business.”

Tom Evslin had a post up this morning titled Don’t Watch The Dow! that caused me to say “right on.” In 1999, 2000, and 2001 I had a page up with a bunch of stocks, including a number of companies I was an investor in, as my home page. I’d hit refresh 5,321 times a day, generating plenty of CPM-based revenue for Yahoo. I’ve written about the emotional ups and downs in the past so I won’t repeat myself here other than to say this activity had zero impact on the stock market (I couldn’t do anything about it), it didn’t change my short term decision making (I’m not a trader), and all it resulted in was sucking a huge amount of emotional energy out of me.

When the market went down, I felt sad. When it went up I got the emotional equivalent of a sugar high. When it went back down again, I was bummed. Up – smile. Down – depressed. Up – happy. Down – cranky. And this was all before lunch time. Maybe it was too much coffee or not enough sleep, but it got even worse when the market shifted from 1/8s too 0.01s.

As an entrepreneur, this was all noise. As a long term VC investor, it was also all noise. Sure – the broad cycles had impact, although lots of people disagree on what they actually mean (e.g. do VCs actually benefit long term from down cycles, are the best companies started in recessions when everything is cheaper and more available).

Over time, I’ve learned that none of the short term moves in the stock market matter at all in my life. It’s occasionally entertaining to turn on CNBC and see my friend Paul Kedrosky in the octobox telling all the other people that they don’t actually understand macro-economics, but it’s no different than watching McEnroe when he’s announcing a Nadal – Federer match. It’s just sport.

So – for all the entrepreneurs in my world, take Tom’s great advice. Don’t Watch The Dow! And if you think Scott Kirsner is being sarcastic in his post titled How the players in the innovation economy rationalize away stock market dives, take a deep breath and consider whether the use of the word rationalize is correct or not.

Now, get back to work on something you can have an impact on!