Investing Wisdom from President Bush

What a bittersweet pleasure this week to watch the tributes to late President George H. W. Bush. From Bob Dole standing to salute his fellow statesman, to President George W. Bush breaking down as he gave the eulogy at the National Cathedral, there were so many meaningful moments.

I hadn’t thought much about President Bush for years until I visited the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, on the way to speak at Texas A&M University. I learned all about a man who had lived a full life of service for his country and commitment to his family. I read some of his writings on what it means to be a public servant and diplomat. I even got to sit in a replica of his Oval Office of the late 1980’s.

Making an important call at the replica Oval Office in College Station, TX, 2014.

Making an important call at the replica Oval Office in College Station, TX, 2014.

One of the speakers at the service on Wednesday shared three comments of President Bush’s that really resonated with me. And as with most things I come across, I immediately started to make connections to how it could make me a better investor.

1) “Be honest.”

Bush tried to always speak the truth. As a result, he was able to foster relationships based on trust and mutual respect.

If you think about it, confirmation bias is almost a form of dishonesty, in that we’re finding evidence with the sole purpose of supporting a narrative that we’ve created. Being an honest investor means looking at the evidence with intellectual honesty and a sense of humility.

2) “Forgive.”

It was difficult to avoid getting choked up hearing President George W. Bush talk about his final conversation with his father. You got a sense that Bush 41 left this earth with a sense of peace and calm that can only come through forgiveness.

Investors make mistakes. A lot of mistakes. You will develop the perfect investment thesis and make what feels like the perfect trade and the market will promptly make you pay for it big time.

There are no perfect investors. Even the most successful investors have weathered serious losses at some point. Don’t beat yourself up for missing something, and don’t internalize negativity if the market moves against you. Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and get better.

3) “Stay the course.”

There is no one way to make money in the markets. I’ve known growth managers and value managers who are able to consistently outperform even though their processes are diametrically opposed.

I’ve found that the most successful investors have a consistent and disciplined process. They also have an appetite for learning, reading, asking questions, and listening to people with knowledge and experience that they don’t have.

When the market becomes more volatile, there is often a temptation to quickly change routines in an attempt to chase performance. The best investors develop an investment approach that will weather changes in volatility so that they can “stay the course” when the flickering ticks flicker a little bit brighter.

Forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes, and get better.

The best way we can remember great people is by emulating their best qualities in our daily lives.

Be honest. Forgive. Stay the course.

RIP, President Bush.


Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial advice.  Please see the Disclaimer page for full details.