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With the Benefit of Hindsight …

By Morgan Housel - Mar 5, 2015 at 3:05PM

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It all makes sense now.

Image by Vestman

Sure, things could have turned out differently. But when I look back at the last five years or so, I can't help but notice ...

Maybe 1% of the news stories I read were important. I can't believe how much time I wasted reading things that didn't matter. If someone from the future could write this morning's newspaper, publishing only what turned out to be important, it would be 90% shorter.

Pessimists gained attention after the financial crisis because pessimism always sounds smarter than optimism, which -- although it's usually right -- is easily mistaken for obliviousness.

The best people I worked with weren't the smartest, but the nicest. A pound of emotional intelligence is worth a ton of book intelligence. I wish they'd teach this in school.

I wish I had changed my mind when it was clear I was wrong, but this is one of the hardest things we do. Drowning out reality takes way less effort.

I wish I had paid less attention to politics. It made me dumber and cynical. It makes all of us dumber and cynical.

I regret checking my email so often. Gmail tells me I've received 98,377 emails since 2007. Maybe 10 of them were actually urgent.

Almost nothing I worried about was worth worrying about. Stuff happens, life goes on. I wish I had just enjoyed my day.

I feel bad for most people who worked on Wall Street during the financial crisis. Most were good people who tried their best and unfairly ended up the target of the world's outrage.

I regret every happy hour I declined.

I probably should have tipped better.

The same month Warren Buffett wrote an op-ed in The New York Times telling people it was a great time to buy stocks, investors withdrew $71 billion from stock mutual funds. This is so embarrassing.

Most bad economic forecasts were wrong because they assumed history would repeat itself, mimicking some past economic era. It rarely does.

Stocks fell almost 20% in late 2011. Do you remember it anymore? Probably not. Are you scared of the next 20% crash? Probably. Think about that.

I thought some people were jerks, but they were actually nice people dealing with terrible circumstances. Be nice to people. You have no idea what they're dealing with.

The financial crisis could have been so much worse. Mohamed El-Erian, one of the smartest economists in the world, called his wife in September 2008 and asked her take out as much cash as she could from the ATM, not knowing whether there would be a functioning banking system the next day. Compared with the social meltdown that would have come from banks running out of cash, the 10% unemployment that marked the peak of our financial crisis looks like a weekend at Disneyland. You can go through something awful and be extremely lucky at the same time. I think that best describes the fall of 2008.

Ben Bernanke is a saint. What the recovery people said wouldn't happen did happen, and the hyperinflation they said would come from his policies is nowhere to be seen. Thanks, Ben. We owe you. 

It's amazing it took someone this long to create Uber. It's such a simple business, and people were so unhappy with taxis. Some of the most powerful innovations are still low-hanging fruit.

In 2009 almost everyone thought interest rates could only go up. Six years later, we're realizing that the likelihood of a forecast coming true is often in inverse proportion to how obvious it seems. 

Even in hindsight, I'm still not sure who has been lucky and who has been smart. 

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