Editors Choice

Friday, 24 November 2017
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Original Thought

We have a quote the day section in the Marcus Today newsletter, it receives a lot of clicks although my quiet suspicion is that it is popular not because of its sagacity but because of its brevity.

There are a few rules with our quote of the day which includes trying to entertain rather than trying to be smart through the use of other people’s words. I would be embarrassed to piggyback other people’s wisdom to establish our financial credibility.

But we are in the minority. In this industry there are a lot of people trying to establish their financial credibility and the most obvious shortcut to that is through the use of quotes, and in particular, through the use of Warren Buffett quotes. They are everywhere, and for that reason I have always had a problem with their use, not because of their content, or their wisdom, but because they are abused mercilessly by my competitors who splatter them all over their websites in place of some original thought.

So here’s another quote from my English Literature Master from 1978, a man named David Shergog, rest in peace, whose words are still written in the front cover of my copy of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It goes:

Only resort to other people’s wisdom when you have run out of your own.”

Shergog, a Shakespearean hack, taught us that if you needed to use quotes to validate and lend gravitas to your words then it was clear that you couldn’t make the point yourself. The constant use of quotes he said did not reflect well on intellect which, if it were truly wise, would apply itself to the more useful task of crafting new wisdom rather than the fulfilling the rather ignominious role of regurgitating and championing old wisdom. Quotation marks he said should only be used to factually report what someone else said.

The undercurrent of quotes of course is that the they represent an implied endorsement of whatever product they’re splattered on, and so it is that in my space, Warren Buffett, without even knowing it, tirelessly validates the products of lesser investors who build their own credibility on his back.

Do you really think, if you could harness the Warren Buffett Way, we wouldn’t all be doing it? Surely, if Warren Buffettry could be copied there would be some Buffett emulating copycat fund manager out there and we’d all be invested? And we’d all be billionaires.

But there isn’t. Yes, plenty of people sell product by sidling up as close to his methods as they can, and by selling the fact that they do so, but do they achieve his success? Are they creating the next Berkshire Hathaway? I hope so, but it’s not apparent yet and the reasons are obvious.

Warren Buffett has been obsessed with, and devoted to, the stock market and its study for decades. While we were packing four kids off to school, Buffett was reading an annual report. The market seeps through his body all day every day and that experience has built a cortex and developed big thick stock market orientated synapses which, when confronted with the question “Should I invest in this?” come back with the message “No” or “Yes” when we would come back with “Yes” or “No”.

We are not Warren Buffett, he possesses unique organic matter in his body that we cannot reproduce and the absence of other investors that are as successful as he is confirms that. Warren Buffett is Warren Buffett. He is lauded by-product salesmen because he is the most successful investor in the world. If he was the second most successful investor in the world we would be talking about someone else. The important thing to understand about Warren Buffett is that although we think he owns the Holy Grail, and may in fact possess it, the truth is that it is inaccessible to anyone other than himself.

Instead we need to develop our own wisdom, our own cortex and our own synapses. Far better you get on with that than continue that rather ignominious role of regurgitating and championing the wisdom of others.

So let me immediately break that rule and finish with these quotes. A quote, from Daryl Guppy in his book Guppy Trading - “The private investor has a tremendous capacity for self-delusion”. And one from Confucius - “Man quoting Warren Buffett has other hand in back pocket”.

Cue my thoughts on Buffett:

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