One Down

June 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Yesterday marked my one year anniversary at the Firm. One year down, two to go – maybe longer… who knows. So far, things are going just okay. On the positive side, I never would have expected to be tasked with the amount of responsibility, measured in $ terms, that I currently have. On the other, it’s still unclear to me whether I’m actually a good investor or not. I’ve had a handful of “aha!” moments this year where I was significantly differentiated from the market and right… but I’ve also had an equal number of bad decisions and screwups. I also don’t have a clear algorithm for how I continue to get better – is improvement a function of more investment reps and more reading/industry knowledge? Or is there something fundamental about my approach or investment psychology that should or could be improved?

The reason this uncertainty is problematic is that I must soon decide whether or not to pursue an advanced degree, in particular an MBA. On the one hand, I could remain at the firm and continue to develop as an investor, saving the 2 years for school. It’s certainly great money and the partners at my firm have stated their desire that I not leave to pursue school as it would presumably leave a coverage gap. They have also affirmed their support for my career and desire to retain me as a member of the firm. Underlying their communication is the insinuation that if I leave for school, they will hire someone to replace me and I may not have a job upon graduation. And it is quite a seat that I have.

On the other hand, I believe that sticking around exposes me to the risk that 5-6 years from now, I will discover that I am not cut out to be an investor with the Firm – either because of something structural with the Firm, or lack of intelligence or emotional control or maybe because I’ve lost interest or because I don’t want to work so hard anymore. What then? I’ll have no skills but investing skills, no degree but my undergrad degree. Will another fund take me on with the red flags of having washed up at a previous fund? Or will I be forced to live out existence as a sellside analyst attempting to curry favor for broker commissions? Hold on… the scenario I’ve just laid out is sort of overblowm really and maybe not that probable. But more important is the loss of opportunity to go to school and meet people and develop broad-based skills and hit the pause button before I settle down and commit to a life-calling.

I think the key driver of the decision to return to school or not, other than the state of my personal life, will be simply how good I think I can be at investing. And right now – I just don’t know. A key thing that will help me clear this up is getting my own P&L, my own portfolio to manage and source/prune ideas from. On a related note, I deactivated my Facebook account today. I’m going to test out not having one for the next six months. One of the things that prompted this was that I was informed today that I’m getting my own P&L sometime soon, which raises the stakes to an entirely different level. It makes me want to clear my mind as much as I can.

I don’t know that having a Facebook has ever caused me emotional stress, but it could very well be causing subconscious unhappiness. The key reason people use Facebook, I believe, is not to get or stay in touch, but rather to record & widely broadcast the story of their lives as it is being lived. There is a resulting two-way discourse between friends, of course, but the flow of stories is mostly unidirectional and curated to show a person’s life in the best possible light (one of the reasons by the way this blog is not widely disseminated… so I don’t feel the need to curate & I record both my ups and my downs as I see them). The comparison game is inevitable as you compare your life to others and hence I suspect one’s use may cause subconscious unhappiness. And to be totally honest, there were some posts today that didn’t make me the happiest.

The last time I went totally off the grid was back during my junior year summer internship when my laptop broke and I was in New York City with just a flip phone for 2 weeks straight. It was pretty refreshing – I remember having a lot more free time and feeling a lot less stressed out. I ended up spending more time outdoors and actively trying to meet people. Let’s hope the same happens this time around as well.

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