Fact checking is popular sport during election season, but as psychological studies repeatedly demonstrate, people will believe what they want to believe. There are many theories, but it boils down to this: we’re all human, and therefore subject to human foibles. Whether it’s attributed to selective perception or redactive devalutation (where one side simply refuses to believe anything the other side says), or whether we’re all prone to confirmation bias – where we give greater weight to information that is consistent with our predetermined beliefs and devalue or ignore evidence to the contrary – as Spock would say: Humans are illogical. Yet, we manage to function, albeit not as efficiently as some would hope.
The importance of managing our investments is no less critical than the importance of managing our jobs, indeed our lives. Making the correct decisions as we go through the day requires discipline, wisdom, and focus – not unlike the choice whether or not to have a second helping of chocolate ice cream because, well, it’s right there in front of you! It matters somewhat that you saw your photo tagged on Facebook and initially wondered who was that chubby guy, but you blame the cell phone camera and pick up the scoop, rationalizing that you’ll do an extra 5 minutes on the exercise bike in the morning. Besides, you tell yourself, you missed lunch. Logic. I crave, therefore I am.
Getting information is not difficult. Making investment decisions without sufficient information is only part of the problem. The other part is understanding what information you really need. Your personal and financial goals play a bigger role in the process than you might realize, since they form the framework which helps determine more precisely what information you need to make a good decision. As individuals – and we are indeed individuals – each of us has a somewhat different focus or framework with which we process information. Just because your neighbor invested in precious metals doesn’t necessarily mean that you should, or that your decision to double-down on Facebook shares because, well, they’re so affordable right now, is necessarily crazy. Perhaps logical, but only time will tell.
The key is to develop and understand your own personal Goal, and seek out everything you can reasonably learn that will help you achieve that Goal. If an opportunity arises that will get you closer to your Goal, consider it. If the opportunity distracts or distances you from your Goal, determine if it creates a unique but unforeseen chance to achieve an even more attractive Goal – something you had not considered possible – and if not, discard it. Warning: extreme discipline required; stay focused!
Over the course of the next two months I will be participating in and attending four separate seminar/symposium events designed to provide individuals with the necessary educational tools required to make intelligent investment decisions. I know in advance that I will be inundated with the proverbial “fire hose” of data, charts, theories, and forecasts from some very, very intelligent people. When I am not presenting myself, I plan to sit back and take it all in. But first, I will need to reflect what among the treasure trove of information I need to focus on, mindful that I might hear or see something that will cause me to completely change my perspective. And that’s part of the fun of going to these events – you never know what you might learn if you keep your mind open. It’s not logical, but then, Spock was right. Hand me that ice cream scoop!