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Biggs on Finance, Economics, and the Stock Market: Barton's Market Chronicles from the Morgan Stanley Years by Barton Biggs

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Section 6B: Biggs's Reading List

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Too Much to Read

May 5, 1987

Receiving information is the lifeblood of the investment manager, and reading is the most efficient way to imbibe it. Each day great stacks of paper arrive that we all compulsively paw at, but the objective of processing information is making wise investment judgments, not reading for reading's sake or even just acquiring knowledge. Sometimes I let getting through my inbox dominate me so that I literally lack time to think. I become so obsessed with sorting and discarding the junk that I end up carrying the “good stuff” I have set aside to read carefully back and forth from home in the bottom of my briefcase. Processing the pile and having a clean desk can become a compulsion that hurts rather than helps.

In other words, as investment managers we must control our reading, rather than let it control us, by being disciplined and discriminating. I need original judgment insights that deepen my understanding of the investment environment, an industry, or a company and specific new information at the margin. Change at the margin is what moves stocks and markets. Ninety percent of the written material I receive each day is worthless to me because either it repeats what I already know or it's irrelevant. The problem is that I can't winnow out the 10 percent without glancing at the rest, and no secretary, no matter how smart, ...

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