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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Have you noticed great investors are superb writers too?


Who is your favourite investing guru?

How did you get to know this person? (Face to face, books, print media, You-tube videos, documentaries, TV, etc.)

Do you quote the famous sayings of this guru?

Whether it be newsletters, annual reports to shareholders, articles to print media, or books written, have you noticed these investing greats have one thing in common - they write really well!

Was it their facility with History? Providing the context and perspective for the now relative to what has happened in the past?

Or was it their clever interweaving of Literature onto the skeletons of numbers to flesh-out the human emotions and behaviours behind these numbers? 

Literature is human emotions and behaviours. 

Human emotions and behaviours have not changed much for the past 5,000 years.

I suspect the gurus we like and admire are adept at using both sides of their brains.

For young students reading this post, you may want to reconsider dropping Literature or Arts subjects completely if you have ambitions to be the next investing great

For working adults working on your investing journey to escape, take a look at your collection of books. Are they too skewed towards dry bone skeletons and too little on spirit and soul? 


  1. Hi SMOL,

    For the first 10 years of my life, I read nothing but fiction. Then for the next 10 years, nothing but faction (what others will call non-fiction...not-true! Faction are full of fiction too, just drier). Now I'm going back and fro between fiction and faction. More on fiction actually. In fiction, we learn about how to handle situations in life. In faction, we bulk up on knowledge :)

    1. There goes the butterfly flapping with both wings ;)

      The grasshopper looks longingly...

      He has been playing the violin on one side for far too long and although 46 years young, he has never learnt his times tables...


  2. Ha! Ha!
    Are you blowing your own or somebody's trumpet?
    Either way i have to agree with you.

    1. temperament,

      The operative word is BOTH.

      And that's why in this blog, you don't see me trumpeting monthly or annual returns in absolute numbers or in percentages :(

      I survive on luck, occasional sparks of brilliance (there goes modesty out the door), and mostly on a glib tongue ;)

      No prizes on what I enjoy and what I am good at.

      Talk male-chicken and pointing out people with no clothes on?

  3. Hi SMOL,

    I better polish up my England and practice writing every day! Thank you for pointing the way hor!

    1. Endrene,


      And I need to learn my times tables and start doing more mental calculations instead of relying on my phone's calculator function :(

  4. huh....

    I never like friction lei... Although I took Chinese literature in university and enjoy it. But I never like it till I want to bring it home, or go library and get it.

    Good investors are also most likely good writers, I agree with Warren, Benjamin Graham, Peterlynch.. But I also found some to write better than they think.

    Remember the "2 fathers", rich free businessman and a slogging but well earning father? I am not a hugh fan of writer of motivational books.

    I like history though. Huh? That is non-friction? er... that statement is a friction. History is friction, literature base on human interpretation of events that most probably had happened which pander to the existing era of mainstream thoughts

    1. sillyinvestor,

      Let's not get trapped by semantics ;)

      Would it be better if I changed the title to story-tellers instead of writers?

      Some people are just better at spotting nuances in words (comes in useful in reading Fed statements); while some are better at spotting patterns in numbers (great for spotting lies in financial statements).

      It's not about which is better - but he who utilises both sides of his brain has an edge over others.

      I know my edge; I know my weakness. I think that by itself is an edge?

  5. I have seen one local "Guru" who is author of one of the "best" selling "Guru" books.

    At his seminar, he couldn't spell quite a number of words correctly while trying to explain and illustrate on the whiteboard his magical secrets.

    How did he write well?

    1. CW,

      Ghost writers. Proof-readers. Dyslexia is a barrier that Lao Lee overcame.

      It's OK provided you put in proper accreditation. For eg, Peter Lynch's best seller Beating the Street was written with John Rothchild.

      Another case of seeing what we want to see ;)

      And also how easy it is to miss the "fine print".

      Spotting the "fine print". Now is that left or right-brained bias?

  6. Hi SMOL

    I read from somewhere , if you can't think well , you most probably can't write well .
    The definition of " well " to me will be the context and logic of the article/story , paragraphing , flow and understanding.

    Coming to understanding which is subjective to individual , i suppose to read what you can understand ( etc : i had great difficulty understanding the concept by Martin J Whitman " Value Investing : A Balance Approach "...It is a great book ( introduced me to the term OPMI ( Outside Passive Minority Investor ) , just that my grasp of understanding is still not there yet hahaha)

    Just my 0.01cents worth :P

    1. Small Time Investor,

      The ability to transmit what we are thinking into a coherent message that others can comprehend is what makes the difference between:

      1) A teacher from an educator

      2) A top salesman from a struggling peddler

      3) A best selling author from a wordsmith

      I am forever grateful to Tsai Chih Chung (蔡志忠) for his translation of complex Chinese classics into comics - a form that I can comprehend.

  7. Hi SMOL,

    Nice blog you got here. Your post resonated with me because Mark Sellers said this some time back.

    Have a read, please.



    1. Musicwhiz,

      Welcome back! It's been quite while since we have exchanged pointers on music and songs :)

      Very good read!!! I've saved the PDF.

      1. The low feeling is it's too late to hard-wire my brain to do more left-brained stuffs :(

      2. The euphoria is that I just remembered I have another edge. In the course of my career, I've learned to partner with people with skill-sets that complement mine.

      I guess that's why I enjoy bantering with some bloggers who are so different from me and my outlook on life.

      Perhaps that's why we enjoy poking and pushing each other to expand our limits and test our convictions?


      P.S. Readers, I highly recommend you download and read the link from Musicwhiz.

      No, it won't help you make money or be a better investor. But it may jolt you to know more about yourself. And some thinking!

  8. Good news!

    We can be above average to compound at 10%.


    1. CW,

      Good to know!

      The trouble with "investing" is we need to wait 10 years or more to find out whether we are compounding at 10% or more, and whether we have it or not?

      In trading, we know within 2 years whether we have it or not ;)

      What is this "it"?

      We all have to discover it for ourselves ;)

  9. SMOL,
    My take is not sure of the period of time but if you can survive from 1st 2 Big Bear Markets and is still passionate about investing or trading, then i say you can be in the Market for life until .......???
    At least, i can always dream about what Goldman Sac does in a Bear Market, can't i?
    Fat Tail coming? Is there a short for STI ETF In the SGX as a financial product itself?

    Now DOW has dropped a few hundred points within a week, it seems a good time for shortists to do a "pyramid down" (Short & long all the way down). So far i can only watch from the sidelines. My brain doesn't allow me to do that though Goldman Sac has been doing it successfully for so long already. Look like i can't have the best of both worlds (Bear & Bull markets). Only professionals can?

    1. temperament,

      Your definition is more precise. This is what I had in mind when I said we need 10 years or more to know whether we have "it" or not in investing - having gone through at least 1 bull/bear cycle; 2 would be better!

      A rising tide lifts all boats ;)

      I think you have given an inspiration to write a post on shorting for people who are "adverse" to it ;)

    2. Waiting for your post to inspire me to counter-post. LOL!

      All ready to read? hee hee

    3. CW,

      Your like you post on being prepared:


      Not bad huh? To think it came about from us poking each other on Goal Settings ;)

      I like the Tao symbol - there is Ying in Yang, and there is Yang in Ying.

    4. Hmmm...

      Remember got a post mentioning Yin and Yang.


      That was in Apr 2009.

      Read? Wise Words Series - Part 3

      "So we need to balance up with the other energy, the "yang" (white).

      Coming next ..."

      Why no Part 4???

      Nobody sponsored kopi-O???

      So no Yang to write Part 4.


    5. CW,

      Oh my sky (direct translation from Chinese)!

      I meant to say in my previous comment above: "I like your post on being prepared"

      I've no clue how those words appeared so differently from what's on my mind.

      Eh? Can dyslexia be transmitted via internet?

      Am I doing a coconut!?

    6. SMOL,
      when i read "Am i doing a coconut!?,
      i can't help laughing. Hey! don't be mean to him,O. K..
      He is a brilliance in his own way. He's quite original, direct(no phoney) and yet quite fun to try check into his brain what actually he is trying to say to us. Something new, something we will never think off.
      i like him not only for his different ways of looking at things but most important for his sincerity and conviction.
      In shot, he is a gem.

    7. Oh yes!
      If Market heading South, he will be too busy too talk to us. He will be horsing (shorting) all the way to "South of the border, near Mexico town."

    8. temperament,

      Where got? I sayang him until not fast enough! That's what "friends" do; we poke each.

      Of course, we know when he is very free, when he is busy, and when he has gone off the rails!

      I still can't fathom - 63 trades in a day!?

      And making 40% plus in less than a week punting B.A.L.??? That's impressive!!!

      Being a veteran, he still can perform a newbie - not knowing what cannot be done trade? How does he do it?

      I am so damaged by knowledge and experience. I cannot go back to punting penny shares once I've realised what I am doing :(

  10. SMOL,
    Ha! Ha!
    That's why he is a gem-not damaged by knowledge and experience like you said.


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