Financial writer and friend Wendy Cook posted the following piece on her own blog recently, and granted us permission to share it here.
We like Wendy’s post and applaud the ideas of the late Hans Rosling because his work parallels our own emphasis on evidence-based investing. His bestselling book Factfulness points out that our instincts and biases often make it difficult to perceive the world factually. Just as we point out in our work with you, and as we’ve highlighted in past reviews of Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball, it’s tricky work to get out of our own heads and better understand the world through data and evidence minus emotion and instinct.
*Keep in mind Wendy writes for a special group of advisors.
Facts, Finance, and Feeling Good About Yourself
by Wendy J. Cook
Recently, I finished reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling. I discovered Rosling’s work nearly a decade ago when his YouTube video “200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes” went viral, at least among us data-dorks.
Making the leap from Rosling’s four-minute video to his full-length book took some time. Unfortunately, it was time Rosling himself did not have, having passed away from pancreatic cancer in February 2017. Reminiscent of the late Gordon Murray’s inspiring collaboration with Dan Goldie on The Investment Answer, Rosling dedicated the last year of his life to completing Factfulness. He collaborated on it with his son and daughter-in-law, who published it in 2018.
Referring to “data as therapy” and “understanding as a source of mental peace,” Rosling urges us to employ “factfulness” to recognize that the world is usually better off than we think. With Bill Gates describing it as “one of the most educational books I’ve ever read,” I figured it was worth checking out.
Factfulness and Finance
How does factfulness work? Without it, we become overwhelmed by all the bad news going on around us. With it, the greater facts remind us that historical conditions have been even worse. In other words, we are making enormous progress, but close up, we can’t see it. Rosling explains:
“Journalists who reported flights that didn’t crash or crops that didn’t fail would quickly lose their jobs. Stories about gradual improvements rarely make the front page even when they occur on a dramatic scale and impact millions of people. … Safe flights are not newsworthy.”
It’s easy to connect these messages with the same ones you likely espouse for yourself and your clients as you help them embrace evidence-based investing.
A Higher Purpose
Beyond that, I took a greater message from the book. If your advice has been incorporating insights gained from behavioral psychology, it’s one you’re already familiar with, but it bears repeating: By losing sight of factfulness, it may often feel as if BIG acts, ENORMOUS effort and MAJOR improvements – the kinds we read about in the paper – are the only changes that matter.
All facts considered, this could not be further from the truth. Ordinary, everyday accomplishments are what Rosling describes as “the secret silent miracle of human progress.” Your and my small, unsung deeds are the streams that feed rivers that run to oceans of accomplishment.
So, whether it’s going that extra mile for your clients or dedicating some time to a community project, let’s each take on one or two good deeds – today, tomorrow, and the day after that. They don’t have to be huge; just make them a habit and, over time, that will do.
Give the Gift of an Amazon Review
Here’s one small possibility you may not have thought of: Give a good financial book a positive Amazon review.
You see, some of my best friends are financial authors. So, I happen to know, one of the best ways you can help them increase their sales and readership is to review their books on Amazon. These days, a strong presence there is electronic gold, like being in the “featured books” section of a brick & mortar store.
Your review need not be novel-length itself. Two minutes, five stars, and a few sentences should do it. Go ahead. Pick some of your recent favorite financial reads, and go to it.