Far from the Madding Crowd


Investing is full of paradoxes. For example, in this zero-sum game, everyday we walk a fine line between arrogance (conviction that we are right) and humility (possibility that we may be wrong). We’ve written in the past about the importance of self-awareness. Self-aware of our mental weakness(es). Self-aware of our (perceived) strengths. Self-aware of how we stack up relative to the competition. But is there a point when we are too self-aware, such that it becomes our enemy?

In a 2011 Fortune article about Bob Rodriguez of First Pacific Advisors (many thanks to my good friend and former colleague Robert Terrell of Karlin Asset Management for sharing this with PM Jar), there’s a part that talks about how Bob was teased as a child and didn't care.

"When Rodriguez was 12, he had a major operation on his teeth that, for two years, left him with a heavy speech impediment. Classmates teased him -- so he gave a speech on the topic of elocution to show that he could make fun of himself. ‘Most people, when they're different, they become self-conscious,’ says Dick [his brother]. ‘Bob hasn't been one to sacrifice his ethics or his intellect to fit in.’"  

Ignoring negativity would definitely be easier if one lacked the self-awareness to realize that others were hurling it in your direction. Whether this is through naiveté or deliberate choice, in terms of investing, is it easier to stick to a contrarian strategy and sustain creativity when you are far away from the madding crowd, either mentally or physically?