The Sketchbook of Wisdom: A Hand-Crafted Manual on the Pursuit of Wealth and Good Life
Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital wrote this in one of his 2006 memos to shareholders titled ‘Risk‘ –
In the investing world, one can live for years off one great coup or one extreme but eventually accurate forecast. But what’s proved by one success? When markets are booming, the best results often go to those who take the most risk. Were they smart to anticipate good times and bulk up on beta, or just congenitally aggressive types who were bailed out by events? Most simply put, how often in our business are people right for the wrong reason?
These are the people Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “lucky idiots,” and in the short run it’s certainly hard to tell them from skilled investors.
Warren Buffett, in his brilliant 1984 article titled The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville, describes a contest in which each of the 225 million Americans starts with US$ 1 and flips a coin once a day. The people who get it right on day one collect a dollar from those who were wrong and go on to flip again on day two, and so forth. Ten days later, 220,000 people have called it right ten times in a row and won US$ 1,000.
Buffett writes –
Now this group will probably start getting a little puffed up about this, human nature being what it is. They may try to be modest, but at cocktail parties they will occasionally admit to attractive members of the opposite sex what their technique is, and what marvelous insights they bring to the field of flipping.
After another ten days, there are 215 ‘survivors’ who have been right 20 times in a row and have each won US$ 1 million. By this exercise, each have turned one dollar into a little over $1 million.
…this group will really lose their heads. They will probably write books on “How I turned a Dollar into a Million in Twenty Days Working Thirty Seconds a Morning.” Worse yet, they’ll probably start jetting around the country attending seminars on efficient coin-flipping and tackling skeptical professors with, “If it can’t be done, why are there 215 of us?”
By then some business school professor will probably be rude enough to bring up the fact that if 225 million orangutans had engaged in a similar exercise, the results would be much the same — 215 egotistical orangutans with 20 straight winning flips.
This is a very important story and the reason I am reminding you of this today is because there are now more than 215 egotistical orangutans that are talking about how they have turned small amounts of money into millions investing in stocks and elsewhere and how you can do that easily too.
Worse, each of these 215 have a following of more than 215,000, so you can understand the multiplier effect of the ‘how to get rich easily from stocks’ theory.
Even worse, they are not chest-thumping hanging on trees of some far off jungle, but in a computer or mobile screen right in front of you, on Twitter, YouTube, and everywhere.
Buffett said –
Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.
Sir John Templeton said –
The four most dangerous words in investing are: this time it’s different.
This time is not any different, and I wish you realize this now and not when the tide goes out.
There will be a lot of naked swimmers then. I wish you are not one of them.
That’s about it from me for today.
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