Dare to be Great – Howard Marks

Howard Marks latest piece made a commonsensical though forgotten in our day-to-day: overperformance requires differentiation. He breaks down this tenet in 3 more basic principles:

  1. Define an explicit investment creed with sound principles;
  2. Define what success is for you;
  3. Are you willing to be different? And wrong?
As a Brazilian investor, I`m used to hear from potential investors that portfolios of local funds look too similar despite somewhat different investment thesis on the same company. At the end of the day, skill defined as intellectual capability is on average very similar across different investment firms. 
Although, as Marks cleverly puts it, “there’s only one thing in the investment world that isn’t two-edged, and that’s alpha: superior insight or skill.” Even not being a big fan of what the term ‘alpha’ coins as my principle guides me towards great absolute long term performance, i.e., mid-teens, insight or skill as he frames it is perspective for me, not higher IQ (or EQ). This “eternal preparation” B.S. definitely works, though in the longer term. Our minds are biased towards shorter timeframes, so it’s nearly impossible for human beings speak out they are long term investors and indeed become one. As the old proverb says, “easier said than done”. 

Another way to be different is through concentration. Without preparation though it is nearly impossible (imprudent would be the best fit here) to have a concentrated portfolio. With experience and mental models lacking, one can’t overperform in the long run. So if you want to dare to LOOK wrong, better be prepared.

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