I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. One of the key themes of the book is that experts in a field became experts through 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. There are numerous academic papers that support this view including The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.
[this article] explains expert performance as the end result of individuals' prolonged efforts to improve performance while negotiating motivational and external
constraints. ... Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many
characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years…
For us the interesting question is what would deliberate practice look like for a value investor. Mark Sellers suggested some things that are not in his speech titled “So you want to be the next Warren Buffett? How’s Your Writing?”
and then he suggests 7 traits that make a great investor and that cannot be learned
Now Mark believes that these traits are set in your early childhood and by the time you leave school it’s too late to change them. I suspect that Mark is mostly right. These are probably well developed by the time you leave school but with sufficient commitment you could practice your way to these behaviours. Of course the the question is would you commit to such a program if you didn’t already have some degree of these behaviours ingrained. If the value investing inoculation worked on you then you probably have what it takes to commit.
So what might deliberate practice for a value investor look like? Tony Schwartz in this HBR article distils the steps required to be an expert into these six steps:
Here are some ideas for deliberately practice towards become a value investing expert
Not Deliberate Practice
Detailing how specific news items may impact your investments
|Reading the newspaper|
Valuing & evaluating Businesses
|Reading Annual Reports|
Engage the ideas in books
|Reading Investing Books|
Engage the ideas and authors
Manage a portfolio
|Buying and selling shares|
Writing your own research
|Posting on message boards|
Be a contrarian
|Buying when the market is doing well or selling when it’s doing poorly|
If you can engage in 20 hours of deliberate practice a week then you’re looking at about 10 years to become an expert. Over that time you would have read around 3,600 annual reports and evaluated around the same number of companies. You would have read 9,000 articles, reviewed 450 personal trading decisions and written around the same number of articles/ research pieces.
Finally the “Dan Plan” describes Dan McLaughlin’s efforts to go from no golf experience to a golf pro using deliberate practice. He’s at about 1,200 hours and so far has only practiced putting. He hasn’t played a single game of golf yet as playing a game isn’t deliberate practice. Buying and selling stocks is not going to make you an expert value investor. Doing the hard work, practicing your analysis skills intently and then critically reviewing your results just might!
Let me know your ideas for deliberate practice (or examples of not-deliberate practice) in the comments!
Disclaimer and Disclosure Analyses are prepared from sources and data believed to be reliable, but no representation is made as to their accuracy or completeness. I am not paid by covered companies. Strategies or ideas are presented for informational purposes and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions.
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