J#31: How Porter Stansberry Influenced my Success, plus Invaluable Life Lessons from a former Rubber Tapper

The festive season gave me some time to reflect and think of the people who helped me get to where I am now.  I’m grateful for their friendship and so I decided to dedicate my first journal in 2021 to honour them.

As many of you have appreciated me sharing my personal thoughts, I promised to Double Digit Dividend readers that from time to time I would switch gears from an investment-themed journal to expressing my views on other important things in life besides investing. 

Many of my values are influenced by the people who have played a positive role in my life.  Their influence and my happiness can be measured by the depth of my relationship with them. Call them “mentors” if you like.  I have written about two of them previously:

Today I’d like to focus on two other people.  One of them I know and interact deeply with and the other only from a distance.

Mr. Porter Stansberry

I do not know Porter personally nor communicate with him directly.  He is one of those mentors of mine that I know from “a distance.”

Along with obtaining a double degree in Science (Computing) and Commerce, I studied accounting in university with a view of learning how to make good investment decisions.  This culminated in me working my way into a role with Lehman Brothers in their Equity Research department. (A decade before the firm imploded in the Global Financial Crisis I might add).

Peter CL Tan with Porter Stansberry in New York, 2017
Porter Stansberry and me. New York City, May 2017

But if you ask me where my real investment learning came from, my answer would be: reading materials from Stansberry Research and other non-mainstream research houses, and by learning the hard way from the many successful and not so successful investments I made over the years.  Looking back, getting two university degrees was simply a “door opener” to bigger things and a process to build my self-confidence (and not be intimidated by people with many letters after their name).   

I have read a lot of Porter’s materials and learnt a lot from them.  He writes infrequently now as he has amassed an investment research business with 30 analysts, 500,000+ readers, of which 70,000+ (including me) are lifetime subscribers.  His research company, as he would recount to his subscribers, started from his kitchen table, along with his surfer buddy and close friend, Steve Sjuggerud, on a borrowed laptop.  Stansberry Research is now worth over USD 500 million (according to Porter).  It just shows what is possible with the grey matter between your ears, combined with some hard work and “lady luck,” if you want to call it that, or when the stars line-up for you.

I have moved forward and am now applying the lessons learnt reading Porter’s materials in years gone past to Double Digit Dividends through my own research, rather than relying on material that is for a large consumer base. 

Reading widely, being a critical and independent thinker, and simply not following the consensus is one of Porter’s many lessons.  Investing in Africa, emerging markets and names other than Dow Jones component stocks comes naturally to me as a result.  This, I hope, is reflected in the journals I’ve written so far.

Porter is certainly a success story and in my early years as a student of investment markets, he helped shape my thinking.

Mr. Goh

Mr. Goh was the builder I appointed to build my current home in Singapore.  He comes from humble origins in Malaysia.  He was a rubber tapper as a boy and did not complete secondary school. He then went on to develop the skill sets and contacts necessary to start his own business building and renovating homes. 

For our Double Digit Dividends international audience, a rubber tapper’s job is to carve a channel in a rubber tree’s trunk so its latex can be captured in a cup (the captured latex is processed and used in materials such as car tyres). 

Rubber tapping

 They use a special knife to carve the channel and it requires some skill as you may damage the tree and destroy it. Rubber plantations are usually mosquito infested and back in 1950s in Malaysia (then called ‘Malaya’), it was not uncommon to have the odd tiger roaming around.

Mr Goh built my family home in 2007.  We have remained friends since then.  I have a “soft spot” for Mr Goh.  I often tell him that what he does is more valuable than an investor such as me.  He builds houses, and rather than trying to understand sets of numbers of an investment, his final product is far more useful in that it provides shelter to me (and to many others) on a daily basis.  I have coffee frequently with Mr Goh.  He is one (of a small handful) elderly gentlemen whom I hang around to listen to and bounce ideas off.

There is a Chinese saying that goes “I have eaten more salt than you have rice.”                        

It means they have lived and experienced life more than you.  This saying certainly applies to Mr Goh (and the few other friends of mine of the same ilk).  He has lived life’s ups and downs and dealt with many people and situations.  As I write this journal about Mr Goh, it reminded me of one of my other favourite quotes.

Not everything that can be counted

The quote is often incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein, but William Bruce Cameron is the original source of the quote.

Parents and society tend to place an emphasis on school, university grades, position and monetary wealth as measures of success.  Investors evaluating companies by various metrics can also fall into the same trap of just looking at what can be counted.  There is a difference between a financial headline number and those generated by strong businesses and competent and ethical management teams.  Not everything in society and investments that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

Mr Goh, and several of my other very good friends, are good examples of the application of this quote.  They are smart, they are wise, they ethical and good-hearted.  They tell you about things (and about yourself and themselves) with unvarnished truth.  They have qualities that cannot be measured but are invaluable.  In the case of Mr Goh, the rubber tapper boy, I salute you Sir and thank you for being a friend. 

There are several other friends of mine, less than the fingers on one of my hands, that are like Mr Goh.  I have not written about them but to those valuable few (and they know who they are), I thank them too.

Peter CL Tan with his home builder and life mentor, Mr Goh
Mr Goh and me


Surround yourselves with and hold on to people such as Mr. Goh.  They have eaten more salt than you and I have rice. If you decide you would like to read more about investing, besides Porter, I recommend Doug Casey, Bill Bonner, Raoul Pal and Tim’s 4th Pillar, just to name a few.  What is important is you read extensively so that you are not dragged by Plato’s wild horses

It was simply magical meeting up with the both of you after so many months.  It was the first time, in over a year that we three shared a meal together and interacted.  Son, I shall bring your soccer ball when we next meet!