Jim Cramer of CNBC has a “vicious” schedule that allows only four hours of sleep, according to his recent interview with Business Insider.
He gets up at 3:45am. By 4:45am he has exercised (with a trainer), twittered, eaten, and starts working on a memo, then he goes to CNBC, meets with a CEO at 7:00am, then meets with his charitable trust, then is on television at 8:20am, doing conference calls at 10:10am, working on memos with his writers and setting up guests and segments, doing his actual show 4:00pm to 6:15pm, then he gets driven home at 6:30pm, where he allows himself an hour to eat supper and watch television, after which he works on his overnight memo till 11:00pm, and gets in bed by 11:30pm, only to start the next day at 3:45am. This schedule is pretty close to what he told Business Insider three years ago, when they reported that he worked “every single minute” from 2:47am to 11:00pm, losing weight during earnings season because he had no time for supper. Oh, he also owns an Inn and a bar. His description can be found here: http://hvst.co/1IY3gG1
Impressed? I’m not.
He has allotted himself zero time for deep contemplation of the type necessary for true insight. He is busy, busy, busy – as if busyness itself were a virtue.
I took one look at Cramer’s schedule and realized that it is anathema to producing any profound ideas. All of the great thinkers spend a lot of time doing nothing – at least from the outside perspective. Doing ‘nothing’ is what gives them space to generate ideas, that is, to think.
A few examples are in order.
Bodhidharma (the father of Chinese Buddhism) arrived at the Shaolin Temple and spent eight years staring at a wall. Every day, alone, staring at a wall. Jesus went alone into the wilderness for forty days. Einstein spent his afternoons staring out the window, imagining how gravity would feel to a worker falling off the building.
Deep thinkers are rarely media darlings and friends of the establishment. Socrates was sentenced to death; Rousseau was kicked around Europe and ended up alone on an island; Spinoza was excommunicated by the Jews and hounded by the Christians; Godel – perhaps the greatest logician since Aristotle – died of paranoid starvation after escaping from the Nazis and landing in Princeton, where he interrupted his immigration hearing to tell the judge there was a logical error in the U.S. Constitution.
Isn’t this a central message of The Big Short? That it takes outsiders, misfits, and contrarians to see the deeper trends in the markets, because they have no stake in perpetuating the party line.
This is my problem with Cramer: he has no time to think. He is so imbricated within the strictures of CNBC, so enamored of his guests, so genuflective and collegial that he has no critical distance to see the flaws of the very system of which he is a part.
People like Cramer who are so invested (literally and figuratively) in the current financial system are loathe to realize that it is farcical, that it is built on toothpicks, that the corporate and government numbers are cooked, that the ‘recovery’ is a joke, that the ‘markets’ are rigged by central banks, that wrongdoing is epidemic, that there are no longer any rational connections between prices and fundamentals, that we have passed beyond reality into fantasyland.
It would cost Cramer his job to admit this carnivalesque madness, to have the courage of several recent hedge fund managers who returned money to their clients and admitted that the financial system is no longer a ‘market’ in any meaningful sense.
And so there he sits, an indefatigable lighthouse, imperious and self-righteous in his conviction that everything is still rational.
Cramer is the embodiment of a society awash in information but starved in meaning. Busy, busy, busy, spouting out figures, reciting numbers, giving opinions on consumer products, oil, geopolitics, central banking, fundamentals, technicals -- but to what end?
Cramer’s function is symbolic: he embodies the Horatio Alger Myth that a balding everyman trading out of a rec room full of tchotchkes can be a ‘winner’ with some good old-fashioned elbow grease and four hours of sleep. And why does he do it? Because he wants you – dear reader and dear watcher – to get rich!
People rarely ask themselves why a fortuneteller lives in trailer park instead of living in a mansion by getting rich betting on sporting events. Similarly, most people who watch CNBC don’t ask why Cramer eschews being a billionaire trader so he can be a guidance counselor to day traders.
Busyness doesn’t make Cramer great; on the contrary, it’s what prevents him from being great.