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Invest in yourself – Principles for success

Invest in yourself – Principles for success

Our mandate here at MWCM is to source excellent investment opportunities across the public and private markets, as well as across the wide spectrum of specialist investment managers. We are thus constantly analysing companies, their senior management teams and highly successful money managers.

In the course of doing so over many years, we have identified some of the common traits, or principles, that we believe many successful people have – traders, money managers and entrepreneurs alike. We also find that many of the same Principles are also applied by spiritual gurus.

Investing in yourself effectively is more than simply skilling up and gaining material wealth. In our view, it’s about developing and engendering an effective life philosophy, one that brings happiness and contentedness, whilst also ensuring the maximisation of one’s abilities.

We wanted to write this piece to share our thoughts on some of the principles we have identified with a wider audience, particularly those just starting off in their careers. MWCM has recently begun mentoring a growing number of business students, so we thought it would be timely.

Such principles are not widely taught in school, particularly in Western culture, as our education system is still based around rote learning, with very little time being spent on implementing and developing a more holistic framework, or world view.

This is cause for concern, as there is a pandemic of ‘un-happiness’ with record numbers of young adults being diagnosed as depressed.

We live in a society driven by consumerism, with the media depicting that we are simply ‘not good enough’ and that we need to buy this or that product to fit in, be happy, look good, become successful, etc. It’s all about peddling desire, to encourage consumers to get out there and spend. Black Friday is a great example of that.

Source: John Henderson

And it’s not just the large marketing-focused companies such as Nike or Coca Cola that blast out this message. The Pharma companies use the media to disseminate the message that you’re likely ill and need their pills. 1 in 6 Americans are on anti-depressants, up 65% compared with 15 years ago. Indeed, you can get pills for close to every little ailment. Vaccines are also being mandated for children for an ever larger assortment of deceases, regardless of the increasingly amount of thoughtful concern and research over the side effects. Consumers and those in the corporates supplying all these drugs, such as Opioids, should uniformly take a step back and assess the true added value of what it is they are consuming or selling.

Source: Loozrboy, Flickr

Consumerism, and the economy built around it, is a disaster in the making and is simply not sustainable longer-term. A good example of this is the fast fashion industry which is now one of the biggest polluters on the planet. It’s not only that clothing gets dumped to make space for the new fashions. Brands, such as Burberry for example, go about destroying millions of dollars’ worth of yesterday’s fashions just to protect the brand.

It’s creating an increasingly ‘unhappy’ and unhealthy society and we are making the Earth sick with all our trash. The stuff we throw out to make space for the new ‘cooler stuff’. Stuff we often simply don’t need. The USA alone generates some 230 million tons of trash every year.

There is a need to step away from desiring ‘stuff’, to desiring a better quality of life. There has been a very noticeable increase in the amount written on this subject, as the sheer scale of the issue is becoming more apparent.

At the physical level, it’s not all doom and gloom. At least not yet. Human ingenuity never ceases to find an answer or response. New industries are being set up to address the pressing issues – circular economy initiatives, cleaner technologies, and environmental controls are examples.

There is a need though to create awareness and change human behaviour, away from ‘wanting more’, to simply being ‘content’ with what one has.

With the wealth gap at record levels in many countries, personal debt levels at or close to record highs, and an aging population in the US, who have little to no savings, being content is a pretty good attitude to have.

So, when I got thinking about how best to write this article, I wanted to draw in a more holistic viewpoint and make it less about finance and more about finding the right balance, for a good life.

We have thus taken a good amount of wisdom from ancient Eastern traditions and mixed that in with those attributes many successful money managers and entrepreneurs have. There is great commonality.

I start though with perhaps the ultimate-goal, and the most relevant for our consumer culture, that of simply being content.

Principle 1: Be Content

“Strive for complete contentment and should you achieve it, even without material wealth, you will truly have found your fortune”

Nagarjuna – translated by Lama Marut

“When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.”

Dalai Lama

Go into any bookstore today and one will find an almost endless number of books on how to be a great achiever, to reach one’s goals, to be ‘better’ etc.

Where many of these ‘motivational speakers’ fall flat though, at least in my opinion, is that there is often too much of a focus on greed and desire. To have more. To be more. To do more. To desire more.

Often, they speak to the base emotions. Those that provide an initial high but are often short lived. Getting that new car, that first million, the bigger house etc. It’s an emotional high that will probably be short-lived and, at the end of the day, will fall flat.

It’s these sorts of base desires that are at the root of the problem in our consumer-driven model. It’s also driven a lot of consumers into debt.

To quote Walter Slezak, spending money you don’t have for things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like”.

Being satisfied with ‘stuff’ one has, talks to the base level of contentment.

It goes way deeper. There is nothing wrong with striving to be financially wealthy or having a great job, but these are low down on Maslow’s pyramid of human achievement. Hell, why not set the goal of Self Actualization. That’s a great ambition to have, if the intent is right.

Successful people set high goals. The really successful ones though, are those that are not discontent. Whether rich or poor financially, it’s those that are happy and content with what they already that have struck gold. The best most successful entrepreneurs and money managers haven’t got time to feel discontent. Their focus is on the goals to hand.

Related to having goals, is the principle of detachment. In the above quote, Nagarjuna (one of the great Buddhist scholars) is also referring to is the need to be detached from the outcome of one’s actions.

Successful entrepreneurs and investors practice this all the time – they don’t let failure distract them from their goals. One has to learn how to take it on the chin, learn from it and move on.

“You have to be willing to make mistakes regularly; there is nothing wrong with it. Michael taught me about making your best judgement, being wrong, making your next best judgement, being wrong, making your third best judgement, and then doubling your money.”

Bruce Kovner

 “Success in investing doesn’t correlate with I.Q. once you’re above the level of 125. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.”

Warren Buffett

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently”.

Henry Ford

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck”

Dalai Lama

The best traders and money managers aren’t ‘happy’ to have a losing trade, but they don’t get emotional over it. It’s just part of the process of finding that ultimate trade that will really pay off. It’s no different from the entrepreneur whose start up fails. The successful ones don’t get bogged down by failure, but learn from it, get back out there and try again.

Easier said than done, but that is life. It’s a journey. Indeed, success without the effort usually leaves you emotionally flat. One climbs a mountain not just to reach the top, but to have put in the effort along the path to the summit. That’s the fun part. Progressing along the path and getting better at what we do and how we do it, is what makes it all worthwhile.

Contentment, or happiness, could perhaps be considered as having three components: being content with what one has, the awesome goals one has, and the outcome of one’s actions to achieve them. Contentment is a mindset and is perhaps at the core of what it means to be successful in a holistic way.

There is an enormous number of texts that talk to this subject and it is not the intention here to delve deeper. Rather, we wanted to touch on each of the key traits to build up an overall framework of the mindset one needs to develop to achieve ‘success’.

For this Insights series, we have narrowed down to approximately 10 Principles, broken up for easy reading. The next Insights will reflect on that commodity we all want more of, namely ‘money’. We all need it. We all want it, but what’s it worth?