Investing the Bob Dylan way

Here are 7 of the singer-songwriter precepts that can help you with your finances.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 7, 2012 10:43AM

By Jon Friedman, guest columnist


We all recognize Bob Dylan's genius for writing songs and creating timeless music -- remember, his civil-rights anthem "Blowin' in the Wind" turned 50 earlier this year. How's that for having staying power?


But Dylan's wisdom also resonates when it comes to principles of sound investing. Dylan's lifetime of success has a great deal to offer investors -- not in telling you which stocks to buy or sell but in the way people approach the challenges of making money in the stock market.

My new book, "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers and Creating a Personal Revolution," which Penguin published on Aug. 7, tells the story of how this remarkable man has attained the quality we all seek: longevity. For 50 years, he has remained a relevant and vibrant figure in our lives.

As I did my research for the book, I came to realize what sets Dylan apart from his musical peers -- and, for that matter, you and me. Much of it has to do with his conviction that he formed a successful strategy, one that suited him in particular. I suspect that if you asked Warren Buffett what has enabled him to thrive as an investor for 50 years, likewise, he would tell you that it is his absolute faith in his investment strategy -- which works perfectly for his temperament, objectives and intellect.


When you think about it, Bob Dylan and Warren Buffett, two exceptionally high achievers and mavericks, would probably have a lot to say to one another about attaining success.


Here, then, are seven of Bob Dylan's precepts that will help you make better investing decisions:


1) Forget about today. Don't beat yourself up over your past failures. If you have made a miscalculation or feel you've had a bad break in the financial markets or in real estate, for instance, accept your fate and move on. Likewise, if you have made a killing, don't get carried away by your triumphs. You must accept every new day as a fresh challenge to excel.


2) Make self-reliance your personal code. Yes, it is important to read Wall Street research reports, talk with brokers and follow key market-moving events in the media. But ultimately, you must take charge of your portfolio. You need to possess the self-confidence and knowledge required to make sound decisions time and again. Think for yourself!


3) Be willing to reinvent. Bob Dylan, in his musical career, has shifted his style from folk, to rock and roll, to country, to gospel, to the blues -- all quite effectively. He understands the essence of re-invention and changing with the times, especially when it comes to responding to technological advances.

Likewise with investing, you must recognize the shifts in our culture and economic system or else you will become a relic. Just because one tech stock or another was all the rage a year ago -- hello, Netflix (NFLX)? -- understand that, as Dylan sang in his Oscar-winning song, "Things Have Changed." You must be willing to be nimble at all times and make the necessary adjustments to your portfolio.


4) Know when to fold 'em. Where would Bob Dylan be if he hadn't had the courage to leave folk music and try his hand at rock and roll? Dylan intuitively knew, in 1965, that he had to plug in to remain relevant. The same would be true for investors. There inevitably comes a time when you have to understand that your favorite stocks -- the ones that made you rich -- are no longer cutting it. You must leave them behind. It isn't easy to cut your ties to the past. It takes strength. But it must be done.


5) Build to last. Dylan always had his eye on the future. From the moment he arrived, utterly anonymous, in Greenwich Village in 1961, he was a careerist, in the best sense of the word. He intended to build something that would last and serve his needs for a long time. Does your investment portfolio do the same for you? Have you assembled a gallery of investments that will serve your needs for years to come? Or are you in it for the quick kill? Quick kills seldom pan out, either in rock and roll or investing. You are much better off picking stocks that are likely to work for you for a long time.


6) Let curiosity be king. The more curious you are about the rhythms of the world around you, the more information you can accumulate. The more wisdom you have amassed, the smarter your decisions are going to be. Dylan's strong curiosity about painting -- and the natural connection between art and music -- helped him shape what many fans and critics say is his best album of all, "Blood on the Tracks." He attended painting classes in New York in early 1974, which sparked his passion for art. "The album derived more of its style from Dylan's renewed interest in painting," Cameron Crowe wrote in the liner notes to Dylan's "Biograph" collection. 


7) Stand back from the crowd. One of the hardest things to do in life is to have the personal power not to follow the crowd. Sometimes, you're better off by zigging when they're zagging. "Don't follow leaders," Dylan famously sang on his 1965 song, "Maggie's Farm." He wasn't being smart-alecky. No, he was imparting wisdom that works in all walks of life -- especially investing.

You can't trust the crowd to know what is best. Think of all the geniuses who touted the Facebook (FB) initial public offering earlier this year. Can't miss! Yes, Facebook's stock offering couldn't miss, until it did -- shockingly. If you possessed the common sense to stand apart from the crowd, you came out of it in good shape.


Jon Friedman, the Media Web columnist for, is the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers and Creating a Personal Revolution." For more information and to order a copy, click here.

Aug 7, 2012 4:32PM
The line "Don't Follow Leaders" is from "Subterranean Homesick Blues", not "Maggie's Farm".
Aug 7, 2012 4:29PM
Bob Dylan was and still is one of my favorite song writers. I've kept his albums from the sixties and love to listen to them.
Aug 7, 2012 4:40PM
Don't follow leaders/watch the parking meters
Aug 7, 2012 6:39PM

Seven more Dylan precepts to help you with LIFE:

1- Don't get tangled up in blue

2- You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

3- Everybody must get stoned

4- Lay lady lay every chance you get

5- Don't get stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues

6- Don't wear sandals

7- When all else fails, all life's answers are blowin in the wind

Aug 7, 2012 5:35PM
The answer my friends is Blowin in the wind..
Aug 7, 2012 5:22PM
This writer is reeeaaaalllyyyy stretching to find pertinent material for a story. 
Aug 7, 2012 5:47PM
Zigging when they are zagging? PLease tell me that is not a reference to the old Cadillac Catera ads? Although a lot of this is true about Dylan and probably good advice in general, I think it is a WAY big stretch tio comparing this to investing.
Aug 7, 2012 7:58PM
ok everyone we know who is posting the ''life is so lonely,Im a loser,etc etc etc'' its Tom Johnson
Aug 7, 2012 7:45PM
''sometimes I think there are no words but these to tell what true,and there are no truths outside the gates of eden''/Bob Dylan/Gates of eden
Aug 7, 2012 5:58PM

I'll know my song well before I start singing...

...a reflection of his brilliant mind

Aug 8, 2012 11:45AM
I think you are stretching to find a connection between Bob Dylan and investing. I like Bob Dylan, and I also like investing - though I've read enough crap in my time about both. I don't think the two correlate and I won't be sitting down to cherry-pick his sometimes elusive/enigmatic lyrics - though they can be beautiful and startling in their scope. An appreciation of the poetic isn't always compatible with stock markets. Did you have a new book out? - maybe you could shoehorn a quick plug into some article you'll just make up on the spot? - oh... you just did.
Aug 7, 2012 7:38PM
They say I shot a man named Gray
and took his wife to Italy
She inherited a million bucks
and when she died it came to me

I can't help it if I'm lucky.
Aug 8, 2012 4:28PM

"It's not dark yet, but is getting there"


"I used to care, but things have changed."

Sorry author dude, Dob Dylan was not and is not talented in any way.  Terrible singer, hippie lyrics, nothing there to admire.
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