“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams
As my father once told me – you have a very important decision to make in your life. You can decide to become a leader or just be a follower like everyone else. This choice will determine the rest of your life.
My father was right and the same is so very true with investing and trading. You can choose to be a follower or you can lead and go your own way. My life and career reflect that I am a tremendous believer in the importance of doing your own thing concerning the markets.
There is a lot of hero worship by the financial media and among investors and traders. As we do with our athletes, we want people to inspire us, and who we can look up to. In terms of the financial media, we also want to know what these guys, who seem to know what they are doing, are thinking and trading so we can play along and ride their coattails to success. While we can all learn something from those who have been successful in the markets, ultimately the path toward greater success in the markets has nothing to do with hero worship. Just the exact opposite is true. At the end of the day, it will always require us to be brave and go out and do our own thing.
There are NO exceptions to that rule. You may think of the great Warren Buffett, David Tepper, Tom DeMark, Peter Lynch, Carl Icahn, Paul Tudor Jones, James Grant, David Einhorn, William Ackman, and so on. I don’t care about their backgrounds, what they’ve done in the past, how hot a hand they’ve had or how consistent their track record has been in the past. At some point, all of these folks will get it wrong just like you and me. And, more importantly, none of their strategies are going to match our personalities, objectives and skill sets. We are all different and there are many ways to win in the markets – the important thing is to develop your own best method and at the same time resist the urge to use heroes as short-cuts or substitutes for doing our own work.
As my father also liked to say, everyone in this world puts their pants on the same way in the morning. That was his unique way of reminding me that no matter how rich or successful another person has been, they are just like all of us when it comes right down to it. In that same regard, these heroes of the market suffer from the same insecure, emotional, ego-driven trading and investing as the rest of us. The more you watch and track them, you will find this to be true.
By serving as a mentor to a number of professional money managers as well as knowing others who have as well, I can tell you that the only difference between these heroes and the rest of us is that they are just better at hiding their insecurities because their job requires it. No one will give you money to invest unless you show both strong conviction and confidence to others. These heroes all do this well because their livelihood depends upon it. But if you sat down with them, you would find that is more of a dog and pony show than reality. Anyone who has been involved in the markets has been humbled and respects the fact that this is not an easy game no matter how successful we have already been or how much experience we have. We are all wrong a lot of the time. The key to success is in risk management more than anything else. But, risk management doesn’t excite people or bring in the big money – only bold predictions and confidence do, especially if they have been right at some point in the past about something.
Unfortunately, we are all naturally drawn to people who have been successful, who hold very strong and bold convictions in the market, and who display confidence that all of us wish we had. There’s something about the nature of markets and uncertainty that we all want to believe that others have figured it out better than we have. When the heat is on and we are feeling scared or threatened and our money is at risk, it is a natural instinct to “run home to Momma” and many investors and traders do that through hero worship. Because they don’t have enough confidence, time, or energy to do their own thing, they seek help by following others. In my view, that’s not the right path to take and it will only delay your progress if not hinder it completely. No one else will have your best interest as top and only priority.
If there is any lesson you can learn from these so-called heroes it is this. Each and every one of these folks succeeded in the markets because they decided to go their own way and do their own thing. They follow no one and we shouldn’t either.
Through lots of hard work, experience and perseverance at some point each hero figured out an approach that worked best for them and that best matched their time frame and objectives. They didn’t follow others – they did their own thing and that is why each of them is great in their own respective way. After learning the basics from their own mentors and peers for a number of years, they decided to take their own path, investing and trading in their own way. That is the reason why they have been successful.
In this life, I must tell you that you will never be another David Tepper, Warren Buffett, or other hero you may respect. Nor do you really want to be. Instead, your goal is to find your own way that best fits you. For this reason, I recommend that you eliminate all hero worship from your process. That will save you a great deal of time and money on your path to greater success. It will also force you to do something that all of us must do: focus on developing your own system that best matches your objectives, personality and skill sets.