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Of Free Brains and Effortless Money

In the hospital, the relatives gathered in the waiting room, where a family member lay gravely ill. The doctor came in looking tired and dull.

“I’m afraid I’m the bearer of bad news,” he said as he surveyed the worried faces. “The only hope left for your loved one at this time is a brain transplant.”

“Oh, how risky is the procedure?” a relative asked.

“It’s an experimental procedure, very risky,” the doctor replied, “but it is the only hope for your loved one. Insurance will cover the procedure, but you will have to pay for the BRAIN.”

The family members sat silently as they absorbed the news. After a time, someone asked, “How much will a brain cost?”

The doctor quickly responded, “Rs 20 lac for a male brain, Rs 5 lac for a female brain.”

The moment turned awkward. Some of the men had to ‘try’ to not smile, avoiding eye contact with the women.

A man unable to control his curiosity, finally blurted out the question everyone wanted to ask, “Why is the male brain so much more than a female brain?”

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My Interview with Morgan Housel

Note: This interview was originally published in the April 2017 issue of our premium newsletter – Value Investing Almanack (VIA). To read more such interviews and other deep thoughts on value investing, business analysis and behavioral finance, click here to subscribe to VIA.

Morgan Housel - Value Investing AlmanackI sincerely believe in what Charlie Munger often says about envy, that it is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. I am lucky to have stayed away from this sin as far as investing and other aspects of life are concerned.

But if there is one, and just one, person who arouses this sin in me every time I read him is…Morgan Housel. And it’s for the simplicity of his thoughts that he puts across through his powerful writings. I have tried to emulate Morgan several times in my writing endeavor, but he raises the bar each time he publishes something new, more simple yet more powerful.

Morgan’s posts at The Collaborative Fund, where he is currently a partner, have been a great source of learning for me. I have also read him for years at his earlier stints at The Motley Fool and The Wall Street Journal.

Morgan is a two-time winner of the Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and a two-time finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. He was selected by the Columbia Journalism Review for the Best Business Writing 2012 anthology. In 2013, he was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Award.

In this interview, Morgan shared with me his simple investing thought process, what gets most people into trouble in investing, and the people who have inspired him the most in his journey.

Let’s get started right here.

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I Disclose

We are in a bull market, without doubt.

The index made up of subscribers to my investment newsletter The Safal Niveshak Post (let’s call it ‘SN Index’) has outperformed the BSE-Sensex and has crossed the critical resistance level of 36,000. The CAGR of this index over the past six years since it was launched has been 475%! This is given that it started with a base value of 1 (one) subscriber, which was me (see how good looking CAGRs are created!).

Anyways, given the buoyancy in the broader markets over the past few months, handsome gains have also been seen in the SN Index in recent times. Just over the past twelve months, the index has moved from 25,000 to 36,000 compared to the BSE-Sensex that has managed a rise from 28,000 to 32,000.

SN Index Vs BSE-Sensex

Given these stupendous, outperforming gains in the SN Index, it has also attracted a lot of new subscribers, many of whom may have come with a lot of expectations (not their mistake, but bull market’s). A lot of them have emailed me asking for my stock recommendation and money management services, while some have questioned my intention of teaching value investing instead of simply providing stock tips.

Anyways, some old timers tell me that the SN Index is heading rapidly towards the 50,000 mark (it’s their love for me, I know) while some have also quoted a figure of 100,000 to be reached by the end of 2018 (now that’s irrational exuberance, you see).

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Happy Diwali…and My Wish for You

I was recently reading a story on the classical Greek philosopher, Socrates, who was tried and executed in 399 BC. He was tried on two charges – corrupting the youth, and impiety (perceived lack of proper respect for something considered sacred).

Socrates had done no such thing. What he had done was educate the youth, teaching them to challenge arguments from authority and question what they believed to be true.

In the process, he frustrated and embarrassed many powerful people with his constant line of questioning, known today as the Socratic method.

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The Most Important Thing That Counts in Investing is Character

The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne FrankOne story from World War II that I found as tragic as it was magnificent was that of Anne Frank.

Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany but moved to the Netherlands for safety in 1934, five years after she was born. The Frank family hid in their basement with four other Jews when Germany took control of the Netherlands.

Anne then began to write, at age thirteen, in a diary of her life, feelings and the outside world. She wrote in the diary every day for two years until their hiding place was found and she was forced into a concentration camp where she died with her sister due to a sickness. She was just fifteen when she died.

Although Anne wasn’t only a tragic girl in this war, her diary that is available to read as The Diary of a Young Girl displays the strength of her character. The diary portrays her as a brave and hopeful girl, character traits that are hard to manage in the kind of hardship that she was a part of.

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