Safal Niveshak’s 2017 Annual Letter to Tribe Members

Dear Tribe Member,

Trust 2017 treated you well. It certainly was great for Safal Niveshak.

Here is a brief update on what transpired during the year. The tribe crossed 40,000 members (readers of our free newsletter, Safal Niveshak Post). We conducted nine value investing workshops during the year, meeting 430+ tribe members in the process.

The Mastermind Value Investing Course student count increased by 25%. Our premium newsletter – Value Investing Almanack – which is about to complete three years, gained 20% new members. It continues to receive inspiring reviews from its subscribers.

We also relaunched our free online value investing course – Value Investing Masterclass – in a new avatar. It now consists of updated and more lessons than the previous version. The subscription to this course jumped from 7,500 to 15,000 in less than a year after the relaunch, much better than our expectations.

Apart from this usual stuff, we launched a special e-book titled Two Wise Men, which contained forty stories for children inspired by the wit and wisdom of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger (Click here to buy your copy). The book received a great response and a lot of wonderful testimonials from kids. This one stole our hearts…

Another initiative this year was the launch of Camp Millionaire money workshop for kids. This is a game and activity-based financial education program for children of age group 8 to 14 years. Kids learn how to make, manage, multiply and donate their money wisely first hand in this day-long program and they have fun doing it. The main objective of this program is to provide a stimulating, fun-filled, learning environment where kids can feel safe exploring and learning the various principles, ideas, and skills needed to create a financially successful and responsible life. During 2017, we conducted four sessions of the camp, meeting and teaching around 120+ lovely kids.

Another first for us in 2017 was a classroom course titled Value Investing Blueprint (VIB) we conducted at FLAME University Pune. This was under the aegis of its FLAME Investment Lab, which is an initiative that strives to deliver the concepts and decipher the art of value investing to interested students.

The first batch of VIB was a seven-lecture course spread over seven Sundays. A total of 47 participants attended the course (against the initial capacity of 40), including a few students who travelled from Mumbai, Gurgaon, and Goa each Sunday. The second batch of this course starts in February 2018 (Click here for registration details).

Best Posts of 2017
Here is a list of our best posts from 2017, based on the number of reads and comments –

Goals for 2018
This is the easiest part of this letter because, given our consistency in failing to work as per plans, all we have done below is copy and paste our 2018 plan from the 2017 plan we had outlined a year ago –
We entered 2017 with the following three goals –

  • Improving the quality of content on Safal Niveshak – both free posts and premium ones (Mastermind and VIA) – This is always work-in-progress. But as seen from user feedback, we managed to slightly improve the quality of our content in 2017. Of course, a lot more is desired in 2018.
  • Increasing the breadth of content by getting deeper into annual report analysis, financial statement analysis, and industry analysis – Honestly, not much improvement on this front, so aim in 2018 is to focus more here.
  • Improving the breadth of content delivery by adding audio and video content – Started with videos on our mental models series. Work is in progress on converting the free value investing course into videos and audios too. Watch out for much action on this front in 2018.

Apart from working more and better on the above-mentioned goals, one incremental thing we wish to focus on in 2018 is to develop more content for youngsters, in areas of investing, thinking, behaviour, and learning. The Two Wise Men e-book and Camp Millionaire initiatives in 2017 were steps in this direction. But, without doubt, given the wide disparity in the level of financial education desired and provided by our education system, we see a great opportunity to serve a purpose here.

As we get into 2018, we welcome your suggestions in the Comments section of this post on what you would like us to do as far as content or a new initiative from Safal Niveshak is concerned.

Best Books We Read in 2017
Here is a list of few good books we read/re-read in 2017 –

  • Made In America (Sam Walton) – The story of the undisputed merchant king of the late twentieth century. Sam Walton rolled up his sleeves in 1946 and didn’t stop until 1992. What he ended up creating was world’s largest private employer and the biggest company by revenue. In his autobiography, he pours his heart out, chronicling his strategies, successes, and mistakes.
  • What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars (Jim Paul) – There are as many ways to make money in the markets as there are people participating in the markets, but there are relatively few ways to lose money in the markets. For a majority of the people, all the losses come from the same few sources. Jim Paul’s cautionary tale is a testimony to the importance of studying the patterns of failure than the ways of success.
  • Delivering Happiness (Tony Hsieh) – This book offers an intensely personal and practical framework to think about the culture of a company. Tony Hsieh’s book is filled with great stories, insights, and tips you can put to use in your business and in your life.
  • Principles: Life and Work (Ray Dalio) – Ray Dalio, who runs the world’s biggest hedge fund with assets totaling to $160 billion, explains the core principles that he has followed in his life and business.
  • Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (Carlo Rovelli) – Elon Musk solves problems by using first principles, i.e., understanding the basic ideas of any discipline. Physics is the fundamental study of the workings of material world. In this book, Carlo Rovelli distills the most important principles of Physics into seven lessons.
  • The Lessons of History (Will Durant) – The best way to learn from history is to notice what didn’t happen and imagine what else could have happened. This book reveals a multidimensional view of history while exploring the possibilities as well as limitations of humanity.
  • A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy (William Irvine) – Stoic philosophy was the most popular and successful schools of thought in ancient Rome. The principles of stoicism are timeless and immensely useful for living a contended and joyful life. This book does a great job in showing how the stoic advice can be applied in modern times.
  • No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks (Ed Viesturs) – “Reaching the summit is optional. Getting down is mandatory,” says Viesturs. That’s an unconventional advice. But when you know that the dispenser of this advice is a man who climbed not one, not two but all fourteen of the world’s top summits, you know there’s wisdom in those words. Read the book.
  • The Undoing Project (Michael Lewis) – For five years, Michael Lewis, one of the best narrator of present times, spent many of his evenings taking a walk with Daniel Kahneman, the most remarkable mind of this century. The outcome was a book which chronicles the journey of how two Israeli scientists, Kahneman and Tversky, created something which upended every single theory of conventional wisdom in the field of finance.

‘Happy’ Investing in 2018
As we end 2017, I want to discuss a bit about happiness, the pursuit of which has become a phenomenon, and something that we wish the most to others welcoming a ‘happy’ new year.

Happiness is a funny thing. We spend forever chasing the idea of it without perhaps knowing what we’re chasing. The concept of happiness usually means “feeling good,” a fleeting notion driven by instant gratification and equated with material factors, such as health, diet and wealth.

It seems obvious that if people are richer and healthier, then they must also be happier. But is that really so obvious? It does not seem so.

One of the best things I came across in 2017 on happiness was Naval Ravikant’s thoughts that he shared in a podcast with Shane Parrish of Farnam Street. Naval said –

(Happiness) is what’s there when you remove the sense that something is missing in your life.

We are highly judgmental, survival, and replication machines. We are constantly walking around thinking I need this, I need that, trapped in the web of desires. Happiness is that state when nothing is missing. When nothing is missing, your mind shuts down and your mind stops running into the future or running into the past to regret something or to plan something. In that absence for a moment, you have internal silence. When you have internal silence, then you are content and you are happy.

One of the most important scientific findings on happiness is that it does not really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather, it depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations.

Yuval Harari writes in his brilliant book Sapiens (emphasis mine) –

If you want a bullock-cart and get a bullock-cart, you are content. If you want a brand-new Ferrari and get only a second-hand Fiat you feel deprived. This is why winning the lottery has, over time, the same impact on people’s happiness as a debilitating car accident. When things improve, expectations balloon, and consequently even dramatic improvements in objective conditions can leave us dissatisfied. When things deteriorate, expectations shrink, and consequently even a severe illness might leave you pretty much as happy as you were before.

being satisfied with what you already have is far more important than getting more of what you want.

Consider investing. Most of what makes us happy (or unhappy) as investors aren’t the objective conditions (how our portfolios are performing) but subjective expectations (how our portfolios are performing relative to our expectations).

Added to this, our happiness (or unhappiness) is magnified not by our absolute performances (how our portfolios are performing) but through relative comparisons (how our performance stacks up against the performance of other investors we know of).

Subsequently, we are always working under pressure of the fear of missing out, or FOMO. Knowing that some other investor you know of is having more fun than you by making a lot of money (more than you), is painful. Amidst this, social media that profits not just from connecting us, but mostly from magnifying emotions we don’t want in the long run, often turns this pain into a tragedy of sorts. Remember when you were having a great day recently, someone posted on Twitter how a stock he had bought three years back had turned into a 30-bagger?

This goes against our intrinsic need to be happy, which subsequently lays the ground for us to be, well, unhappy and dissatisfied with our present state of being, including our present portfolio of stocks. We are always searching for something newer, brighter, exciting, and more profitable…something that’s outside of what we own, and others are making money on.

You see, it’s sometimes good to be dissatisfied (which causes you unhappiness) as an investor when it comes to working hard in search of finding ideas. That way, your dissatisfaction is a product of your inner scorecard. However, when this dissatisfaction is caused by measuring yourself against the instant updates on what others are doing, buying, and shouting about, that’s what causes you much pain and leads you to poor decision making.

This is a thought I would like to leave you with as we enter a brand-new year. Especially given the way stock prices have behaved in 2017, and given how high returns in the recent past have caused bloated egos all around, it’s important that you clearly define what causes your real happiness as an investor.

Is it being content – that will cause you to be happy – with an adequate performance that will enable you to achieve your financial goals in time? Or is it constantly chasing extravagant performance that aims to better everyone around, and that you think would make you happy?

You see, the forces of modern life urge us to achieve and acquire more, pushing us outward in our quest for happiness. Why can’t we turn inward, to a deep understanding of true, lasting contentment, which ultimately leads to the happiness we are seeking outside?

Instead of relegating joy and satisfaction to another time, a different place, a better circumstance, or higher return, why can’t we negotiate and embrace “what is.”

This is exactly what we wish for you as we enter 2018. In investing and in life, we wish that you do your work and then be content in embracing “what is” than “what could have been.” This is the only way you could gift yourself happiness that would be with you for a lifetime.

We are lucky to have you as a tribe member.

Thank you!

With respect,
Vishal & Anshul

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