Saturday, November 19, 2022

Thoughts #29: Little Men Doing Big Things

Warning: this post contains spoilers for "The Crown", please do not read on if you are keen to watch without knowing story plots.

In Season Three of "The Crown", one of the episodes featured one of humankind's greatest achievement - the moon landing and how Prince Philip asked for a session with the astronauts. He wanted to know how they felt achieving what they had achieved only to find out that the astronauts just did what they were told, ticking off checklists, following procedures and just mundanely went and came back. He was very disappointed and then decided to renew his faith in religion.

But I think this episode taught us more about life than Prince Philip's read. The great achievements are sometimes, simply doing mundane things. The success of the moon landing mission was about:

1. Following procedures and checklists

2. Teamwork

3. Safety and contingencies on top of contingencies

4. Keep practicing until everything is prefect and there is no room for mistakes

In many ways, it is very similar to investing. Warren Buffett did all the mundane things for 30 years until people found out how tough it actually was. Then lo-and-behold, he achieved 20% return over that time frame and he just kept going and is still doing it today. That's the path to greatness.

"One small step for a man, but giant leap for mankind."

To me, greatness is about taking the small step every day, being disciplined, being consistent and being kind. In investing, it is about:

1. Reading

2. Debating with friends

3. Being patient and demanding the all-important margin of safety

4. Repeat the steps above

Once in a while, you will get the homerun stock and that's the alpha. Of course, sometimes, we can innovate our way to greatness (like Renaissance Technologies) and then we have to incorporate ways to put innovation into our processes.

Keep walking!

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