I list some dos, don’ts, guidelines and principles that I follow while writing. The intent is to have my writing philosophy stay true to my investing philosophy.
No tips, no macro, no forecasts
I have no stock tips to offer. No idea where markets or economy are headed. No insight into what FM will or should do, on Feb 1st or on any other day. No clue about rates, currencies and commodities. I can’t tell structural from cyclical. I have no grand themes or high-potential sectors. I think of overweight as a personal failing rather than as portfolio positioning. From a CNBC perspective, I have no redeeming features whatsoever. To make it easy on my ego, I consider such things to be unknowable. Frankly, even if some of this were knowable, I wouldn’t know how to translate that knowledge into anything actionable. More confident people might differ.
First person singular
I use first person singular since I write in my personal capacity and am solely accountable for it. However, anything useful that I have to say arises out of my continuing apprenticeship at my current workplace. So, I’d like to write carefully and responsibly. I neither claim nor deserve credit for any good associated with my workplace. While I can share broad learnings that I have assimilated, my professional context isn't mine to share. I will be appropriately non-specific in referring to people, companies or stories directly linked to my work.
No talking my book
(Technically, it isn’t my book). An investor talking his book is disgusting. It simultaneously reflects poorly on the investor, the audience and the company in question. If a company I own is truly great, you shouldn’t need my biased pitch to figure it out. More generally, to assess quality of a business, names of investors sitting in the shareholders list is irrelevant (except for the promoter).
Praise by name, criticize by category
For companies or people I am not directly associated with, I follow this guideline that I’ve shamelessly copied from Warren Buffett (surprise, surprise). I’d like to be critical and judgmental, without being an a-hole. Also, since there’s a decent chance that I am wrong, I’ll look less stupid making snide remarks at a higher level of abstraction.
In investing, wishy washy thinking is death. 99% of what an investor is exposed to is immaterial, unknowable and idiotic. If I didn’t dismiss these outright, I’d drown in noise. To minimize dissonance, I have to speak the way I think. So, I’ll say it like it is. Day-trading is financial cigarette-smoking. Finance professors teach birds how to fly. Most people in stock-markets are doomed. Forecasting is futile. Putting sugar in thayir vadai is abominable. Hopefully, I’ll offend by category and not by name.
Not all those who wander are lost
My buggy-human-messy-world lens allows me to do pompous philosophizing on everything other than natural sciences. I have already done so on psychology, complex systems, markets, crooks, risk, negativity bias, unicorn culture, ‘experts’, promoters and investing. Phew. I am all over the place. There’s a reasonable chance I am doing injustice to all topics. For now, the only unifying thread across my essays is that they trace back to learnings from 15-years in investing. Eventually, I hope that these will hang together outside my head as well. No guarantees, though.
A way of thinking
Carl Sagan described science as a way of thinking more than a body of knowledge. If there’s a point to my writing, it is to convey a way of thinking about ourselves and our messy world. This way of thinking has helped me internalize a few lifesaving tenets: I am my worst enemy; complex systems are mostly unknowable; history reveals a few broad patterns; these might help avoid ruin; or to be a bit less stupid. While this sounds very defensive, I’ve been positively surprised at how much upside this way of thinking has yielded. If you hang in there long enough without throwing your wicket away, you might just put away the occasional long hop in style.
(Originally published this January at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/principles-i-write-anand-sridharan/)