It is an important skill to see the world as it is and not as we wish it should be.
None of the risks you take daily are likely to lead to death, but we act as though they would. An accurate understanding of reality is essential for producing good outcomes.
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“The future will not be as good as the past but it doesn’t have to be.” This statement from Charlie Munger summed up his thoughts on public markets. Public market in the U.S. will not repeat the success of the late 90s in the 21st century.
Successful investors seem to focus on smaller, private markets, where it's more difficult to invest and where there's less competition. It's worth noting that advances in communication technology and the huge amount of capital created in the second half of the 20th century have created a more competitive public market.
Warren Buffett states that if you aren't willing to own a stock for ten years, don't even think about owning it for ten minutes.
Human nature is most concerned with short term loss aversion, not long-term gain seeking. Because we are so short-term oriented, it's an enormous advantage if you can operate on a longer time than the competition. Having a ten, twenty, and thirty-year track record of ethical behaviour is a very defensive career position.
Not many people have knowledge in their head both through a long life and reading widely, and across private industries, government, etc., to be able to form a broad perspective.
Taking your money and starting from the perspective of how to make a better tire will yield a very different result to asking "how do I maximize returns on capital?"
Charlie Munger once commented that "in order to disagree with somebody you must first understand their argument better than they do."
The most common way people lose money is to overestimate how clever they are and how much they know. Even after a fifty-year investing career, both Warren Buffett and Munger read over 500 pages a day and still limited themselves to a small circle of competence where they can explain the other side's argument better than they can.
Researcher Robin Dunbar says, on average, we can only maintain a trusted social group of one hundred and fifty people. We can change which people, brands, and ideas we trust, but the number stays the same.
We are exposed to an increasing number of brands each year, but with no more trust and attention to hand out. The result is a shift in how companies grow and how marketing works. Warren Buffett shows a change from "push" marketing to "pull" marketing. We are entering a trust shortage. The individuals and brands which are "long trust" will win.
Each of us, through experience or study, has built up useful knowledge on certain areas of the world. Some areas are understood by most of us, while some areas require a lot more specialty to evaluate.
It is important to honestly define what we know and stick to those areas.
Our circle of competence can be widened, but only slowly and over time.
Buffett has a smart strategy for making ethical decisions: “I ask the managers to judge every action they take — not just by legal standards, though obviously that’s the first test — but also by what I call the ‘newspaper test.’”
If a manager expresses uncertainty, Buffett says he asks them how they “would feel about any given action if they know it was to be written up the next day in their local newspaper.”
“It’s pretty simple,” he says. “If [the decision] passes that test, it’s okay. If anything is too close to the lines, it’s out.”
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