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General Category => General Discussion => Topic started by: Liberty on June 05, 2018, 12:09:37 PM

Title: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Liberty on June 05, 2018, 12:09:37 PM
I wrote something. It's a pretty obvious concept, but for some reason I felt like writing it down. Sharing it in case someone else finds some interest in it, but frankly, it's nothing that will blow your mind, just a little phenomenon I kept noticing:

https://medium.com/@Liberty/why-your-mentors-seem-less-impressive-over-time-e6d8938b2d51
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Hielko on June 05, 2018, 12:13:46 PM
Good post. Agree with it very much :)
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: rkbabang on June 05, 2018, 12:20:34 PM
"People like Warren Buffett, Richard Feynman, Charlie Munger, Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky, etc. These are pretty revered names, but there are also many other mentors and teachers operating at levels below the superstars. They might not be quite as well-known or have reputations quite as bullet-proof, but they are still very good at what they do"

Maybe what separates the true superstars (the Buffetts & Feynmans of the world) from the mere mortals are that they still seem pretty damn impressive (even if not quite as impressive as they seemed at first) even after many decades.
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: villainx on June 05, 2018, 12:24:04 PM
I think a feel more examples would help.  I'm not a seasoned pro, but I still revere Buffett and most of the other from a distance as well as direct mentors.  Then again, I'm at the steep climbing phase ... though I hope that's where I stay for the indefinite future.

The more normal mentor / student breakdown I see is  ... Weill and Dimon?  Where the student was ready to be the master type of situation. 
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Liberty on June 05, 2018, 12:34:53 PM
I think a feel more examples would help.  I'm not a seasoned pro, but I still revere Buffett and most of the other from a distance as well as direct mentors.  Then again, I'm at the steep climbing phase ... though I hope that's where I stay for the indefinite future.

The more normal mentor / student breakdown I see is  ... Weill and Dimon?  Where the student was ready to be the master type of situation.

I didn't mean to imply that it happens to everybody, and I probably should have made that clear. It's just something that I often see in a noticeable fraction of the "old students" for many mentors. I think the best way to avoid this phenomenon is to be aware of it and calibrate yourself to the fact that the novelty has worn off and the low-hanging fruits have been picked. I think some people don't do that, and see to expect their mentors to constantly blow their minds the way they did initially.

And I intentionally didn't name anyone else than some superstars because I didn't feel good comfortable doing so.

Or I could be wrong about all this! \_(ツ)_/
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Parsad on June 05, 2018, 01:19:22 PM
Hi Liberty,

You are actually probably correct.  I think part of the reason is that as people do well in their own lives, they lose a bit of humility and their egos tend to become somewhat enlarged.

I have to say, that I'm actually more impressed by my mentors as I'm aging.  The reason being isn't so much in what they have accomplished, but how they did it and how they continue to fight or persevere no matter how much the winds might blow against them.

Warren Buffett - He continues to do things at his age that simply cannot be duplicated by the vast population of his followers...first you have to live as long as him...second you have to be as damn consistent...and lastly, you have to be as good!

Charlie Munger - What is there to say...like Popeye, "I ams what I ams!"  Title of "the most interesting man in the world" actually belongs to Munger, not the "Dos Equis" guy!

Prem Watsa - Here goes the only man I know whose ego truly disappears every time he makes a deal.  Accolades go to everyone except himself!  And any philanthropic work he does...just please don't talk about it or mention his name.  One of the best leaders I have ever seen.

Mohnish Pabrai - Every time someone tells him how badly he sucks, he goes and hits a homerun.  Ego is very un-Prem-like, but talent and smarts is all there.  One of the few people who will actually say when he sucks wind...but pursues every day trying to make himself better and better.

Francis Chou - About the only person I know, that could out humble Prem!  Continues to do what he does every day...builds wealth for others and himself...and never forgets who he is and how he got there.

I can't say I'm less amazed by these guys today.  I know alot more, and have hit a few homeruns myself, but their consistency, longevity and humility, as well as their insights...continue to astound me!  Cheers!
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Travis Wiedower on June 05, 2018, 06:45:41 PM
My only clarification / quibble (and maybe I simply misinterpreted): I don't think learning a lot from mentors and being impressed by them is mutually exclusive. Speaking anecdotally, but I learned a ton from Buffett when I was starting out (one of the first things I did when I got into investing was print out the entire buffettfaq.com website and read it all) - not so much anymore. I was pretty underwhelmed by the Berkshire meeting this year, but only because I know how he's going to answer the vast majority of questions since I've read so much of his stuff in the past.

None of that takes away from how impressed I am and how much respect I have for him though - probably even more so actually. The longer I invest the more I appreciate how difficult it is and the more humbled I am by his long-term track record (which is blown up and hanging next to my desk as a reminder).
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Liberty on June 06, 2018, 06:48:45 AM
My only clarification / quibble (and maybe I simply misinterpreted): I don't think learning a lot from mentors and being impressed by them is mutually exclusive. Speaking anecdotally, but I learned a ton from Buffett when I was starting out (one of the first things I did when I got into investing was print out the entire buffettfaq.com website and read it all) - not so much anymore. I was pretty underwhelmed by the Berkshire meeting this year, but only because I know how he's going to answer the vast majority of questions since I've read so much of his stuff in the past.

None of that takes away from how impressed I am and how much respect I have for him though - probably even more so actually. The longer I invest the more I appreciate how difficult it is and the more humbled I am by his long-term track record (which is blown up and hanging next to my desk as a reminder).

I agree with that. I think a related phenomenon that I might write about is when you know someone so well that the simulation of them that you run in your brain gets good enough (even if still crude) that you can predict them pretty decently. I think that's kind of why Munger and Buffett used to talk for hours each day, and now they haven't been doing that in a while. Not because they aren't interested in what the other thinks, but because they know so well how they think. We end up being like that with some people like Buffett too, so that certainly reduces the novelty factor over time...

But yeah, the piece I wrote is flawed in many ways. I could've made it clearer that I didn't mean that I thought this phenomenon happened to everyone, and as you point out, I could've made it clearer that to many people, they don't become less impressed even if they learn a lot less. I had a hard time finding the right word to describe things and ended up going with "impressed" in the title and that colors the interpretation of the whole thing, but I'm not sure what other word I could have used that would've been more precise... Writing's hard! Especially when it's about meta-cognition and fuzzy things like that...
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: villainx on June 06, 2018, 12:26:57 PM
No problem.  There's some food for thought there.  But it gets really hamstrung by lack of examples, which you stated was intentional.  At least from your own personal perspective would be helpful.

I think the clearest example for me, is that I have memories of a former sales manager of mine that was an avid reader to improve his skills.  20 years later, I still can't forget that example, and I still aspire to be like that.  So for me, I don't have mentor fatigue, every - or even little - nuggets is still immensely powerful, and reminder or repetition don't lessen that.
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Spekulatius on June 06, 2018, 03:38:19 PM
Some the  things in management just seem to be fads that over time lose their shine. I feel that way about Jim Collins books (Good to great, Build to last) as well as the more recent “Outsider” fad. in both cases, I feel like findings from interesting cases studies have been generalized too much..
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: villainx on June 06, 2018, 04:58:48 PM
I have a continuous big problem with "outsider" and cable cowboy where John Malone seemed to make moves to enrich himself and his insider buddies.  But there's no denying that as a from a distance mentor, Malone remains somewhat aspirational.

I think the mentor part that is slightly confusing, based on what I follow from Liberty from this board, is that he continues to respect and invest in/with the mentor type investor/CEOs, so ... as I mentioned, without specific examples, I'm kind of confused where the "less impressive" part comes in.
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Jurgis on June 07, 2018, 08:55:49 AM
I think the mentor part that is slightly confusing, based on what I follow from Liberty from this board, is that he continues to respect and invest in/with the mentor type investor/CEOs, so ... as I mentioned, without specific examples, I'm kind of confused where the "less impressive" part comes in.

I see where Liberty is coming from. Like he said, when you haven't heard about value investing/moat/whatever, reading Buffett/Graham/etc. is like a "wow" experience. When you have heard this for 20 years, it's like "meh, moat, yeah, meh, margin of safety, yeah, meh, capital allocation, yeah, tell me something new".  ;)

I get it that people find some new nuggets in Buffett writing from time to time, but overall, yeah, another BRK letter/Q&A, meh.  ::)  ;)

Edit: There's also the fact that moats erode (or is that walls that erode and moats ?? - fill up?  ::) ) and the concept is not as great and easy to exploit as it was in the day. But that might be separate and more serious thread.  8)
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: rukawa on June 14, 2018, 08:48:05 PM
I'm still impressed by Faraday. He came up with revolutionary ideas when his mind was failing him and after he had already once fallen into a deep depression due to this. In fact the whole story...Faraday, Maxwell and then the Maxwellians is one of the most impressive things I've ever read. All these men displayed humility, courage, far-sighted vision and seemed to be able to endure when they were pretty much alone in their ideas. The also seemed to care very little for fame, credit or fortune.
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Liberty on November 26, 2018, 07:29:40 AM
I wrote a little something else, if anyone's interested:

https://medium.com/@Liberty/formative-years-forever-echo-for-investors-8542ecb0c058
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Cigarbutt on November 26, 2018, 08:32:03 AM
^This is somehow related to the ovarian lottery concept that Mr. Buffett described.
You may be interested in the following:
https://www.cfainstitute.org/-/media/documents/book/rf-publication/2018/risk_compilation_2018.ashx
(pages 22-25)
ftp://ftp.iza.org/SSRN/pdf/dp4365.pdf

So twin studies (which are quite powerful) show that genes play a role but the environment in the "formative" years are crucial and, for investments, early adulthood may be particularly relevant.

And a somewhat relevant presentation:
https://www.alexanderforbes.co.za/download/afo/media-centre/2018%20Indaba%20Presentations/Indaba_The%20Real%20Cost%20of%20Investor%20Behaviour_Morgan%20Housel.pdf
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: scorpioncapital on November 26, 2018, 01:59:38 PM
My mentors get more impressive over time. Why? Well, I'll give you an example and I hope I'm not the only one. I read voraciously on value investing, moats etc...I nodded my head - yup, True, Amen! But then I go to implement this and perhaps temperament or other foolish blind spots lead me to lose almost all my capital. The experience teaches me alot. I go back to the mentors...who predicatbly are saying the same thing as before since I'm reading the same thing again. But this time, with experience and a deeper visceral insight, I can read the words and see their genius while before it was just a superficial understanding.  I can give you many more examples. There is a wide difference between reading some aspect of a game and actually understanding it deeply. I think mentors understood it deeply so I'm always in awe when I go back and am humbled by something I should have understood more clearly and with all my mind and spirit.
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Liberty on November 26, 2018, 04:13:42 PM
scorpioncapital, I agree that's a real phenomenon, but it's different from what I was talking about.

I'd phrase it as: You can have a deeper appreciation for mentors as you get better, even if you aren't are surprised and changed by the things they have to say over time because you're not as starting from as low a base of knowledge.

I think the title of the piece trips people up, but I didn't find a better one at the time... Oh well.
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Jurgis on November 27, 2018, 10:20:57 AM
Quote
The next idea is about how our formative years tend to be a lot more memorable than most random adult years.  Our childhood and teenager years take up a lot of room in both our memories and self-image, and Ive seen older people describe a kind of U shape when they look back at their life. They remember the early stuff clearly, and the recent things, but in the middle it seems a lot fuzzier.

Not true for me. I think changes are memorable. I.e. location changes, school/university/job changes, marital status changes. Plus traumatic and/or very happy memories. Things like travel/vacations are somewhere in the middle: some are memorable like bigger changes, some are mush. Plus some not that special moments that for some reason get stuck into memory (maybe they are somehow special for my brain/mind/persona).


Investing wise, I'm sorry to say I don't think I have the same experience as you. 8) 2008-2009 was memorable because of the huge drawdown. But I started investing around 1996ish, so it wasn't formative for me. But then 1996 and even 2000-2001 tech crash was not formative for me either. I don't remember anything super exciting from these times. I'd have to read my posts/notes to remember what I did (wrong  8)) then.

Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Liberty on November 27, 2018, 01:07:05 PM
Quote
The next idea is about how our formative years tend to be a lot more memorable than most random adult years.  Our childhood and teenager years take up a lot of room in both our memories and self-image, and Ive seen older people describe a kind of U shape when they look back at their life. They remember the early stuff clearly, and the recent things, but in the middle it seems a lot fuzzier.

Not true for me. I think changes are memorable. I.e. location changes, school/university/job changes, marital status changes. Plus traumatic and/or very happy memories. Things like travel/vacations are somewhere in the middle: some are memorable like bigger changes, some are mush. Plus some not that special moments that for some reason get stuck into memory (maybe they are somehow special for my brain/mind/persona).

I agree about that, but didn't want to make a big off-topic aside about this.

Of course big changes, trauma, huge happy events, etc are also memorable. But on average, I think it's true that childhood/teenage years tend to be much more memorable than the average year in your 30s or 40s.


Quote
Investing wise, I'm sorry to say I don't think I have the same experience as you. 8) 2008-2009 was memorable because of the huge drawdown. But I started investing around 1996ish, so it wasn't formative for me. But then 1996 and even 2000-2001 tech crash was not formative for me either. I don't remember anything super exciting from these times. I'd have to read my posts/notes to remember what I did (wrong  8)) then.

If you don't remember anything exciting about the late 90s and early 2000s, maybe you weren't paying much attention?  ;)
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Jurgis on November 27, 2018, 01:42:23 PM
Investing wise, I'm sorry to say I don't think I have the same experience as you. 8) 2008-2009 was memorable because of the huge drawdown. But I started investing around 1996ish, so it wasn't formative for me. But then 1996 and even 2000-2001 tech crash was not formative for me either. I don't remember anything super exciting from these times. I'd have to read my posts/notes to remember what I did (wrong  8)) then.

If you don't remember anything exciting about the late 90s and early 2000s, maybe you weren't paying much attention?  ;)

Apart from being stupid and not investing into BRK?  ;)
And not going to Wesco shareholders' meeting that was in my backyard (more or less)?  :'(

Nah, I remember bits and pieces. Possibly enough to give a fun half hour talk - especially if I dug through my records, numbers and notes.
But honestly I remember pretty much zero from the tech crash of 2001. Like I'm trying to remember anything right now and nothing comes to my mind...  ::)


You might be right about not paying attention. I remember other things (not investing) from that timeframe more.  8)
Title: Re: 'Why Your Mentors Seem Less Impressive Over Time'
Post by: Viking on November 27, 2018, 03:51:09 PM
Liberty, i enjoyed your article. Thanks for posting.

My personal experience is much more dynamic that what you suggest (with a slow start the first 5 years and lots of zigs and zags, regressions and spikes). Fortunately i learned about Buffett when i was in my 20s. However, at the time i had little cash, little time and little understanding of investing. The investing books i really liked back then were One Up On Wall Street, The Warren Buffet Way, the Intelligent Investor and A Random Walk Down Wall Street. I took bits and pieces from each author and slowly developed my investment process. I then found this board (2002 or 2003?) and my style was influenced by Prem. For the next 7 years i made a chunk of money trading Fairfax and the subs. Post 2008 and with FFH delisted from NYSE the volitility trade ended. By now i was semi retired and i started rereading all the classics again and began to rethink my investment process. I found the old titles to be just as valuable; however, i took away different bits and pieces. I felt i was pretty good at buying but not as good at selling (often way too soon). Over the last 6 years Apple, being in US$ and the big US banks have each been great investments. I am now rereading the investment classics again (to help at the high school literacy club i am running) and i am finding them very valuable at reinforcing very important ideas (and i find i sometimes drift a little and need to be reminded of some important topics). My situation today is very different from when i started: a big portfolio, time and a pretty good understanding of investing. Capital preservation is much more important for me. I find my mentors to be just as valuable and relevant today as when i first read them. Yes, some have faded in importance (Prem) but that is more a function of fit: his stlye is not a fit for my current life situation (not that his stlye will not work). As your life changes what you need from your mentors will also change.