Sam on pivotal life-defining decisions:
“It’s the times when I’ve gone against common wisdom and do the opposite of what everyone thinks I should do that have most defined my life and made me the person that I am today.”

The wisdom of the crowd is well understood and copying what everyone else is doing is normally the correct option. But it is the times when we do the opposite that most defines us. And it is where success is made. In this episode, we talk about when you should follow the crowd and when you should do the opposite.

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Structure

01:37 – Introductions
04:00 – Knowledge of the market vs. contrarian decisions
05:50 – “Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy” – Warren Buffet
07:06 – Phone a friend vs. ask the audience
08:12 – How to know when to follow the crowd and when to do your own thing?
08:32 – Questions to ask yourself
10:50 – How sam did the opposite when writing blog posts
13:42 – How Emma decided to go into marketing

Transcript

SAM: Hello and welcome back to another episode of the lazy entrepreneur. I’m your host Sam Priestly and as normal we’re joined by my lovely co-host Emma Priestly.

EMMA: Hello.

SAM: Hello we’ve got quite a few new listeners recently, it’s peaking in a few of the charts. In fact today I got quite a few emails from other podcasters asking if they can come on.

EMMA: How exciting.

SAM: It’s very funny because none of them name the name of the podcast, they’re all just these obviously stock emails that are just like, I love your content, blah blah blah is an expert in this and he thinks the same thing as you. Can he come on your podcast? It’s very funny, I’ve got literally about four or five today.

EMMA: But it doesn’t say anything about what they specialize in.

SAM: What it says about them but doesn’t say, oh I like listening to the lazy entrepreneur podcast, I really enjoyed this episode. There’s no kind of personalization to it.

EMMA: Do any of them sound like they’ve got something interesting to say?

SAM: Well I’m not particular interested in having them on but I’m quite interested in is the publicity companies who’ve emailed me off it. So they’ve obviously got the name and the company they hired to do it so I’m going to drop some of them an email, see what their rates are, see if they can get me a bit of publicity. But I thought this would be a good opportunity to kind of explain what it is we’re doing here because there’s probably some listeners who’ve got no idea what’s going on.

EMMA: That’s good. Well I’m Sam Priestley and I run a blog called Sam Priestley dot com. This is the lazy entrepreneur podcaster. The lazy entrepreneur is me becauseI’m very lazy. It’s just our chatting, we’re married, I like talking about entrepreneurial stuff. I like finding sort of shortcut ways to do things. I have quite a lot of experience starting loads of businesses. I’m quite lazy and I find it hard to motivate myself so one of the things I do is I’m always changing to new projects and new businesses. I also kind of got this idea that there’s a certain amount of money that after that amount, I don’t need to really own anymore. So the projects I look for are ones that I actually enjoy doing and lead to a better life. We spent a year and a half traveling full-time while working online and kind of doing our thing. Together we run a gin company, it’s called pipe house gin and we make sort of flavored gins, so flavor without the sweetness. I’ve got a table tennis brand. Emma run supper clubs she hosts people at our house and cooks for them and charges them a fee, and we do all sorts of other things don’t we. We do a bit of marketing I remember. Feel free to look at other podcast episodes, there’s all sorts of stuff. I once started a coffee shops, there’s an episode on that, I once had a car importing and exporting business, there’s an episode on that. I used to be a professional gambler, there’s all sorts of random stuff I just like talking about so it’s just us chatting really. And today we’re going to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot recently, so Emma you know I am a massive hypocrite?

EMMA: In what way.

SAM: And I am in some ways a walking contradiction, so I’ve got these two ideas that I wholeheartedly believe to be true. One of which is that the crowd is normally right, that there’s wisdom to the crowd that what most people are doing is correct. Then I’ve also got this idea that the crowd is an idiot and that most of the stuff they do, there’s no logic behind it and we should be doing the opposite.

EMMA: It’s just following like sheep

SAM: And people don’t really think through a lot of the reasons they do stuff. And so it’s quite a lot because I believe both of those. So the last episode that was released was on value betting where I literally made a career out of betting against anyone who didn’t follow the crowd, that was how I discovered value bets, so anyone who disagreed with what the crowd thought was wrong and just made money by betting against them so that’s a time where I believe so much in the wisdom of the crowd and the efficiency of the marketplace and all this kind of stuff that I’m willing to bet loads of money on that. But then when it comes to, you know, getting a job or buying a house or even your idea that you can make money at gambling, that’s all very like anti common wisdom. And the opposite of the crowd, the opposite of what most people believe and I’ve been thinking that it’s the times when I’ve gone against common wisdom and do the opposite of what everyone thinks I should do that have most defined my life and made me the person that I am today.

EMMA: Yeah definitely it’s making me think of two businesses: table tennis bats and gin because I think in that way they’re opposites. So table tennis bats was a business you set up which wasn’t following the crowd. It was starting everything from scratch and then gin is a very saturated market.

SAM: Even with the gin, our idea was to do something that no one else was really doing, which was to focus on the online side of it.

EMMA: Even within something that sounds like it’s following the craze, the gin craze, that you’ve always got this edge of trying to do differently.

SAM: And while we are following this gin craze, everybody tells us we shouldn’t be making gin and when we started it was a stupid idea as a saturated market, you’ll never be able to make it work so thecommon wisdom there is that what you shouldn’t do it that’s too busy.

EMMA: It’s too crowded.

SAM: Whenever you tell someone I make gin, they go oh that’s a very on-trend market and you can tell what they’re thinking, that you’re only doing that because you’re following everyone else.

EMMA: You’re being a sheep.

SAM: Yeah you’re never gonna make any money on that. Yeah there’s a quite famous quote from Warren Buffett where he says, “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” I remember I read that maybe when I was 18 something. At the time I was also reading a book called The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb which was pretty much saying the same thing, that people underestimate the chances of unlikely events, and I thought I found an easy way to make money. I’ll just take the opposite where everyone else did so I wrote a little computer program that would go on the stock market and do the opposite of what everyone else was doing that when the market was going up I would sell, when the market was going down I would buy.

EMMA: What happened?

SAM: Well I lost money, it’s just too simplistic an idea because crowd is normally right.

EMMA: But that’s how it started that mentality.

SAM: Have you watched who wants to be a millionaire?

EMMA: I watched it the other day with you.

 

SAM: Oh yeah when the teacher won. Yeah and there’s there’s free lifelines, yeah a 50-50 call a friend or ask the audience and the audience always gets the right answer because there’s that wisdom to crowd the Smurfs it’s a really hard question, it always seems to get the right answer and like if you’re walking down the street and suddenly everyone starts running the other way screaming you should probably start running too, like following the crowd is a survival mechanism and you don’t go that far wrong just by following the crowd. Then you can take it too far, this is the lazy entrepreneur podcast, let’s talk a little bit about it in entrepreneurship. And I think an area where I think people want to follow a crowd a bit too much is when it comes to starting a business. They do an online course on how to start a business what they’ll do is someone will have found the little way to make money from drop shipping or retail arbitrage or Amazon FBA or whatever it is yeah, they’ll then write down exactly what they did they’ll turn it into a recipe and then they’ll sell it on to hundreds of people. But then as soon as anyone else is doing it, it doesn’t make sense anymore. So how do you know when to follow the crowd or when to do your own thing?

EMMA: I don’t know if it is gut feel or is it a lot of research? Is it a bit of both?

SAM: Yeah it’s probably research. I think it’s probably also asking why, like being curious like why do people think that? Have a look at stuff that we take for granted and asking.

EMMA: Give an example of that?

SAM: Why go to university? Why own a house? Why should I want to become a millionaire? Why should I try and succeed in the career I’m currently in? Why should I retire at 65? Why should I have intro music in this podcast? Why can’t I make money gambling? Why shouldn’t I start a gin business? Why can’t I have an ice cream for a starter rather than in the desert?

EMMA: We have an insight into your brain.

SAM: I think the thing is that most of these things, the answer is well there’s good reasons why all this happens, but then occasionally you’ll think about something and you’ll go oh, well maybe that isn’t. Maybe that route isn’t the right thing for me. Often people ask me why don’t we own the house we live in, why do we rent? And most people I don’t think have ever considered that maybe owning isn’t the right option?

EMMA: Yeah I agree with that.

SAM: They just assume, what should I be doing? Well I should I buy a house? They don’t think why should I buy a house and literally we’ve got a few friends who bought a house a few years ago and are now moving. For them buying a house and then selling it three years later and moving is a bad decision, but they never thought of it like that, they’ve never considered it. I don’t think buying a house is the wrong thing, I am just saying most people don’t consider that it could be a bad decision. Like go into that much debt, spending that much money on a home. I have this idea it’s kind of good to learn the rules of something. Understand why they’re doing it and then you can break the rules.

EMMA: Yeah they’re going in knowingly rather than ignorantly.

SAM: When I started writing my blog the best practices you should write two or three posts a week, the more posts you write, the better. Each post should be under a thousand words because everyone has a short attention span so people, yeah they need to be short and snappy. You should write less like top ten of whatever. There’s all this kind of stuff that I read and knew that was the wisdom.

EMMA: That’s given me proper flashbacks to professional serviceS marketing. It’s complete rubbish.

SAM: Well and I did the exact opposite on purpose. I wrote like one or two posts a month. Each post was really in depth and I haven’t done a single clickbait article and it’s worked out for me and it’s only worked out for me because I have done the opposite. If I had followed the field I don’t think it would have worked.

EMMA: But do you think that’s because it stood out to your readers.

SAM: Well it’s a unique it’s different it’s not like what else everyone’s reading and I actually have stuff that I can say that they might not have heard. When I did an in-depth series on how to start a gin business, that’s not something you can cover in a thousand words.

EMMA: Barely skim the surface.

SAM: Yeah I think that there is a little call to action that is the reason I’m doing this episode, what I want to talk about it is that I think we should take a step back and think about the stuff that we do every day you know the long term goals we have and have a think about why exactly are we doing them. Like why we are in the careers we are in, why we are in the businesses we are doing, why are we living in the towns we’re in, why are we doing the hobbies that we’re doing and just asking it why? Are we just doing it because that’s the natural route or is it another reason, have we actually thought about it. The other thing I was thinking in one of the recent podcasts we listen to, you say one of the reasons you got into professional services originally so Emma used to work at a big company in London called PwC and one the reasons you got into it was that you’d been giving you advice that if you wanted to get into charity work later down the line, it’d be good to have this background in professional services and work in the city.

EMMA: So I made that up, that was my impression. was never told that, I’d never felt comfortable going into charity sector with my sociology degree. I didn’t feel that I had any skills I could offer a charity whether it was an admin based role starting at the bottom all the way through to a technical role for example, being their accountant. I thought I needed to go and get experience somewhere else, potentially in a big company. Then what to do, what not to do and then take that experience to a charity.

SAM: So there’s something you’ve actually thought about. That is probably the right thing to do because I wondering like was that was that just what you were taught in your course? That if you wanted to do that you should go that route, just do ABC and then end up at C.

EMMA: Bring that up in this podcast because the reason I came to that conclusion was talking to all of my course friends when we were graduating and what jobs they were going on to do and there was no way they were all going to charities and every time I spoke to someone about it, what are you gonna offer that charity? You’re not offering any value and you’re going in at graduate salary, so all this money that this charity has raised for your annual income, it just it felt very uncomfortable to me. And I felt that I’d be much better valued going in and offering a set of skills, once I’d got experience somewhere else.

SAM: I think those are the sort of decisions you need to constantly be rechecking you made your decision when you were 20 or 21 when you’re looking to graduate university. Then when you’re 24 25 you relook at that and say was I correct in my assumptions? Is this actually, am I learning skills that will help or is there a better route?

EMMA: Or will I change my mind, is charity not actually the goal?

 

SAM: Or do you actually just want to hang out with me and record stupid podcasts and drinking lots of gin.

EMMA: Yeah and do loads of cooking and eat lots of nice food.

SAM: Yeah that’s really all I had to say, I was thinking about this but we don’t know the answer you know I wholeheartedly believe that generally the crowd is correct in common wisdom is common wisdom for a reason. I also believe that the stuff that defines us and the real success comes from when we break away from the common wisdom and we do our own thing when we take a unique route that’s counter cultural or counter to what everyone else has too much to do. How do you know when to make that stand. I think you can’t just be contrarian you cannot be the devil’s advocate of everything you’re doing and do the opposite people, because the crowds normally right but I think if you take a step back and you really think about why you’re doing certain things why are you following a common wisdom, that’s when you’ll see these opportunities and these kind of big changes to your life that maybe are the right thing to do. Because you know some things are pretty important, like what career you go into, what you do with your time? What hobbies you do.

EMMA: Definitely.

SAM: Yeah so have a think. Well thanks for listening. How long have we gone on? There we go so it’s a short one that’s what I wanted, we had done two quite long ones recently I wanted to bring it back a little bit a little short one, so food for thought. We’ve got a little intro to what we do something else is going to say. We do have some sponsors on this podcast yet but we got a few businesses so here we go this podcast was sponsored by Pipehouse Gin, if you like drinking gin and you live in the UK definitely check out Pipehouse Gin. Its flavored gin without the sweetness we’ve got one flavour out so far, earl gray and cucumber. Absolutely delicious, it’s London Dry which means no added sweeteners now add a flavor and on the 30th of March, we got a new flavor coming out which we were really excited about this a secret so look out for that. On Amazon you can buy us on our website Pipehouse Gin dot com, don’t wait to get it because it’s really good and we’re drinking it right now because that’s where our inspiration comes from apart from that, thanks for listening and goodbye.