D. Murali

In investing, as in life, the small details often spell the difference between success and failure, counsels Jim Rogers in A Gift to my Children: A Father’s Lessons for Life and Investing ( www.wiley.com).

Look through all financial statements you can get your hands on, including the detailed notes, he instructs. “If you just read the annual reports of companies, you will have done more than 98 per cent of investors. If you read the notes of the financial statements, you will be ahead of 99.5 per cent.”

Do not invest unless you can say with absolute certainty that you are more knowledgeable about the company than 98 per cent of the analysts, says Rogers. “Talk to customers, suppliers, competitors, and anyone else who might affect the company.”

His advice about media is that you need to approach it with a healthy sense of scepticism. Like all purveyors of conventional wisdom, newspapers sometimes fall into the trap of reporting information peddled by self-interested people or failing to dig deep enough for the facts, Rogers rues.

Emotions drive the market, so read up psychology, history and philosophy, the author recommends. “Losing your perspective in the midst of market panic is equivalent to losing your money in that market.”

Ignorance, he explains, is born of an outsized sense of self-importance, and the antidote lies in studying hard and not being arrogant. “The more you learn, the more you will realise how little you know – and armed with this humility, you will never lose sight of the distance that separates self-confidence and self-importance.”

Lessons of great value.

Thinking differently

Why do people postpone exercising? Because it takes work and commitment to start, and the ‘cost’ in the short-term of not undertaking some sort of exercise and health programme is not significant, says Geoff Herridge in Changing the Rules ( www.macmillanpublishersindia.com).

This attitude may be okay for one day, however when this one day becomes many, the cost eventually can be enormous in terms of our physical well-being, he cautions.

“People procrastinate because the initial effort is the hardest, with each attempt to commence a programme becoming more difficult… Unlike, say, saving for your retirement, there is no compulsion for people to exercise.”

You can break the vicious cycle by thinking differently, the author suggests. “If we are innovative, we will always be on the lookout for multiple ways of approaching a problem, which helps to broaden our thinking and offer opportunities not thought possible previously.”

In this context, Herridge narrates an anecdote about how Albert Einstein explained the difference between an average person and a genius, through the example of finding a needle in the haystack. “Whereas most of us would stop looking once we found the needle, he would keep looking for any more needles – ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’”

Worth a study.

Break free

Respond to life with action, exhorts Robert Anthony in The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence ( www.harpercollins.co.in). A weak, timid, indecisive approach to life breeds inertia, failure, and disappointment, he adds. “Many people fail to act because they are afraid to make a mistake or think that what they conceive can never become reality.”

The ideas and concepts of releasing your unlimited potential can only be turned into reality if you take bold action now, the author goads. “Wishful thinking will not make your dreams come true.” His tip, therefore, to achieve total self-confidence is to let your thinking control your limitations, instead of the converse. Make friends with failure, Anthony cheers.

“You may have decided that the best way to avoid failure was to tackle only those things for which success was assured in advance. Since there is very little in life that we can be 100 per cent sure of, your activities would necessarily be limited.”

Unfortunately, our comfort zone shuts off all the unlimited possibilities that exist outside it, bemoans Anthony.

Break free with persistence, he invites. “This is the dynamic quality that separates the achievers from the non-achievers and often, surprisingly, takes the place of intelligence, knowledge, education, and even experience.”

Encouraging takeaways.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 28, 2009)
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