I got an interesting email the other day:
…Your writing is incomprehensibly objective and apolitical. I was wondering if you could provide some tips as to how you think about things and arrive at more empirical conclusions”.
Well, this person is being a bit overly generous. We email a lot so maybe he feels indebted to me and has become behaviorally biased!?! Still, it’s something I think about a lot and make a serious effort to be aware of. I don’t always succeed here, but I think it’s safe to say that most of my writing is an honest attempt to arrive at objective rather than emotional or political conclusions.
So here are some thoughts on this topic:
- Always try to arrive at first principles understandings. This is easier said than done, but you always want to establish an empirical and unbiased foundation for any analysis. This can be especially hard to do with finance and economics because it’s an inherently emotional field, but there are certain things that can be established empirically. Always seek out the empirical answer and question any analysis that directly involves policy recommendations.
- Try to see both sides of the argument. I’ve started doing this thing when I read something where I’ll automatically try to consider the other side of the argument. I’ll often read something that I think is wrong and my inclination is to dismiss it. When I catch myself doing that I will always try to consider the other side of the debate. It can take time and effort, but it’s a useful way to better understand the fullness of an argument.
- Get outside your bubble. It’s easy to get caught up in your own personal bubble living where you live, reading your local paper and watching your preferred news network. But make a concerted effort to diversify your news. Try to read news from sources you might consider “the other side” and make an effort to better understand the world from a perspective that is from inside other people’s bubbles.
- Kindly engage the other side! There’s no better way to learn about alternative views than to engage the experts and proponents of those views. These people want to tell you what they know about the world from their view and if you engage them kindly they’ll reciprocate. And when you’ve digested their views you’ll have a better overall understanding of the debate.
- Beware of the pundits and politicians. When we hear something from a pundit or politician we should always take it with a grain of salt. These people are almost always promoting a certain narrative that benefits them. They are inherently conflicted. Be extremely skeptical of buying what they’re selling.
- Be ultra wary of any fear based narrative. The most powerful and dangerous narratives are always the most emotional. Whenever you see a fear based narrative you should instantly question its validity. If it checks out then double check it. If it double checks out then triple check it.
Those are my general thoughts. I hope you find them helpful.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.