At some point, many early investors look at themselves and think, "I'm going to be the next Warren Buffett." Seasoned professionals immediately run through a list of all the people who have said something similar to them. There's an irony in these two thoughts that I find intriguing and it all boils down to interpretation.
Let's face it, nobody you or I know is likely to become the next Warren Buffett. Investors like him come along every few decades. The world has evolved into algorithms, trades in fractions of a second, instant gratification and momentum. At some point, the pendulum may swing back. Strike that, it will swing back, but I believe the value swing portion of the movement is becoming shorter. That makes timing incredibly difficult, and timing has been one thing Buffett cares little about (see his long-time hold on Coca-Cola (KO) ), and therein lies the rub.
Most investors and traders do not and cannot carry the timeframe of Buffett. Many of us are starting later in the game with plans on using our investment dollars to fund a retirement. In other words: We have an endpoint in mind. Even more, we likely have a need or a goal. I don't think the same can be said for Buffett's approach. The vision of his investments extends beyond his own life expectancy. It always has. If you can remove timeframe from the equation, your investment thesis changes drastically. I don't know anyone who can remove that part of the equation.
There's an old saying: The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. For most of us, that's true. To some extent, it is also the case with Buffett, but if there is one investor who can challenge this, it is Warren. His pockets are deep enough to be filled with everyone reading today and still have plenty of room left for more. Limited resources increase risk. If limited resources weren't challenging enough, our influence on any company we purchase is virtually nil.
The same isn't true for Buffett. CEOs take his calls (surely, Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook does -- Buffett is a big Apple holder). Boards take his advice. Confidence in a holding soars when your voice can be heard. Don't confuse confidence with being correct, but it's not an investment concern for the masses. Without the influence, resources and unlimited timeframe for investment, no one is going to become the next Warren Buffett and no one can actually invest in exactly the same manner. Stylistic influence is about the best anyone can achieve.
But here's the irony: There are many and various "Warren Buffetts" around us.
How many folks who say they want to become the next Warren Buffett actually want to trade like him? I'd venture few. It's about success and reputation.
People define success differently. Some deem it as becoming a millionaire or billionaire, while others may define it by emotion or comfort. And that leads us to reputation. Do your friends call you a wizard of investing and constantly ask you for advice? Were you heavily recruited by a company to which you didn't even apply? The list goes on.
From a media perspective, it's a sexy headline to sell: "Becoming the next Buffett" or "Learn to invest like Buffett." And it fails in action because of the aforementioned reasons; however, it doesn't have to fail if we focus on the mindset. I believe that is what most people mean when they say they want to be the next Buffett. It's not about the nominal measurement of success as the media would have you believe, so go ahead and strive to be the next Buffett, but do so under your own terms, your own definition. After all, that's how he got to where he is.
(This commentary originally appeared on Friday on Real Money Pro. Click here to learn about this dynamic market information service for active traders. Apple is a holding of Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS.)
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