LØRN Case #C1032
What we can learn from the worlds greatest investors
In this episode of #LØRN, Silvija talks to William Green, the author of Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life. In this book, Green shares his learnings from hundreds of hours of in-depth interviews with more than forty of the world’s super-investors. Green and Seres discuss some of the similarities successful people share, and he shares some of the lessons we can learn from the world’s greatest investors that he learned when researching his book. This podcast is an episode in our book series where we meet national and international authors to talk about their latest book. Why they started writing the book and the most important lessons they have learned in the writing and research process.

William Green

Author

Richer, Wiser, Happier

"For me, having a rich and abundant life includes having a book club where we read fiction. We don’t need to only focus on non-fiction."

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En LØRN CASE er en kort og praktisk, lett og morsom, innovasjonshistorie. Den er fortalt på 30 minutter, er samtalebasert, og virker like bra som podkast, video eller tekst. Lytt og lær der det passer deg best! Vi dekker 15 tematiske områder om teknologi, innovasjon og ledelse, og 10 perspektiver som gründer, forsker etc. På denne siden kan du lytte, se eller lese gratis, men vi anbefaler deg å registrere deg, slik at vi kan lage personaliserte læringsstier for nettopp deg. 

Vi vil gjerne hjelpe deg komme i gang og fortsette å drive med livslang læring.

En LØRN CASE er en kort og praktisk, lett og morsom, innovasjonshistorie. Den er fortalt på 30 minutter, er samtalebasert, og virker like bra som podkast, video eller tekst. Lytt og lær der det passer deg best! Vi dekker 15 tematiske områder om teknologi, innovasjon og ledelse, og 10 perspektiver som gründer, forsker etc. På denne siden kan du lytte, se eller lese gratis, men vi anbefaler deg å registrere deg, slik at vi kan lage personaliserte læringsstier for nettopp deg. Vi vil gjerne hjelpe deg komme i gang og fortsette å drive med livslang læring.

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Author of Books, including RICHER, WISER, HAPPIER

Author Selvstendig næringsdrivende

My new book, RICHER, WISER, HAPPIER: HOW THE WORLD’S GREATEST INVESTORS WIN IN MARKETS AND LIFE, was published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, on April 20, 2021. The international rights have been sold in dozens of countries, including the UK and Commonwealth, France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland, Turkey, Russia, Estonia, China, India, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Brazil, and Israel. The book is currently being translated into 13 languages. I’ve also collaborated on several books as a ghostwriter/coauthor, including a financial book that became a No. 1 New York Times Best Seller and No. 1 Wall Street Journal Best Seller in 2017. I previously wrote and edited The Great Minds of Investing, a 2015 book featuring many legendary investors. Before that, I worked closely with the renowned hedge fund manager Guy Spier to help him write his 2014 memoir, The Education of a Value Investor, which Forbes called the most interesting investment book this year. I’m represented by James Levine of the Levine, Greenberg, Rostan Literary Agency The Great Minds of Investing, a 2015 book featuring many legendary investors. Before that, I worked closely with the renowned hedge fund manager Guy Spier to help him write his 2014 memoir, The Education of a Value Investor, which Forbes called the most interesting investment book this year. I’m represented by James Levine of the Levine, Greenberg, Rostan Literary Agency.

Public Speaker & Moderator

Bedriftsnavn

Public Speaker

Datoer ansatt2000 – nå

Ansettelsesvarighet21 år

BeliggenhetEurope, Asia, the U.S., and the Middle East

I’ve spoken extensively about the lessons we can learn from the greatest investors, including a TEDx Talk and a Google Talk in Mountain View, California, that has so far been viewed by about 120,000 people. I’ve appeared as a speaker or moderator in many countries, including the U.S., China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea (moderating a panel of three Prime Ministers), the U.K. (at the CFA Institute and the Skoll World Forum in Oxford), Kazakhstan, Abu Dhabi (at the World Future Energy Summit), Serbia, and Egypt (as a moderator for the World Economic Forum). I’ve appeared as a guest on TV (including CNN and CNBC), radio, and dozens of podcasts. As a public speaker, I’m represented by the Stern Speakers agency.

Google Talk by William Green: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQadYnrJeh0

Google Talk by William Green: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQadYnrJeh0

Your professional motivation, your main project at work, why is it important:

As a writer and speaker, I try to share ideas, insights, and stories that can help people to think better, invest better and live better.

Author of Books, including RICHER, WISER, HAPPIER

Author Selvstendig næringsdrivende

My new book, RICHER, WISER, HAPPIER: HOW THE WORLD’S GREATEST INVESTORS WIN IN MARKETS AND LIFE, was published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, on April 20, 2021. The international rights have been sold in dozens of countries, including the UK and Commonwealth, France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland, Turkey, Russia, Estonia, China, India, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Brazil, and Israel. The book is currently being translated into 13 languages. I’ve also collaborated on several books as a ghostwriter/coauthor, including a financial book that became a No. 1 New York Times Best Seller and No. 1 Wall Street Journal Best Seller in 2017. I previously wrote and edited The Great Minds of Investing, a 2015 book featuring many legendary investors. Before that, I worked closely with the renowned hedge fund manager Guy Spier to help him write his 2014 memoir, The Education of a Value Investor, which Forbes called the most interesting investment book this year. I’m represented by James Levine of the Levine, Greenberg, Rostan Literary Agency The Great Minds of Investing, a 2015 book featuring many legendary investors. Before that, I worked closely with the renowned hedge fund manager Guy Spier to help him write his 2014 memoir, The Education of a Value Investor, which Forbes called the most interesting investment book this year. I’m represented by James Levine of the Levine, Greenberg, Rostan Literary Agency.

Public Speaker & Moderator

Bedriftsnavn

Public Speaker

Datoer ansatt2000 – nå

Ansettelsesvarighet21 år

BeliggenhetEurope, Asia, the U.S., and the Middle East

I’ve spoken extensively about the lessons we can learn from the greatest investors, including a TEDx Talk and a Google Talk in Mountain View, California, that has so far been viewed by about 120,000 people. I’ve appeared as a speaker or moderator in many countries, including the U.S., China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea (moderating a panel of three Prime Ministers), the U.K. (at the CFA Institute and the Skoll World Forum in Oxford), Kazakhstan, Abu Dhabi (at the World Future Energy Summit), Serbia, and Egypt (as a moderator for the World Economic Forum). I’ve appeared as a guest on TV (including CNN and CNBC), radio, and dozens of podcasts. As a public speaker, I’m represented by the Stern Speakers agency.

Google Talk by William Green: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQadYnrJeh0

Google Talk by William Green: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQadYnrJeh0

Your professional motivation, your main project at work, why is it important:

As a writer and speaker, I try to share ideas, insights, and stories that can help people to think better, invest better and live better.

Vis mer
Tema: Bøker og nye utdanningsmodeller
Organisasjon: Richer, Wiser, Happier
Perspektiv: Forskning
Dato: 210806
Sted: INTL-USA-NYC
Vert: SS

Dette er hva du vil lære:


Overcoming writings block Investors mindset
Being controlled by money
Lessons learned from the investors he interviewed for the book

Litteratur:

Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World's Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life by William Green

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Velkommen til Lørn.Tech - en læringsdugnad om teknologi og samfunn. Med Silvija Seres og venner.

 

Silvija Seres: Hello and welcome to Lørn Book Club. I'm Silvija Seres, and my guest today is William Green, the author of Richer, Wiser, Happier. Welcome, William.

 

William Green: Thank you for having me. Delighted to be here.

 

Silvija: I have a little admission to make, and that is I grew up in old Yugoslavia while it still existed. And I read tons of big Russian books. Then I had the period of my life where I worked very much in computer science and read board documentation. And I kind of stopped reading. And then a few years ago, I got hooked on audiobooks. And usually books come my way by way of Amazon algorithms. Your book came my way by a joint friend called Guy Speir, but his description of your book made me absolutely have to read it. And I very much look forward to presenting it to our listeners, mainly Norwegians, mainly professionals. But we have a growing listenership in the rest of the world. So William, we usually start by asking the author to say a few words about themselves in a way that would help people get a picture of you in their mind. How would your close friends define you?

 

William: Sure. I grew up in England and I've been living by the pen really for the last 30 years. So I wanted to be a writer really from the age of probably about seven, I think. I had a great uncle who was a professor of politics and he said, William, what do you want to do when you grow up? And I think I surprised myself at that age by saying I want to write. And so I've never really wanted to do anything else. I always loved books and I always loved magazines. There's almost a sensual pleasure to holding a book. And for many years I wrote for magazines. So I wrote book reviews for things like The London Spectator, and then I moved to America when I was about 21. So I'd studied English literature at Oxford and I thought I was going to be a famous novelist. And then I started writing fiction and screenplays, and I found I wasn't very good at it. It was really hard. And then I wrote an article about two great novelists, Ford, Maddox Ford and Joseph Conrad. And I sent it to The Spectator and they published it and they sent me a cheque for £70, which I thought, wow, this is fantastic. Someone's paying me for my writing. And so then I spent many years writing for magazines. Then I ended up going to Time magazine. I moved to Hong Kong and I became first the deputy editor and then the editor of the Asian edition of Time magazine. And then I moved to London, which was my hometown, and edited the European Middle Eastern and African edition of Time. And then everything kind of fell apart.

 

William: The magazine business fell apart. The financial crisis happened and I got kicked out. And so I had to decide, oh, god, what am I going to do with my second act? I was only 40 years old and I had two young kids in private school. I was living in a very expensive place in London, and I started ghostwriting books. So that turned out actually to be an incredibly good shift for me because you get very deeply into the lives of people that are really kind of fascinating. And in some ways, it overcame a lot of my paralysis over writing because I had such performance anxiety with my writing. When you're writing in someone else's voice, you're not so much on trial because you're not so worried about being judged. And so it kind of cleaned the pipes in a way. And then and then a few years ago, I started writing my own books. And so the first one was called The Great Minds of Investing. And then about five or so years ago, I started working on the book that we're here to talk about, which is called Richer, Wiser, Happier. And that's really a distillation of everything I've learned over the last 25 years, which was a kind of ridiculously ambitious project. And so, in a sense, I've come back to where I wanted to be when I was in my early twenties writing books. But I had this long detour for 20 years or so working for magazines. And so here I am at the age of 52. Finally, as I’m writing my own books and feeling like, Oh, that was what I meant to do all along.

 

Silvija: Now, I think that to me both of these books, both the Great Minds and Richer, Wiser, Happier, sound like the ultimate project, to be honest, because you get to meet amazing people and learn from them, and you get to distill it in your own mind by writing it out. I guess it's both a development project of your own as much as it's a communication project.

 

William: Yeah. And I've always been sort of full of existential angst. And I'm trying to figure out how you're supposed to live. How do you make sense of this chaotic world? How do you make decisions, given that the future is unknowable and everything is changing and impermanent? And so for me, interviewing extraordinary people and getting inside their minds is partly about addressing my own existential angst. I'm trying to figure out how I live? How do I become better at what I do? How do I recover from my mistakes and my setbacks and my failures? How do I prioritize? How do I figure out what makes for a truly abundant and successful life? And so really, I'm taking advantage of the fact that I have access to absolutely extraordinary people as both a journalist and as an author. And then I'm distilling everything that I've learned in a way that helps me share those ideas with other people. And I think if it were just for me. It wouldn't quite work. There's something about teaching other people and sharing ideas that makes it much richer and more resonant. But at the same time, if it were just for other people and I didn't really have skin in the game, it wouldn't work either.

 

William: And so I think the power of these projects comes from the fact that I really care. I'm not just trying to build some kind of brand or make myself successful or famous. I'm actually trying to figure out how to live? How do I think, how do I invest? What does the money even mean? Like what actually constitutes a successful life? And so for me, I've just spent many years basically hanging out with these extraordinary thinkers and asking them kind of impertinent and personal questions. So someone like Bill Miller, who I write about in this book, he's someone who was probably the most successful and famous mutual fund manager of his generation, was managing something like $77 billion and beat the market for 15 years running and then had this colossal failure during the financial crisis. So 100 people got laid off because of mistakes that he made. His assets under management went down from $77 Billion to $800 million. And he was kind of mocked in the press. And so for me, I've interviewed him for probably 100 hours, almost over the last 20 years. So when he suffers this tremendous setback I'm talking to him about how do you deal with pain and failure and the sort of shame that comes from it and the disappointment and learning the lessons.

 

William: And I'm able to do that because I'm saying to him, look, I got laid off as the editor of the European edition of Time magazine. And so I'm trying to figure out how I deal with that sense of shame and failure and the setback? And so there's blood on the page. I'm not just asking this in a theoretical sense. And I think that's one reason why people talk to me in a fairly intimate and an honest way is because it's clear that I care. And at the same time, I think I'm also very non judgmental in interviewing these people. I'm pretty compassionate and empathetic and I get into their heads and so when I see Bill Miller survived that period and deal with it with tremendous honesty and self awareness and good humor and grace and perseverance. I'm not just an objective journalist observing it. I take a kind of weird joy and satisfaction in seeing him survive this crisis and bounce back in an extraordinary way. And I'm fascinated by how he's done it. I mean, he was obsessed with stoic philosophy.

 

William: So here's this guy you'd assume, oh, well, he's just a master of the universe. He's bound to be superficial and crass and just care about money. And actually, it turns out when I first interviewed him, I said to him, Who are your greatest influences as an  investor? And he said, Well, it's Wittgenstein and William James. And it's all about misperception. It's about how to see the world more accurately. And so he bought 15% of Amazon in about 2000, 2001, at a time when most people thought it was going to go bankrupt. And he would say, no, it's misperceived. And so here again, at a time when he was getting clobbered during the financial crisis and his career kind of fell apart for a while. Once again, he's drawing on philosophy, but this time it was stoic philosophy. So I'm sort of unpacking that with him and our in our interviews and saying, well, so what did the Stoics teach you? And he's saying, well, they teach you people like Marcus Aurelius and Seneca and Epictetus. They teach you that you can't necessarily control your external circumstances, but you can control your own behavior, your own intention, and your own attitude. And you can behave with honor and virtue. And you can be honest about your mistakes. You can deal with it with good humor.

 

William: You can learn from your mistakes. And he said, Yeah, I don't like it. When he showed me a tweet where someone had written that, Bill Miller is such an ass and he thinks that's a bit mean. Here's a guy who doesn't even know me. And he's like swearing about me online. And he said, But I don't have control over that. I have control over my behavior. And so for me, when I'm interviewing someone like that, I'm really thinking about, okay, so what do I control in my life? How can I deal with the fact that the world is uncertain? But we're in the midst of a pandemic and I don't have control over mutant strains, but I do have control over my own behavior and my own attitude. And so that's in some ways a perfect example of the way that I approach investing and interviewing investors. I'm looking to figure out how to deal with a very uncertain world in which things don't always break our way. And so it's an investing question because the greatest investors have money riding on the future. But it's also a philosophical question. It's how do you think about uncertainty and deal with the fact that we don't have control over all of our external circumstances.

 

Silvija: So I'm going to unpack this a little bit. And one thing I want to say is I did my PhD in Oxford. It was in computer science. And I got to work with some of these Turing Prize awards people both in Oxford and in the US. And I was working with these techies in a similar way that you were approaching these financial geniuses. And my experience is that they all really want to leave a legacy. And if you approach them as human to human in a not completely uncritical way, but also with lots of compassion and openness and a desire to learn. They have an incredible amount to give that I think often they don't even know what to address in many ways. And so I think your approach is great because I think many of these people actually need to have these conversations where they know that this is not just some journalist looking for a scandal that will create a lot of traffic, but actually trying to understand. So I think that's a very valuable gift to them, but also to all of us. And the other thing I want to say is that these are just amazing stories. And one of the things that I've seen through my podcasts here. So our idea is to capture innovation stories. And the idea started because I work in a number of boards and committees and so on, and I meet all these people that have amazing ideas and I wanted to communicate them, but in a light way. So podcasts work really easily. It's a lazy man's article. But then we started going down the hierarchy and there are people, project managers, nurses, assistant nurses that have these super interesting stories and ideas. And so I think it's about being able to capture the stories of people who want something going forward. And so my question to you is, in a way, turning it upside down now. Do you think this is relevant to ordinary people? By the way, I'm in the midst of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for the third time. So this is good timing. So what can a person who doesn’t have a billion get from this conversation? What do you think is the value for them from reading what you have written for us here?

 

William: Investing in the markets is just a microcosm of everything else. You're dealing with the fact that the world is uncertain, that everything changes, that the future is unknowable, and yet we have to make decisions about the future. And so whether you're getting married, deciding to move to a different country, buy a new home, have kids, get a dog, get one type of surgery, or try an alternative method. You're constantly having to make these decisions under circumstances of uncertainty where you don't know the future. What the greatest investors have is that they are consciously engaged in this game of making decisions about the future. But they have enormous skin in the game because there's a consequence if they're wrong. So if you're a journalist like me or you're a professor or a pundit on TV, you don't have a lot of downside. If you're wrong, it's embarrassing, but usually we just deny that we were wrong anyway, and so we don't really admit it. But if you're someone like Bill Miller, who I spoke about before, he has enormous amounts of skin on skin in the game, and that concentrates the mind in an extraordinary way because you have to be right. And if you're not, you're a custodian of tens of thousands, possibly even millions of shareholders, life savings, the money that they're going to retire on, the money that they're going to pay for their kid's college with their enormous stakes. And so what I found is that because of the consequences of being either a good or bad investor, they have to be extraordinary pragmatists.

 

William: And so they're not dogmatic. I went to visit a hedge fund manager the other day at his home in Fire Island, and he said to me, I have four different offices in different homes and in my office in New York City, they're all exactly the same. And he said, “Look at this. I have this little bust of Lenin because it reminds me of the dangers of dogmatism, the dangers of having one fixed idea.” So just think of that little example of someone who's giving himself a physical cue to remind himself that he needs not to get stuck in one idea, that he needs to be more open minded to question himself. And so, for me, the greatest investor has become this incredible filter through which to see the world because they care about what works. And so they don't care about sounding smart. They actually care about: does it work? Am I right? So for example, if they start studying mindfulness or Buddhism, they'll say, well, so can I improve the way I invest and think by having a common mind? So guys who we talked about before, one of them said to me that one reason why he moved to Zurich to this kind of relatively quiet, slightly bland but very pleasant neighborhood in Zurich is because he wants his mind to be like a calm pond so that he can think clearly.

 

William: That's a really interesting hack for somebody who's got a scattered mind, which I do as well. My mind is all over the place. That's a very interesting practical hack to say if I want to think more clearly, I've got to meditate. I've got to structure my physical environment in a certain way. So for me, you can learn enormous amounts from the greatest investors because they're so pragmatic that they're scouring the world, scouring every discipline, saying, What can I grab from this? That could help me to think better. So think of someone like Charlie Munger, who I write about at length in this book, is a 97 year old polymath genius who's been Warren Buffett's partner for more than 40 years. So here's a guy who is one half of the most successful investment team that's ever existed, right? Genius guy who spends his whole time trying to figure out how to be less stupid, how to reduce standard stupidities. And so he just goes through life saying look at all of the disasters. He collects examples of what he calls insanities and infinities. And so he's looking at stupid things that people do. And then he's asking what caused this problem? What caused this terrible outcome? Let me not do that. And so just that idea that actually stems originally from Carl Gustav Jacobi, who is this 19th century algebraic who famously said “Invert, always invert.” So Munger is grabbing a mental model from mathematics and saying, Oh, so if I invert in every other area of life, let's say as an investor, I want to be a great investor.

 

William: So let's ask first, how can I be a terrible investor? What would make me a terrible investor? And then you avoid all of those standard stupidities that lead to disastrous investment outcomes, but you can apply exactly the same approach in every other area of life. So you could say if I want to have a happy marriage, what would make me a terrible spouse and then you list all the things. I could be unfaithful. I could shout at my wife. I could be unkind to my kids. I could pay so much attention to my work that I'm a terrible spouse. And so you list all of these things and now that I've understood the standard stupidities that helps me. It's a way of solving the problem backwards, as I said. And so you want to solve the problem forwards as well and ask, how can I be a good spouse? But you also want to solve it backwards. It's a more thorough way of thinking of it. So for me, these are just a couple of examples of ways in which the greatest investors are wonderful filters of how to think about problems because they're decision makers with tremendous skin in the game. There's a consequence if they're wrong.

 

Silvija: There is the field of Wall Street that has formed all of us to think about many of these very successful investors as sharks. But it seems like you have to be quite brutal up to a certain level. And then beyond that level, you can afford to be a thinker. Is that true or do you believe that these people have been wise all along?

 

William: There's a huge range. But I think if I look at someone like Munger, for example, who is a profoundly moral person. He's thinking about how to operate in a moral way. And so there's a beautiful quote that I often think about from Warren Buffett, who wrote a foreword to a biography of Munger. And so I can claim no no credit for this quote, but Buffett once said, “In the 41 years that I've known Charlie, I've never seen him take advantage of anybody.” He said he takes more of the blame and less of the credit than is due. And I've seen him knowingly take the worse end of a deal with me multiple times. So you think about that. That's a profoundly moral decision about how to do capitalism. And so one of the things that fascinates me that I come that I explore at some length throughout this book is; is there an enlightened way to do capitalism where you're not leaving a trail of destruction, you're not wrecking the environment, you're not exploiting people, you're not screwing your partner, you're not gouging your shareholders? And so I could easily have written about a bunch of rapacious Wall Street guys who don't really care about how they behave and have become vastly, vastly rich by behaving like snakes. But I'm not that interested in them. Just the ability to make enormous amounts of money and buy yachts and planes is not inherently that interesting to me. I think there's a certain skill there, but I'm writing about a small minority of great investors who I regard as practical philosophers.

 

William: They're thinking about what constitutes a successful and abundant life. And so for someone like Munger, he talked about a famous billionaire who was a notorious snake. And he said, this guy, he said even his kids and his wives never loved him. They never liked him. They never loved him. And he's like, all through my life, I've regarded this guy as an example of what I don't want to be in life. And he said, you could say he's more successful than me because I have a couple of billion dollars. He had $8 billion. But I regard his life as a failed life. That's a really interesting observation and someone said to me the other day, a hedge fund manager said to me, how do you measure success for yourself? Is it money? And it was funny. I just instantly I was like, no, absolutely not. And I mean, it just didn't even occur to me that that would be the measure of my own success. And so I'm very interested in this sort of small subset of investors who represent what Maynard Keynes called worldly wisdom. So practical philosophers, they're thinking about how to deal with risk and uncertainty. But they're also thinking, isn't it better if I act in an honest and honorable way? And might that not actually be a practical advantage in life? Munger said to me, I don't deserve a lot of credit for being moral because I actually figured out that I'd make more money by being moral.

 

William: It actually works. And I think he's being slightly disingenuous in saying that. I think there is a profoundly moral aspect to it. But he doesn't want to overemphasize his own morality. He doesn't want to be sanctimonious or self-righteous about it. And so that to me is a really interesting question, is it actually possible to be a really decent human being in a profession that's sharp elbowed? And that has tremendous resonance for me because I kind of lost a political battle at some level. Time magazine I got kind of pushed out after doing what I thought was a really good job. And it's like I got sacrificed and I worked 70, 80 hours a week for seven years. And then I get pushed out. So is it just a Darwinian world where it's all dog eat dog? And so I'm actually wrestling with that question of like, do I need to be more of a snake? Or is it naive for me to think that I can behave well and things work? And one of the conclusions I've come to is that both approaches work. You can be a total snake and you can maximize your success in certain ways, but failure is going to show up in other areas of your life. So maybe your kids will hate you. Maybe. Maybe one of the causes is that you have shame.

 

Silvija: And I think it shows eventually, you know, it kind of comes out. You were personal. So I'll be as well. I'm in this startup and our podcast actually has a B2B platform model and we were looking for investors the last half year and I was actually shocked by how short term most of the investors I met were. On one side they talk about looking at the team and vision and so on. And then on the other hand, in practice you find them all looking at their calculator and excel sheet and actually not being able to think about real exponential scenarios. My impression is that the people that you have chosen to write about have been more long term rather than short term. They're really in for the long game. That's a very optimistic view of the future, by the way, because if you don't have that, you're going to bet for the next three years or three months, not the next 30, like Buffett. And then the other thing is they are in it for the game rather than for the money. They really, I think, love the whole financial game and setup and the understanding of risk, as you said. And it's all about probabilities and statistics. And then the way that Buffett describes that he won't make an investment unless he has the organic feel of that market. I think it is really admirable because they are putting their money into stuff that they really believe in.

 

William: This point about being long term is critically important. And there's a whole chapter that I write called Nick and Zach's Excellent Adventure. It's about these two investors based in London who basically rejected everything that Wall Street did. They said here are all of these guys who are obsessed with perishable information. They're sitting there facing their Bloomberg terminals, getting bombarded with second to second minute to minute information. That's all irrelevant. They're obsessed with the news of the day. They're obsessed with whether a company is going to beat its quarterly earnings estimates for the next 12 weeks or the next year. And they said it's all just nonsense and we're not playing that game. And so they became obsessed with what constitutes quality.  It's this inquiry into what constitutes quality. And so they said we're going to set up this fund. That's basically a kind of a metaphysical venture. Basically, it's saying, how can you set up a fund that rejects all of that nonsense and that just focuses on quality in every sense of the word. And so they just sat around reading, thinking, visiting companies all around the world, thinking about what the best business models were and focusing on what they call information with a long shelf life. And so this point about long-termism, there's a beautiful example of it, which is they said we're engaging in what we call destination analysis.

 

William: They would look at a company like Amazon, for example, which became an enormous position for them, and they still own it 16 years later. And they asked what's the ultimate destination for a company like Amazon or Costco in ten, 15, 20, 30 years? What are the inputs that the management is required to make in order to reach this desirable destination? Are they doing it? Are they treating their customers well? How are they treating their suppliers? How are they treating their employees? They're driving down costs. Is it becoming more efficient? And so this idea of destination analysis led them to own Costco for the last 18 years, Amazon for the last 16 years. These two guys basically closed their hedge fund a few years ago, and returned all the money. They retired at 45 and they're spending the second half of their lives trying to give back most of their money to society in a way that will create maximum benefit. And if you think about this one idea of destination analysis, it's really beautiful and profound, not just in investing, but in other areas of life. So you could say what's a desirable destination in my own life? What? I'm 52.

 

William: So let's say I make it to 85, 90 and and the destination is my funeral and my wife and kids are there. How do I want them to think of me? What sort of do I want them to look back and think, Oh yeah, he had a bestselling book and he and he made X million dollars. So what do they want to think is an honorable human being? And he treated us with love and he was a kind person. He tried to share ideas or whatever. That's a really interesting question to ask yourself, what's my destination? And what are the inputs that I require to get there? And you can apply that to your health. You can say, okay, so if there's a very interesting doctor who talks about what he calls the Centenarian Olympics. And so he says, what if at 100, how do I want to be able to move? What do I want my muscles to be like? How flexible do I need to be? And so then he's reversing back from that and saying, what are the inputs? I need to get to 100 and be strong. It's a beautiful way to think of your not only of businesses but of your own life, and it pushes you towards the long term instead of the short term.

 

Silvija: Yeah, I think long-termism is really important. But again I told you I'm from Yugoslavia and I see it's a completely messed up country and the bits of it that are left now as well. And it's really difficult to think long term in some parts of the world. And then if you are as fortunate as we are to live in parts of the world where you actually have a chance to think not just three months ahead, but actually 30 years ahead. 

 

William: There's a beautiful line from Ben Franklin who Munger is obsessed with. Buffett and Munger both quote this line, which is that an empty sack can't stand straight. And that's the problem, that when when you're from a country or your own life feels kind of empty or you're fearful, it's very hard to act with a sense of abundance and long termism and to think in these sort of more philosophical ways, you tend much more to be in survival mode. And I've seen it myself as well. You know, when I got laid off in 2008, 2009, I wasn't thinking about how do I build a life when I look back at the age of 90. I was thinking, Oh shit, how am I going to get through this terrible period? Am I going to be able to survive as a journalist? Maybe journalism is collapsing. Should I keep my kids in private school? You're thinking in a much more panicked short term way. But I think in a world that becomes increasingly short term, where we're being dinged constantly by our phones and by Twitter notifications and Zoom meetings and all of these things, it's an enormous competitive advantage.

 

William: Just to say, let me be more long term. Let me focus on things that aren't so perishable on information with a longer shelf life. So, for example, if you shift towards reading books rather than articles, if you shift towards building relationships that enrich your life, if you shift towards exercise and eating well, these are all exercises actually in deferred gratification. So I think we know that deferred gratification is a kind of superpower. But there are all of these kinds of physical and emotional pulls and tugs to make us very short term. And so when I'm writing about these guys, Nick and Zach, I write about them as an embodiment of deferred gratification and that and companies like Amazon and Costco were also deferring gratification. They were saying what Wall Street kept saying to Amazon, how come they're not making money now? And Amazon and Bezos kept saying, No, no, no, we're just going to keep shifting those revenues to our customers. We're just going to give them better and better discounts, better and better deals. And so what Nick and Zach realized is, well, that's a huge competitive advantage because they're prepared to defer their gratification. And that was the same with Costco.

 

William: Costco, I think, marks up its products by something like 14%. And so Wall Street kept saying, well, why don't they have bigger margins? And Nick and Zach kept saying, well, no, they just keep treating their customers better and better and better. And so it gives them longevity. And so this idea of deferred gratification, part of the beauty of this is that it runs through business, it runs through investing, it runs through exercise, nutrition, so it becomes a kind of superpower in life. So this is the sort of thing that I'm exploring in my book where I'm saying, No, no, you need to understand that this principle that the greatest investors have tapped into doesn't just affect you in terms of investing. It affects you in terms of your marriage, and it affects you in terms of your relationships, your friendships, your health. And so what I'm trying to do is say investing is just a microcosm of everything, whether you behave in a quality way that affects your relationships, your partnership at work, your employees, whether you defer gratification or whether you're just focused on, no, no. Now I've got to grab everything for myself now that that affects everything in your life.

 

Silvija: I am going to ask you, I want to save some time for some more stories, whether it's you visiting people in the Caribbean or maybe one or two stories that made a visit an exceptional experience. But before I do that, I want to make two comments, maybe three. So one is I keep thinking about Guy, our common friend. So basically Guy and I exchanged Christmas cards after never having met, but I know him. I don't know what he knows of me, but I know him through his book. And what fascinates me is that he's obviously a very good investor that also is searching for the life wisdom that he's explaining his search for life wisdom. And it’s his willingness to sacrifice quite a lot of his time and money in order to learn as much as he can in person from people like Buffett and Munger and so on. And I was really utterly charmed by that. And I have idols or I don't know if that's the right word, real role models like that in my case in math and computer science. And some of them I spent a lot of time with. There is a guy called Edsger Dijkstra, Dutch guy. I worked with him. Later there was another guy, Tony Hoare, British at Oxford and Cambridge and so on. And they are a part of me. You know, when I think when I work, when I live there, influence guides me without me always being conscious of it. And I think in many ways that's a great legacy. If you can save some of that long term legacy and spirit and share it in a meaningful way with the world, I can't see how a billion or two or 70 yachts or I don't know how many Bentleys could compete with that. And that's the comment I'd really like you to make before we go into the stories. I have a feeling that the guys you describe have a connection with the world. What scares me are the one dimensional billionaires, the guys who feel completely detached and they want to go to the moon and they date Hollywood stars and they want to use cryogenics to live forever without having a Stoic, holistic thing about what am I a part of? I mean, what kind of a life is it if it's just you? I don't know.

 

William: Yeah, I was staying on this island with a friend the other day, and he had a hedge fund manager friend that I was talking to. And the guy was really interesting and really smart. It's clear that he's kind of brilliant and I'm talking to him about some of this sort of more philosophical, more spiritual stuff. And it's clear there's just kind of nothing going on there. And you're just like, this is a dead end. This is a guy who's a really good game player. He's really good at cracking the problem of how to invest. And that's a talent, but it's not very interesting to me. And so there were a few times where I started to write about someone in this book who is a billionaire, who is an extraordinary investor, who had spent a really interesting amount of time interviewing. And it almost felt as if the body rejected this organ, that once I started writing about it, I'm like,this guy leaves me cold. I just don't want to write about them. I'm just not that interested. And so one of the great quirks of this book is that I've ended up writing about people that I tend to like and find admirable and interesting. And so one of the greatest risks that I took is that I end the entire book by writing at length about this guy called Arnold Van Den Berg, who no one really had heard of.

 

William: And I'm trying to explain why I regard Arnold as the most successful human being I've ever encountered in the investment business and why, for me, he embodies what an actually successful and truly abundant life is. Arnold said to me, and I use this as kind of the quote that opens that section of the book, “I'm the richest man in the world”. And he said to me, this has nothing to do with money. It's it's relationships, it's health, it's he's such a decent bloke. And so I tell his story, which is extraordinary, which I'm trying to explain. This is what actually constitutes an abundant and successful life. And one of the reasons his life is so extraordinary is because unlike many of these people, he was dealt the worst possible hand. And so many of these guys, they started off, they went to they had loving families. They were sent to Oxford or Cambridge or Harvard Business School or Yale or Wharton. You know, they had every advantage. This guy Arnold is given the worst possible hand. He starts off. He's born in 1939 on the same street as Anne Frank.

 

William: He's a Jewish kid during the Holocaust. And so he spends the first couple of years of his life in hiding. And at a certain point, his parents decided, if the Nazis come and explore this house where we're being hidden behind this fake wall, if Arnold or his brother Sigmund cry or make a noise, we're all going to get killed. And so they decide to get in touch with the Dutch underground and see if they can get on or that segment out of Amsterdam. And so this 17 year old girl who they didn't know risks her own life and the life of her entire family to smuggle Arnold out of Amsterdam to an orphanage in the countryside. And so many years later, Arnold, who had this tremendously difficult childhood, I mean, his parents were both in Auschwitz, but actually survived. And he was so malnourished that he couldn't even walk. By the time he was six, he was just shuffling around on his knees. And many years later, he was in therapy. And he said to this psychiatrist, I don't understand why that girl saved my life. Why would she risk her life for this total stranger? And his therapist said, Well, it's simple. And I was like, Well, tell me why? Why is it simple? And the guy said, Well, for some people that their life is worth more than their principles, and for other people that principles are worth more than their life.

 

William: And Arnold sees this and thinks about this girl who saved his life, and he thinks, well, let me try to leave. Let me try to lead a life of principle that's actually worthy of the people who risked their lives to save me. And so here's a guy who barely made it through high school. And he once heard his mother talking to a psychologist and saying, well, we think probably he had brain damage from being so malnourished as a child. And so he had no advantages. Even you would like to think, well, his parents survived Auschwitz. They were victims. They had a terrible life. It's more complicated. His father came out and used to beat him up. And so Arnold felt like his parents had abandoned him. He didn't understand that his parents had no choice about him going to this orphanage, that they were trying to save his life. But he felt emotionally like his mum didn't want him. And that's why he was sent away, because he was such a little boy. What did he know?

 

William: For years he had tremendous rage. And what's so fascinating to me is that he was able to reverse that rage. And so here's a guy who dealt the worst possible hand emotionally full of rage. His first wife left him for another man. And so he hated her. He resented his parents. He hated the Germans, he hated the Nazis. And yet he then takes control over his inner life and he became obsessed with self hypnosis and so basically rewired his mind and he loved affirmations and the like. So he would go around just saying all the time, No, I'm a loving person. And so gradually over many years and for someone like me as a kind of Oxford educated, cerebral, intellectual, I would typically in the past have rolled my eyes at this. Now I realize one of his great advantages is that when he read books about how to take control over your mind and how to rewire your consciousness, he took it deadly seriously. He never went to college. He never had these kinds of prejudices, this intellectual snobbery that blinds people like me. And so when he read a self-help book or a philosophical book or a spiritual book, he took it seriously.

 

William: And so he just transformed himself into this incredibly loving, kind, philanthropic, decent person. So for me, he embodies a couple of great lessons for all of us, one of which is, it doesn't matter how rich you are, you need to take care of your internal landscape, your inner landscape. You need to figure out where you're going to get your equanimity from, wherever you're going to, where you're going to get your peace of mind from during the difficult times. Because one of the things I write about is that all of these great investors, no matter how fortunate they seem from the outside, they've all gone through the wringer. You look at someone like Charlie Munger, his first son died of leukemia at the age of nine and Munger then divorced. He lost all of his money. He later lost his eye. He's a guy who's had an immensely successful life and yet it had a great deal of pain in it. And so one of the things that Munger says is, simply that the ability to view adversities as an opportunity either to behave well or badly is a very good approach in life. It's a very practical conclusion. You look at someone like Bill Miller, who I talked about before, saying, well, the Stoics show me what can I control and what can't take control.

 

William: Let me control my own behavior and attitude. Or you look at Arnold Van Den Berg saying, well. Let me rewire my mind. So instead of thinking of myself as a victim of all of these things, at a certain point he said, I've forgiven the Nazis, I've forgiven the Germans, I've forgiven my ex-wife. You know, I just want to be more loving. I just want to help people be kinder. And so when I look at Arnold and I see how generous and spirited he's become, how appreciative he is of his own gifts, that the kind of relationship that he's built with is with his wife and kids. I'm so awed by that because I can see here's a guy who got dealt the worst possible cards, and yet he's played them so brilliantly that his life has been a success. And so for me, I'm someone I have loving parents. And I was sent to Eton and Oxford and Columbia. I was given everything. So if Arnold can, I mean, it's not like I didn't have my problems, but if Arnold can turn his life around with all of the challenges that he had, then I sure as hell can do it for myself.

 

William: And one of the things that I did when I spent a couple of days with Arnold in Austin, Texas, where he lives, is that I actually got hypnotized by him. I lay down on the floor of his study while he played Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and he said, No, no, William, I'm going to change your consciousness because you're giving yourself all of these messages that are limiting you and that are making your life worse. And you have to change the way you speak to yourself and the way you think. And there's something I think he's right that I think it really helps if you change the way you talk to yourself and the way you think, because I do think your consciousness creates your reality. And B, there's something just so lovely about the fact that an 81 year old, very successful money manager is spending his time trying to hypnotize a 52 year old English writer so that he can improve his life. And I think that is a great secret, which is the reason Arnold is the richest man in the world is because he spends his whole time trying to help people like me.

 

Silvija: He has an infinite amount to give, basically.

 

William: I have a trampoline outside that he sent me because he was worried that I'm too lazy and slothful. And so I put it in my yard where the next door neighbor's kids can use it as well. And there's something just really lovely about the sort of person who's thinking, what can I do, how can I help people? How can I share? And Arnold said to me at one point that his hobby is giving away books because he said, a book can transform a person's life. So what could be a greater thing than for me to give people books and so amazing to describe your hobby as giving away books. Yeah. So he's probably sent me 25 books over the years.

 

Silvija: And he's shaped you and formed you and that might be a reward enough for him.

 

William: And he shaped me in the sense that I have a clearer sense of what will make for a happy and abundant life for me. And I can see that I have to take control of my inner landscape, which means that I take things like exercise and meditation really seriously, because I know that I become more anxious and more fearful if I'm not exercising or if I'm not meditating. So I do that, both of those things very regularly, which I never would have done before. And B, I know that I'm going to be much happier if I'm trying to help other people. It's a paradox. If I look out for myself, I'm going to be miserable.

 

Silvija: Yeah. William, I want to say something. And then I want to ask you about Soros. And the thing I want to say is. You talk about how these people, many of them, kind of live a life outside of themselves. You know, they give, they leave, they share. But most of us think, yeah, yeah. But first I have to make it and then I'll have some overflow. And I think that's probably the mental mistake many of us make because you have to make some sort of… First of all, it probably requires a bit of madness and a lot of courage to make it in their way. And the other thing is, if we all think, well, I'll just pay off my mortgage or I'll just pay off my credit card or something, and then I will become this giving and sharing person. We'll never get there.

 

William: I think it's a very profound point. And I became friends with Tony Robbins over the years. And one thing that he often says is that. If you can't give away $10 when you have $1,000, then when you have $1,000,000 or $1,000,000,000, you're not going to be able to give money away either. It's about the mindset. And I write about Sir John Templeton, who was probably the greatest global stock picker of the 20th century, who I spent a day with in the Bahamas 20 or so years ago. And he talked about super tithing and he said, Yeah, I think the way he explained it was that he would give away $10 for every dollar that he spent on himself. But he said to me at the time, Tithing is actually the best investment you can make to give away 10% of your income. And at the time, I kind of thought he was a moron. And I thought, here's this guy who's totally self-righteous and sanctimonious and he wants to tell me how charitable he is and how pious he is. And it kind of irritated me. And over the years I've totally changed my attitude. And I realized, God, I was so blind and so prejudiced and so biased that I couldn't I couldn't see clearly what he was trying to tell me. And I think this idea of understanding that you have to give away money, and you can be as mystical as you want or as practical as you want about it.

 

William: But I think at some level, you don't want to be controlled by your money or by your fear that you're not going to have enough. And there's something about loosening up, softening up enough to say, no, no. I come from such a place of abundance. I have such trust that I'm going to be okay in the future, that it's okay for me to give away money. And it doesn't mean you want to be stupid about it and give away half of your money. But to be able to say, yeah, you know, you made $50,000 this year, let me give away 3000 or you make a couple of hundred thousand and give away 15, 20, 30 thousand. I think just that understanding that it actually benefits you in terms of your feelings about yourself, the type of person you are. You look at yourself and you think, God, I'm a decent person. I have all my flaws. I do all these terrible things. I shout at my kids or kick the dog or whatever, but I'm fundamentally trying to be a better person. I'm not saying these are the things I do, although I have shouted at my kids plenty of times but haven't kicked my dog. But I think to know that you're working on yourself and you're trying to become more giving and sharing, I think there's a tremendous amount of self respect that comes from it.

 

William: And also you're breaking that fear that you're not going to have enough, you're not going to be okay. And I've come from that place of fearfulness a lot over the years. And so one of the things that Arnold taught me when he was trying to change the way I talked to myself was to tell yourself, I'm prosperous. I'll always be prosperous. I come from a place of abundance. And for me to change my wiring so that instead of that kind of fearfulness, that you have a sense of God, I'm so appreciative of all the blessings that I have in my life, and I want to share the blessings. I would have rolled my eyes at that attitude 25 years ago. I would have thought it was kind of naive and overly sentimental. And now I look at it and I'm like, moron. I was I was so busy being intelligent and cynical and sarcastic, and I couldn't understand these basic, very simple truths that it's like, no, I should I should have more sense of appreciation, more sense of abundance, more sense of my own good fortune, and I should try to share with other people. And so I think because Arnold didn't have this kind of bias of the sort of Ivy League type education he tapped into worldly wisdom, practical wisdom. He was just thinking, well, let me become more loving. What a wonderful thing to understand that.

 

Silvija: So this is where I get a little bit confused by your intentional disconnection. I mean, something Buddhist about it. But, aren't we trying to achieve the opposite?

 

William: The phrase intentional disconnection, if I remember rightly, I use in talking about Nick and Zac, these two investors in England that I was talking about. Where most people are trying to stay plugged into the news all of the time. All of these short term inputs, they're trying to react to what just came on their Bloomberg terminal, what's happening to inflation, what's happening in macroeconomic terms. So when I'm talking about intentional disconnection, in a sense, it's largely about technology. It's saying, no,  let me not look at my phone so much. Let me not obsess about the Daily News. Let me not try to prognosticate about where inflation is going, where the economy is going, because that stuff is unknowable. If Buffett and Munger can't figure it out, why the hell should I be able to? And so let me instead focus on things that are more meaningful, information that has a longer shelf life. Let me think about things like destination analysis, where is this business headed? Where's this economy? What will it take for this economy to succeed? Is the government doing things that are beneficial or are the inputs terrible? And what about my own behavior? Is it leading to a desirable destination or is it too short term? And so I see intentional disconnection as a kind of strategy in terms of your personal habits. And I write about this extraordinary woman, Laura Geritz, who's a fascinating international investor. And one of the things she said to me is, look, I've traveled to 75 countries.

 

William: She travels 6 to 9 months a year. But one of the things she's doing every Friday is what she calls Creative Day. And she just goes and sits by a stream and writes in her journal, reads books. She reads two or three books a week. So she's not obsessed with the daily news. She's thinking about what's happening with robotics down the road, what's happening with automation, what's happening with work habits. And then she's planting herself in other countries where she'd just say, Let me go live in Turkey for a while so I can get a better sense of the culture. So she's giving herself an informational advantage by studying countries in a very deep way, studying different cultures, reading books, studying companies. And so the intentional disconnection is from all of the short term nonsense, all of the calls to action and short term stimuli that most of us obsess with. And so for me, this has had a profound impact on my own life, because I have to say, well. Yeah, I have to use Twitter and stuff because it's important for me to build an audience. And actually I used to dismiss things like Twitter as being really superficial and dumb. I actually think it's a really, really interesting ecosystem. And so that's something that's fairly short term that I have to engage with. But I also mean, I'm in a book group where we just read classic fiction and we're all writers pretty much.

 

William: And we just finished reading Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. We read Anna Karenina. We read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Book by Mahfouz Palace Walk. We're trying to decide what Shakespeare play we're going to read as our next project. So I'm intentionally thinking, okay, so what's perishable and what's not perishable? If I spend my whole time on Twitter and reading today's news and angst about today's news, is that going to prevent me from reading good fiction and building friendships with the people in my book group and building relationships with my kids? So the intentional disconnection is a kind of deepening where you're saying, let me go for stuff that's actually really going to enrich my knowledge, enrich my life, build my relationships. And so that goes with another idea that I talk about at some length, which is what I call the art of subtraction, where you're saying most people are adding complexity to their lives. Let me reduce complexity. So for someone like Laura Geritz, who I mentioned before, she says, well, everything is just about countries and companies. That's what I need to focus on. So she's married, but she doesn't have kids. And it's just focusing constantly on building her knowledge of companies and countries. For me, if I apply that idea of the art of subtraction, I say, okay, so what's really important in my life, my family is massively important. I have a lovely wife and two kids who are lovely. That's critically important for me. My writing is really important to me.

 

William: Reading is really important to me. Building my knowledge, things like meditation, my spiritual life, they're very important to me. I don't really like exercise, but I know that it's important. So at the start of the pandemic, because I know that there are certain things I can control and others that I can't control, I was probably 20, 25, 30 pounds overweight, so we bought a peloton. So I've done like 500 rides since then, so I'm healthier. So that's important to me. I know that peace of mind is important, and so I try to meditate pretty regularly. So I'm kind of reducing complexity and I'm saying, what can I subtract from my life? Because if I spend my time on nonsense that's away from that core of five or six things. How can I build what's truly a successful life if I know that relationships are critical, if I know that my writing and my sharing ideas is critical. I know that peace of mind and health is critical. There isn't much time for anything else. And so for your readers, I think for your listeners, I would really encourage them just to go through this process of saying, well, what really matters to me? What am I best at and what games am I equipped to win and what do I care most about? And then subtract rather than adding short term nonsense and complexity, really think about how to subtract. And I think that's what the greatest investors do the whole time.

 

Silvija: I think some of this is harder than it sounds. I have four kids and too much to do. And so we have had to make some really hard choices about not being social basically in order to survive. And some people view it as rudeness or aloofness or elitism. I don't know. There are many ways to interpret these kinds of priorities. But what you're saying is that it's more important to be honest to yourself long term than to try and play a few too many roles. 

 

William: I think you have to really ask yourself, what am I best at and what do I care most about? And one of the most obvious lessons that you learn from the greatest investors is they really only play games that they can win. And so they're pretty ruthless. Bill Miller, for example, said to me, Yeah, what the money gives me is I don't have to do any of this stuff, like decorate my own home, pump gas, fly on a commercial airline because I've stripped away all of that stuff that I don't like doing. And where I add no value, all I'm doing is trying to add value every month for my clients. That's all I'm trying to do. So he's just reading massively, thinking brilliantly, learning stuff so that he can so that he can add value for his clients. So he's reduced a lot of the complexity in his life so that he can focus on continuously learning about markets, investing and the like. And he does that in the broadest possible way because he's studying chaos theory. He was on the board of the Santa Fe Institute. He's very involved in mathematical research. He's studying pragmatic philosophy. I mean, he's drawing on everything to help him crack this problem of how to think well about markets. But he's reduced all of the other complexity.

 

William: And so I think it requires a certain self-awareness to say, well, yeah, I'm a bit idiosyncratic, I'm a bit of a mutant, but this happens to be what matters to me. And so for me personally. I think part of having a rich and happy life includes reading great fiction. And this is one thing where Guy Spier says, look, I think Charlie Munger is wrong because Charlie Munger is absolute genius who reads multiple books a week, but he only reads non-fiction and and Guy is like, Well, look, my life is much happier and better for the fact that I read War and Peace last year. And so he's like, So Charlie is wrong about some things. And I don't know, maybe Charlie is right for him. But for me, part of having a rich and abundant life includes having a book group where I can read great fiction while having really delicious food and drinking wine and chatting with old friends. That's really valuable, even though it actually takes me away from the core of writing and focusing on my family. And so I just think you have to be honest about the fact that we can't do everything. So play the game you're good at. And focus on what matters most to you and be somewhat ruthless about cutting out the rest. 

 

Silvija: I think courage to be ruthless is also an important part of what we are saying. So I really want you to comment afterwards on the three people and you can do it off the top of your mind. Shoot from your hip. One is Soros. 

 

William: I've never interviewed so I can't tell you anything about Soros except for when he wrote this book, The Alchemy of Finance, that I read many, many years ago. And there was a fascinating thing in it. That's the one thing I remember, which is that he said that at a certain point, it wasn't clear whether he was running his fund or the fund was running him. And he said that there were moments where his back started to hurt and it was like his body was telling him that there was something wrong with his portfolio. I remember interviewing a famous investor called Jeff Fenech, who was managing the biggest mutual fund in the world when he was about 33. And Fenech said to me that when he bought a stock that everybody hated that had been plunging, that he thought was an incredible bargain. He said that he felt physically sick. And I think that's really extraordinary that the greatest investors would be so attuned to their physiology that it would actually influence the way they invested. And so sometimes. So I think part of being a high performer in any area is to have this kind of deep sense of how your body works and to look at yourself and say, Oh, yeah, I can see how fearful I am. Why, why? What's triggering me right now? And so I do think there's something really fascinating to learn from Soros, but for me, that was the link between your physiology and your decision making.

 

Silvija: To me, first of all, I think the super masters of understanding and playing risk and stacking the odds, they know when they're playing a game that's a tad too high even for them. There's something about that necessary courage which fascinates me. But with Soros, he has this. I'm originally Hungarian. He has the same surname as me. And I've kind of always been very proud of him. And he's been criticized a lot in Hungary for mixing with politics. But again, to me, this is an extension of him doing what he believes is necessary and right. And it reminds me a little bit of Mayor Bloomberg and so on. So I'm very fascinated by them playing an even higher game. And then and then when it comes to I wanted to ask you. So you're talking about people that have very similar cultural background to you. And I don't mean necessarily Eton and Oxford, but I mean Anglo-Saxon Western world capitalism and so on. And so one more person there that is obviously criticized, whether it's the greatest son of the Wolf of Wall Street or is there some one person there that you could that you could comment on whether their ruthlessness, their lack of social antennas or drives might actually be a real strength to their business and therefore doing good? And then the third one is, I'd like to ask you if there is somebody completely outside of your culture. So, you know, Jack McCoy, fully somebody on the other side.

 

William: Yeah. A lot of the greatest investors have low EQ. I would say they tend to be unemotional. So the thing that makes them extraordinary investors is often that they're very dispassionate. So when the market is crashing and most people are seeking safety with the herd, they're all bailing out. They're all panicking with the herd. The greatest investors are just looking at this in an entirely dispassionate way and saying, Oh, this became cheaper, let me buy. And so there's a very interesting example of a guy I actually like a great deal called Howard Marks, who manages about 100 and 4050 dollars Billion, who I describe at length in the book. I write about him as kind of the philosopher king of finance is a very interesting man. And during the financial crisis, there was a period where over 15 weeks, basically every week, he and his partner, Bruce Cash, were investing 500 to $600 million in busted bonds that everybody else was terrified to own. And I said to him, was it emotionally difficult for you? And he said, No, no, I don't remember it being difficult at all. And I knew that he'd been married a couple of times. And so I said, is that lack of emotion a problem in your relationships? And he said, Oh, yeah, my first marriage, it was very difficult, but he said, I've become better at it.

 

William: And I thought there was something really kind of beguiling about the fact that he was self-aware enough to know, Yeah, I'm pretty unemotional and to be honest about it, very direct. But clearly, that lack of emotion is a mixed blessing. Right. And Charlie Munger has the same thing I did during the financial crisis. Munger bought a stock, a bank at what he called the bottom tick in 2009. And again, I said to him, was it difficult? And he's like, No, no. And I said, So you're not you're not feeling those emotions like fear and worry. No. And he said and Warren's wired exactly the same way. We don't feel it. And so you could say that some of these people in some ways are emotionally stunted. It's difficult, right? I mean, I interviewed one billionaire who I cannot remember. He has an incredible art collection. I don't write about him much because I don't much like him. And I said to him at the start, can I take a photograph of you? Because it's kind of helpful as a reporter you'd have him next to his beautiful paintings and it means I don't have to take tons of notes because I'd actually be able to recreate the scene in my writing.

 

William: And so I say, Can I take a photo of you? And said, No. I said, How come? And he said, I don't want you to. That's a really interesting thing, right? That's someone with a real lack of social skills and. He's an incredibly smart guy. He's a brilliant problem solver. But he leaves me a little cold. And the fact that he's a multimillionaire doesn't make me admire him so much that I'm prepared to spend months writing about him. So I'm not making any kind of moral judgments about these people. I mean, I'm a mutant in my own special way. But I think it's helpful to be self-aware and say, well, am I, for example, wired to be unemotional in the same way as these people? And I can see that I'm just much more fearful than a lot of them. I come from a kind of Jewish immigrant background from Russia, Poland and Ukraine. We were persecuted for centuries. We have a sense that things fall apart. And so I think I come at life naturally from a slightly fearful, anxious place. And I remember interviewing one of the great investors, and I said to him, Yeah, I’m a little bit of a pessimist.

 

William: I worked on it over the years and I'm less of a pessimist now. But he said to me, Yeah, good luck with that. And it was like, That's not very helpful with investing. You kind of need to be skeptical, but you also need to have a sense that the future holds good things. And so this actually is one of the things I tried to work on in terms of my own character over the years to have a sense that, no, actually, this is part of my wiring, part of my kind of emotional, psychological DNA. But I can actually reverse that in the same way that Vandenberg took all of his rage and hatred and sense of victimization and became loving. There's no reason why I can't become more appreciative, more grateful, more loving, more compassionate. And so that's part of what I'm trying to do, inspired by people like Arnold, is actually to rewire myself and so I think the pessimism that I've inherited culturally and the sense of fear isn't my destiny. It's a choice. And so I'm working on it.

 

Silvija: Yeah. I think that a bit of paranoia or even as long as it doesn't turn into fatalism, might actually be a good driving force, at least it doesn't make you too comfortable and sedate.

 

William: But it may make you unhappy. And so we were wired to survive, but we weren't necessarily wired to be happy. So I'm trying to rewire myself in ways that will make me happier. And I would have thought, A, that that was impossible or B that it was naive. And I don't think that's the case anymore. I think you can change your consciousness in very important ways. And look, part of part of what we see with things like scientific studies of loving kindness, meditation, which I don't do very often. But you can see that just by doing these simple meditations where you say to yourself over and over again things like, may you be happy, may you be safe, maybe may you live with these, may you live in peace, maybe healthy things like that. If you say that over and over again to yourself in your meditation, and then you say it to yourself as well, so you say, May I be happy? May I live with these? You rewire your mind at a certain point. And I tend to do a kind of morning connection most mornings where I do a certain number of prayers. And I think of it as like I'm just rewiring my mind. And so there's one that's about becoming more truthful as one that's about appreciation.

 

William: And it's really interesting to me that these kinds of spiritual gurus figured out two, three, 4000 years ago what the scientists now are figuring out about the power of appreciation. Or when you look at books like Altered Traits, where it talks about this friend of mine, Dan Goleman, who wrote the book on IQ, you can actually see the brains, how the wiring of meditators is changing. So these ancient spiritual practices like prayer and meditation, I think they figured out, whether through divine inspiration or trial and error or whatever you like to think, they figured out how to rewire our brains. And I think that's what that's what people like all of Vanderburg figured out as well through trial and error. And because the greatest investors are just pragmatists. Munger says, I just observe what works and what doesn't work and why they're so open minded and non dogmatic that they figure out all of these things that kind of help them. They're like meditation. Yeah, I'll do that. Okay, I'll do that. Yeah, I'll do that. And I mean, I have a friend that I write about who quit the investment business to become a neurologist. And one of the things he taught me is that basically you're prone to make terrible decisions when you're in various states. He has this mnemonic where he says, When you're hungry, angry, lonely, tired, in pain, stress, get sad. You're much more likely to make terrible decisions. So in those circumstances, he's sufficiently self aware. He's looking at his own physiology and he's saying, Oh, yeah, I'm in a state where I need to be extremely careful. I shouldn't be making an important decision about my stock portfolio in this state. But more recently, he's been treating COVID patients and and when he was working in a hospital at the height of COVID, in a room full of people on ventilators who were dying, he's literally using that same mnemonic that he used as a hedge fund manager to remind himself, Well, look, I have to call the family of this dying patient, and they can't visit their relative and have to call them. And I have to remind myself that I'm actually in physical pain because I've been wearing this PPE equipment all day and my back's hurting and it's pinching my face and I'm exhausted. And he had a four day old child that he couldn't see because he was staying in a hospital in a hotel. So he'd be away from his wife and his newborn son.

 

William: And so he's like, I know that I'm in a state where I'm likely to behave poorly and where I'm likely to make poor decisions. So I just have to remind myself to be that much more compassionate when I'm calling their families and that much more compassionate and patient when I'm treating these patients and so slow everything down because I know that I'm in a state where I'm going to make terrible decisions. And so just to have that kind of practical knowledge of how to approach decision making, that's had a huge effect on me when I see myself becoming kind of flooded emotionally or or too fearful or too worried or overwhelmed or scattered. I can just be like, okay, so I need to reduce complexity. I need to simplify. One of my friends, Ken Rubenstein, is an extraordinary guy. He said to me, look, there are four things that we know affect the performance of our brain. So, you know that that sleep helps. Good nutrition helps. Meditation helps and that exercise helps. So he said whenever things are getting out of control and you can't think clearly, simplify, cancel as much as I can and get back to those four basic things.

 

William: So just think of the power of those two basic ideas of the whole mnemonic and not making decisions in that state and just saying, let me simplify my life and get back to get exercise and meditation and eating well and sleeping well. And that for me, that's what I mean when I talk about these guys as kind of practical philosophers, they're they're going through life figuring out what works and doesn't work and why. And for me, that's just such a powerful filter, because they've done all the work for me, right? So,I don't really want to exercise. It's like the most tedious thing and it's uncomfortable. The last thing I want to do is sit on my peloton bike, by my washing machine and dryer in the basement of my house. It's not exactly glamorous, right? But when I'm really stressed and I'm overworked, I actually need to remind myself that it's actually kind of mission critical. Like when I'm more stressed and I'm more overwhelmed, am I more scattered? I need to get back to these basic things. And so that ability just to focus on what works and what's critically important and what will help you think better that's been hugely helpful for me.

 

Silvija: William, I think we have really good practical ideas here. I'm really looking forward to listening to your book as both a good practical guide, but also just really like a treasure trove of great stories told with compassion. I'm not going to take us into China and Confucius at the moment because I just think we've exhausted our listeners. I want to say a thousand thanks for your time and for the inspiration and for all the great work and thinking that has gone into this project so we could learn. Thank you.

 

William: Thank you so much. It's been lovely chatting with you.

 

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C1032 BOOKS What we can learn from the worlds greatest investors - med William Green

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