The Worst Way to Become a Better Investor

The other day, I happened upon the website of the Telegraph, heralding itself as "Britain's No.1 quality newspaper website." I read there that 37-year-old Cheryl Johnson underwent a kidney transplant, only to find herself somewhat transformed afterward. Not only was she healthier, but she was also a more refined reader. Whereas she used to read thrillers and pop-star biographies, she now opts for the likes of Jane Austen and Fyodor Dostoevsky. She explains: "You pick up your characteristics from your donor."

I've read of such changes before, but some may be apocryphal. The article noted a woman from America who used to be afraid of heights but ended up climbing mountains after a transplant, as well as a chocolate-hating lawyer who ended up eating Snickers bars.

So what can we investors do with this information? Well, it makes me imagine becoming a better investor -- via a transplant. After all, many of us see our portfolio performance suffer because of our bad habits, such as not keeping up with our holdings, selling in a panic, trading too frequently, and performing insufficient research. Imagine getting the kidney of a completely rational investor -- one who likes to read and absorb the thoughts of investing greats such as Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham, and Philip Fisher. Imagine becoming more patient and circumspect in your investing. Aside from having yourself cut open, it's worth the trouble, isn't it?

But of course, this is a silly daydream. For one thing, there aren't enough exceptional investors out there to meet the demand -- such investors are relatively rare. Fortunately, there are other ways to improve your wealth-growing abilities. Read widely, for example, and develop a smarter investing sensibility. Reflect on your own investing style, and see what's worked for you and what hasn't. Do you often sell after a 20% gain, only to watch the stock keep rising? Maybe you need to hang on longer. Are you surprised when companies you own but don't understand suddenly implode? Maybe you should stick with what you know.

If you want to get a good dose of learning from the greats, you don't need to visit the operating room. Instead, take a look at these articles:

What you learn can help you distinguish investments such as Sara Lee (NYSE: SLE  ) -- which has fallen some 40% over the past decade -- from Target (NYSE: TGT  ) , which is up around 160%. Imagine the effect of that on your portfolio!

You can also learn via our investing newsletters. Our Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter, for example, regularly offers two investing styles, from Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner. (Go ahead and try it.)


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