Top positive review
Agreeing with Tom Peters, "best business book I have ever read..."
Reviewed in the United States on March 16, 2021
Bogle wrote Enough in the midst of the 2008 Financial Crisis. I had always been quick to read new Bogle books, but was particularly interested in his take on the Crisis, and especially the character changes in society that enabled it. I read it for the first time within a month of it coming out.
Bogle has been my hero for a long time. I had the good fortune to spend one and a half hours with him in his office in Malvern in 2014 and to do a podcast interview of him in 2015. The world lost its greatest steward of investment wealth with his passing in 2019.
Recently I read a wealth advisor’s blog on his commentaries on “enough”. I liked the author’s viewpoints, remembering how it sounded a lot like Bogle. I said, “Time to re-read Enough”.
I have now read this book maybe five times. Agreeing with Tom Peters in the Prologue, “this is the best business book I’ve ever read, and as good a primer on life as I’ve read as well.”
I sought out my previously read copy with its copious highlighting and dog-eared pages. Could not find it. Must have loaned it to a friend. Fortunately, I had another copy on the shelf (I have given this book out a lot over the years!).
When I read, I highlight copiously, yet reserve a “dog-ear” for a page that I find especially insightful. This aids in a quick review of a book--go back a re-read only the turned-over-corner pages. On this reading, I dog-eared eight pages. For this review, I thought I would give a sentence or two on each of these special pages from this most-recent reading.
#1 p. 31 (2010 edition, paperback)
Relates quote from Warren Buffett partner, Charlie Munger, who laments so much “ethical young brain power” going into finance when they could be distinguished by work “providing much more value to others”. Bogle precedes this with “far too many of us seemingly no longer make anything; we’re merely trading pieces of paper”.
#2 p. 85
His commentary on “Fundamental Indexing”, that branch of money managers who recommend you not weight portfolios by market cap, but by using “factors” such as book value, market cap, earnings, etc. He comments that it is not appropriate to say, “value investing wins” when we observe value outperforming in the past. Bogle is consistent here and in all his writings that winning investment performance in the past creates high valuations, making it less likely to win in the future. (This is exactly what has happened to value and many other “factor” approaches since 2008!)
#3. p. 115
This is how Bogle begins his section entitled “The Spirit of Trust”. “My faith in trust goes back to the Golden Rule. We are, after all, implored in the Bible to love our neighbors…” Bogle’s integrity is so high, I am eager to learn of his inspiration and underpinnings. As a Christian, I love that he finds deep truth in the Bible.
#4 p. 123
This is early on in the chapter “Too Much Business Conduct, Not Enough Professional Conduct”. Bogle relays how in times past, a “professional” was someone who was out to do good in the world. Think physician, teacher, attorney, engineer, architect. In today’s age of focus on money, Bogle sees all the professions tempted more by “doing good for me”. He suggests trustees of “other people’s money” are professionals too, but he is not seeing the fruit of it. Bogle writes: “Harvard Business School professor Rakesh Khurana was right on the mark when he defined the conduct of a true professional with these words: ‘I will create value for society, rather than extract it.’”
#5 p. 183
Relates a summary of the book and film, A Civil Action. The story is of corporate-caused water pollution causing multiple leukemia cases in a Massachusetts town. The attorney working for the injured has a transformed life so much so that he loses all his personal wealth in the legal fight. This is to such an extent that the attorney’s bankruptcy judges asks, “Where are the things by which one measures one’s life?” Bogle ends this mini-review reminded of one of his favorite hymns: God of Grace and God of Glory.
He finally inspired me to watch this movie for the first time! It is powerful.
#6 p. 190.
Another reference to his religious foundations:
“I am not at all embarrassed to mention the constructive role of religion in fostering these higher values…the virtues of the Golden Rule, and standards of conduct that parallel the Ten Commandments. We thrive as human beings and as families not by what faith we happen to hold, but by having faith, faith in something far greater than ourselves.”
#7 p. 196
Relates the popular T. S. Eliot quote that I love so much:
“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust”
#8 p. 224
In the chapter “Not Enough Character”, he gets personal and vulnerable. No doubt, Bogle achieved success and significance in his life. Yet, he is human, and we all at times struggle with our worth.
Excerpt: “Most of us should not have to spend much time wondering whether the rabbits we are chasing are real or false…Yet in the quiet of the evening and sometime loneliness of the soul, many of those who shouldn’t need to wonder about the value of hard work and life well lived doubtless do exactly that. … (Perhaps it will surprise you to learn that I do a lot of lonely wondering about the worth of my own life and career)….We’ll be better human beings and achieve greater things if we challenge ourselves to pursue careers that create value for society—with personal wealth not as the goal, but as the by-product.”
I thoroughly benefitted from my re-read of Enough. I hope to find my earlier dog-eared version to compare the differences in my special pages then v. now.