ad astra per alia porci

disciplined reading… something I need to learn to do
May 9, 2007, 1:05 pm
Filed under: investments/finance/economics, Lifeskills

I am a bit of a dilettante; I enjoy exploring diverse fields of knowledge and reading books from all genres and about all subjects. Whenever I go to the library, I will end up picking many books that I will not read finish in time (and end up paying fines to fund the inflated salaries of our ministers).  I am pretty conscious of this weakness but the intellectual wanderlust never seems to go away. Which is not very good since I am a bit of a jack of all trades but a master at nothing when it comes to specialised and expert knowledge.

One of the books that I did recently finished reading without much flitting around to other books like a extremely fickle bumblebee is Hedgehogging by Barton Biggs, former Morgan Stanley man and hedge fund manager at present. It read like a breeze without much superfluous words and its a candid account of how life is like for hedge fund managers. It neither espouses any grand trading strategy nor exceptional insights into the world economy; its a candid account of how hedge fund managers and the job of fund management are like from a person who has been in the industry for the whole of his career.

However the part that caught my attention most was this part on disciplined reading and controlling one’s intake of information. Clearly, Barton Biggs is an avid and voracious reader (which is not very surprising since he majored in English while in university) and he seems to suffer the same problem as me when it comes to reading.: having too much things to choose to read from and being tempted to read too much.  Biggs indicated that he is a visile,  a person that absorbs information visually; I am pretty sure I am a visile too given my love for reading.

A sliver of positivity: Biggs opined that he shared Charlie Munger’s belief that a successful investor reads widely and voraciously. One tick of approval for me He also cited The Economist as the best magazine in the world. I read it religiously. Another tick from the gods of investing.

Biggs saliently points out:

“One of the biggest, most difficult issues I have is time management. Receiving and processing information and data in order to have the knowledge to make wise investment decisions is what the professional investor does all day and night… The objective is not how much you can read but rather to unearth insights that lead to money-making decisions.

… As investment managers, we must control our reading by being disciplined and ruthlessly selective rather than let it rule us. I want original information or analysis about the state of the world, an industry, or a company that is going to help me make money. Change at the margin is what moves markets.”

Unfortunately the information is ruling me now, forcing me to spend more and more time on less and less. This is something I should improve on. Being selective is a great way of saving time and improving the quality of my knowledge obtained from reading.

Takeway quote from Biggs:

“It’s not just reading but reading smart.”

How right he is. And how hard it is for me to do it.


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