On today’s episode, Clay is joined by Morgan Housel to discuss his newest book, Same as Ever, and uncover the key themes in financial history that have never changed.
Morgan Housel is a partner at The Collaborative Fund. He’s the New York Times Bestselling author of The Psychology of Money and Same As Ever. His books have sold over 4.5 million copies and have been translated into more than 50 languages. He also serves on the board of directors at Markel.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL LEARN:
The key themes that seem to never change throughout history.
Why the world is much more fragile than we’re led to believe.
Why the biggest risk is the one you don’t see coming.
The importance of thinking probabilistically.
The true power of exceptional storytelling.
Why every stock valuation is a number from today multiplied by a story about tomorrow.
Why successful stock picking is about so much more than the numbers.
Why market extremes such as the meme stock craze are not unnatural, and they should actually be expected.
Morgan’s investment approach.
Why most investor’s biggest advantage is patience.
Why most competitive advantages eventually die.
How the world’s most successful people utilize inefficiency and slack to achieve more.
Why Morgan writes for an audience of one.
Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.
[00:00:00] Clay Finck: on today’s episode, I’m joined by Morgan Housel to discuss his newest book, Same as Ever, a guide to what never changes. Morgan Housel is a partner at the Collaborative Fund and the New York Times bestselling author of The Psychology of Money, which has sold over 4. 5 million copies and has been translated into more than 50 languages.
[00:00:21] Clay Finck: Morgan also serves on the board of directors at Markel. Morgan and I touch on a lot during this conversation. This includes the key themes throughout history that seem to never change, why the world is much more fragile than we’re maybe led to believe. Why the biggest risk is the one you don’t see coming, the importance of thinking probabilistically, the true power of exceptional storytelling, why every stock valuation is a number from today multiplied by a story about tomorrow, Morgan’s personal investment approach, why most competitive advantages within companies are bound to die.
[00:00:55] Clay Finck: Why Morgan writes for an audience of one and so much more. It’s no wonder that Morgan is one of the most popular guests we’ve brought on to the show, as he is a master at garnering these brilliant insights from history and how they apply to our modern world today. With that, I hope you enjoyed today’s chat with Morgan Housel.
[00:01:17] Intro: You are listening to The Investor’s Podcast. Since 2014, we studied the financial markets and read the books that influence self made billionaires the most. We keep you informed and prepared for the unexpected. Now for your host, Clay Finck.
[00:01:42] Clay Finck: Welcome to The Investor’s Podcast. I’m your host, Clay Finck. And today I really couldn’t be more excited to welcome back Morgan Housel. Morgan, such a pleasure having you back on the show. Good to see you. Thanks for having me. I want to make sure we maximize our time here today and just jump right into the first question.
[00:01:58] Clay Finck: Your new book is titled Same as Ever. It’s a phenomenal read and just full of timeless lessons. And for anyone that read The Psychology of Money, that should be no surprise. When we look back at history over centuries, I think one of the first things I realized is just how much things change over time.
[00:02:14] Clay Finck: You look at someone like John D. Rockefeller in the early 1900s, people today have a higher standard of living than he did, even though his inflation adjusted net worth at that time was 400 billion. And then Also, just like everyone’s talking about AI and 2023 and just technology. This exponential trend of technology is changing things faster than ever.
[00:02:34] Clay Finck: And it seems like you have to keep in touch with what’s going on just to keep up. In writing this book about things that don’t change, what are some of the key overarching themes you found?
[00:02:45] Morgan Housel: To me, I’ve always been just an amateur student of history, as many people are. And you just hinted at this.
[00:02:50] Morgan Housel: There are so many things that have changed, and you see those when you’re studying history. But to me, what’s always been more fascinating is when you come across something, and it’s about an event that took place 50 or 500 years ago. And you realize, you’re like, Oh, that’s exactly what people do today. It hasn’t changed at all.
[00:03:06] Morgan Housel: And you see enough of these across history that you start piecing together. You’re like, look, we don’t know what is going to change in the future in terms of when’s the next recession. What’s the next big technology? Who’s going to win the next election? We’ve never been able to get those right. Even among the very big things by and large, but the behaviors that have always been enduring and always been with us.
[00:03:26] Morgan Housel: Those are things that we know that regardless of what happens in the future, regardless of what is the next technology or the next recession, we know how people are going to respond to it regardless of what it is. To me, a lot of this started with just my cynicism over how bad we were as an industry at forecasting the next bear market, the next recession.
[00:03:41] Morgan Housel: It’s just we’re not any good at it. That’s not a controversial statement. And two things you can do with that. One, you can become even more of a cynic. and say, nobody knows anything. Just throw up your hands and say, don’t even try. Or you can say, let’s focus on the things that we know are not going to change these behaviors over time.
[00:03:56] Morgan Housel: So you asked what some of the common denominators were. I think a lot of them fall under this umbrella of risk, greed, fear, uncertainty, and opportunity. And this goes obviously way beyond investing. It’s very much, which is very important and related to investing. But those topics fit all kinds of things, which is really important because now when you’re reading the history of politics, the history of technology, the history of military, whatever it might be, you start seeing all these behaviors that also apply to investing.
[00:04:22] Morgan Housel: So to me, not only is it more interesting than just burying yourself in a big spread a big spreadsheet and like calculating IRR. None of these are more interesting than that. I think it gets you closer to the truth of how the world works and how the world is going to work going forward as well.
[00:04:37] Clay Finck: Yeah, you hit on some really good points there. And your first few chapters really hit home for me and I just loved them. One of the first ones was titled Hanging by a Thread. And I think one of the striking things you opened my eyes up to was just how fragile life is and how fragile our world can be.
[00:04:54] Clay Finck: The way you put it is that events compound in unimaginable ways. And it’s a good reminder to set up our finances and set up our portfolios in a way that’s anti fragile. And I loved the way Naval put it as well. He said if you simulated your life a thousand times, you want to become wealthy in 999 of them.
[00:05:12] Clay Finck: So essentially just take out any factor of luck. And it also led me to this realization that instead of figuring out what’s going to happen in the future, instead, we should be asking ourselves, how can we construct our financial situation in a way where we’re going to be in a good position no matter what happens.
[00:05:29] Morgan Housel: Regardless of what happens. And it’s just the observation that we live in this version of the world, but there are an infinite number of other ways the world could have turned out. And think about just the very big, broad events. What would the modern world look like in the year 2024 if there was no COVID?
[00:05:44] Morgan Housel: If 9 11 had not happened? If World War II had not happened? If the Great Depression had not happened? Just taking those massive, broad events, it’s impossible to think that virtually nothing would be the same if those things didn’t happen, particularly some of the big events like World War II. If World War II didn’t happen, almost nothing, there’s a good chance we would not be having this conversation today because the technology that we’re using would not have existed.
[00:06:05] Morgan Housel: So much of the world hangs by a thread. And also, that goes both ways as well. There are a lot of amazing things that happen in your individual life. And in the global economy that are positive events that happen because of a tiny random little know nothing fluke of what maybe it’s two founders who meet each other in a very serendipitous way and go on to create a technology that changes everybody’s lives.
[00:06:25] Morgan Housel: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, his first partner, Ken Evans. There’s all these situations where it’s like, if there wasn’t that serendipity, the entire world would have been worse off than it actually is. So just realizing how fragile the world is, it’s extremely important. And I think what you mentioned that you want to situate your life so that regardless of what happens, you’re going to at least do okay in all of those different versions, realizing that we don’t know where it’s going to go.
[00:06:48] Morgan Housel: I was thinking this the other day, I read this quote that said, I’m going to paraphrase it, but it was like the definition of sad or something like that is on your deathbed, you meet the person who you could have been, who you could have become. That’s the definition of a really depressing thing. And I was like, I think there’s a positive spin on that where you can say, of course, this is all just philosophical, hypothetical.
[00:07:05] Morgan Housel: We’re on your deathbed. You meet the hundred versions of yourself of what your life could have been if you had made different decisions. And so you’re like, look, like this is who you turned out to be, but here’s who you could have been in all these different hypotheticals. And I think the definition of a good life is in that exercise, you end up in the top half of what you could have been.
[00:07:22] Morgan Housel: You’re like, look, my life could have been better. And it could have been a lot worse as well. And I ended up in the top half. But I think that like very philosophical hypothetical thing. I think that should play out with a lot of things and investing and life. I think you can look at your portfolio and say, look, if I had bought this stock or that stock, here’s what my returns would be.
[00:07:38] Morgan Housel: Here’s what my net worth would have been. You can do that all day long. There’s also a million situations in which you could have ended up so much worse off in your career and your investing. And I think if you take all of those hypotheticals and you realize that you’re probably in the top half, that’s the definition of you’re doing great.
[00:07:53] Morgan Housel: You’re doing great. It could always do better. You could always be Boris. If you’re square in the middle, you’re doing excellent.
[00:07:59] Clay Finck: Yeah, people like to have those sort of outliers that make the headlines, make the news and they don’t consider the survivorship bias and then all the luck that sort of played into it instead of the hanging by a thread that happened take the company down.
[00:08:13] Clay Finck: It was the opposite where just these totally random things happened that happened to benefit them tremendously. And then they were just in the right place at the right time.
[00:08:22] Morgan Housel: Yeah a very tangible example. It’s now accepted. And this is not just guessing here that in 2018, Tesla was weeks, if not days from bankruptcy.
[00:08:32] Morgan Housel: And obviously they pulled through. In 2023, the Model Y was the best selling car in the world of any model. And so look, now we have what is literally the best selling car in the world. was hanging by a thread by potentially hours from even existing at all, not that long ago. So there’s all these positive threads of like, how the world could have been.
[00:08:50] Morgan Housel: And I think it’s probably in equal amounts. You can look at things and say, wow, the world would have been better if we didn’t have X, Y, and Z. But also man, it could have been so much worse off if this thing had happened, that didn’t happen, that we just barely escaped.
[00:09:04] Clay Finck: I think what a lot of people’s favorite chapters in your book was risk is what you don’t see.
[00:09:10] Clay Finck: And I want to touch on this one because we have a lot of active investors who listen to our show and people who think deeply about companies and managing their own portfolios. And part of doing that involves thinking a lot about risk and what can go wrong. And you share this quote I loved from financial advisor, Carl Richards.
[00:09:27] Clay Finck: He states, risk is what’s left over after you’ve thought of everything. And I just absolutely love this chapter. It’s Everyone wants to know what’s going to happen. What’s the stock market going to do? Interest rates, the Fed. You state the biggest risk and the most important news story of the next 10 years will be something nobody’s talking about today.
[00:09:45] Clay Finck: No matter what year you’re reading this book, that truth will remain.
[00:09:49] Morgan Housel: Yeah one way I think about this is I wrote Psychology of Money, my first book. I wrote most of it in late 2019. So obviously that was weeks or months from COVID completely throwing our life upside down, everybody’s life upside down.
[00:10:02] Morgan Housel: And I and everybody else had no clue about it. We were completely oblivious to what was going on. Staring at us in the face of that at that point, and I think what you can say, what is the biggest news story globally of 2023 of last year? It was, I think most people would say it was Israel Hamas, which is another thing.
[00:10:17] Morgan Housel: If you go to January of 2023, nobody was talking about that. No one was putting that on their radar. Even the day before it happened, virtually no one was talking about it, thinking about it, forecasting it. So it’s always been like that. You can say that for this year. The biggest news story of 2024 is something that you and I are not talking about today that we cannot see coming.
[00:10:35] Morgan Housel: Someone, I just saw this on Twitter just a couple hours ago. I thought it was really good. I’m paraphrasing it, but it was like, if you are making a decision tree or like a list of probabilities and you say, there’s a 20 percent chance of this happening and a 30 percent chance of that happening. If you’re just going through probabilities like that seems like a smart thing to do.
[00:10:51] Morgan Housel: But if all of your probabilities add up to a hundred, then you’re doing it wrong. Because what you are implicitly saying is that every potential possible outcome that there’s going to be. So I think the best you can do in any of these is if your known probabilities and you can think of should add up to 80 or something like that.
[00:11:07] Morgan Housel: Maybe it’s 90. You should always, you always have to leave a percentage chance for something could happen that I cannot even fathom. That I can’t even, no matter how creative I try to get, there can be a risk out there that I cannot even envision. And of course you should do that because that’s how it’s always been.
[00:11:21] Morgan Housel: The biggest news stories of modern times are things like the Great Depression, Pearl Harbor, World War II, 9 11, Lehman Brothers going bankrupt, COVID of course. And the common denominator of all of those is that you could not have seen them coming, at least in their specific nature of how they arrived and what they did, until they happened.
[00:11:37] Morgan Housel: And so it’s always going to be like that. It’s very uncomfortable to come to terms with that, to come to terms with how uncertain and unpredictable the world can be. But I think if you study history, you can’t come to any other conclusion.
[00:11:48] Clay Finck: What I find so fascinating about this is the biggest sort of disasters are those that no one expects, no one forecasted, no one projected.
[00:11:57] Clay Finck: You mentioned in your book that it seems that zero economists predicted the Great Depression. It’s no wonder it was so bad. No one was prepared for it. No one expected it to come. And COVID is very similar. And you’ve lived through the great financial crisis, likely an investor at that time.
[00:12:13] Clay Finck: Did it feel like no one was saw it coming and it was just a total disaster and much worse than anyone could have ever imagined.
[00:12:20] Morgan Housel: See, that’s a little bit different. That’s different than 9 11 because as recently, as re as early as 2003, there were people who are ringing alarm bells about how fragile the economy was and over leverage and whatnot.
[00:12:32] Morgan Housel: So that it’s not, nobody saw it coming. That’s not quite, that’s not quite true, but a lot of the people who quote unquote, saw it coming. When it did happen, it happened for reasons that they could not fathom. So for example, a lot of people, I won’t name names, but as in 2005, 6, 7, they said a giant recession is coming and it’s going to be caused by hyper, it’s going to lead to hyperinflation and interest rates are going to go to double digits.
[00:12:53] Morgan Housel: The exact opposite happened. So what do you do in that situation where they saw trouble coming, but it happened for the exact opposite reason than they saw it coming? That they envisioned. It’s there’s all these weird nuances there where it’s not black and white. There’s also what really sent the financial crisis into hyperdrive was Lehman Brothers going bankrupt.
[00:13:09] Morgan Housel: But there’s all these alternative histories of a lot of people forget that as Lehman Brothers is going down, Barclays was like hours away from buying it. And that deal fell through and Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. But there’s this alternative history of what if Barclays had bought Lehman Brothers and we escaped all of that.
[00:13:23] Morgan Housel: And the economy just zoomed to recovery after that. There’s all these different possibilities. And I think the takeaway from that is you couldn’t have seen it coming. Even if you saw trouble, you saw brewing in the financial crisis. Nobody in their right mind could have known exactly how it was going to play out.
[00:13:35] Morgan Housel: And I think that’s true, even not only during, but after the financial crisis, it was so common if you were an investor in 2009. To say, look, stocks are still overvalued. We’re in the quote unquote, new normal of low growth. That was a phrase that was always thrown around. The KP ratio is still just still too high.
[00:13:52] Morgan Housel: Expect lower returns. That was what virtually everybody was saying. I’m not going to say everybody. Of course, there are some people who saw it differently, but that was the very common narrative. And it made sense. If people were saying that you’re like, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. But what happened?
[00:14:04] Morgan Housel: The stock market tripled over the next three years. It was a, ended up being like the best three year period to be an investor in modern times. And so that, that’s a very common story throughout history too, is that the narrative at the moment, that makes sense that the majority of people cling to in hindsight looks ridiculous.
[00:14:19] Morgan Housel: And so we see that a lot across and it’ll be like that going forward whenever the next recession is, of course.
[00:14:25] Clay Finck: Yeah. That’s a really interesting point where we can be right about our prediction, but figuring out what to do, if you are right is a whole different ball game too. You mentioned the hyperinflation example or.
[00:14:35] Clay Finck: It’s really hard to position yourselves after you make that those forecasts. And I wanted to tie in your chapter on wild numbers. I think it ties in well to this idea of risk is what you don’t see. And things can happen for reasons we just can’t even forecast at all and can’t even envision.
[00:14:52] Clay Finck: And this chapter on wild numbers, it reminds me of how people will watch the news today. And oftentimes it’s just crazy what this person did, or it’s crazy what’s happening with the world. And this chapter really opened my eyes to think it’s really not that crazy that happened because statistically crazy things are bound to happen all the time.
[00:15:10] Clay Finck: And we just need to be mindful of that. And you’re right. Everything feels unprecedented when you haven’t engaged with history. I just thought it was a really brilliant point there.
[00:15:19] Morgan Housel: So much of this is just realizing that we live in a world of 8 billion people, and because of that, a 1 in a billion chance is going to happen to 3 people per day, on average, and because of how the media works, you’re going to hear about it.
[00:15:30] Morgan Housel: So you’re always going to hear of these incredible bonkers, like, how could that possibly happen events to people and companies and countries. A lot of it is just because there’s a lot going on in the world today, but it’s hard to wrap your head around those odds. But because of that, we overestimate the odds of very big events.
[00:15:47] Morgan Housel: It always seems like the world is more dangerous, more risky than it needs to be. A lot of this too, is that people think when they’re thinking of numbers and math and probabilities, they’re always going to think binary, yes or no. When they’re judging whether your prediction was right, they’re going to judge it in binary terms.
[00:16:03] Morgan Housel: Were you right or were you wrong? But the world, because it’s fragile and uncertain, usually doesn’t work like that. You want to judge people in probabilities, but that’s much harder to do. A very clear example of this was the 2016 presidential election when Nate Silver, the statistician who makes these forecasts about predictions, I forget what the exact numbers are, so I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think it was, he said something along the lines of the day before the election.
[00:16:25] Morgan Housel: I think he gave Hillary Clinton 75 percent chance of winning and Donald Trump 25 percent chance. It was something along those lines. I might be getting that slightly wrong. And obviously Donald Trump won, and therefore the next day, all the news headlines blared, Nate Silver got it wrong. And he, Nate pointed this out, like to his own frustration, he’s no, I gave Trump a 25 percent chance of winning.
[00:16:44] Morgan Housel: That’s actually pretty good. And the fact that he did win doesn’t show that I was wrong at all. But people don’t think like that. They want to be blind. If you’re going to make a prediction, you should be judged on whether it was right or wrong. And the thing is somebody like Ned Silver who very rightly and wisely thinks in probabilities, the only way to judge whether he’s right or wrong is to look at how he’s done over the last 50 presidential election cycles, which obviously we don’t have that information that doesn’t exist.
[00:17:09] Morgan Housel: But if over 50 elections, hypothetically, if he said this candidate is going to win 25%, this candidate has 25 percent chance of winning, you could only judge him if you looked over 50 elections and saw that he was right 25 percent of the time. And since we don’t have that, we’re often, we’re always just judging in binary terms, and it throws people for a loop all the time.
[00:17:28] Morgan Housel: It’s just one of the, one of the very common areas in which we are bad at math.
[00:17:32] Clay Finck: I’ll share one of the wild numbers you shared here. On average, the world breaks about once every 10 years. Always has, always will. This isn’t so much a probabilistic type play. Always has, always will. I’m interested to get your thoughts on this statement here and what it means for the world to break.
[00:17:51] Morgan Housel: My it’s a very informal definition and I’m using on average every 10 years very loosely there because it’s not don’t say, Oh, it’s been 9. 9 years. Therefore, next year, something bad’s going to happen. It doesn’t work like that. But if you’re an amateur student of history, as I am, you will see this roughly very roughly on average, once a decade, there is an event that fundamentally breaks the world and you can list them off as World War I, Great Depression, World War II, Cold War.
[00:18:14] Morgan Housel: 9 11, the oil crisis of the 1980s, COVID, of course, about once per decade, there’s something where it’s like, Hey, all the other news stories that we have been focused on before this, absolutely and utterly pale in comparison to this big thing that’s happening right now. And I don’t think there’s any escaping that.
[00:18:29] Morgan Housel: And again, the common denominator of those events tends to be that virtually nobody saw them coming, or at least didn’t understand how they would play out and the severity in which they would play out. And so it’s pretty common if you have an event one of those events that, that fundamentally shapes the world to say, Oh, this was a once in a century event.
[00:18:46] Morgan Housel: COVID was a once in a century pandemic. Lehman Brothers was a once in a century financial crisis. You can be right about that. But in any given period of time. If there is a 1 percent chance of a devastating pandemic, and a 1 percent chance of a devastating financial crisis, and a 1 percent chance of a war, and keep on going down the line, in any given year, and definitely any given decade, there’s a very good chance that one of those things is going to happen.
[00:19:07] Morgan Housel: So what are the odds that over the next 10 years, we have either a massive pandemic, or a massive recession, or a devastating war, or like going down the list, the odds, if you go deep enough, the odds that we’re going to have at least one of them. are virtually guaranteed. And so that’s why the world breaks about once per decade and why we are constantly shocked that we keep going through events that you could describe as a once in a century event.
[00:19:28] Clay Finck: In the chapter on risk is what you don’t see, you say there’s not much you can do about it, but know that eventually they’re going to happen. You just don’t really know when.
[00:19:37] Morgan Housel: Yeah, and that’s why I like when you’re thinking about these rather than a forecast of, Hey, when do you think the next recession is going to occur?
[00:19:43] Morgan Housel: Oh, I think it’s going to occur in Q2 of 2025. That’s the dangerous way to think about risk. I think a better way to think about risk is expectations where you’re like, look, if you look historically usually in any given decade, there are about on average, two recessions, one of which is really bad.
[00:19:58] Morgan Housel: That tends to be about how it’s been historically. So going forward, that’s at least my baseline expectation is that I hope to be a participant in this economy for the next 50 years at least. And therefore I know I’m probably going to experience at least 10 recessions if I’m lucky. If I’m lucky to get to live that long and participate, there’s going to be at least five of which are going to be very bad, and over the next 50 years, one of which will be devastating, something like the Great Depression or 2008, something like that, and so I think just coming to terms with that as an expectation, even if it’s very different from a forecast, if I said in, in my life, there’s going to be one very bad recession.
[00:20:33] Morgan Housel: It’s common for people to say when’s it going to, I have no idea. Nobody has any idea, but as an expectation, that’s what I expect is my baseline expectation. And therefore I can wrap my asset allocation and my psychological expectations around knowing that something bad is going to happen in the future.
[00:20:49] Clay Finck: You do such a wonderful job just telling great stories and then tying in these lessons. In this book, you even have a chapter titled Best Story Wins. How can understanding the power of storytelling help us as investors?
[00:21:02] Morgan Housel: I think at the very basic level, you got to understand like how short people’s memories are and how people’s memories work.
[00:21:09] Morgan Housel: And by and large, like statistics and numbers do not change people’s minds. Stories do. And a lot of that’s just because stories are memorable. If you think back to when you were in math in grade school or in college, you probably don’t remember much of anything but if you hear a good story, when you are a child, you can remember it for life.
[00:21:27] Morgan Housel: And I think that’s that little simple example plays out all over the place where a lot of people, just because numbers are hard to contextualize and hard to figure out, but stories are instantly memorable and instantly make sense. So you see this in investing, you see it in politics, you see it all over the place where the person with the right answer doesn’t necessarily get ahead, the person with the best story does, and that in business and investing all the time.
[00:21:51] Morgan Housel: Several years ago, somebody tweeted this, I have no idea who it was, so I don’t know who to give credit to, but they said, The best product that Elon Musk has ever made is not a Tesla car, it’s not a Falcon rocket, it’s Tesla stock. The best product he’s ever made is a ticker TSLA, because what that is literally one of the most incredible and captivating stories that anybody has ever told.
[00:22:11] Morgan Housel: And that’s why the valuation is what it is, because he’s told a story about what Tesla could be in the future that Toyota and Honda and GM and Ford could not do in a million years. It’s a storytelling component that millions of investors have latched down to. Now, that’s not a prediction of what’s going to happen next.
[00:22:26] Morgan Housel: And people can tell different stories that they cling to in the other direction, but it’s amazing what he’s done. And I think a lot of things are like that. Regardless of your political beliefs, you can look at someone like Donald Trump too, and say he’s told an amazing story that tens of millions of people have clung to for their various reasons.
[00:22:41] Morgan Housel: So wherever you look, it’s usually best story wins. And if you are an analytical mind in which you think it’s always the best idea and the right answer is going to win. You end up very frustrating with the world. Frustrated with the world of thinking like, why aren’t people gravitating towards the right answer?
[00:22:56] Morgan Housel: It’s usually because somebody else is telling a better and more captivating story.
[00:23:00] Clay Finck: I’m sure there are plenty of people throughout the years, just 2018, 2019, especially that looked at the numbers for Tesla. And they’re just like, this just does not make any sense at all. They saw the production issues that you mentioned.
[00:23:11] Clay Finck: They were weeks away from going bankrupt. And they had another story in their mind. And it also just ties so well into your book. I think people oftentimes come up with these pitches where this company has a total addressable market of 50 billion. They’re a small part of a growing market. They’ve doubled over the past year and that’s all great, but that doesn’t tell you all the parts that you can’t compute.
[00:23:32] Clay Finck: The qualitative side. So what have you learned in studying forces that just simply can’t be measured?
[00:23:38] Morgan Housel: What can’t be measured by and large, particularly in investing, is the most important parts of it. It’s the storytelling human part of it. Every valuation in investing is a number from today multiplied by a story about tomorrow.
[00:23:50] Morgan Housel: That’s always what it is. The very simple terms you could say, earnings per share, that’s the number from today. The P ratio multiple, that’s the story about tomorrow. It’s a story of what you think this company can accomplish. And particularly in the social media world, but also in the zero interest rate world that existed for most of the last decade.
[00:24:06] Morgan Housel: The storytelling component is the most important part by far. The number from when the interest rates are zero, the number from today almost didn’t matter whatsoever. It was just what can you make me believe that you are going to become in the future? And in, again, in the social media Reddit world, the stories that people can tell and the stories that people can believe can be off the charts.
[00:24:25] Morgan Housel: And I think a lot of people who are very data driven and spreadsheet driven and analytically driven were left completely dumbfounded and confused about what happened. Now, look, in a lot of those things, it’s like the Ben Graham. In the short term it’s a voting machine. Long term, it’s a weighing machine.
[00:24:40] Morgan Housel: So eventually those things do tend to even out. But if you are looking at the short term and trying to make sense of it in a spreadsheet, it’s never going to work like that. This is one thing with like reversion to the mean, it’s a very important, powerful concept that you need to understand in investing.
[00:24:53] Morgan Housel: But you also need to understand that. The market almost never spends any time at that meet at that level. The market is always in some sort of irrational boom or bust and almost I would venture to say 95 percent of the time, historically in markets, the market looks either overvalued or undervalued.
[00:25:08] Morgan Housel: So if you’re the kind of person you’re like, I’m going to wait until it looks reasonable and rational. You’re going to wait forever. You’re never going to get to that part. So understanding the stories that people cling to and believe in how enduring and fanatically they can believe those stories is a really important part of investing.
[00:25:22] Clay Finck: So much great stuff there. John Metier Keynes, the British economist, he had discovered in his work that economies are not machines, they have souls, emotions, and feelings. And he called this the animal spirits of the market. And I wanted to share one of your other quotes here in the book that I just thought was so interesting because I think with the GameStop and MemeStock thing, people assumed like this was like a once in a it’s the first time things have got ever gotten this crazy.
[00:25:48] Clay Finck: You wrote, Every few years, there seems to be a declaration that markets don’t work anymore, that they’re all speculation or detached from fundamentals, but it’s always been that way. People haven’t lost their minds. They’re just searching for the boundaries of what other investors are willing to believe.
[00:26:05] Morgan Housel: Yeah I think about this a lot where, like, why do markets overshoot? Why do they have bubbles? Is it because people are stupid? Is it because they haven’t learned from the past? I think you sometimes you can say that. I’m not going to say that’s not the answer, but I think there’s a bigger thing to think about here where when a big part of what drives investing returns is this intangible story.
[00:26:23] Morgan Housel: Nobody knows what the boundary of that story can be and like where people’s where like how much are people willing to believe the story and how much do they believe it. The only way to find where the boundary is to go a little bit beyond it. The only way to know what the top PE ratio that this company can trade for is to go to such an extreme that people are like, Oh no, that was too far.
[00:26:42] Morgan Housel: And then you look back and you’re like, all right that was too high. That was the boundary. You can’t know that boundary with any sort of foresight. You have to go past it before you realize where it was in hindsight. And so that’s why I think markets going to irrational extreme, what look like irrational extremes, there’s actually like a pretty rational component, like it’s like sometime, like some people are being dumb and crazy and like they deserve the poor returns are going to get, but for a market as a whole, if you look at it like the beast as a whole, it’s just, they’re trying to find the boundaries of what people are willing to put up with.
[00:27:08] Morgan Housel: And they have to do that because if people don’t know where the boundaries are, there might be more opportunity and there might be opportunity on the table. You only know that you’ve squeezed potential out of the stock market when you’ve gone too far. And then you can say okay, that was crazy. 1999, that was crazy.
[00:27:21] Morgan Housel: But you don’t know where that boundary is. So think about, let me give you like a tangible example. Think about it’s 1997 and you are Mr. Market. You are the market as a whole, not any individual investor. You are Mr. Market and you’re like, okay, 1997 tech stocks are very expensive, but is it possible that they could get more expensive?
[00:27:38] Morgan Housel: Let’s find out. 1998. You’re like, yeah, they could get more expensive. 1999. You’re like, yeah, they could get more expensive and 2000. You’re like, okay, that was too much. We went too far. But in 1997, you didn’t know how far it could get. And so you had to test those boundaries. So I think for the market as a whole, that just explains a lot of investing behavior.
[00:27:53] Morgan Housel: I think anytime in life, not just investing, anytime in life, you see something that looks irrational and your answer for it is those people are idiots. It’s probably not the case. Like most people are maybe they’re playing a different game than you, but I think there is a way to explain the boom bust mentality that markets go through without the cynicism of sometimes people just lose their minds.
[00:28:12] Morgan Housel: Even if that might be true, there’s usually some like semi rational component that can explain why people are doing what they’re doing.
[00:28:19] Clay Finck: You’re pretty open about how you invest and where you allocate your money. And to my knowledge, the vast majority of our portfolio is just in Vanguard index funds. And since you mentioned the vast majority of the time, the market is somewhere on the extremes, it’s not around the mean, would you say today’s market seems to be on the overvalued side or how do you think about it?
[00:28:38] Clay Finck: Or do you even think about it?
[00:28:41] Morgan Housel: I think the answer to the latter is I really don’t. I hope to be an investor for the next 50 years. And because of that, I have a hard time imagining that 50 years from now, I’m going to look back and say, man, in January of 2024, wish I’d been paying more attention. There’s all these crazy, if your time horizon gets long enough, I was calculating this a couple months ago.
[00:28:59] Morgan Housel: If you started investing in September, 1929, which was the absolute peak of the 1920s boom just before the Great Depression. If you started investing in September 1929 and you held for 50 years, your returns were like, were perfect. They were completely fine. Like starting in September 1929 did nothing to your returns.
[00:29:17] Morgan Housel: They converged on the long term average. Now that’s a 50 year time horizon that not everybody has. So this is not a very practical example. But if you do have a 50 year time horizon, and I hope I do, if I can live that long enough, Then these things don’t really matter that much. Whether we’re grossly overvalued or grossly undervalued today, it’s it’s honestly, it’s going to converge to good long term returns.
[00:29:34] Morgan Housel: The way that I invest and like my strategy is to be average for an above average period of time. And I think if I can do that, if I can earn a vanguard return for 50 years, I’ll probably going to end up in the top, maybe 1 percent of all investors who’ve done it. And so it’s just trying to maximize for a different variable than other investors might be.
[00:29:52] Morgan Housel: And I think for me, at least, maximizing endurance and longevity is more realistic. And I would even say easier than maximizing for returns. A lot of it too, is because I want to spend all of my bandwidth on my profession, which is writing, not portfolio selection. And I deeply admire the people who do that, the people who are good at it.
[00:30:09] Morgan Housel: And I really admire, if not even envy what they do. But it’s not what I want to do. It’s not what I’m capable of doing. I don’t really have that skill. But I do think patience and endurance is something that I do have some skill. So I’m going to put all of my emphasis into that.
[00:30:21] Clay Finck: Since you mentioned patience in your chapter titled Too Much, Too Soon, Too Fast, you expand on a human desire to want to speed up the process, get things quicker.
[00:30:31] Clay Finck: And it points to this human bias of impatience and how investors who exercise that patience, like you’re talking about, have the most to gain from the stock market. You have this quote. that is just wonderful. A good summary of investing history is that stocks pay a fortune in the long run, but seek punitive damages when you demand to be paid sooner.
[00:30:49] Clay Finck: And it’s just so amazing to me how there seems to be this universal law, whether it be investing or anything else in life, where when you get something too quickly or too easily, The universe has a way of taking it back because you didn’t really earn it or you weren’t prepared to handle what it is you got.
[00:31:07] Clay Finck: And we can think about the easy money that was made by a lot of investors in 2021. You can think about lottery ticket winners, get rich quick schemes. So talk more about this chapter.
[00:31:17] Morgan Housel: I heard this quote from Shemoth a couple years ago that I thought was so smart. He said, however fast something grows, that’s the half life in which it can be destroyed.
[00:31:26] Morgan Housel: Now that’s not a formula. That’s not like a law of the universe, but I think philosophically, that’s a very smart idea. He was mentioning in references to startups that when a startup is like, Oh, we’re going to like blitz scale. We’re going to grow a hundred X over the next year. That’s the half life for how long it’ll take you to be destroyed.
[00:31:41] Morgan Housel: If you can grow a hundred X in one year. You can fall 50 X in one year as well. Like it goes both ways. I think it’s true for investing in well, if there are a lot of people who are like, okay, historically the S& P 500 has returned 8 percent per year nominal. I, as an investor, I’m going to do 12.
[00:31:57] Morgan Housel: Okay. And there are people who have done that and will continue to do that. For most people, though, they’re just trying to take the natural return to the market and compress it and speed it up and just say I just want to push it into a shorter period of time. And they’re going to do that by taking more risk, more leverage, more like relying on luck, whatever it’s going to be, that’s eventually going to be the half life of your demise as well.
[00:32:14] Morgan Housel: And of course that’s the best part for the course in investing is that people who try to beat the market. It’s not that if you are trying to beat the market, that the downside is you’re going to fall to average. If you’re trying to beat the market, the downside is you’re going to fall to way below average.
[00:32:27] Morgan Housel: So if the S& P is returning 8 percent per year, and you’re like I’m going to shoot for 12, the risk is that you’re going to end up at two. And that’s what a lot of these investors will end up at. And so that’s the punitive damage. If the downside. to active investing was, Hey, the worst you’re going to do is you’re going to fall to average.
[00:32:43] Morgan Housel: Then of course, everybody should try. It’s all upside, but there’s punitive damages where you’re going to end up way below it. And I think that’s what happens when most people are just trying to take it’s like their skill in investing. The people who can do it right are the people, whether it’s Buffett or Tom Gainer or people who’ve done this very well over a very long period of time is like they have a skill and like their skill is picking great businesses, but there’s so many people who are just like, I just want to compress what the market will naturally give you into a shorter period of time.
[00:33:09] Morgan Housel: And also, I would even say people like Buffett and Gaynor and people who’ve done it well, so much of their advantage in investing is not necessarily the annual returns that they’re going to earn. Their advantage is that they’ve been doing it for a very long period of time. Warren Buffett has been investing for 80 years.
[00:33:22] Morgan Housel: Tom Gaynor has been investing in Markel for over 30 years. And so it’s just the endurance that they have that makes them so great. Buffett’s very
[00:33:31] Clay Finck: well known for trying to find companies with strong moats, strong competitive advantages. And you have a chapter on this as well and how you talk about most companies are naturally doomed for failure.
[00:33:42] Clay Finck: You share this sort of daunting statistic that between 1980 and 2014, almost 40 percent of all public companies lost all of their value. So how about you talk a little bit about Sears and how that might relate to some of the giant companies we all know of today?
[00:34:00] Morgan Housel: What’s amazing to me about that statistic is those were the public companies.
[00:34:03] Morgan Housel: Those are the winners. These are not garage startups. Those are companies who became so successful at what they do that they went public and 40 percent of them within one generation are gone. They’re out. They didn’t merge. They went out of business, like almost half. It’s incredible. And I always think of something like Sears as being really incredible because obviously, particularly if you’re young, you won’t, you don’t know this or you’ll forget it, but There are very few companies in the history of capitalism that had a moat stronger than Sears.
[00:34:29] Morgan Housel: Sears from the 70s to the 90s. was had a moat around it that you would equate today to like Apple or Google. It was like nobody could compete with Sears. And now they’re nothing. It’s zero. They’re banger. It’s not really a thing anymore. To go from that strong to where they are is astounding. And I honestly think if you look at the long history of business, that’s par for the course.
[00:34:50] Morgan Housel: And I think in a very generalized way, what tends to happen to a lot of these companies is The strength and success that they built and maintain caused them to let their guard down. And they said look, we don’t need to be scared and paranoid anymore. We are freaking seers. Nobody can compete with us.
[00:35:05] Morgan Housel: And once, and then they’ve lost that competitive grind, that edge that made them so great. And then the downfall is from there. So I’ve always been interesting on like why competitive advantages die. And one of the interesting I think the most common one is that, and this goes for individuals as well, where.
[00:35:21] Morgan Housel: You are grinding and working hard specifically because in your head, you’re like, one day I’m working this hard. So one day I don’t have to work this hard. And then if you’re successful and you have a big net worth, you’re financially independent, or you’re a business that is like dominating your competitors.
[00:35:35] Morgan Housel: You feel justifiable to say, I’m going to take a break. I don’t need to work as hard. I don’t need to worry. I don’t need to wake up at 4am to chase all my competitors anymore. You feel justified saying I’ve earned the right to breathe a sigh of relief now. But then at that very moment, the thing that made you great is gone, and you’ve planted the seeds of your own demise at that point.
[00:35:57] Morgan Housel: So even more fascinating than Sears might be the companies who have successfully fought back against this. One is Sequoia, the most successful venture capital firm of all time, that has dominated not just in the last decade during this VC boom, but they’ve dominated for 50 years. And it’s so incredibly rare.
[00:36:12] Morgan Housel: And Mike Moritz, who runs Sequoia, was asked many years ago by Charlie Rose. Charlie Rose said, like, how do you explain Sequoia’s success? And how do you explain that it’s been successful for so much longer than any of your competitors? And Mike Moritz, his answer was, we’ve always been scared of going out of business.
[00:36:28] Morgan Housel: And this is a guy for whom if there’s anybody in VC who has the right to say, the reason we’re successful is because we’re smarter than everybody else. He has the right to say that, but he didn’t. He said, we’ve been scared of going out of business. And so that competitive drive that made them successful 30 years ago still exists today.
[00:36:44] Morgan Housel: The other more recent example is NVIDIA, which I read this in this interview with Jensen Wong that I thought was so interesting. He said, The unofficial model of NVIDIA, their unofficial corporate motto is we are always 30 days from going out of business. And that’s why even though NVIDIA is worth a trillion dollars and absolutely utterly dominating their field, I think their management team wakes up terrified every morning and that’s why they’re successful.
[00:37:06] Morgan Housel: So the companies like Sears that fall for the knee jerk reaction of Oh, we deserve to let our guard down. We’ve earned that versus the companies that stay scared even when they are dominant. It’s a fascinating thing. And the Sears examples are way more common than the Sequoia examples.
[00:37:22] Clay Finck: And you tie in biology into this as well, and you say that evolution encourages you to get bigger, or in a company’s case, capitalism encourages you to get bigger, but getting big is what you get punished for getting big, and I think that’s what you need to look for when the bureaucracy creeps in, that initial culture starts to fade away and wither away, and That’s the most difficult part is once you get big, how do you keep that startup culture when you have a hundred thousand employees at Amazon or wherever else?
[00:37:54] Morgan Housel: Yeah, there’s years ago, I came across this thing in evolutionary biology and it’s a thing called Cope’s rule. It’s called rule because it’s not strong enough to be a law. But it was created by this paleontologist named Edward Drinker Cope, and Cope’s rule basically says that if you look across species, their body size tends to get bigger over time.
[00:38:10] Morgan Housel: So you start with like little worms and that turns into a boa constrictor, like a huge snake, or you start with a tiny little rodent and it turns into an elephant over time, like most species evolve to get bigger. But then the question is, okay, if that’s true. Then why isn’t every species enormous?
[00:38:24] Morgan Housel: Why aren’t we all the size of Brontosaurus? And what happens is, yes, evolution wants you to get bigger because there are competitive advantages to being bigger. But there’s also a lot of disadvantages to being bigger. It takes more food. It takes more space to live in. You can’t hide from predators. So evolution wants you to get bigger.
[00:38:39] Morgan Housel: But the bigger you become, the higher the odds are that you’re going to go extinct. Like the takeaway from that for me was like. All these things are cyclical. Even in evolutionary biology, for species, it tends to be cyclical. Evolution wants you to get bigger, it also destroys companies or species that are too big.
[00:38:53] Morgan Housel: And the same thing works with companies. Banking is a great example where there are such obvious competitive advantages to size in banking. There are so many different benefits to being big. The banking industry wants you to get big, which is why we’ve ended up with trillion dollar banks.
[00:39:08] Morgan Housel: There’s also a tremendous number of disadvantages to being big. Too big to fail is actually just too big to manage. And a company like Citigroup was so disparate and so sprawled in 2007 that nobody could have managed it effectively. It was just too big. It was doing too many things at once. So the banking industry, like the evolution of capitalism wants you to become a big bank, but also once you are too big, it’s the natural status to fail at that point.
[00:39:30] Morgan Housel: And so I think it’s, there’s a lot of analogies there between evolutionary biology of species and what happens within businesses as well.
[00:39:37] Clay Finck: I also wanted to tie in here, the emotional side of investing. The Buffett quote is be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy. But you talk about in your book how this is much easier.
[00:39:51] Clay Finck: said than done. And it’s just so hard to put ourselves mentally fast forward in that type of situation when stocks have fallen, it’s the time to buy. And another problem is that when stocks fall, there’s usually a good reason why they’re falling. And I go back to March, 2020, and I had friends calling me at work, telling me how much money they’re making by shorting the market.
[00:40:10] Clay Finck: And yeah, this coronavirus going around and just the emotions just flood in. And it’s just so hard to act rational when those emotions are at play. You write in your book, hard times make people do and think things they’d never imagine when things are calm. And March 2020 was the complete opposite of calm.
[00:40:29] Clay Finck: Talk to us about how our views and goals can quickly change when our environment’s changing.
[00:40:35] Morgan Housel: I think if I today, right now, when the economy and the stock market are pretty strong and prosperous, if I said, Clay, how would you feel if the market fell 30%? Most people would say, I’d view that as an opportunity.
[00:40:45] Morgan Housel: That’d be great. The stocks that I love would be cheaper. I’d be a buying opportunity. That’d be great. Okay. And for some people that really is the case. But then if I said, Hey, Clay, the market falls 30 percent because there’s a pandemic that might kill you and your family and your kids school to shut down and you have to work from home and the government’s a mess, it’s going to run a 6 trillion deficit to try to figure this out.
[00:41:04] Morgan Housel: How do you feel in that situation? You might be like, most people will say, Oh, in that world, or once they experienced that world feels very different. Or if I said, Hey, the market fell 30 percent because there was a terrorist attack on nine 11. And all the experts think that was just scratching the surface of what’s to come.
[00:41:19] Morgan Housel: Do you feel bullish now? A lot of people will say no, they don’t feel. So once you add in the context of why the market fell, most people will realize that it’s much easier to quote Buffett than it is to actually be somebody like Buffett. I experienced this myself. I had some of the smartest people who I knew in March and April of 2020.
[00:41:35] Morgan Housel: Some of the conver I remember two specific conversations. One was somebody who said, Hey, look, there’s about 2 trillion of capital in the entire banking industry. You do not need to be creative to imagine how all of that’s going to be wiped out. The entire capital of the entire banking industry is going to be wiped out.
[00:41:48] Morgan Housel: And I remember thinking that and being like, yeah, no, you don’t. If the entire economy is shut down for three months, all of that capital is gone. The entire banking sector is insolvent. Obviously that did not happen. But when I heard that, I was like, no, that actually makes sense. I don’t know if that’s the base case scenario, but that’s not far fetched.
[00:42:03] Morgan Housel: I also remember during that period of COVID when it was like, no one’s really going to be making their mortgage payments when everyone is on lockdown that people are like, look, the entire non banking lending sector, non bank lending mortgage sector is all going to collapse. And that’s 80 percent of the originations market.
[00:42:17] Morgan Housel: 80 percent of mortgage originations are going to be out of business in two weeks. And I remember piecing that together and be like, that makes sense too. That didn’t happen either. But during this period, Which was in hindsight, and even at the time, you could have seen look, this is the opportunity of a lifetime.
[00:42:30] Morgan Housel: The market fell 50 percent in a short period of time. This is gonna be a great opportunity. When you add in the context, both the health consequences and the potential economic consequences. It’s a much different situation. I would even say to finish this up, this is maybe the most important part about, I think it was in early February, 2020, Warren Buffett went on CNBC and they’re talking about, Hey, there’s all these rumbles about a virus.
[00:42:51] Morgan Housel: Like, where do you get it? Like the market’s starting to fall. What’s going on? And Buffett said, I don’t want to, I’m paraphrasing here. This is not a direct quote, but He said, I don’t know how I’m going to invest in the next month, but I guarantee you, I’m not going to be selling. That’s what he said.
[00:43:03] Morgan Housel: Two weeks later, he dumped every airline stock that he owned. So even in this situation, somebody like Buffett, the originator of the phrase be greedy when others are fearful. When he added in the context of what was happening to the airline industry during the lockdown, he determined, and I think in hindsight, it was probably the right decision to sell those stocks.
[00:43:19] Morgan Housel: And some people have pointed out too that part of the reason that he sold him is that the government could not have bailed out the airlines if he was the largest shareholder, so people asked him to sell those stocks. It is a complicated thing, but once you add in the context of why the market’s falling, most people realize that their risk tolerance is actually much less than they thought.
[00:43:33] Clay Finck: One more chapter I wanted to tie in here that I thought was quite interesting is more applicable to Work life and life in general is the the chapter talking about efficiency and perfection. And it’s quite interesting how all these great entrepreneurs, these great minds, they added this slack and inefficiency to their days.
[00:43:53] Clay Finck: So they’d go on walks, they’d let their mind wander and such. And it’s quite interesting because we live in a world where that chases perfection, chases doing the very best we can. So talk to us about how inefficiencies can actually drastically improve our lives.
[00:44:07] Morgan Housel: Yeah, I think if you looked at some of the most successful people in history, not just in business and investing, but people like Mozart and Beethoven, like all the people who are just crazy successful at their field and you compared how they structured their day to the hustle porn that you see on Instagram, it’s night and day, completely night and day.
[00:44:24] Morgan Housel: Most people who are very successful at what they do, particularly if what they do is like an art or a thought job where you’re making decisions, they leave huge, they intentionally leave huge parts of their day unstructured so that they can think and process information. And if you are just completely scheduled from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, you have no time to think, you have no time to ponder, you have no time to let your mind wander around, which is so important.
[00:44:47] Morgan Housel: And so virtually everyone who there’s so many examples of this, people like Einstein and Beethoven and Bill Gates and Buffett that intentionally leave big chunks of their schedule wide open with nothing scheduled. And what they’re doing during those moments doesn’t look like work. They might be sitting on the couch with their eyes closed.
[00:45:02] Morgan Housel: They might be going for a walk. They might be on a kayak in the middle of the lake. And it’s the most important work that they are doing in their careers. They’re just like taking time to think, which makes sense. If you explain it like that, like if your job is to make decisions, of course you want time to think, of course, but you’d be surprised how few people do because so many, particularly if you are an employee, what your boss wants is for you to be at your desk.
[00:45:23] Morgan Housel: Typing on the keys, moving the mouse, doing something that looks like work, which is the opposite of calm, quiet thinking. Intentionally leaving parts of your day that are totally unstructured and don’t look like work, looks like you’re wasting time, is really important. There’s this great quote that I love, which is, you waste years by not being able to waste hours.
[00:45:42] Morgan Housel: If you can’t waste hours just letting your mind wander, You’re going to waste years of not being able to accomplish things. So it’s so counterintuitive for businesses and people to be like, I think if you’re a boss, you want to give your employees at least bare minimum an hour a day of no meetings, no deliverables.
[00:45:58] Morgan Housel: They’re just going to sit at their desk and think and ponder or go for a walk. You’re going to get a way more productive worker out of that than somebody who you demand to just be typing, moving their mouse during the entire day, during the entire shift.
[00:46:10] Clay Finck: Another one of your ideas, I think you’re pretty well known for is linking happiness with your expectations.
[00:46:16] Clay Finck: The best way to increase your happiness is to lower your expectations. When I look at this book in psychology of money, which sold over 4 million copies, how did you manage your expectations going into this book and publishing that?
[00:46:31] Morgan Housel: It’s such a good question. Same as ever has been out for two months.
[00:46:33] Morgan Housel: So it’s still very early, but yeah, it’s hard. Everything is relative to psychology of money. If Same as Ever was my first book, I’d say this is great. It’s all like hotcakes, but relative to psychology money, everything is very different. Even going out of your way to manage your expectations, it’s hard not to anchor to them.
[00:46:50] Morgan Housel: It’s very natural. I don’t know if anyone outside of like a legit monk can not anchor to their expectations on either their own previous results or somebody else’s previous results. It’s hard not to do that. I think it’s very trite and philosophical to be like, I was talking to someone about this the other day and they said, Morgan, you need to learn how to measure the success of your life outside of book sales.
[00:47:12] Morgan Housel: And I was like, no, that’s too. And I think I have done it, but it’s a really important thing of if you’re measuring your sales, your success by your salary or how much money you made last year or your investing returns last year, what your net worth was last year. At some point, you’re bound to be disappointed because all life is cyclical.
[00:47:27] Morgan Housel: No matter what you do, there’s going to be cyclicality to it. But if you’re measuring your success by your health, your, the happiness of your kids, the state of your relationship, like that’s a very different metric to anchor yourself to rather than a number that’s bound to be cyclical. I think that’s a big part of managing these expectations.
[00:47:43] Clay Finck: One more piece I found quite interesting with the way you write is you write for an audience of one. Why is this so effective for you?
[00:47:52] Morgan Housel: I think I, I found it. So the audience of one is me. I write for myself and I really don’t think about you, the reader. I respect it. I like you, the reader, but I’m not trying to pander to you.
[00:48:01] Morgan Housel: I’m writing, I’m trying to write things that I think are interesting to me. And I take a leap of faith that if I think it’s interesting, some other people might too. Not everybody, but maybe somebody will as well. And I think it’s really important because I found as a writer that If you’re writing for yourself, it’s fun.
[00:48:13] Morgan Housel: And that shows you can see that the author is having fun. But if you’re writing for somebody else, that’s work. And you can see that in the writing too, that it’s just a labor. You’re just trying to get it done as fast as you can. So you do the best work when it’s for you. And I have done for my entire writing career.
[00:48:30] Morgan Housel: I think I’ve done a good job of when I’m writing. I think in my mind I like implicitly assume that this is like a diary entry that nobody else is going to read this. I’m just writing for me. And of course I know I’m going to publish this and other people are going to read it, but I’m just, I never want to stop and say, what is the reader going to think of this?
[00:48:46] Morgan Housel: In fact, like for for the blog, I don’t have an editor. I’m just a one man band for the book. The publisher goes through it. And sometimes the publisher would say, Oh, you might want to explain this paragraph better for the reader. And my response is always the read, the who? The read, like what?
[00:49:00] Morgan Housel: Saying somebody’s going to read this? I’m just writing this for me. And so it’s always, I think it’s served me well to write for an audience of one. And I think you can apply that to many things in life of if you’re performing just for yourself, it’s a lot of fun versus if you’re performing for other people, it’s hard to live up to other people’s expectations and other people’s like what they want out of you.
[00:49:17] Morgan Housel: You’re probably going to do a better job if you’re just doing it for the fun of it.
[00:49:21] Clay Finck: Yeah, and I think an important part of that is you’ve likely structured your life in a way where you have the freedom, the flexibility, and some financial slack to where if you slip up in your writing or slip up in whatever else, like you’re doing it because you’re just doing it for yourself and doing it because you really enjoy it and it’s not so much for the book sales to say.
[00:49:40] Morgan Housel: Yeah, and I think that’s true for every art. There are very few painters who are like, I hate painting but I, but this is how I, this is how I put groceries on the table. Like most painters are like, Oh, I love painting. It’s an art. And I think that philosophy can extend to almost any job that’s out there where if you find something that you really enjoy, you’re going to do the best job of it because you enjoy it.
[00:49:57] Morgan Housel: I heard this quote the other day that I thought was so funny and interesting. Somebody asked George Soros, they said, George, when did you learn that you loved investing? And he said, love investing? No I don’t love investing at all. I’m just good at it. And I thought that was so interesting that like he doesn’t I’m sure it was tongue in cheek that he doesn’t enjoy this.
[00:50:13] Morgan Housel: He’s just good at it. I think for the huge majority of people, if you find what you actually enjoy, that’s what you are going to be the best at because it’s fun. It doesn’t feel like work. You’re just doing it for the love of it.
[00:50:22] Clay Finck: Morgan really appreciate you joining me on the shows. This is such a phenomenal book.
[00:50:27] Clay Finck: I’m going to be rereading it over the coming years, I’m sure. Just so many timeless lessons and so many big takeaways. So thank you for joining me. Please give the handoff to the audience to the book and your Twitter ex account or anything else you’d like to share.
[00:50:42] Morgan Housel: No, thanks Clay. This is, this has been a lot of fun.
[00:50:44] Morgan Housel: So my, my, my two books are The Psychology of Money and Same as Ever. And most of my online time is on Twitter and my handle is Morgan Housel. That’s just my first and last name.
[00:50:52] Clay Finck: Wonderful. I’ll get the book linked in the show notes if anyone hasn’t picked it up for whatever reason yet. And hopefully we’ll chat with you again sometime soon, Morgan.
[00:51:01] Clay Finck: Thanks a lot.
[00:51:02] Morgan Housel: Thanks, Clay.
[00:51:04] Outro: Thank you for listening to TIP. Make sure to subscribe to Millennial Investing by The Investor’s Podcast Network and learn how to achieve financial independence. To access our show notes, transcripts, or courses, go to theinvestorspodcast.com. This show is for entertainment purposes only. Before making any decision, consult a professional. This show is copyrighted by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Written permission must be granted before syndication or rebroadcasting.
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