A quick follow-up to our post on whether obsession is necessary for success in the markets. One byproduct of obsession is in all likelihood, solitude. The time spent alone with one’s thoughts or in intensive study of a subject.
Heather Horn at the Atlantic Wire highlights two recent articles that touch on the subject of solitude and whether it is necessary for genius to flourish or leadership skills to sharpen. The challenge being that in both cases confronting conventional wisdom requires some respite from mainstream thinking. In an age of constant feedback, often via social media, the idea of solitude for many seems distant.
In recent history the greatest trades, primarily those betting against the subprime markets, were in direct opposition with conventional wisdom. They required not only unconventional thinking, but the emotional fortitude to withstand the constant barrage of mainstream thought. The intellectual capital needed to make and continue with this thesis was in all likelihood formed in some moment of solitude.
Umair Haque at Harvard Business Review recently had an article up wondering whether there was a “social media bubble.” Haque’s thought being that social media rewards people who “transmit what they think others want.” One can see how in the realm of investing this could be a liability. He notes that the highest and best of use of social media elevates “trust, connection, and community.”
Those are worthy goals for the use of any social media platform. The issue of “beauty contests” in social media is a pervasive problem. In the past we have mentioned that one of our favorite uses of the StockTwits platform was to challenge our thinking by following individuals who have very different methods. This can serve as a built-in check on our preferred methods of thinking.
The world of social media is so vast and growing in so many different directions it is difficult to generalize. But from this description it should be clear that it can be a crutch to avoid doing your own thinking.
The degree to which your use of social media serves to inform or have your own thoughts challenged, then it is serving a useful purpose. However if your use of social media is substituting for the time required to generate original thought, then you might want to reconsider the amount of time you spend in front of the screen.