Guy Spier

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

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Guy Spier joined Preston Pysh on The Investor’s Podcast for an hour on Bitcoin. Just kidding, though there was a Bitcoin discussion there was a lot more.

When asked how to build patience Spier said,  “you can’t build patience and temperament in isolation, it has to be related to something.” Look at marriage for example. There’s a big difference between having a mantra of patience and having patience. Instead, Spier suggests small steps during hard times. I found this timely considering the hullabaloo around new year resolutions.

Write to think. “The more conscious we are of what we’re doing the better it is and writing is a great way to be more conscious of yourself. Even better would be to keep an investment diary.” This is something other investors have said too. Bob Seawright said, “When I tried to organize my thoughts and put pen to paper, it forced my thinking to be more rigorous and it exposed gaps in my thinking and errors in judgment more readily.” Non-investors can benefit too. Adam Grant said that only after a long summary does he “distill why I care about it.”

Design easy choices. “When you come into my office you can go left or you can go right. When you go left it takes you to where I am now, into my busy room where my computers are and if you go right you get to my library with no electronic devices and lots of books. My goal is to spend more time going right than going left.”

Besides the physical environment, Spier has cut back on his subscriptions. “At some point, you have to get away from reading about investing to reading for investing.”

Later in the interview, Spier adds, “What’s really important is that whatever you’re doing you’ve got to be thinking intelligently. When Todd Combs talked about his five hundred pages a day it stimulated a lot of people to go find five hundred pages a day to read but you gotta be intelligent about how you’re reading it.”

More Deep Work is the toughest part of many knowledge jobs. This bar is lowered through good design. This is what Aziz Ansari told Bill Simmons:

“I get so much done on airplanes, especially if there’s no wifi…What happens when I’m writing is I’ll hit a point where I don’t know where to go. In those moments I’ll check my email or New York Times, and then I’ll go back to it. But when I don’t have my phone or I don’t have the internet I’ll hit that moment and I’m forced to come up with an idea but that idea is gone when you take that break.”

Random fools and humility. “I gave a talk to the Swiss CFA society and one of the points I made was that while I really appreciate your respect for me, all you need to do is read Nassim Taleb’s book Fooled by Randomness. While I have a twenty-year track record, there’s no way you could prove to someone who knows how the numbers work whether I’m lucky or smart.”

Spier continued, “we cannot rule out that I’m just a coin flipper who has flipped a high number of heads for many reasons that have nothing to do with what we are talking about now.”

It’s hard to Know thyself, –  and maybe impossible – but the questions are worth asking if only to see how we go about finding the answers.

At the very least it gives us a glimpse of humility. Marc Andreessen carries Charlie Munger’s shovel trying to unearth our thinking mistakes.

“Naturally as we go through life we accrue beliefs about how the world works, beliefs about causes and effects and beliefs about patterns that we’ve seen. I try as hard as I can to be as ruthless as possible in shedding the old beliefs and leaving them behind. They are so rarely predictive of something new.”

Others like David Salem call this “intellectual honesty.”

Rapid fire.

For value investors, “I think it’s far harder to sell stocks well than to buy stocks well.”

“They’re as dangerous as an MBA with a spreadsheet.” Like Jerry Kaplan and Rory Sutherland, investors know there’s more data than a spreadsheet cell allows.

“I think for the vast majority of really good investments; it’s insanely cheap, nobody disputes it’s insanely cheap it’s just that there’s this terrible thing staring you in the face that you have to overcome or understand or reason with.”

Thanks for reading.

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