No superhuman ability is usually required to dodge the many foolish choices to which we’re prone. A few basic rules are all that’s needed to shield you, if not from all errors, from silly errors.
Charlie Munger often emphasizes that minimizing mistakes may be one of the least appreciated tricks in successful investing. He has reputedly credited much of Berkshire Hathaway’s success to consistently avoiding stupidity. “It is remarkable how much long-term advantage we have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid instead of trying to be very intelligent.” And, “I think part of the popularity of Berkshire Hathaway is that we look like people who have found a trick. It’s not brilliance. It’s just avoiding stupidity.” They’ve avoided investing in situations they don’t understand or summon experience.
As a policy, avoiding stupidity in investing shouldn’t mean avoiding risk wholly; instead, it’s taking on risk only when there’s a fair chance that you’ll be adequately rewarded for assuming that risk.
Idea for Impact: Tune out stupidity. Becoming successful in life isn’t always about what you do but what you don’t do. In other words, improving decision quality is often more about decreasing your chances of failure than increasing your chances of success.