Some of the most important lessons in life we understand intuitively and sometimes in hindsight but rarely viscerally and in real-time. That’s why it takes us so long to learn some of the most important lessons in life. Too late smart, too soon old. But we can circumvent this challenge if we pay attention and learn from other people. This is where today’s post comes relevant.
Abdullah Al-Rezwan is the Founder of MBI Deep Dives, a subscription-based newsletter/website that provides in-depth research on publicly-listed companies, primarily those listed in the US.
Rezwan has a fascinating story and has successfully built a one-man investment research/media company on the back of his excellent insights, analyses, and consistency. In an interview with Future Startup published in 2023, Rezwan shared some of the important takeaways from his journey so far. He talked about his take on failure and why it is important to develop high failure tolerance, he discussed the importance of following interests and doing high-quality work consistently for a long time and much. In this article, I distill several lessons Rezwan shared in the interview around failure, consistency, ego, and doing good work. I hope you enjoy it.
Please note that this is an excerpt from our interview with Rezwan, you can read the full interview here.
1. On building tolerance for failure
“I discuss my portfolio on Twitter. Today I have like 115,000 followers. If you think about it, if you disclose your portfolio every month to more than 100k people, it’s an invitation to get embarrassed. I have lost a lot of money last year. My stocks have gone in the opposite direction.
But I think it's important to feel comfortable with your failure. Obviously, you're not aiming for failure. You work hard to avoid failure. But if you want to grow as an individual, it's important to appreciate that failure is always an option. My job is to avoid it as much as possible. But when I’ve to face it, I learn from it and keep moving forward.”
2. On taking your work seriously but not yourself
“I want to take my work seriously. But I don't want to take myself seriously. I approach my work with utmost seriousness. I work with diligence. But I don't want to take myself too seriously. Of course, I can fail. There are a lot of brilliant investors who failed before me. There will be a lot more after me. I'm viscerally aware that it is a possibility.
I think of it this way. A lot of kids in Bangladesh play cricket. They're swinging their bats or trying to bowl fast in their backyard. If you go to these kids and say, hey, you know what, there is no possibility that you will be playing for Bangladesh Cricket Team. Of course, you will be right. Almost none of them will play for Bangladesh in 20 years. But it is also a possibility that a few of them will make it. Either way, you can’t know it unless you try.
I approach investing from a similar perspective. It is a possibility that I may fail. Statistically speaking, it is likely that I will fail. But one of my friends told me once that statisticians are not good entrepreneurs. If you operate by statistics, you're never going to start a business. Why would you? You're likely to fail. But I don’t see it like that. I want to give my best and see what happens. If I come out fine and become a successful investor, it'll be so much fun. And if I'm not, I have to make sure that I don’t completely self-destruct myself and my family. There needs to be some tweaking. But even if a lot of things turned out to be not as what I expected or hoped, that's still fine. I still gave it a shot.
We all are dealing with a problem called N = 1. N is the number of lives we have. What's the point of not giving a shot just because of the fear of failure?
I want to do my best work but I don't want to take myself, the person, too seriously. If you worry all the time, oh my god, I'm gonna be so embarrassed because I'm down so much this year or whatever, it is a terrible way to operate. Because who cares if you're down or up? I know a lot of people who are down even more than I am. How many minutes do I spend thinking about their failures? People just don't think about you. In our heads, we are the protagonist of our life. We are the center of attention. And that’s the case for every other person. They are busy with themselves. You have your problems. I have my problems. I'm not spending time thinking about other people and what they're doing wrong or whatever. If you want to try something, you can't take yourself too seriously.”
3. On consistency
“The thing that I want to convey is that on the internet, there are so many people who can publish one good piece. Tens of thousands of people are intellectually capable of publishing one good piece. It will be a tiny percentage of all the people who are intellectually capable of publishing something great once to do it consistently.
Consistency is hard. If you can build that, if you can publish high-quality work consistently on the internet, and do it for a long enough time, you will succeed. I can't say if you do it tomorrow, you will be successful in one or two months. There is no guarantee like that. But if you do high-quality work consistently for a long time, I think success is a question of when not if.”
4. On doing high-quality work and doing it for a long period
“Frankly speaking, if you're doing any work for 10/15 years, and nobody's paying attention, the conclusion has to be that your work is not up to the mark. There is again, nothing shameful about it. Not everybody is a great writer or analyst. You don't have to be a great analyst. I'm not a great musician. I'm not ashamed of that. If you do it for a long enough time on the internet and if it's high-quality work, the internet tends to find you. It will find you.
Let me put it this way, instead of thinking about what people would want to read, I will start with what you want to read. So instead of thinking about what people would like to read, it is more useful to think about what you would like to read and then do it at the internet scale.
Interest is important for other reasons as well. If you want to do it consistently for 10-15 years, there is no way you can fake it. Contrary to mainstream opinion, I think it is easier to fake in real life than on the internet. You can fake on the internet, but only for a short period. If you want to do anything on the internet for 10-15 years, there is no way you can fake it. And if you're truly interested in something only then you can be consistent for a long time without seeing the results. That's the only way.”
05. On following your interest
“I've been kind of saying this the whole time. Follow your interest, whatever that is. You don't have to be a computer scientist or analyst or you don't have to work at a hedge fund. Just follow your damn interests even if it's completely inconsequential or sounds dumb or niche. Follow whatever you're interested in and participate on the internet in that particular interest. Find other people who are interested in that same thing and be part of that community.
It's so much easier to get good at something that you're interested in. Because you will naturally spend a lot more time with the things that you are interested in and you will get better.
Most people should try their luck on the internet. I'm not saying you will make it. As I said, the internet has power law distribution. By definition, most people will not have a positive outcome, but you should try. Because you wouldn't know unless you try. I think over the next 20-30 years, the internet will become a dominant source of people's livelihood. Everything is becoming digital. The tide is not going to change. More and more people will make money on the internet.
My own family, both my brother and me earn our livelihood with the help of the internet. I didn't know that I could be an independent research analyst three years ago. I would never think such a thing is possible for me. That's why it's important to keep your eyes open and pay attention to what's going on.
That's the simple advice: follow your interests. Most of you have all the resources you need. You can listen to any famous investor and entrepreneur. If you want to learn about business there are so many resources out there. How many people in Bangladesh understand Amazon? Very few. But you can study Amazon in-depth if you want to. These are listed companies. You can find a lot of useful resources on these companies on the internet. If you're trying to build a great business, it's probably helpful to know how other great businesses such as Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, etc have been built. Those stories are out there. You can listen to podcasts or read.
Again, you have to be interested. Nobody can convince you to be interested in a particular thing that you are not interested in. That's why it is important to find and then follow something that you're interested in. Spend some time. Find a community or niche on the internet and participate.”
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