Bill Gates wrote a very touching note on the 25th anniversary of his friendship with Warren Buffett. As he points out, he had no idea they would become such friends given their different backgrounds. The lesson here, if there is any, is to be truly humble – intellectually and personally.
As long-term investors, we are always trying to understand where the companies we cover are competition-wise. We have to try to understand for years, sometimes decades into the future, something that very well-educated, intelligent and experienced company executives, industry consultants, academics (and so on) can get oh-so-wrong, so often. All this from reading a NY Times’ article about the semi-conductor industry, whose products power so many of our beloved consumer gadgets that make the likes of Apple so rich, and what they could do to change the game – if anything. Very interesting read, especially when you consider the technology-induced pickle in which the New York Times itself is in!
The Farnam Street blog has a great post today on “great books” – what this used to mean to the author, what it does now, and how to deal with the unread – the things you realize you don’t know yet and probably should. We were immediately reminded of Umberto Eco’s Anti-Library, as described by Nassim Taleb in his book The Black Swan. Finally and while very different from the anti-library concept, we were also reminded of a post we wrote about anti-portfolios a while ago.
In the 1st Buysiders article inspired by a reader’s suggestion, we’d like to propose “anti-portfolios”. It’s a vital lesson in humility: our activity involves a certain degree of failure, of missed or simply wrong ideas. Recognizing that we are going to make mistakes over time is extremely important in order to mitigate risk as we define it (the permanent loss of capital). The objective here is to insist, once again, that price is the ultimate measure. (…) After you’ve done all the homework, you still have to demand a price that implies a large margin of safety – and keep analyzing the position everyday with the same skepticism you had before you bought it.