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The Zurich Axioms Print E-mail
The Zurich Axioms were originally given to the world by Max Gunther in his book of the same title.

What the Axioms Are and How They Came to Be

excerpted from The Zurich Axioms, by Max Gunther

Consider the puzzle of Switzerland. This ancestral home of mine is a rocky little place about half the size of Maine. It has not one inch of seacoast. It is one of the most mineral-poor lands on earth. It possesses not a drop of oil to call its own, barely a bucket of coal. As for farming, its climate and topography are inhospitable to just about everything.

It has stayed out of European wars for 300 years, chiefly because, in all that time,there has never been an invader who really wanted it.

Yet the Swiss are among the most affluent people in the world. In per capita income they rank with us Americans, West Germans, and Japanese. Their currency is among the world's soundest.

How do the Swiss do it?

They do it by being the world's cleverest investors, speculators, and gamblers.

This book is about betting to win.

The 12 Major and 16 Minor Axioms

The book Zurich Axioms contains a set of principles providing a practical philosophy and trading psychology for the realistic management of risk.
These common sense principles is available everyone and can be practiced anyone - the man in the street and not just the expert.

Although many of the axioms go againts the conventional belief and traditional wisdom of the investment advice business, those who master the meanings and implemented the concepts will be successful - just like the enterprising Swiss speculators who devised them became rich, while many investors who follow the conventional path do not.

Major Axiom 1: On Risk

Worry is not a sickness but a sign of health.
If you are not worried, you are not risking enough.

Put your money at risk.
Don't be afraid to get hurt a little.
The degree of risk you will usually be dealing with is not hair-raisingly high.
By being willing to face it, you give yourself the only realistic chance you have of rising above the great unrich.
Worry is the hot and tart sauce of life.
Once you get used to it, you enjoy it.

Minor Axiom I
Always play for meaningful stakes.

Minor Axiom II
Resist the allure of diversification.
(Because it forces you to violate precept minor axiom 1.)
(Because it creates situation where gains and losses cancel each other out.)
(Because you end up with too many balls in the air.)

Major Axiom 2: On Greed

Always take your profit too soon.

Sell too soon.
Don't hope for winning streaks to go on and on.
Don't stretch your luck.
Expect winning streaks to be short.
When you reach a previously decided-upon ending position, cash out and walk away.
Do this even when everything looks rosy, when everyone else is saying the boom will keep roaring along.

The ONLY reason for not doing it would be that some new situation has arisen, and this situation makes you all but certain that you can go on winning for a while.

Except in such usual circumstances, get in the habit of selling too soon.
And when you've sold, don't torment yourself if the winning continues without you.

Minor Axiom III
Decide in advance what gain you want from a venture, and when you get it, get out.

Major Axiom 3: On Hope

When the ship starts to sink, don't pray.

Learning to take losses is an essential speculative technique.
MOST never learn it.
Take losses at once and move on.
Take small losses to protect yourself from the big ones.

Beware the 3 obstacles to jumping ship:

  • Fear of regret (that the loser will turn out to be a winner when you've bailed-out)
  • Unwillingness to abandon part of an investment (become willing to abandon)
  • Difficulty of admitting you made a mistake.

Minor Axiom IV
Accept small losses cheerfully as a fact of life.
Expect to experience several while awaiting a large gain.

Major Axiom 4: On Forecasts

Human behavior cannot be predicted.
Distrust anyone who claims to know the future, however dimly.

Nobody has the foggiest notion of what will happen in the future.
Never lose sight of the possibility you have made a bad bet.

Major Axiom 5: On Patterns
The Emperor Axiom

Chaos is not dangerous until it begins to look orderly.

Do not look for order where order does not exist.
Do not overlook the large role chance takes in any speculation.
Study information in whatever speculative medium to improve chances and take your best shot.
Stay light on your feet ready to jump this way or that.
You are dealing with chaos, as long as you are alert to that fact you can keep yourself from getting hurt.

Internal Monolog goes:
"OK. I've done my homework as well as I know how.
I think this bet can pay off for me.
But since I cannot see or control all the random events that will affect what happens to my money.
I know the chance of me being wrong is large.
Therefore I will stay light on my feet, ready to jump this way or that when whatever is going to happen happens."

Minor Axiom V
Beware the historians trap.
The Historian's trap is a particular kind of orderly illusion.
It is based on the age-old but entirely unwarranted belief that history repeats itself.
People who hold this belief - which is to say perhaps ninety-nine out of every hundred people on earth - believe as a corollary proposition that the orderly repetition of history allows for accurate forecasting in certain situations....
Don't fall into this trap.
It is true that history repeats itself sometimes, but most often it doesn't, and in any case it never does so in a reliable enough way that you can prudently bet money on it.

Minor Axiom VI
Beware the Chartist's illusion.
It is characteristic of human minds to perceive links of cause and effect where none exist.

Minor Axiom VII
Beware the correlation and causality delusions.

Minor Axiom VIII
Beware the Gambler's Fallacy.
There's no such thing as "Today's my lucky day" or "I'm hot tonight".

Major Axiom 6: On Mobility

Avoid putting down roots.
They impede motion.

Be ready to jump away from trouble or seize opportunity.
You do not have to bounce from one speculation to another like a ping-pong ball.
All your moves should be made only after a careful assessment of the odds for and against, and no move should be made for trivial reasons.
But when a venture is clearly souring, or when something clearly more promising comes into view, then you must sever those roots and go.
Don't let the roots get too thick to cut.

Minor Axiom IX
Do not become trapped in a souring venture because of sentiments like loyalty and nostalgia.

Minor Axiom X
Never hesitate to abandon a venture of something more attractive comes into view.

Major Axiom 7: On Intuition

A hunch can be trusted if it can be explained.

Though intuition is not infallible, it can be a useful speculative tool, if handled with care and skepticism.

If you are hit by strong hunch - put it to the test.
Trust it only if you can explained it.
That is only if you can identify within your mind a stored body of information out of which that hunch must reasonably be supposed to have arisen.

Be wary of any intuition that seems to promise some outcome you want badly.

Minor Axiom XI
Never confuse a hunch with a hope.

Major Axiom 8: On Religion and the Occult

It is unlikely that god's plan for the universe includes making you rich.

Assume you are on your own.
Rely on nothing but your own wits.

Minor Axiom XII
If astrology worked, all astrologers would be rich.

Minor Axiom XIII
A superstition need not be exorcised.
It can be enjoyed, provided it is kept in its place.

Major Axiom 9: On Optimism & Pessimism

Optimism means expecting the best, but confidence means knowing how you will handle the worst.
Never make a move if you are merely optimistic.

Optimism can be a speculator's enemy.
It feels good and is dangerous for that reason.
It produces a clouding of judgment.
It can lead you into a venture with no exits.
Even when there is an exit, optimism can persuade you not to use it.
You should never make a move if you are merely optimistic.
Before committing your money to a venture, ask how you will save yourself if things go wrong.
Once you have that worked out, you've got something better than optimism.
You've got confidence.

Major Axiom 10: On Consensus

Disregard the majority opinion.
It is probably wrong.

Figure everything out for yourself.

Minor Axiom XIV
Never follow speculative fads.
Often, the best time to buy something is when no-one else wants it.

Major Axiom 11: On Stubbornness

If it doesn't pay off the first time forget it.

Perseverance is a good idea for spiders and kings, but not always for speculators.
Don't fall into the trap of trying to squeeze a gain out of any single speculative entity.

Don't chase any investment in a spirit of stubbornness.
Reject any thought that an investment "owes you" something.
And don't buy the alluring, but fallacious idea that you can improve a bad situation by averaging down.

Minor Axiom XV
Never try to save a bad investment by averaging down.

Major Axiom 12: On Planning

Long-range plans engender the dangerous belief that the future is under control.
It is important never to take your own long-range plans, or other people's, too seriously.

React to events as they occur in the present.
Put your money into ventures as they present themselves and withdraw it from hazards as they loom up.
Value the freedom that will allow you to do this.
Don't ever sign that freedom away.
There is only one long-range financial plan you need: the intention to grow rich.
The how is not knowable or plan-able.
All you need to know is that you will do it somehow.

Minor Axiom XVI
Shun long-term investments.

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You might be a racer if:
You spend more on insurance premiums than on food.
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