You know what you're supposed to do. Waiting for "fat pitches" is just as smart as walking away when you're winning big at the casino. But if you never seem to be able to do either of those things, consider another way to beat the stock market: Ignore it.
Short end of the stick?
Think about your relationship with the stock market. Does it get the better of you, or do you get the better of it? Do you find yourself cursing Wall Street on a regular basis? Do you feel like Mr. Market walks all over you? Maybe it's time to take control in this relationship and show the stock market who's boss.
Many magazine articles have pointed out that Warren Buffett doesn't have a computer, a Bloomberg terminal, or a Quotron matchine (back when they were still used). If an investor whose net worth fluctuates by hundreds of millions of dollars on a daily basis ignores the stock market, perhaps that's a big hint for the rest of us as well.
After all, does it really matter that at 10 a.m., your Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) stock was trading at $525, and at 1 p.m., it was at $529? Unless you're a day trader or a quant hedge fund manager, it'll probably make your life a little easier to ignore stock market fluctuations. If you're a value investor, you're probably hoping for 100% in the next couple of years. So why does it matter what happens today or tomorrow?
Break up to make up
Fools should also refuse to have anything to do with Mr. Market unless he buys your friendship. If you read Warren Buffett's shareholder letters, you'll notice that the Oracle of Omaha is perfectly content to ignore Mr. Market for weeks, months, and even years.
In fact, Buffett's only interested when Mr. Market gets extremely depressed, willing to part with his crown jewels for a song. Mr. Market's bipolar disorder allowed Buffett to buy shares of stellar performers like M&T Bank (NYSE: MTB ) and Torchmark (NYSE: TMK ) at around nine times earnings, and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) at a stunningly low five times earnings.
I've read hundreds of investment books and spent excruciatingly long hours studying for three levels of the CFA, but I still believe that the emotional aspect of investing remains underemphasized. I think that controlling those emotions is a key determinant of an investor's future returns.
To be a good investor, you need to be honest with yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses. Just as dieters should avoid keeping sweets and snacks nearby, investors should take steps to stay focused and rational, avoiding emotional mistakes. Before the heat of the moment tempts you to make an investing decision you'll later regret, take the time to work out a steady, rational strategy for investing. That way, you'll be the one taking advantage of Mr. Market -- not the other way around.
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Fool contributor Emil Lee is an analyst and a disciple of value investing. He doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. Emil appreciates your comments, concerns, and complaints. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy shouldn't be ignored.