What Being an Investor has Taught me About Business and Life

You know nothing!

being an investor

A strange learning to revel in, I know but one of the best business, wealth & life success secrets I have ever personally learnt.

You see as humans we suffer from a thing called ‘validation bias’. It’s a fascinating cognitive bias that’s hardwired into our brains and means we tend to spend our time hunting out evidence that supports what we personally believe to be true.

The reality is that it’s this tendency that actually leads to failure in so many things – business, money, investing and even relationships!

We find it very difficult to see when we might be wrong or when another possibility has a higher probability. We deal in validation rather than invalidation, which makes success a little elusive.

I started out my career as an equity trader working in the fast paced, dynamic trading floors of investment banks and boy does that teach you the pain of being wrong over and over again!

In that environment you learn pretty quickly that success in the game is being able to spot when you are wrong, and fast. Super success in the game is reached when you decide that actually you know nothing!

Why most people fail when it comes to business and investing is they create a product or buy a hot stock they believe in, then either nobody buys the product or the stock price starts to fall and the validation process kicks in. Our natural tendency is to check in with our reasoning and hunt out evidence that supports that reasoning and then keep going, happy in the knowledge that our thesis has been validated and we are right.

When things keep going against you and you end up losing a fortune on a dud product or a dud stock you scratch your head in disbelief and look for someone or something to blame.

The reality is that this tendency towards validation bias is always to blame.

Thanks to my years as an equity trader and now as an entrepreneur and investor, I am so grateful to have learned the valuable skill of knowing nothing. You can never beat the market so why do we spend so long trying? Instead it’s much easier to listen to the market, watch the ebb and flow and let the market tell you where it’s going and more importantly when it has changed it’s mind!

People often ask me what my market view is and I always preface it with ‘today, my view is ……… because if you ask me tomorrow it might be different.’ People always thought it was very vague of me but it’s my ‘I know nothing’ training kicking in. I can’t help it. I know that markets move quickly and things change so I need to be on my toes and always listening to the market, not telling it what to do.

being an investorEven in 2007, before the global financial meltdown, there were warning signs coming from the market that things were not good, that cracks were appearing that could upset things. Yet still people chased the markets higher and higher, leveraging into an already hot market and believing in the ‘super cycle’ theories that were everywhere at the time.

Nobody wanted to hear about the sub prime rumblings, about the over-leveraged banks, about what might happen if one of the cracks actually burst. The old adage of ‘it’s different this time’ got trotted out all over the place and everyone drank the cool aid as it supported their own beliefs.

It’s always wise to think about the downside and risk mitigate for that. Then the upside in anything will happily take care of itself.

Interestingly the most successful investors and entrepreneurs in the world do the same.

Warren Buffet & Charlie Munger, arguably two of the most successful investors of all time, spend most of their time finding evidence to disprove their theories so they can fight their own inbuilt validation biases.

While that might seem stressful it’s actually a life skill that everyone should learn.

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