Disclaimer: There are no market insights here. Sometimes we learn something new or reinforce what we already know from the most unexpected sources. I had one such experience recently and I am penning my thoughts here.
My 11-month-old infant had to undergo an emergency surgery last fortnight. Though it was a relatively minor procedure but being parents, surgery on child was a big deal for us. The surgery went well and kid is doing well now. When I look back on those events, I see some important life (and investing) lessons.
Lesson 1: Kid was not given anything to eat and drink 6 hours before and 4 hours after surgery. That’s a total of 10+ hours without food and milk. At this age, stomach is just about 200-250ml. Meaning, the kid usually has a mini-meal every 2 to 3 hours. And here, he was kept hungry for 10+ hours. That was just too much for his little body to handle. He was terribly hungry and terribly sleepy. Once the post operative 4-hour window was over, he was given little milk and half way through feeding, he started dozing. One can imagine how sleepy he must have been. All this while, he was on mother’s shoulder. He did not fight with her. Was not angry with her. After 10-hour ordeal, he just drank the milk and slept immediately.
We adults get upset/angry for minor infractions. For example, somebody cuts you off while driving. Sure, recipe for road rage. Somebody says or does something which you don’t like – an argument (or fight) ensues. You get the drift. The point is – most minor things could be ignored as long as they don’t affect you materially. Even the major ones that do, we have to accept the fact that life is not 100% fair. Sometimes life throws a curve ball. Either we can be grumpy with ourselves or those around us (friends and family) or take it in stride and move forward. Easier said than done for adults because we have the ability to ‘think’. Maybe we also over-think on trivial matters. In this case, kid was not grumpy at all. Next morning was business as usual for him. He just forgot all that happened the previous day. It seems, he just moved on.
In investing, we do come across occasions when the investment thesis does not work. For a variety of reasons. I am not talking about fraud or embezzlement here. Just that the hypothesis simply does not work due to changed economic, political, technology or other reasons. Second, business performance and stock market performance can be different sometimes. And they can remain divorced for long periods. Some investors tend to blame the management for it. Think of it as a curve ball. Investor blaming the management is just not right. If a thesis did not work, just exit the investment and focus the energy somewhere else. Move on. Seems to the most reasonable thing to do.
Lesson 2: Couple hours before the surgery a cannula was attached to kid’s wrist. Being pediatric cannula, a largish hard cardboard support was first bandaged around the wrist and then canula was attached. To restrict his wrist movement. And this support was almost half the size of his forearm. And we immediately thought – how will the kid use his hand to crawl or take support to stand? Boy oh boy! How wrong we were. Next day, once he gained little strength, not only did he start to use his canula hand, he also crawled in whatever way he can. His hand was slipping because he could not get full grip. That deterred him zero percent. It was business as usual for the kid. Two of his favourite activities – taking support of furniture/people to stand and to crawl from one end to the other playing with toys. Kids are far more resilient than adults.
Almost all great investors have tough mental makeup. Some of it is public domain, some is known in private circles. For example, the challenges that Charlie Munger overcame in early youth is stuff of legends. That is what makes a great investor really great. Top performers in every field have overcome some very serious challenges to achieve greatness. Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli’s father passed away when he was still a teenager. And next day, he was back to cricket practice. And there are countless other examples from every field. Be it academics, sports, arts or even investing. Resilience is what separates great from good. Unfortunately, not much is written about it. There is no way to “learn” resilience. When faced with difficult situations, we adapt to it, learn on the go and make the best of it.
Just two weeks ago, had somebody said that an infant could teach me something. I would have laughed heartily. Just as – had somebody said in Jan 2020 that the world will shutdown and people would work from home. He would definitely be labelled crazy, at the very least. Surprises and lessons can come from anyone or in any form. Be prepared to take them. As Charlie Munger says – be a learning machine.