Friday, August 27, 2010

The importance of information

One of the early lessons from my life was the importance of information. Actually my parents gave me very little guidance in life. They did model a strong work ethic, they did make sure I never lacked any material possession. The role of information was important in the following ways:
1. When I was 6-15 years of age I was working in my dad's printing factory, so I always had too much money as a child. This prompted questions of what to do with it. Of course I invested in passions like geological maps (after a fossicking trip) and canoeing (after a school adventure).
2. At the age of 11yo my father bought me shares in a company called Abroholis Oil, an oil explorer. I lost money on this, but I was soon following the stocks daily and eventually I was charting the stocks. I would simply buy low and sell high. Today my investing is a lot more sophisticated, but it gave me a strong reason to save, and to keep learning.
3. The biggest lesson was gained by reading the Australian Financial Review. In those times, it was far better with quality investigative journalism. Today, newspapers simply reprint press releases and political banter. There is no good lessons in newspapers anymore. Fortunately then my mother was studying marketing at university and so there was always a financial newspaper in the house. The link between following stocks, saw me devouring stock announcements.

This interest gained traction when I was 14-15yo and I was really incredibly ambitious about my main interests. By that time, I was still working at my dad's factory, but I was using all my savings for stocks and canoeing and geological maps and equipment. I had graduated from the newspapers to the Dept of Minerals & Energy library in the city, or I was going to the library at the Australian Stock Exchange. Info was very cheap then. I could read Stock Reviews for 50c each, but I learned quickly to use a whole set and basically read every review in every alphabetic letter in the day. i.e. I reviewed 20-30 stocks in a day, by which time I was exhausted, but without a doubt I had discovered some appealing stocks, whether they had moved yet or not. I quickly learned what was a good stock.

Some weekends I was going canoeing or exploring old mine adits looking for minerals. Actually I did not like field work so much, so I went into consulting, but in my university degree I studied everything I needed to set up a mining company. I had studied about so many mining entrepreneurs in the 1980s, I knew all their methods. I studied geology, geophysics, geostatistics, accounting, economics, accounting, mining engineering and finance. Then I was introduced to philosophy, and that passion took me off on a big tangent....which is only being expressed in the last 5 years, but it did not stop me developing this interest as a hobby for the last 20 years. I might have been working as a mining analyst and trader, but I was thinking a great deal of politics and philosophy. Analysing global problems and writing up solutions.

Too much is accidental for parents. Perhaps its time to develop a coherent strategy for how you are going to raise your kids. I would start years before they are born. The awareness of the issues and the strategic value are critical. It becomes second-nature.

The other important aspect is to preserve a critical perspective. That means trying to preserve your personal integrity, both so your ideas are personally coherent, but also so that reconcile with the facts of reality. Much science today is nonsense, so critical interpretation or appraisal is warranted....not just for science supporting commercial products like orthopedic shoes, but science supposedly backing political agendas. Kids seem to accept these assertions, so they need to be taught to challenge such claims.

I guess all of this started with a school boys natural curiosity, a set of encyclopedias in the home, a comfortable fireplace for reading, and a practical expression for using the information, i.e. The stock market.
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Andrew Sheldon www.sheldonthinks.com
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