One of the biggest hazards of being a professional money
manager is that you are expected to behave in a certain way:
You have to come to the office every day, work long hours, slog
through countless e-mails, be on top of your portfolio (that
is, check performance of your securities minute by minute),
watch business TV and consume news continuously, and dress well
and conservatively, wearing a rope around the only part of your
body that lets air get to your brain. Our colleagues judge us
on how early we arrive at work and how late we stay. We do
these things because society expects us to, not because they
make us better investors or do any good for our clients.
Somehow we let the mindless, Henry Fordassembly-line,
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., widgets-per-hour mentality dictate how
we conduct our business thinking. Though car production
benefits from rigid rules, uniforms, automation and strict
working hours, in investing the business of thinking
the assembly-line culture is counterproductive. Our
clients and employers would be better off if we designed our
workdays to let us perform our best.
Investing is not an idea-per-hour profession; it more
likely results in a few ideas per year. A traditional,
structured working environment creates pressure to produce an
output an idea, even a forced idea. Warren Buffett once
said at a Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting: We
dont get paid for activity; we get paid for being right.
As to how long well wait, well wait
How you get ideas is up to you. I am not a professional
writer, but as a professional money manager, I learn and think
best through writing. I put on my headphones, turn on opera and
stare at my computer screen for hours, pecking away at the
keyboard that is how I think. You may do better by
walking in the park or sitting with your legs up on the desk,
staring at the ceiling.
I do my best thinking in the morning. At 3:00 in the
afternoon, my brain shuts off; that is when I read my e-mails.
We are all different. My best friend is a brunch person; he
needs to consume six cups of coffee in the morning just to get
his brain going. To be most productive, he shouldnt go to
work before 11:00 a.m.