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Latticework Of Mental Models: Planning Fallacy

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When I planned my first road trip from Bangalore to Goa, I calculated that the distance (about 560 km) should take little more than 9 hours. Factoring in stopovers and few unexpected events like a flat tyre or traffic, I assumed that 12-15 hours should be sufficient for the road trip. It took 15 hours.

“Good job, Anshul!” I patted myself on the back. Not a bad estimate.

Now based on this, if I had to forecast the time it would take to cover a distance of say 5,000 km, a road trip to cover major cities in India, I might be tempted to extrapolate the Bangalore-Goa trip time. I’ll probably calculate that 560 km took one day so 5,000 km should take 10 days plus 2-3 more days.

Am I being reasonable in my estimation?

What I am forgetting here is that the second road trip is not only longer but more complex and subject to many more unforeseen and unexpected events. My estimation is fraught with over-optimism bias. And I am not alone in making this kind of mistake.

There are many ways a plan can fail and most of those things are too improbable to be anticipated. The likelihood that something will go wrong especially in a big project is high. Overly optimistic forecasts of the outcome of projects are found everywhere.

In fact, how often are you able to complete everything on your to-do list at the end of the day? This shows how absurdly ambitious we’re in planning.

This bias, a phenomenon in which predictions about how much time will be needed to complete a future task display an optimism bias (underestimate the time needed), is called Planning Fallacy. The term was coined by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky.

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Safal Niveshak Stream – January 7, 2017

Note to Readers: In Stream, we suggest worthwhile reading material on a variety of topics, not all of which are directly related to investing. Some of the articles require you to be paid subscriber of those sites. However, it is often possible to read such articles by going to Google News and searching for the article’s title.

Some nice stuff we are reading, watching, and observing at the start of this weekend…


  • (930 words / 4 minutes read) Meet the ‘James Bond of Philanthropy’ who has given away the last of his fortune…

    Nearly five years ago, Charles F. Feeney sat in a cushy armchair in an apartment on the east side of Manhattan, grandchildren’s artwork taped to the walls, and said that by the end of 2016, he was going to hand out the last of a great fortune that he had made.

    Altogether, he had contributed $8 billion to his philanthropies, which have supported higher education, public health, human rights and scientific research … His remaining personal net worth is slightly more than $2 million. That’s not quite broke, by any standard, but it is a modest amount for a man who controlled thousands of times as much wealth. He and his wife, Helga, now live in a rented apartment in San Francisco. “You can only wear one pair of pants at a time,” Mr. Feeney has said.

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10 Qualities of Great Investors

Value Investing Workshops in Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai – Registrations are now open for our upcoming workshops in Mumbai (22nd Jan), Bangalore (5th Feb), and Chennai (12th Feb). If you wish to attend, please click here to register.

One of the first lessons I learned from my Yoga teacher was what she told me during my first class – “Yoga isn’t about rapid movements but long pauses. Slow down, calm down, don’t hurry, and trust the process.”

The thing about yoga — or any exercise — is that there isn’t a comfort zone. But if you have a sound process, and practice it diligently, over time it starts to work for you.

The act of investing your money, as I realize, isn’t much different from practicing Yoga. A superior process and greatness often go hand in hand in yoga, and also in investing. For serious investors, thus, it’s wise to learn to trust the process that generates winning investment results.

I came across one such time-tested process framework recently while reading Michael Mauboussin’s “Reflections on the Ten Attributes of Great Investors.” Mauboussin is a Managing Director and Head of Global Financial Strategies at Credit Suisse, and author of some amazing books like The Success Equation and More Than You Know. He is one successful value investor, and thus the process he has laid out in his note is a great help for any serious investor seeking a winning investment process.

Here are my reviews of the ten attributes Mauboussin has laid out in his note.

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7 Acceptances (Not Resolutions) to Live By in 2017

I wish you a very happy, healthy, peaceful, and fulfilling 2017.

Life is short (it’s already almost six years since I started Safal Niveshak), so let me not waste another moment and thank you for being here for me.

As we begin 2017, let’s not start with New Year resolutions that anyways don’t last till 5th of January. Let’s start with some acceptances that you should come to terms with in 2017 and beyond.

Print what follows below – Your Note of Acceptance as an Investor – and look at it every day. It might help you deal better with the reality of the investing world.

Here it goes…

[My Note of Acceptance as an Investor]

  1. I will act stupid and envious at times and make mistakes, how much ever intelligent I am, and whatever resolution I make to avoid all mistakes this year.
  2. I, or anyone else, have no clue about the impact of macroeconomic or socio-political events on my investments.
  3. I, or anyone else, cannot predict the future of markets with any degree of accuracy, however certain things look like.
  4. I will lose a lot of money over time if I invest on tips, in bad businesses, with bad managements, and in expensive stocks.
  5. I may create wealth from stock market in the long run only if I practice patience in owning good businesses, not when I chase multibagger returns.
  6. Luck will play an important role in my investing, and especially when I make high returns in quick time.
  7. However good my investment process is, the outcome at times may not be to my liking.

Finally, it’s good to admit and accept that the future is inherently unknown and unknowable, and that there is no point blaming “uncertainty” for your investment mistakes and losses. Relax, and learn to appreciate the thrill of finding out what happens next. That’s the best part of being a stock market investor.

What you can control is your own behavior – and only to a certain extent – and how you respond to whatever happens around you. For all things outside your control – including return on your investment – there is no point fearing the future.

Stay happy, healthy, and peaceful.

Happy New Year!

P.S. The idea of this post comes from here.

Safal Niveshak’s 2016 Annual Letter to Tribe Members

Dear Tribe Member,

Trust you are doing great.

Here is a brief update on what transpired during 2016. It was another tremendous year for Safal Niveshak. The tribe has crossed 26,000 members. Our Twitter count has crossed 17,500 followers. We conducted five workshops during the year, meeting 120+ tribe members in the process.

The Mastermind Value Investing Course student count increased by 30%, while our premium newsletter – Value Investing Almanack (VIA) – which is about to complete two years, gained 25% new members, and has continued to receive some inspiring reviews from its subscribers. During the year, as part of the VIA, we interviewed a few wonderful value investors including Rajeev Thakkar, Jason Zweig, Samit Vartak, Kuntal Shah, and John Huber.

The idea to launch VIA in 2015 came from the need we felt of a detailed value investing newsletter in the Indian context, which had deep insights on the subject, business analysis, and interviews with practitioners of the art. We had always missed such a product in India, and could not find a better way to get it than to create it ourselves. The journey over the past two years of launching VIA has been inspiring for the breadth and depth of reading and learning we ourselves have done to bring our subscribers high quality content.

Anyways, in 2016, we also launched our first comprehensive e-book titled Mental Models, Investing, and You. This was just the first part of our collection of mental models notes we have written on Safal Niveshak so far (the second part releases in 2017), and received great reviews from readers. Despite our offer to people to get the e-book for free or pay as much as they wished, more than 850 people paid up, which was a much higher count than what we had expected.

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