Do You Believe In Coincidences?

image - Flickr / U.S. Army
image – Flickr / U.S. Army

One veteran a day commits suicide.

I know this because my dad started a computer software business in 1970. I’m going to connect the dots because it involves a combination of coincidence and friendship.

But first, why do veterans commit suicide? I have a 15-year-old daughter. In 2.5 years, I guess, she is eligible to be in an army.

Then she’s allowed to go into the army, get a gun, and go some place where she can shoot other 18 year old girls who have guns. I am never going to be for this.

War has never brought about peace. Only peace can bring peace.

Because I believe this I have lost some friends. Some friends are horrified that I’m against the US participation in WW II (despite the fact that many pacifists in the US during those times were rabbis).

Other friends are horrified that I’m against the Civil War (they think it’s the same as me saying I’m “for slavery” which is ridiculous).

I won’t argue against them. To be honest, I’m not smart enough. Every argument I bring up, they have a counterargument.

The biggest way to prevent yourself from making your dreams come true is to argue about politics. Politics is the graveyard of dreams.

When people argue with me about war I just ask them if they would take my daughter’s place if she ever had to go. Nobody has yet said yes.

My dad started a software company that went public in the 1980s. It traded under the symbol CNSO and then eventually disappeared when his sales went to zero and he went bankrupt and spent most of the rest of his life crying with massive depression.

About a decade ago I became friends with a very inspirational guy over the age of 80. In some way, he became like a father figure to me.

We’d have breakfast once a month and he would tell me his stories.

He told me he started his career at the age of 45. He wanted to be a venture capitalist instead of going door to door as an insurance salesman. He had no money in the bank at the time.

He called up another investor at the time (the early 70s) and asked if he was doing the right thing. The investor he called, Warren Buffett, told him that he was making a big mistake and the country was going into a recession.

Buffett was right and my friend struggled for awhile. “James,” he said, “I was basically broke and had no idea what I was doing.”

And then he made a small investment in a company (I think it was the company that became Caremark) that turned into $60,000,000 a few years later. And then he kept making more and more good investments. And now he’s in his 80s and has given about $500 million in charity.

He told me once about a company he was going to invest in. I think it’s worth noting he always flies coach.

“James,” he said, “when people are diagnosed with depression it takes them on average eight years to find the right drug to cure them.”

Psychiatrists can’t tell if you have depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, etc etc. So they prescribe one drug after another and usually it takes months to figure out if that drug is working. Often, patents give up. For the ones who stay, it can take eight years to find the right drug for them.

Many veterans come back with some form of PTSD or anxiety or depression. It’s too much, what they’ve seen.

My friend was getting involved with a company that has a database of brain scans of people who have been successfully treated with a mental illness.

They then take a veteran’s brain scan and match it to the database. They look at the closest match, see what drug worked, and prescribe that drug to the returning veteran. All of the studies show significant results in the treatment.

What’s the stock symbol, I asked my friend.

When he told me, I thought it sounded familiar. Out of 8000 public companies it turned out to be the same stock symbol, CNSO, as my dad’s old company. My dad who basically died of depression.

So I invested a little in the company. Who knows if it will work out or not. I have no idea, to be honest. I admit it, “coincidences” are a part of my investment strategy.

There’s something beautiful about a coincidence. As if the universe itself was an artist and you are the beautiful stroke of a paintbrush across an infinitely massive canvas.

When I first met Claudia, on our third date she was waiting for me in a bookstore. She decided to find one of my books while she was waiting for me.

She picked up a book that six months earlier (that apparently nobody bought) I had signed as a joke when I went into that bookstore.

I was standing next to my daughter when i signed the book six months earlier and my daughter even said when she looked at what I wrote, “Daddy, what the heck are you doing?” I had never been in that bookstore before.

Six months before I met Claudia I had signed that book, “I love you” and then signed my name. I didn’t sign any other books that way out of the 1000 or so books I had signed around the city.

Claudia had randomly picked that bookstore to meet at. She went looking for my books, found one among four or five that had never sold, and then opened it up and the first thing she saw was, “I love you”, in my handwriting.

When you believe in coincidences it’s amazing how quickly you find them. And how fun life gets.

Yesterday, for instance, I was in a Whole Foods in Florida (I live in New York) and I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in 15 years who lives in San Francisco. BAM!

Inside of most of us is a little kid. And little kids often live in a world where magic is real. I feel that a chapter in my life will be over when I stop believing in that magic.

I don’t know what coincidence will happen to me today. But I know it will happen. And I will close my eyes and enjoy the ride where it takes me. TC mark

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