What I learned in my long career analyzing and investing in global markets

After a few decades investing in the markets I am coming to realize that to make money in such markets you have to first and foremost think independently and be humble. You have to be an independent thinker because you can’t make money agreeing with the consensus view, which is already embedded in the price. Yet whenever you’re betting against the consensus, there’s a significant probability you’re going to be wrong, so you have to be humble.

Early in my career I learned this lesson the hard way — through some very painful bad bets. The biggest of these mistakes occurred in the early 80s, when I became convinced that the US economy was about to fall into a depression. My research had led me to believe that, with the Fed’s tight money policy and lots of debt outstanding, there would be a global wave of debt defaults, and if the Fed tried to handle it by printing money, inflation would accelerate. I was so certain that a depression was coming that I proclaimed it everywhere. Boy, was I wrong. What I’d considered improbable was exactly what happened: Fed chairman Paul Volcker’s move to lower interest rates and make money and credit available helped jump-start a bull market in stocks and the U.S. economy’s greatest ever noninflationary growth period.

This episode taught me the importance of always fearing being wrong, no matter how confident I am that I’m right. As a result, I began seeking out the smartest people I could find who disagreed with me so that I could understand their reasoning. Only after I fully grasped their points of view could I decide to reject or accept them. By doing this again and again over the years, not only have I increased my chances of being right, but I have also learned a huge amount.

There’s an art to this process of seeking out thoughtful disagreement. People who are successful at it realize that there is always some probability they might be wrong and that it’s worth the effort to consider what others are saying — not simply the others’ conclusions, but the reasoning behind them — to be assured that they aren’t making a mistake themselves.

This approach comes to life at Blackhawk Partners in our weekly meetings, in which my partners and I openly disagree with one another and explore the pros and cons of alternative views.

Operating this way just seems like common sense to me. After all, when two people disagree, logic demands that one of them must be wrong. Why wouldn’t you want to make sure that that person isn’t you?

Watch out for hubris though – especially when you make the big bucks – it could literally destroy you if not contained.

Now go and make a killing….. Always though remember: The primary difference between rich people and poor people is how they handle fear.


Written by

Ziad K. Abdelnour, Wall Street financier, trader and author is President & CEO of Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a private family office that backs accomplished operating executives in growing their businesses both organically and through acquisitions and trades physical commodities – mostly oil derivatives – throughout the world.