Recently, I was reading the book ‘What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars’ by Jim Paul and Brendan Moynihan. In the foreword written by Jack Schwager, he rightly pointed out the dichotomy in human thinking by highlighting a stimulating anecdote.
“No sane person would walk into a bookstore, go to the medical section, find a book on brain surgery, read it over the weekend, and then believe he could walk into an operating room on Monday morning and perform successful brain surgery. The operative word here is “sane”. Yet how many people do you know who would think that it is perfectly reasonable to walk into a bookstore, go to the investment section, find a book with a title like How I Made A Million Dollars Trading Stocks Last Year, read it over the weekend, and then start trading Monday morning and expect to beat the professionals at their own game. Why this dichotomy in thinking?”
This is quite relevant in today’s world of investing. Investing is considered as the profession that is comparatively easy as compared to any other. If you take any other profession, you need to be trained to be successful at it. You need to know cricket to play it well, need to practice the scales and chords to be a good pianist and need to read and continuously polish your writing skills to be a writing pundit.
And that’s why Jack spoke about why investing is the only profession where you’ve 50/50 winning chance which makes many investors think investing is a lot easier than it is.
Investing is perhaps the most peculiar profession in the world, perhaps the reason being it deals more with emotional intelligence than the technical skills to be successful. Not that I wish to undermine the role of technical skills here, but once you have identified a fundamentally sound business, then investing is more of an emotional game in order to have a winning streak in the stock market.
And to reduce the emotional costs of investing, there many skills or beliefs which needs to be reconsidered to be successful.
This brings me back to my topic – Subtract, don’t add!
But what does it indicate. It simply means it is important to unlearn to learn the relevant skills. It means that we have to subtract few beliefs and let go of few habits which we may have learnt over the past few years.
But is it really necessary to undergo this difficult process of learning, unlearning and relearning? The answer is a big YES, because over a period of time we learn a lot of things which becomes obsolete and outdated with time. Failure to let go of “misbeliefs” we have held and learnt over a period of time, can stop one from progressing.
Hence, in the context of investing too, to become a successful investor you will need to subtract few beliefs (listed below) from your mind.
The herd mentality
Have you been influenced by other people’s investment decisions? Well, you are not alone. Many investors are easily swayed by what others around them are doing. When everybody around is investing in a particular stock, the tendency for potential investors is to do the same. But this strategy is bound to backfire in the long run and can also result in loss of your capital.
Stock markets and casinos are not the same. Stock markets cannot make you wealthy overnight. So it is wrong to have such unrealistic expectations. Even legendary investor, Warren Buffett says that earning more than 12 per cent in stock is pure dumb luck and you laugh at it, you’re surely inviting trouble for yourself.
Timing the market
You should never try to time the market. Catching the tops and bottoms is a myth. It can be a challenge to rebalance your portfolio during extreme market volatility. When markets are falling, investors hesitate to buy in a fear of further decline. Similarly, when prices rise, investors are tempted to hold back out of concern that a rally may have run its course.
Unfortunately, such behaviour can affect long-term wealth gain, as you are statistically more likely to miss out on gains while waiting on the sidelines. We all know how the markets rebounded after the 2008 financial crisis.
DIY investing is the best
DIY investing is good if you have the time and expertise. But if you have been consistently making losses and your portfolio is going down, it is time to seek expert advice.