E+R=O, a Formula for Success

John Noonan Uncategorized

Combining an enduring investment philosophy with a simple formula that helps maintain investment discipline can increase the odds of having a positive financial experience.

Investing is a long-term endeavor. Indeed, people will spend decades pursuing their financial goals. But being an investor can be complicated, challenging, frustrating, and sometimes frightening. This is why it is important to have an investment philosophy you can stick with, one that can help you stay the course (i.e., the Evidence-based Approach).

This simple idea highlights an important question: How can we, as investors, maintain discipline through bull markets, bear markets, political strife, economic instability, or whatever crisis du jour threatens progress towards our investment goals?

When they don’t get the results they want, many investors blame things outside their control. They might point the finger at the government, central banks, markets, or the economy. Unfortunately, the majority will not do the things that might be more beneficial— evaluating and reflecting on their own responses to events and taking responsibility for their decisions.

Some people suggest that among the characteristics that separate highly successful people from the rest of us is a focus on influencing outcomes by controlling one’s reactions to events, rather than the events themselves. This relationship can be described in the following formula:

e+r=o (Event + Response = Outcome)¹

Simply put, this means an outcome—either positive or negative—is the result of how you respond to an event, not just the result of the event itself. Of course, events are important and influence outcomes, but not exclusively. If this were the case, everyone would have the same outcome regardless of their response.

Let’s think about this concept in a hypothetical investment context. Say a major political surprise, such as Brexit, causes a market to fall (event). In a panicked response, potentially fueled by gloomy media speculation of the resulting uncertainty, an investor sells some or all of his or her investment (response). Lacking a long-term perspective and reacting to the short-term news, our investor misses out on the subsequent market recovery and suffers anxiety about when, or if, to get back in, leading to suboptimal investment returns (outcome).

To see the same hypothetical example from a different perspective, a surprise event causes markets to fall suddenly (event). Based on his or her understanding of the long-term nature of returns and the short-term nature of volatility spikes around news events, an investor is able to control his or her emotions (response) and maintain investment discipline, leading to a higher chance of a successful long‑term outcome (outcome).

This example reveals why having an investment philosophy is so important. By understanding how markets work and maintaining a long-term perspective on past and future events, investors can focus on ensuring that their responses to events are consistent with their long-term plan.


John & Bill

1 Jack Canfield, The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be