Why Keeping A Journal Makes You A Better Investor
I keep a daily log of all my thoughts and decisions on Roam Research, and find it incredibly useful to do so.
This includes my thoughts for stocks, commodities and other financial instruments that I’m analyzing.
Each decision represents a bet about an uncertain future, and this is especially true about investments.
We make our bets based on our beliefs — on what we believe to be true about the world around us.
Given the complex nature of markets, we’re unconsciously using assumptions, shortcuts, guesses all the time to approximate reality. Add on top of this all of the constant stimulus that you get from the news, Twitter, analyst projections, and your own FOMO/greed/[name applicable emotion], and it’s easy to lose perspective.
By journaling, you create the space for yourself to detach, think and reflect.
The Biggest Battle Is With Yourself
Understanding that we do not know the future is such a simple statement, but it’s so important…. Maximizing return is a strategy that makes sense only in very specific circumstances. In general, survival is the only road to riches. —Peter Bernstein
To follow the good [trading] principles and not let fear, greed, and hope interfere with your trading is tough. You are swimming upstream against human nature. —Richard Dennis
The wonderful thing about investing is that it can bring out a lot of dormant stories you may have about money but not even realize it. The market will very often correct your false assumptions, whether you choose to recognize them or not, with regular feedback.
By keeping a log, it helps to bring these stories and assumptions to light instead of just brushing it off as, Oh well the market was wrong again on this one. Perhaps the market was wrong (happens all the time). But maybe… just maybe you were wrong (also happens all the time). It’s worth critically investigating your hypothesis, what went wrong and then learning from that.
Good judgment is usually the result of experience, and experience frequently the result of bad judgment— Robert Lovett
The financial markets is where you get to see a lot of your psychological biases at work. But it also gives you the wonderful opportunity of improving upon them.
One of the tendencies we have is to personalize market positions. That’s why we’ll exit profitable positions (even though the reasons for keeping that investment remains intact) and keep unprofitable positions (even when it no longer makes sense). We’ll sometimes treat profits and losses as a reflection of our intelligence or self-worth. If we take a loss, it can make us feel stupid or wrong, even when it’s the rational thing to do.
Journaling on Roam Research + Investment Checklist
If I type in a symbol on my log like #AAPL or #AMZN on Roam, I can see how my thoughts have evolved over time on those specific companies along with any related materials I find useful like write ups on Substack, Twitter threads, annual reports, YouTube videos/interviews, analyst reports, and so on. The sheer amount of information available these days across different channels makes using a tool like Roam very useful to help synthesize everything in the one place and then to reach some conclusion.
Whenever any major investment decision is made, I’ll note a few details like why I chose to invest in X,Y, Z (which links to the supporting research leading up to the decision).
If I’m deciding to revise my thoughts or positions on a stock, I write it down. If I decide to sell a company, I write why. If I’m thinking about selling but don’t end up doing so, I’ll also write down my thoughts on that.
If I’m feeling a particular emotion like feeling supremely confident or FOMO, I’ll make sure to note that down. By the very simple act of writing it down, I start to detach.
It ends up feeling like having a conversation with myself over time. The great thing with doing this on Roam is that I can see my thoughts evolve on a timeline and I’ll go back and make comments on previous thoughts.
This habit of keeping a regular financial log has helped me be more disciplined and more rational.
In addition to the framework for making investment decisions, I’ll also go over some questions like:
- What would change my investment thesis? I don’t want to be irrationally married to a position once it’s established
- If I profit from this position and look back at it in a few years’ time, will the reason why make sense to me? Investment decisions should always be the result of a well thought out process, not some spur of the moment decision as a result of greed, panic or some other emotion. I also don’t want to reward decisions that were made emotionally since it might unconsciously reinforce a bad decision making process.
- Can I argue the bear case just as well as the bull case? I really want to make sure that I have as much disconfirming evidence as I do supporting. Confirmation bias is what I’m looking out for here.
- What are the downsides?
- What am I missing?
- How does my view compare with the consensus?
This approach is certainly not for everyone. I know lots of very smart individuals that don’t take any notes and still do very well.
For me though, it’s helped in my journey to become more rational, to stress test my beliefs about reality, to temper my emotions and to ultimately grow.
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