Behavioral Finance

Being Right Isn’t the Only Thing That Matters

My real expertise is in portfolio construction and understanding the world of saving/investing.  And as I’ve evolved and matured during my career I’ve been forced to become comfortable with one truth:

You will be wrong in this business.  A LOT.  

That’s just a simple reality.  But those who tend to succeed in this business versus those who don’t tend to be the ones who learn from their mistakes and accept that being wrong is inevitable and therefore build a plan around this reality.

I’ve been through an interesting transition in the last 5 years where I was forced to alter many of my market strategies to confront the reality of unprecedented government interaction and a changing macro landscape.  So I became more of a macro expert than a micro expert on many things.  And that required a vastly different view of the world.  And in learning that view of the world I was forced to realize that I knew a lot less about macroeconomics than I needed to.   The road to developing Monetary Realism has been fraught with lessons, some mistakes and a maturation process.  Most importantly, it involved me understanding how wrong I was about many things.

In the past, I’ve said “it’s only in being wrong that we can learn to be right”.  So I loved this piece I saw over at Josh Brown’s site on how our need to be right can often be our biggest downfall (via Harvard):

“All are harmful because they prevent the honest and productive sharing of information and opinion. But, as a consultant who has spent decades working with executives on their communication skills, I can tell you that the fight response is by far the most damaging to work relationships. It is also, unfortunately, the most common.

That’s partly due to another neurochemical process. When you argue and win, your brain floods with different hormones: adrenaline and dopamine, which makes you feel good, dominant, even invincible. It’s a the feeling any of us would want to replicate. So the next time we’re in a tense situation, we fight again. We get addicted to being right.”

I wish more of our leaders, co-workers and neighbors would open their minds to this simple truth.  You will be wrong about many things in life.  And it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to confirm all of your biases.  But what if we all started to recognize that improvement often starts with understanding how to be wrong?   Imagine how much more we’d all get accomplished.  I say embrace being wrong.  And more importantly, be open-minded enough to learn and adapt around being wrong so you can be right more often.

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