As an experiment, We prepare different chits and write down different stocks name on those piece of paper. Then we give it to different monkeys to pick it for a week. Few come out as a winner and few as losers. We continue playing the same with winners only. Over some time, one monkey comes as a right in all the time. The media calls that monkey a successful monkey and call everyone to understand his success mantra.
This is an outcome bias; we tend to evaluate decisions based on the result rather than on the decision process. When a person has a good performance track record of stocks picking then we consider him as a good stock picker or an expert rather than knowing the process or it can be possible that past results can be due to pure luck. I met few fund managers who do not read books or annual reports thoroughly but they have survived for 10-12 years so people call them successful and an expert.
In conclusion: never judge a decision purely by its result, especially when randomness or ‘external factors’ play a role. A bad result does not automatically indicate a bad decision and vice versa. So rather than tearing your hair out about a wrong decision, or applauding yourself for one that may have only coincidentally led to success, remember why you chose? what you did?. When we start understanding the process behind success, then we can easily recognize success as a part of luck or efforts.
There are two types of knowledge. First, we have real knowledge. We see it in people who have committed a large amount of time and effort to understand a topic.
The second type is chauffeur knowledge – knowledge from people who have learned to put on a show. These people just make show that they know everything but they just speak what they have heard from the source. They speak as per the predefined script ready for them.
Any fool can know. The point is to understand. – A. Einstein
Investment – It is difficult to judge who is an expert and who has just a bird view of knowledge.
In 1998 Wesco meeting, Charlie Munger Quoted –
I try to get rid of people who always confidently answer questions about which they don’t have any real knowledge. To me, they are like the bee dancing its incoherent dance. They are just screwing up the hive.
Mr Warren Buffett suggests us to decide what we know and stay with it, what he calls a circle of competence. Mr Munger suggests that the size of the circle is not important but important is, we stay within its limit well. If we do not know anything, we should simply say we don’t know rather act as an expert. I also faced such problems during the initial days of my career. I considered people with Chauffeur knowledge as an expert until I do not meet real experts.
In the stock market, we meet many people who act as an expert but the majority of them not. We have to carefully check their knowledge before trust on them. We have to understand their investment philosophy and process before making a judgement of them. True experts recognize the limits of what they know and what they do not know. If they find themselves outside their circle of competence, they keep quiet or simply say, ‘I don’t know.’ We also have to perform the same for becoming an expert in our field.
Subjective confidence in a judgment is not a reasoned evaluation of the probability that this judgment is correct. Confidence is a feeling, which reflects the coherence of the information and the cognitive ease of processing it. It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.
Business – When the business personal preparing blueprint for a particular project and the narrative of the project seems good then he starts believing that this project is very good. Thus, they have to execute that project. But this confidence can turn out as overconfidence.
Investment – When we study a particular company and its narrative looks so good then we start getting confidence in the future performance of the company. But this confidence has created a story in our mind and that does not necessarily to be proven as true so that we also should work on writing down what can kill this idea. This helps us to make wise and rational decision.
The Illusion of Stock-Picking Skill
What made one person buy and the other sell? What did the sellers think they knew that the buyers did not?
Buyers think the price will increase and sellers think that price will fall.
Individual investors try to react to each news but institutions are selected about the reaction on the news which also proves their label of Smart money.
The majority of people have an illusion of skills. The majority of people believes that picking stocks and getting a return on them is mostly responsible for their skills and does not appreciate the role of luck.
But it is not the ultimate truth. There is a role of luck that should be appreciated. Not believing the role of luck will lead to overconfidence in their skill. And that will tend to make any irrational decision. So that after buying or selling, we will think that stock price will move as per our expectation because we have completed with all necessary study and confident about movement.
We should always think that the seller/buyer has much more insights than us which make him selling/buying a particular stock. This thought process helps us with widening our thoughts process.
It is always important to be defensive and aggressive over a different period of time. We cannot be defensive for every time or aggressive all the time. The most important is when we should become defensive and when we should become aggressive, it matters a lot. If we become defensive at the bottom of the cycle and aggressive at the top of the cycle then it will be dangerous for our wealth.
We require aggressiveness, timing and skills for achieving success. Aggressiveness at the right time creates a fortune.
For getting success, we have to focus on key elements mentioned by Mr Marks.
Risk in our portfolio in the cycle, which assets we are holding in the portfolio and among those which are overweight or underweight.
Aggressiveness such as holding second-grade assets, leverage, macro dependent investment, putting more capital at risk. Defensive investment such as holding cash than securities, safer assets, avoid leverage. Selection from above both depends on where we stand at the cycle and what can be a future market development.
The skill requires to make a balanced decision. Luck required when randomness has more effects on the events. Skills help us to make a decision in the portfolio but luck can fail our right decision or proven to succeed in our wrong decision in the short run. Skills win the battle in the long run.
When we found that we are positioned in the cycle where pessimism at lowest, the economy has better development, etc. and we have become aggressive towards portfolio positioning then it will reward us with greater profits while the market does well as per our assumption. And also incur losses if the market does not work as per our assumption.
Being right is not into the control of anyone due to the involvement of randomness and luck factors.
When we found that the economy started being optimistic, the psychology of investors started optimistic, good news started flowing then we need to cut position in our portfolio which we feel overpriced. This effort helps us to reduce risk when slowdown or recession occurs. But this decision requires a skill set otherwise we will underperform the market at whole.
We always have to keep in mind that when the market is low in the cycle then the probability of losses is low and the probability of making profits is higher. Reversely, when the market is high in the cycle then the probability of incurring losses is higher and the probability of making profits is lower. We cannot predict the outcome but we can take advantage of the cycle by making an assumption of it.
After identifying the market cycle, we need to make a selection of the assets. If the price of the asset is lower compared to its intrinsic value then it will do better than other assets. And if the price of the assets is higher compared to its intrinsic value then it will not do much better than other assets. We also should focus that whether the intrinsic value of the assets has scope for further growth or not.
Theoretically, it quoted that the market is efficient and all the information is available with everyone so that no one can make profits from it. But reality shows something different. It shows that few people can think differently from the crowd and get above average than all. This is called second-level thinking where we need to think wise and differently from the crowd. Those who use second-level thinking they can do above average than consensus. This is key to assets selection.
Winners have a tendency to fall less than the market and during the rising market, they meet the market. And those who do not have a skill, they fall more than the market and does not have a higher return when market raises.
Aggressive investors with superior insights, fall slightly more than market in falling time but raise more than market in good time. Whereas defensive investors with superior insights, outperform in the worst time and underperformed the market in good time. We need to keep a balance between both. The person who can make a balance between both aggressive and defensive with superior insights, that investors outperform the market at the worst time as well as in the good time also.
Disclosure – Companies mentioned in the article are just for an example & educational purpose. It is not a buy/sell/ hold recommendation.