Stoicism, as an investment philosophy, is all about control.
I had to laugh at myself the other day.
I’ve got a subscription to the Australian Financial Review. Part of the deal is you get access to an app.
The app gives you notifications if the AFR thinks there’s something particularly newsworthy. Not every day, thankfully. Just when there’s something they think is important.
Anyway, over the past couple of weeks they’ve been sending out notifications with Victoria’s new case numbers and deaths.
And I found myself hanging on these numbers.
If the new cases were going up, I felt bad. Oh now. More lockdowns.
And if the case numbers were going down, that made me happy. Great. Maybe we’ll bust out of this rat-hole reality sooner rather than later.
And since these notifications would light up on my phone in the early part of the day, I found that whatever mood they induced became a flavour of my day.
The mood would linger, with a half-life somewhere around dinner time.
And then I caught myself.
What on earth am I doing?
There was absolutely no actionable information in these notifications. Whether the case load was going up or going down, it made absolutely no difference to what I did with my day.
(In fact, now that lockdown has given us perpetual ground-hog day, there is very little that anything can do to influence the direction of my day.)
But there I was. Even though this information was practically of zero use to me, I was taking it on. I was waiting for it to come in. And then I hung the mood of my day on the outcome.
Totally flipping ridiculous.
I’ve been writing about Stoicism over recent weeks, and I am pretty sure that this is exactly what a Stoic WOULDN’T do.
Stoicism is all about focusing on what you can control – what lies within your sphere of influence. And it’s about disengaging yourself and your experience from everything that is outside of you control.
In fact, it goes deeper than that. While you shouldn’t be stressing about the things you can’t control, you should also be training yourself to love what fate offers up, since everything is an opportunity to grow and to fortify your virtues.
But yeah, stressing about some numbers over which you have no influence and which give you no useful information, is totally un-Stoic.
And so this gives us a Stoic investment philosophy.
In my investing career, I’ve always tried to focus on opportunities where I have influence. That’s why I love property. There’s always something you can do to improve the value or improve the return.
Share-markets on the other hand – well, there’s very little you can do.
And yet many people spend hours on their investing apps, watching the market see-saw about the place – even though there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.
This is nothing but a recipe for stress and unhappiness.
So I’ll leave you with that thought.
Stoic investors are focused on what they can control, and don’t stress about what they can’t. This is where they direct their money and their energy.
… despite what their apps are telling them.