The importance of our own thoughts

In a poll conducted by the Institute of Race Relations in South Africa it was found that unemployment is a much bigger worry than racism or discrimination (see results below).  We all live in our own worlds and extrapolate what concerns us most to the rest of humanity. We believe that the things that we consider to be important are important to the majority of people and then stand amazed when it turns out not to be so. Even if this poll is not 100% accurate, it makes sense that if you have to choose between having a job and living in a safe environment on the one hand; and having crooked politicians jailed and not being called derogatory names on the other hand; you would choose the job and safety.

This perceived universal importance of your own opinion is, off course, enhanced by social media and the way their algorithms work. The Artificial Intelligence behind Twitter, Facebook, Google and all the rest, will find out what your interests are and feed you more and more of the same kinds of stories, making you believe that everybody is talking about the same things. If you want to change this vicious circle, all you have to do is click on something different, say, how cute golden retrievers are and suddenly everybody in your feed will be talking about and showing video clips of golden retrievers.

This belief in the importance of your own preferences is dangerous when it comes to investment because it triggers emotions and shorter-term fixations. Just because you had to sit in the dark again last week, no thanks to an unreliable Eskom, does not mean that you should sell your MTN shares, or buy US bonds. The only way for us to make sound investment decisions is to understand our own unique set of circumstances and to then listen to a very broad range of opinions, before distilling the information into an investment plan that will underscore where we are and what we want to achieve.



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