TIL2017 – External objectivity

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

This post is part of the TIL2017 Summary Series.

Along with internal objectivity (know thyself) comes external objectivity. This is seeing the world as it is, not as you’d like it to be.

This came up as ‘tailwinds.’ That is, understand what part of your success wasn’t you. Wes Gray said that aside from the internet crash, any small-cap value investment went up. Michael Lombardi applied tailwinds to football to tease out if a team was good or bad. Absolute stats – see our Trust but Verify post – are limited. Instead, ask ‘compared to what?’

Bill Simmons wondered about this when he asked how good Dirk Nowitzki was. He tried to compare him to Kevin Durant but noted how difficult it was because they had different situations, Durant’s tailwinds are his teammates.

Maha Ibrahim and Kara Swisher talked about how this relates to gender. Like a bull market or a bad opponent, men have had tailwinds in tech. The men, these women note, often fail to recognize this.

Cliff Asness and Ray Dalio both wondered about the other side of their trades. Who is buying if you are selling? That’s a depth of objectivity neither of these successful investors has plumbed.

Objective thinking requires an out of body experience to not be tricked and instead be treated. Jason Calacanis advised to “think like a journalist.” Try to find the truth as you’d report it. Ken Burns said he tries to keep his thumb off the scale when he’s making his movies.

Matt Wallaert said to make sure you are solution agnostic. Esther Duflo saw this with her work in India and Africa. Our views of the world; political, social, physical influence our solutions. Our initial views are tainted. Instead, do what Wallaert and Duflo did, go out into the world and see what works.

Tailwinds, as runners and cyclist know, are hard to notice. All progress has friction, but some progress is helped along by outside factors. Try to figure out those factors and see the situation as clearly as you can.

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