A Dozen Things I’ve Learned From Tren Griffin

Tren Griffin writes one of my favorite blogs at 25iq.com. His ongoing series of a dozen things he’s learned from various investors, business leaders, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs and is an amazing collection of quotes and insights. I always look forward to these posts because I every time I learn something new.

In keeping with this theme, here are a dozen things I’ve learned from Tren Griffin:

1. Stand on the shoulders of giants. Griffin has profiled all of the of heavy hitters for this series: Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Ray Dalio, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Bill Gross, Howard Marks and many more. There is so much wisdom in this group that it would be silly to ignore the lessons learned from some of the smartest people on the planet.

2. Study a wide variety of disciplines to become a well-rounded individual. Most people won’t run a Fortune 500 company, invest in venture capital or run their own fund, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from the best and brightest in many different fields. Developing a toolkit from a wide range of subjects is one of the best ways to make more informed decisions. From the Mark Andreessen post: “You want to have as much ‘prepared mind’ as you possibly can. And learn as much as you can about as many things, as much as you can.”

3. Have a sense of humor. Two of my favorite posts from Griffin were lessons learned not from investors or business leaders, but from comedians: A Dozen Things I’ve Learned From Comedians About the Business of Life and A Dozen Things I’ve Learned From Bill Murray About Business, Money, Start-Ups, Investing and Life in General. This stuff doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. Getting your point across by making people laugh is a good way to get your message to stick.

4. Don’t limit your sources of learning. As someone who writes regular blog posts, I can attest to the fact that Griffin must put a lot of time and effort into his posts. To get the quotes and passages for each of the dozen lessons he uses a wide variety of source material including books, speeches, blog posts, web articles, TV interviews and magazine profiles. The lesson here is that there are many different avenues to find good sources of information (but it always helps when someone is willing to do the heavy lifting for you).

5. There’s not one “best” way of finding success. Griffin has profiled value investors, growth investors, venture capitalists, activist investors, authors, professors, psychologists and CEOs from a wide variety of companies and business lines. There’s not one right answer for any of these fields. Each person had their own unique experiences and skills. You have to find what works for you.

6. But many successful people share similar traits. The very best investors all talk about process, patience, risk management and the importance of emotional intelligence. While each process is different, these people all understand the importance of understanding human nature and incentives.

7. Understand the power of negative knowledge. Steve Jobs understood this: “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” As does Charlie Munger: “A lot of success in life and business comes from knowing what you want to avoid: early death, a bad marriage, etc.”

8. Perspective will get you further than tactics. None of Griffin’s quotes or lessons offer specific tactics to employ. They’re not how-to posts on which specific stocks to buy. You’re not going to learn about how to start a business with a ten step process. Everyone wants tactics these days because it gives them something to do to stay busy. But tactics, without context or perspective, are worthless and have a very short shelf life. A deeper understanding can be far more lucrative because you can use it over and over again.

9. Good advice rarely changes. Griffin has shared lessons from Jesse Livermore, Philip Fisher and Walter Schloss, Benjamin Graham and John Maynard Keynes. All of these gentlemen have passed away. Most of their quotes come from books or interviews that are decades old. Yet the wisdom from each is timeless as good investment advice withstands the test of time.

10. Thinking like Charlie Munger could actually save your life. Here’s how.

11. Change your focus. Single data points and the daily news flow matters very little to the group of successful people Griffin has profiled. Most of the stuff people read and follow these days is neither good nor bad, but simply interesting. And there’s nothing wrong with finding interesting information, but you have to be able know the difference between actionable and interesting. Intelligent investors and business leaders focus on what they can control and keep the noise to a minimum.

12. There’s a edge to be gained from long-term thinking. Jeff Bezos know this: “If everything you do needs to work on a three-year time horizon, then you’re competing against a lot of people. But if you’re willing to invest on a seven-year time horizon, you’re now competing against a fraction of those people, because very few companies are willing to do that. Just by lengthening the time horizon, you can engage in endeavors that you could never otherwise pursue. At Amazon we like things to work in five to seven years. We’re willing to plant seeds, let them grow—and we’re very stubborn.”

So does Bill Ackman: “Short-term market and economic prognostication is largely a fool’s errand, we invest according to a strategy that makes the need to rely on short-term market or economic assessments largely irrelevant.”

See the full line-up for the Dozen Things I’ve Learned series here:
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