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Nothing Happens, Then Everything Happens

Nothing Happens, Then Everything Happens

On the Fits and Starts in Markets and in Life

Photo: Pixabay

After traveling the world for over five years aboard the HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin returned to England on October 2, 1836.  You would think that after half a decade of documenting the unknown flora and fauna of the globe Darwin would sit down and write up his theory on evolution.  But, that didn’t happen.  As Bill Bryson notes:

It wasn’t until 1842, six years after his return to England, that Darwin finally began to sketch out the rudiments of his new theory.

However, even this wasn’t enough to get Darwin to finish his most famous work.  It would take a letter from Alfred Wallace, another English naturalist, to force Darwin to collect his thoughts.  The letter, which arrived 16 years afterDarwin’s initial drafts, contained Wallace’s own independently discovered theory of evolution.  Darwin saw the writing on the wall and knew he had to act fast.  Over the course of the next year Darwin worked furiously to finalize his ideas.  He published On the Origin of Species in November 1859, over 23 years after returning from his worldwide voyage.

We look back upon history as a series of events that seem simple and logically connected.  Darwin traveled the world, studied animal behavior, and then immediately came up with the theory of evolution.  But that’s not how things unfolded.  History isn’t so simple.  It actually took over two decades of pondering and working on other matters before Darwin finalized the ideas that would revolutionize biology.  Nothing happened, then everything happened.

The same can be said of investing, where mostly smooth growth is occasionally interrupted by violent fluctuations.  Morgan Housel said it best when he compared investing to being an airline pilot:

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