The purpose of this site is to make me a smarter investor and a more knowledgeable advisor to my clients.
I read research and news for hours, thousands and thousands of words each day, to make sure that I’m aware of everything that’s happening. I blog or link to much of what I read in an effort to distill this acquired knowledge into some semblance of an understanding or an action plan. I attend events and listen to conference calls. I devour the presentations of analysts and strategists. I rarely miss much, and if I do I make it a point to hunt it down.
And then I take all of this and I write about it.
I write to find out what I think. I share this process on the web in real-time as an exercise in crystallizing my own comprehension. It is working. I knew very little when I began years ago compared to what I know now. I hope I can say the same thing in the years that follow. My time spent doing this is in lieu of spending my time in other ways – prospecting, networking, marketing, fantasy footballing, office-golf-putting, watching TV news, sitting in sales meetings with middle managers, instant messaging, talking about golf, etc.
To call myself a Scholar would be a bit much, so I prefer to think of myself as a Learner. I would rather be a Learner than a Salesman. I did the salesman thing already, got really good at it and despised it so much it almost killed me.
Doing this learning in such a public way has earned me a platform with which to connect with a broad audience. It has also opened a lot of doors for me professionally. It’s allowed me to meet and become acquainted with virtually all of my investing heroes – many of them to the point where I can regularly consult with them as I develop my skills and knowledge base even further. It’s also allowed me to make friendships that I hope will last a lifetime with some of the most brilliant traders, investors, market writers, economic thinkers and researchers currently working today. Making new friends is a great experience, but making new friends who can inspire and teach you new things can be life-changing.
The blog has forced me to read books. Countless books, piled up on my shelves and windowsills, loaded onto my devices. I hungrily consume them one by one, attempting to hold onto the most important insights I can glean from the men and women who’ve spent a lifetime accumulating the wisdom to fill these books with.
The blog has shown me who to listen to and who to tune out. When to stop reading an article and when not to bother clicking its headline at all. What is a precious gem of understanding and what is a black hole of noise and nonsense. I’ve learned who can be trusted and who can not in the financial media. Which commentators are permanently and irreparably conflicted and which are honest, empirically-driven in their analyses.
The blog has also taught me recognize everything investors do wrong, everything I myself was doing wrong for so many years. There are patterns of success and failure that become evident when you read every market-related research report, economic paper, investing outlook, autopsy and anecdote from the world’s greatest writers, researchers, journalists and money managers for weeks, months, quarters and years on end.
I now know all about inherent biases and human nature and the fight-or-flight reflex and the dangers of commingling personal politics with money and the Recency Effect and the sunk cost dilemma and performance chasing and blind faith in any particular strategy and hubris and emotional stubbornness and high costs and heavy friction and all of the other tragic and timeless pitfalls that we all face. I’ve learned all about the follies of forecasting and the double-edged nature of having deep convictions. I’ve learned how little things have changed in the history of investing, how perennially prone we are to the same mistakes and manias and misunderstandings.
To say nothing of the skills I’ve acquired or honed – the importance of position sizing and diversification and situational awareness. The importance of humility in the face of wrongness, agility in the face of new or contrary information. The importance of respecting the technicals and the fundamentals, maintaining an elevated awareness of the best and worst attributes of these disciplines, even when this means balancing two contradictory thoughts in one’s head concurrently.
I’ve learned how sentiment, both my own and the mass-sentiment of the entire investor class, can hurt or help me in my efforts each day.
More than any of these things, it’s awoken me from the trance-like execution of my daily to-do list and exposed me to a much wider world and some very large truths. The perspective I’ve gained will be invaluable, I suspect, as time marches on and new challenges await.
The good and the bad news is that I am never done. There is no finish line. Some things I learn are forgotten while others are eventually proved to have been fallacious in the presence of new evidence. But this was never about the destination, it was always about the journey – so I can live with that.
The purpose of this site is self-improvement, both for my own benefit and for the benefit of those I serve and work with. I am sure there are other ways to do it, but this way is mine.
This post originally appeared on January 13th, 2013. To get The Reformed Broker by email, subscribe here.
My story and the story of how Wall Street came to Main Street told in the book Backstage Wall Street