To be successful as an investor, you need to learn from your mistakes. A lot of people speak of the value of failure, but the key isn’t just being driven and trying a lot of things. The key is allowing your mistakes, failures and experiences to solidify into the ability to know when is the right time to quit or keep going.
This is one of the toughest lessons to learn, and there is no exact formula for success. Things are always situational, and the truth is, its a very difficult skill to master. You may be focused on trying to uncover the next Facebook or Uber, but while doing so, forget that passing on all of the less viable options is really what allowed people like Peter Thiel and Robert Hayes to strike gold.
This can present itself as an investing decision, the choice to follow a certain career path and many other scenarios in life. While I can’t give you a foolproof blueprint to achieve this skill, I can share a few of my own experiences.
Since early on in my life, I’ve been the type of person who never likes to give up. An Alpha-type personality, if you will. In my first forays into the world of investment, this was both an asset and a handicap. It allowed me to push myself and work hard as a trader, which led to seniority at a young age and being in control of positions that represented huge amounts of capital.
The downside was that what I was doing was wholly unsustainable. After working too hard, training too hard, going out too often, and generally ignoring the stress and time for a good diet and proper sleep, I cracked. I got the first real sign of my health paying the price, and I collapsed and had to be rushed to hospital.
I didn’t know to quit or ease off what I was doing because I was - for lack of a better word - stubborn. I hadn’t been around long enough to develop the feeling that my approach needed to change, I needed to quit. When things aren’t going your way you need to have the self-awareness to figure out if the issue is a matter of you not putting in enough effort or the reality is that you need to stop and move on.
Clearly, in the case of my work as a trader, the issue was not effort. As my career progressed to LCH.Clearnet to Open Markets and ultimately to CapitalPitch, I slowly improved my ability to feel situations out. I now advise, consult and support both founders and investors who confront these type of issues in profound ways.
While there is no singular answer, I’ve found that it helps if you surround yourself with the right people, do the work and gather as much data as possible. In the end, search your mind and heart, if you listen carefully enough the right answer will already be there.