Investing is no rocket science. It rarely requires superior technical skills to succeed. It is more behavioural. This essay by Josh Brown at his rantful best reminds us of one such behavioural skill – how to deal with people with views opposing your own. Especially in an increasingly polarised world amplified by social media, it is easy to fall into camps and wage war against the opposing side. Brown argues that besides being a bitter approach to life, this hinders our ability to be open to new insight, learn and become better investors.
“This is the main thing – treat people with respect and you can avoid most of the problems this world has to offer.
You’re surrounded by other investors. They see things differently than you. You’re in the midst of people building investment businesses. Companies. They are operating differently than you might be.
That’s okay. It’s supposed to be that way. A total and complete stranger doesn’t have to share your investment beliefs. Doesn’t have to agree with your opinions about the right way to trade or the right investments to hold.
That difference in opinion is not a repudiation of your beliefs. It is not making a mockery of your philosophy. It’s not a challenge to your wisdom or a taunt about your positions. If you believe it to be, your mind is playing tricks on you. You’re not in a one on one competition with any other investor, unless you count the only real competitor – your own self.
And now that I’ve reminded you of this basic idea, let me take it to its full extension: Since you’re not competing with someone else and none of this is personal, there’s absolutely no cause to be disrespectful to another investor who has a different view. Even if you’re on opposing sides of the same trade. Especially if you are.
Insulting someone may give you a temporary burst of satisfaction but it’s not real. When the chemicals wear off, the original insecurity is still there. Insecurity is the thing that causes you to be hostile to others in the first place. I know this firsthand. All of my worst interactions with other investors and market participants were borne of an internal sense of lacking.
Watch people who react emotionally when someone disagrees with them about the stock market. You will see them reveal this same sense of lacking. It has nothing to do with the stock market. It’s coming from a much deeper place. It’s a defense mechanism we start creating as children. The adult versions of ourselves continue to use this mechanism and all the old triggers still apply. Am I good enough? Is he better than me? Is everyone laughing? Am I being left out?
I have never not regretted it when my own insecurities grabbed the wheel and prompted me to run over someone’s investing comments. Never. Being disrespectful toward another investor becomes a distraction that does as much harm to the insulter as it does to the insultee. It ricochets back. If it goes around, it comes around. Even if the coming around part takes years. It’s the disrespect that does you in. Put enough of it out there and the damage can be permanent.
There’s a better way.
All of the advantages in the business of investing come from relationships. All. Full stop. Not how smart you are. The advantages of being well liked, well informed, well taken care of – these are obvious. The disadvantages of being despised and excluded are also obvious. Barring a serious personality disorder, you are welcome to choose the first path. Even if you’ve originally started down the other path. You can change. I used to wake up and spend my day being hostile to my imagined enemies in the stock market. Then I realized I wasn’t winning anything.
Reducing your exposure to the kind of people who obsess over the opinions of others will be key if you find yourself going the wrong way. If you can’t help but become incensed by the opinions of others, stop consuming so many of them. Avoid being a part of the peanut gallery. The message boards. The comments section. The pseudonymous. People who watch financial TV eight hours a day, five days a week, while telling everyone how much they hate it. They don’t hate it. They hate that they’re not on it.
Recognize the signs that you’re in the wrong company. Are you engaging with people who are focused on their own success or the failings of others? It’s easy to tell. You are the average of your five closest friends. On the internet, you’re a composite of all the shit you read and watch. Choose wisely.
The more exposure you have to this crowd, the more you begin to resemble it. Adopt the attitudes and the habits. It’s a dead end. I know these people in real life. The less time you spend exposed to people’s opinions, the less opportunity there will be to either cause or be caused harm. Simple solution.
The ability to disagree with others respectfully is an investing superpower. It keeps the door open to change our own minds. And to learn new things from unexpected sources. To reverse ourselves when necessary. To detoxify the environment around us. To grow”

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