There is a famous Indian parable that is taught in philosophy classes throughout the world to prevent absolutism and foster tolerance for the views of others. To paraphrase, six blind men are taken to “see” an elephant for the first time. One man feels the elephant’s tusk and declares that the elephant is like a spear, one man feels the elephant’s legs and declares that elephants are like trees, another man feels the trunk and declares the elephant is like a snake. Each man has a wildly different view of what constitutes an elephant depending on what part of the elephant they happen to come across.
The parable ends as follows:
“And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!”
There are few domains with as much noise and chatter as investing. Every day you’ll hear some expert’s opinion on the trade war, yield curve inversion, or whatever the flavour of the month is. Much like the six blind men in the parable, these opinions often have a grain of truth, but they are incomplete because the pundits tend to have major blind spots (pun intended) in their understanding of the world.
So the next time you read that so-and-so is predicting a recession or making a stock pick, remember that they probably haven’t seen the whole elephant!