We know that the world is made up of 7 billion players and they each have interests. Their priorities, in order, are themselves, their family, their friends, their country, the world at large. If we see the world from only our personal viewing point some things will be invisible, others will be misunderstood and some will be downright paradoxical.
Worse yet, some of the other people are not neutral. They are working against our personal interests.
The defense is to not believe everything you think. Your point of view blinds you to other possible and maybe better or more complete points of view.
My late friend Targon was an eminently skilled trial lawyer. He believed that if he showed up in court as plaintiff’s lawyer and before proceedings began the judge said, “Switch sides, you are now defendant’s lawyer” it would have made little difference to him. You cannot prepare your case without knowing about the “not my case” side.
Dealing with reality sometimes demands the same approach. The “not my idea of it” sometimes makes more sense. Some anomalies.
- The most skilled heart surgeons have the worst record of patient mortality. If you searched for a heart surgeon based only on their mortality stats, you would like choose the least skilled. Why? Only skilled surgeons will even try the high risk operations. Their mortality rate is a function of the difficulty of the case not of their skill.
- Movies that have significant advertising support after release are usually bad movies. In recent times we saw ads after release for 47 Ronin, Mars Needs Moms, John Carter and the Lone Ranger. All lost in the $100 million range. After release, how many ads have you seen for Star Wars? People act in their own interest. Producers believe advertising will move you to give them money.
- The most well known financial gurus make the most bad calls. Now that seems just crazy, but not when you think about it. The ones who can make good calls a) just do it, or b) have a subscriber list that keeps that sort of thing to themselves and they just do it. People “who know some make bad calls” promote those figures so they can profit when the trade moves the wrong way on decent volume. It is like having a friend who always loses their sports bets and you can do well by betting the other way even when it makes no obvious sense.
Sometimes you must sit back and say to yourself, maybe the real world is different than my little world. Maybe my little world would be better if I knew a more about the others and their goals. Maybe I should be more objective. Maybe another tool or two would work.
The meaning of a decision includes why you do something and why you did not choose something else.
Maybe I need someone to tell me, as Charlie Munger has been known to do with Warren Buffett, “Call me back when you have regained your sanity.”
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.