It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what you do is unimportant – to get intimidated by the very visible success we see others having all around us in a connected world.
Let’s say you’re starting a business and it’s in a pretty competitive industry like software development? How are you going to compete against everyone else out there?
You see this all the time, especially in new areas. For example, there is an emerging literati of blockchain, big data and machine learning specialists that seem to be doing very well, if you look at their presence on social media.
And you inevitably get marketers who come along and ruin everything.
Take reciprocation, for instance. That’s the idea that if you do something nice for someone else, they’ll feel obligated to you and do what you ask.
The basic idea is a sound one – be a nice person. Do things for others without being asked.
What this turns into is a series of posts that tag an influencer, praising them, with the aim of getting the influencer to thank the praiser and lift them into the limelight.
You’ll find a number of methods like this that promise to help you “growth hack” your way to success. Need content – just reach out to a hundred influencers, get their thoughts on the subject, compile that into a book and you’re on your way.
There are two fallacies at work here, and a knowledge of investing principles will help you identify and step around them.
The first is this – if you’re finding something out for the first time on the internet, the chances are that you’re too late to profit from it.
Many people invest in stocks the wrong way.
They see a stock going up and up, and get excited. They see it being covered in the paper – on the news – in tips in newsletters. They pile in, eager to ride that baby up.
Then, it turns and sinks. They’re sitting on a loss, panic and sell.
Buying high and selling low is not a good investment strategy.
But somehow it becomes the default strategy of many people.
If you don’t think you’re one of them, check to see if you sell much on Ebay. Do you buy (or does someone in your house buy) lots of nice things that they never wear and then sell them on Ebay later?
Do they calculate the loss they’ve made on buying new stuff and selling it second hand? Or are they overjoyed over the amount they’ve made selling on Ebay?
If it’s the latter, perhaps you shouldn’t let them manage your investment portfolio.
The point here is this. By the time the general public realises that something is happening with a stock, the thing that is happening is well on its way and close to petering out.
For a dramatic demonstration of this, just check out what happened to crypto last year and then what’s happened this year.
Most of the stuff on the Internet tries to get you to empty your wallet in return for learning how to make money on the Internet.
All the hacks you’re picking that rocketed others to success are ones that are unlikely to work as millions of others like you try and take advantage of them as well.
As Warren Buffett wrote about poker, “If you’ve been in the game 30 minutes and you don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”
Don’t be that guy.
The second fallacy is thinking that you can predict the future and call the next big thing.
Many investors try and call sectors. Blockchain is the next big thing. A VC is going to raise a $50m blockchain fund. A startup has raised $30m in 31 minutes. So, it must be hot and worth investing in.
It’s incredibly hard to outperform the general market. You’re going to fail over 90% of the time.
Yet people persist in trying to do that. They argue that active investment adds value, even though the majority of active managers lag the market once their fees are taken into account.
The only people who get wealthy from actively managing your money are the managers.
So, what can you do to hold on to your money?
Most successful strategies are a variation on sticking to your knitting. Buy the whole index. Put the same amount of money in each month. Keep it simple.
Focus on your behaviour – not on what the market is doing. The market is there to serve you, not to guide you.
Okay… so what does that mean for me?
The point is that you can look at what’s happening around you and decide that the way for you to succeed is to do what other people are doing.
But – the chances are that kind of thinking isn’t going to work.
It isn’t going to work because by the time you see how the trick is done, the magic is gone.
Instead, you’re better off focusing on the work – the stuff you do that makes you feel like you’ve had a good day at the office. Or the workshop. Or the shed.
If you focus on the work, then one day it may lead to people getting to know your work, appreciating your work, spreading the word and eventually result in a raving fanbase who follow your every word.
If you try and build the fanbase without putting in the work – by trying to do stuff that you think will appeal to them – you’ll end up creating a shallow and insipid copy of someone else’s magic.
Real investors don’t chase trends.
They get in position, do the research and get ready. And then a trend comes along and lifts them up.
Do work that matters to you.
Then it won’t matter whether you get anything else. It’ll be gravy.