A few weeks ago, a mate of mine — James Woodburn, publisher of the Australian Daily Reckoning — texted me saying he had a spare ticket to Jordan Peterson’s Australian tour. It’s on in Melbourne tonight. I happily accepted the offer.
Like many people, I bought Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life, after hearing him interviewed on a podcast. He sounded like an interesting bloke. I bought the book last year, and have read it on and off. It’s a great book. I highly recommend it.
My favourites are Rules 7 and 8, respectively, ‘Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient’, and ‘Tell the Truth. Or, at least, don’t lie’.
It’s good old-fashioned advice, mixed with deep knowledge and a good dose of wisdom. What I like too is that Peterson uses Biblical references to make or reinforce his points. The Bible, if you can remove the baggage of ‘religion’ and ‘church’ from it, is in many ways simply a collection of stories designed to impart deep and ancient wisdoms.
There is a reason this is a hugely popular book around the world.
But some people clearly have a problem with Peterson. Take this bitter and resentful excerpt from a recent hit piece on Peterson in The Age:
‘His basic, red meat appeal is really about tapping into a profound discomfort with the accelerating pace of feminism over the past five years or so, the #MeToo movement, which has left some heterosexual men anxious in their dealings with women, a deep anger against the ever-tightening knot of political correctness (resentment you can’t say what you think) and feeling unmoored in a Western culture that has shed its old rules. It would be wrong to dismiss Peterson’s supporters as a bunch of angry white young men; look across his audiences and you’ll see men of different age brackets and ethnic backgrounds, their girlfriends, conservative young single women, as well as the odd right-wing columnist.
‘Peterson is now living handsomely off the fat of his growing fan base, raking in untold millions in sold-out public speaking engagements across Britain, Europe and North America.’
What absolute bollocks. Perhaps the author, and those who similarly criticise Peterson’s writings, should take this excerpt from Rule 8 on board:
‘The prideful, rational mind, comfortable with it’s certainty, enamoured of its own brilliance, is easily tempted to ignore error, and to sweep dirt under the rug.’
‘“Did what I want happen? No. Then my aim or my methods were wrong. I still have something to learn.” That is the voice of authenticity.
‘“Did what I want happen? No. Then the world is unfair. People are jealous, and too stupid to understand. It is the fault of something or someone else.” That is the voice of inauthenticity. It is not too far from there to “they should be stopped” or “they must be hurt”, or “they must be hurt” or “they must be destroyed”. Whenever you hear about something incomprehensively brutal, such ideas have manifested themselves.’
How you can apply Peterson’s rules to investing
That’s good advice for investors too. When an investment doesn’t work out, and you lose money, the authentic investor blames himself or herself. They ask: Did I make a decision based on fear or greed? Did I ignore my rules? Did I hope a small loss wouldn’t turn into a big loss?
The inauthentic investor blames everyone else. They blame the government/central bank/brokers for rigging the system/market/share price. They blame the person they got the tip from. They blame anyone but themselves. And they keep making the same mistakes, over and over.
If you want to become a better investor, start by taking absolute responsibility for your gains (and losses). When there is no one to blame but yourself, you’ll be much smarter in your decision making. When you can’t point the finger at someone else for your mistakes, you’ll find you make less of them.
The ego finds this hard to do though. When you commit to taking absolute responsibility, the ego is exposed. It wants to swan about taking credit where it is and isn’t due, but doesn’t want to deal with any of the hard stuff.
That’s why those with the biggest egos eventually blow up. The market cycle takes care of them. Those who succeed through the cycle may have sizable egos, but they have learned how to tame them.
When you’re coasting through life unaware of the damage that your ego can do, this might seem strange. But once you do become aware of it, and its ability to divert attention and stop you from making personal progress, taming your ego can be a very rewarding process.
But it’s not something you can just do and tick off the list. You have to constantly work on it. It’s not easy.
Which is another thing that Peterson likes to point out. That is, that life is not easy. It is a hard grind, and unfair.
So are investment markets. In bull markets, everyone is a winner. Things seem too easy. But in bear markets, its gets more complicated.
Today, it’s more complicated than ever. Is this a bull market, or a bear market rally? It’s the only question worth asking right now. I’ll have more on that tomorrow…
Editor, The Rum Rebellion