Want to Be Smarter? Disagree!

As most readers of the Accountable Update probably know, I’m a Fightin’ Texas Aggie. Like many of my fellow farmers, I’m proud to have attended one of the two flagship universities in the Great State of Texas. As a resident of Austin for the last decade or so, however, I have met many graduates and fans of that other school, the University of Texas (t.u.).

When I first moved to ATX in 2007, the Longhorns (tsips) were riding high. They had recently won national championships in football and baseball in 2005. On my daily slog from Westlake up to the Arboretum, it was hard to find respite from all things related to The Forty Acres as they more or less dominate the local news and talk radio. The sports channels that I favor spent the majority of their air time discussing when the next Longhorn team would light up that God forsaken tower with another #1.

One evening in early January 2010, as I was creeping home on Loop 360, one local sports radio personality almost caused me to drive off the Pennybacker Bridge when he posed the question, “Has there ever been a better time to be a Texas Longhorn in Austin, Texas?” He went on to remind listeners that Mack Brown was about to lead his team back to the Rose Bowl for what could be their second championship in five years, the baseball team had just finished second in the previous season’s College World Series and were ranked #1 leading into the 2010 campaign, and the basketball team had also just been ranked #1 for the first time ever.

While it was a great time to be a Longhorn in Austin, maybe it wasn’t quite so awesome to be an Aggie marooned here. I turned off the radio and swore to never listen to any tsip themed sports show again. We Aggies are known for our steadfastness and resolve. We’re also very fond of our traditions and history, even if we have to go back a while to find things to celebrate. (Did you know our 1917 football team was unbeaten and unscored upon?)

We enjoy commiserating to one another about being ranked too low, t.u. being ranked too high, some perceived snub in the reporting of a big win or positive story, or a commentary that is considered unflattering. It’s probably not a lot different than being a Chicago Cubs fan prior to 2016.

Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon more prevalent than the message boards on Texags.com. A search of their site using Google’s Advanced Search for the term “disrespect” returned 10,700 results. I couldn’t find any other college site that registered more than 2,500. Aggies really have a hard time understanding why others don’t like us as much as we like ourselves. On second thought, we’re probably less like the Cubs and more like Sally Fields before the 1985 Oscars.

Eventually I tuned back into the local channels, though, because I missed hearing the orange tinted version of the world, no matter how misguided. Gradually, I’ve come to realize that being unranked in the preseason is less about the BOMC (Burnt Orange Media Conspiracy) keeping the Aggie man down and more a reflection of the market’s sentiment. Last year, for instance, the Ags football team began unranked but rose to the top 10 in most polls after winning their first 6 games. The 2-4 finish, on the other hand, only served to reinforce that at least the sum of media pollsters knew what they are talking about. 

While I frequently find myself disagreeing with the opinions of my many bovine aficionado friends & acquaintances, I have found that my own expectations and beliefs wind up more grounded as a result of engaging in conversations with them about both our similarities and our differences. I’ve also found this to be the case with politics, religion, and even finance.

The modern world has made it easy to create our own personal echo chambers. With a click of the mouse, we can ignore a “friend” on social media that offers different world views. If we don’t like the spin on a news story, we just change the channel to a more liberal or conservative alternative. But by limiting our exposure to sources or audiences that we only agree with, we may be missing an opportunity to make ourselves smarter, as discussed in this 2014 Scientific American® article.

If we allow this tendency to extend into our investment opinions, the results can be costly. So, if you tend to read glass half empty perspectives such as Zero Hedge or Nouriel Roubini, you should also take in some more optimistic points of view from folks like Jeremy Siegel or even Jim Cramer. The views and perspectives may vary widely, but that’s the point. Get more information and then make informed decisions.

That’s how markets work. They take all the available information, knowledge, and opinions and integrate that into prices. Together, we know more than we do alone.

At the end of the day, broadening your circle may help you wind up with more money. You’ll almost certainly have more friends, which is probably worth even more.

Want to discuss or debate?

Get in touch.