Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Investing and the Difficult Art of Saying No

A couple of announcements before I begin today’s post – 

1. Mastermind Value Investing Course Admissions: I invite you to join my premium, online membership and course in Value Investing – Mastermind – at a special discount of ₹2,000, available till 25th June 2024. Mastermind teaches a structured, step-by-step process of stock picking as practised by the world’s most successful investors. And it’s not just a course anymore, but an all-in-one membership to my most detailed value investing course, plus exclusive members-only content like special articles, ebooks, transcripts of my podcasts, notes from the books and other timeless resources I am reading, and curated content that I am consuming and learning from. Click here to know more about this session and join.

2. Rethinking Financial Freedom Masterclass: I am holding a 2-hour online session on the subject of “Rethinking Financial Freedom.” The session is free for Mastermind members. However, if you are not one, you can join the session by registering now. The session will be on Saturday, 29th June 2024, 8 to 10 PM IST, on Zoom. Recording will also be available after the class. Click here to know more about this session and join.

Investing is often perceived as a game of selection. Pick the right stocks, and you’re on your way to financial freedom. The allure of discovering the next big thing, the company that will skyrocket and bring unimaginable returns, is powerful.

However, this perspective only captures part of the story. The stocks you choose not to own can have an even more significant impact on your success as an investor.

This counterintuitive notion underscores the importance of discernment and restraint in investment decisions.

I drew this illustration a few years ago, to explain the process of selecting the “right” businesses worth investing in for the long run –

Counterintuitively, this process also shows how the funnel helps you reject the “wrong” businesses – that do not pass either your circle of competence filter, or financial stability filter, or moat filter, or valuation filter.

The 100 (assumed) stocks you start with at the top of the funnel, are left with 20 at the end of it. This is because you choose to say ‘no’ to the remaining 80.

Warren Buffett remarked –

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

Warren was talking about life in general, but this principle applies very well to investing. The difference between successful investors and really successful investors is that really successful investors say no to almost every business/stock.

By rejecting the majority of investment opportunities and focusing on a select few high-quality businesses, you can avoid the pitfalls of overexposure and poor investment choices.

This is also a matter of patience. The market always presents opportunities that seem too good to pass up. However, not all opportunities are worth pursuing. By exercising patience and waiting for the right opportunities, you can avoid the trap of impulsive decisions that often lead to suboptimal outcomes.

Patience also involves the willingness to hold on to cash when there are no compelling investment opportunities. This goes against the common belief that one must always be fully invested to maximize returns. In reality, holding cash can be a prudent strategy during periods of market exuberance or uncertainty, allowing investors to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Not to forget that such behaviour – of saying no to most things – is also a test of your independent thinking, which is a great character attribute of a good invetsor. When you follow the crowd, it can lead you to herd mentality, where investors make decisions based on popular opinion rather than sound analysis. Look no further than the Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube apps on your mobile phone for proof.

Independent thinking involves conducting your own research and due diligence before making any investment decision. It means questioning the prevailing narratives and being skeptical of big promises.

When you develop a disciplined investment process and stick to it, you can avoid the traps of herd mentality and make more informed investment decisions.

Saying ‘no’ also aligns well with long-term thinking. Investing is not about getting rich quickly, but about building wealth over time. This requires a long-term perspective and aligning investment decisions with one’s financial goals. Chasing short-term gains by saying ‘yes’ too often, leads to dud investments that can jeopardize your long-term financial security.

Before I end, let me say it again that the power of saying no cannot be overstated, in life or investing. Sticking with investing, it involves –

  • Avoiding bad businesses,
  • Exercising patience,
  • Thinking independently,
  • Aligning with your long-term goals,
  • Learning from mistakes,
  • Building a margin of safety, and
  • Maintaining emotional discipline.

When you focus not just on the stocks you own but also on the ones you consciously choose not to own, you can significantly enhance your chances of investment success.

Bruce Lee got it dead right when he said –

It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential.

This is one of the most critical lessons I have learned and practiced in my life and as an investor. And that has helped me simplify my life considerably and brought me tremendous peace.



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