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If You're Doing This, You're Fooling Yourself That You're an Independent Thinker

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Erez Elya

New Contributor
Jun 9, 2020
5
2
Israel
I love to define myself as a free thinker. I follow my own path, make my own conclusions and trust myself.

The truth is, I've been fooling myself the entire time.

And if you believe you're not following the herd, chances are you're fooling yourself, too. I'll explain this with a recent example from my life.

Over the past couple of months I've been learning as much as I can about investing. I've been spending several hours a day reading about this stuff from a wide variety of sources to discover all the pros and cons of different investment vehicles.

When I woke up today, it dawned on me that during all this time looking for an investment opportunity for myself, I didn't think for myself. I let the other guy think for me.

Most people who enter the investing world decide to invest in ETFs, bonds, or maybe in a rental property just because these are all common choices. However, behind their decision there's usually a successful investor who they respect and want to imitate. Warren Buffet said invest in ETFs, so they invest in ETFs. They respect Robert Kiyosaki, so they go into real estate. Or MJ shares his money system in Unscripted , and suddenly their investment world constricts to the few choices made by MJ.

It's understandable. You don't know much about something, so you listen to somebody who does. But the truth is, nobody's perfect and your chosen expert's choice might not be a good choice for you. They might be wrong, too.

There are real estate billionaires and there are stock market billionaires. Some people will tell you that the stock market is overvalued, yet there are still guys making a killing there. Some will tell you there's a real estate bubble, yet there's always somebody making money this way. Then there will be people saying that both the stock market and real estate are useless and they invest in something entirely else.

Granted, some investment approaches are indeed dumb and there are certain rules that you need to heed no matter what, but there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Switching One Dogma for Another

Now, back to my story. I didn't think for myself because all I did was switch the mainstream financial dogmas for the dogmas of several investors I respected.

@GlobalWealth said that the stock market is overvalued so I shouldn't invest there. Instead, I should follow his strategy of acquiring apartments for short-term rental apartments all over the world even though I'll probably never travel even half as often as he does (please note that none of these people specifically told me to do so; it's just a figure of speech). @SteveO prefers direct real estate ownership, so REITs are out. @MJ DeMarco says that you should be as liquid as possible, so I should avoid real estate and stick to income-producing vehicles only. Simon Black prefers investing in private companies and agriculture all over the world so I should buy farmland in Chile. Peter Schiff likes Australia, so I should buy Australian stocks and hold the Australian currency.

All of these guys are smart investors and know what they're talking about, but suddenly I'm out of options because all the advice is contradictory. And worse, I stop asking myself what I personally think and instead I seek what another guy thinks about it and do what he says to do. If, say, Peter Schiff recommends investing in CHF, I don't ask myself why - after all, Schiff says so, and he can't be wrong, right?

This way, I don't think for myself. I follow the herd, albeit a different one that the mainstream one.

How I Got Fooled That the World Is About to End

I further discovered that my main filter for the best investment opportunity was motivated by the belief that the world was about to end. I'm optimistic about the future, but somehow this belief still anchored itself in my head. This made me believe that the only worthy investment is real estate because it exists in the physical world. And you know, the world is about to collapse and soon there won't be Internet, electricity, banks, and the stock market. Stock up on real estate before they pull the plug.

The objective truth is that the world today is increasingly more digital, and if it were ever to revert, it would be the contents of your pantry that would be valuable, not the pieces of paper proving you own a certain building (which, by the way, would be as worthless as your stocks or bonds). I should have learned how to invest in canned food, not real estate.

And brainwashed by all this, I not only stressed myself out preparing for the incoming collapse, but I also forgot one important rule: you should make investments that are compatible with you, not with the other guy. Upon this realization, I understood that my thinking process wasn't my own. I would invest in the real estate industry because some guys like it and believe the world is about to end, and not because it would be the most productive investment for me.

I'm still not sure which investment vehicle to choose, but I know one thing: I'm going to think for myself and invest my resources in what I personally believe in, not what other investors believe to be the right choice.

Don't Outsource Your Thinking

If you often find yourself looking for specific advice on what to do, chances are you aren't a true free thinker, either. There's a difference between looking for information to educate yourself about something (like, say, how to prepare a proper lease contract) and outsourcing your thinking process by seeking what an expert has said and blindly following his or her advice without running it through your own filters.

It isn't limited to investing only.

You might follow a specific diet just because a blogger you respect writes about it - even if you don't really like certain aspects of the diet (and I mean the subjective aspects, not the objective science-based nutrition principles).

You might follow a specific workout because of some fitness guys proclaiming it the only effective approach - even if you hate it (I did it for a long time and refused the thought that an entirely different approach could be as effective, if not more, than the one I was following).

Or you might ask here on the forum if your business idea is viable and stop working on it simply because one or two random guys said they don't like it.

Or pursue e-commerce just because @biophase is doing well with it.

Or get into self-publishing because @ChickenHawk quit her job thanks to it.

Or avoid a B&M business because @Vigilante doesn't enjoy managing employees.

They are all smart guys, but their preferences, strengths, and backgrounds are completely different than yours. I'm not saying don't listen to them - learning from them as much as you can is obviously a pretty smart move. I just want you to be aware that blindly following their advice might not always work for you, particularly if you never ask yourself what you personally think about it. This can lead to dangerous lazy thinking habits like "if X said so, then it must be true."

If you want to be a free thinker, accept that freedom comes with risk. Not all your decisions will be right, but so won't be the decisions made by the people you follow. Beware the dangers of dogmatic thinking, regardless of whether you blindly trust the mainstream experts or those who swim against the current.
Thanks for the insight
 
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mguerra

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Mar 23, 2015
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Great thread. Thanks @MTF to bring this topic into our awareness.

I think this problem is getting worse and worse as we enter deeper in the information age, so we better arm ourselves with a cure to this.

I've being suffering with this issue for some months and came to a conclusion/framework that may be useful to everyone here:

Here it goes...

1. Model the 1-3 most successful people in this industry. Deeply study them and their teachings for a month or so (This will serve as a solid "base" of knowledge and will save you some good months/years of research)

2. Ask yourself: What they have/say in common? What they differ in their thinking/modus operandi? (This will make you think more by yourself and not by them)

3. Try to understand their background and motives. Question how it relates to yours (To prevent yourself to being blindely influenced by someone else's agenda)

4. Apply first principles thinking to all you've learned. (So you can really know what you think you know it's true or not)

5. Now filter all this knowledge through your own lenses, preferences and circles of competence. (already greatly discussed here)

6. Put the new knowledge, now filtered and processed by your own brain, into action. (After all, that's whats information is supposed to be used to.)

I'm writing this relatively fast because I'm out of time now. If there's something unclear I'll edit and add more info/resources later when I have more time.

Hope that helps.
 
Last edited:

claudek

Bronze Contributor
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Jun 5, 2019
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Hi @MTF ,

this post is amazing.

Actually reading your other threads is clear: you question things that you don't like.

Other people recommend you a book or an article, and you know and state, clearly, when there is something you don't like about it.

I think this post of yours is not as critical for everyone.

For me, though, it is.

I have always been like a flag moved by the wind. Going from guru to guru.

And of course, keep changing my mind. Actually, getting crazy.

All because I was looking for a truth.

Honestly, I believe that this way of thinking, together with comparison in social media, is one of the worst problems in our society.

Of course, there is much worse. But at an individual level, this is corrosive.

Thank you for sharing this piece.
 

MTF

Never give up
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May 1, 2011
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Hi @MTF ,

this post is amazing.

Actually reading your other threads is clear: you question things that you don't like.

Other people recommend you a book or an article, and you know and state, clearly, when there is something you don't like about it.

I think this post of yours is not as critical for everyone.

For me, though, it is.

I have always been like a flag moved by the wind. Going from guru to guru.

And of course, keep changing my mind. Actually, getting crazy.

All because I was looking for a truth.

Honestly, I believe that this way of thinking, together with comparison in social media, is one of the worst problems in our society.

Of course, there is much worse. But at an individual level, this is corrosive.

Thank you for sharing this piece.

Way too little is being said about trusting your gut vs trusting others. With such a wealth of information online, it's very easy to develop a false belief that others know better than you. This is when you lose yourself and delegate your thinking to others.

I'm still struggling with it, too. But I've found that merely asking yourself a simple question: "Does it really make sense for me, in my unique situation and for my unique personality?" may help you protect yourself from at least some forms of cookie-cutter, useless advice.
 
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Ernman

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Feb 8, 2019
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Way too little is being said about trusting your gut vs trusting others. With such a wealth of information online, it's very easy to develop a false belief that others know better than you. This is when you lose yourself and delegate your thinking to others.

I'm still struggling with it, too. But I've found that merely asking yourself a simple question: "Does it really make sense for me, in my unique situation and for my unique personality?" may help you protect yourself from at least some forms of cookie-cutter, useless advice.
I'm a big fan of your threads and the importance of independent thought. BUT - trusting your gut can be dangerous if you haven't also done some research and spent time thinking. Our world is full of people who trusted their gut with divergent ends. We frequently learn of those who met with success, sometimes we even learn of those who failed. There's also the balance of harm when trusting your gut. If I trust my gut and fail the impact is limited to a very small circle of people. Frequently just me and my wife. If the leader of a Fortune 500 company, city, state or federal government, "trusts their gut" and fails...the results can be disastrous for hundreds, thousands, millions?

Often times what we attribute to a good "gut" call is the result of many years of experience or a lot of accumulated knowledge. We likely consider it a gut call because the thought finally came clear during a quiet moment and didn't involve a team/board meeting, conference call, or directly relatable process - although there may have been many leading up to the moment of clarity...the gut decision.
 

MTF

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I'm a big fan of your threads and the importance of independent thought. BUT - trusting your gut can be dangerous if you haven't also done some research and spent time thinking. Our world is full of people who trusted their gut with divergent ends. We frequently learn of those who met with success, sometimes we even learn of those who failed. There's also the balance of harm when trusting your gut. If I trust my gut and fail the impact is limited to a very small circle of people. Frequently just me and my wife. If the leader of a Fortune 500 company, city, state or federal government, "trusts their gut" and fails...the results can be disastrous for hundreds, thousands, millions?

Often times what we attribute to a good "gut" call is the result of many years of experience or a lot of accumulated knowledge. We likely consider it a gut call because the thought finally came clear during a quiet moment and didn't involve a team/board meeting, conference call, or directly relatable process - although there may have been many leading up to the moment of clarity...the gut decision.

100%. Irresponsibility isn't what I suggest, just properly balancing between what others think and what you think. Many info junkies like me forget the latter.
 

SteveO

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I'm a big fan of your threads and the importance of independent thought. BUT - trusting your gut can be dangerous if you haven't also done some research and spent time thinking. Our world is full of people who trusted their gut with divergent ends. We frequently learn of those who met with success, sometimes we even learn of those who failed. There's also the balance of harm when trusting your gut. If I trust my gut and fail the impact is limited to a very small circle of people. Frequently just me and my wife. If the leader of a Fortune 500 company, city, state or federal government, "trusts their gut" and fails...the results can be disastrous for hundreds, thousands, millions?

Often times what we attribute to a good "gut" call is the result of many years of experience or a lot of accumulated knowledge. We likely consider it a gut call because the thought finally came clear during a quiet moment and didn't involve a team/board meeting, conference call, or directly relatable process - although there may have been many leading up to the moment of clarity...the gut decision.
I trust my instincts and "gut" to extremes. My inner self knows much more than my brain can power through.
 
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claudek

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Jun 5, 2019
164
186
Way too little is being said about trusting your gut vs trusting others. With such a wealth of information online, it's very easy to develop a false belief that others know better than you. This is when you lose yourself and delegate your thinking to others.

I'm still struggling with it, too. But I've found that merely asking yourself a simple question: "Does it really make sense for me, in my unique situation and for my unique personality?" may help you protect yourself from at least some forms of cookie-cutter, useless advice.
Wrote the question in my morning affirmations in order to remember it.
 

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