Morgan Housel turned the lessons he learned as -2-

The post exploded, racking up over a million page views. Turning the message into a book seemed like a natural next step. But when Housel, a first-time author, sought it out, American publishers told him the concept would never work. In fact, “most of them wouldn’t even return our emails,” he said. “And those who did were like, ‘Hey, I’m just letting you know, nobody’s going to read this book. It’s not going to work.'”

Publishers did not like the format Housel proposed; he wanted to make 20 individual points in short chapters. “All the publishers said, ‘No, there has to be a theme that we talk about throughout the book, otherwise it’s not a book, it’s a collection of essays,’ recalls- 11. A publishing insider wished him well and suggested he self-publish.

Harriman House had approached Housel about writing a book a few years earlier, but he had declined the offer. After being shut down in the United States, he contacted Harriman. “To their credit, they got the opposite reaction from everyone in America,” Housel said. He didn’t receive any advances, and when he signed the deal with Harriman House, it didn’t seem like the start of anything big. He doesn’t remember his wife’s reaction. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this is going to change our lives. It was like, ‘Oh, here’s this little project I’m working on,'” Housel said.

Housel, who had a strong Twitter following his writing Motley Fool, announced he was writing a book in a February 2020 tweet linked to Amazon’s pre-order page. About 100 people did, which seemed “pretty disappointing”, he recalls.

The month before the book was published, Housel received a message from The Wall Street Journal, where he had been a guest columnist in 2014 and 2015. They wanted his photo for an upcoming article. It turned out to be a column on “The Psychology of Money” by longtime Journal investment columnist Jason Zweig, who called it “one of the best and the most original books on finance in years”. Pre-orders then exploded and readers continue to discover the book.

Looking back, Zweig says Housel’s work has always stuck with him. “I walk a lot, and I know Morgan does too,” Zweig told MarketWatch. “I often feel that a good walk both empties the mind and fills it: when you leave behind some of your cares and trivial thoughts, the fresh air and sunlight can liberate to perceive the wider scope of things that are normally obscured by the monotony and hassle of everyday life.”

“I think in a world where many writers are struggling to deliver either the fastest hot take or the hottest fast take, Morgan puts people in the shoes (and mind) of someone who just to come back from a long leisurely but invigorating walk.”

Next for Housel: a book about behaviors that never change

The success of “The Psychology of Money” stems in part from Housel’s clear and accessible writing, but the book’s classic truisms also help, said Harriman House spokesperson Vincent. The book does not rely on charts and graphs and market data. “It’s not particularly time-sensitive, so while some books may focus on a particular time period in the market or a particular type of topic, the good thing about ‘The Psychology of Money’ is that it’s kind of completely timeless,” Vincent said. “The lessons included will be applicable worldwide to anyone at any time.”

Housel has two theories as to why “The Psychology of Money” took off. The first is that he was lucky. (Luck is a topic he explores in the book in a story highlighting that Bill Gates had a chance when he attended one of the few American high schools with a computer.)

The second is that what most editors hated about the book — that it would be a sparse collection of essays with no unifying theme — is what readers love about it. His goal was to make his case with “a minimum of ramblings” and then get out of the readers’ way.

He also carefully considers the long-term value of what he writes before he begins to type. “I’ve always had this idea that if an article is relevant today but not relevant tomorrow, then it’s not relevant at all,” Morgan told The Knowledge Project podcast. “So every time I write an article, the litmus test I try to ask is, if someone reads this article a year from now, will it still be relevant?” A lot of financial writing fails this test because it’s based on current events, on what the market did today. “It’s valuable, but I’ve always felt that the most valuable content comes from more or less timeless things,” Housel said.

Housel, who is now associated with the Collaborative Fund and Markel’s Board of Directors, will explore this theme in his upcoming book, which will focus on behaviors that never change. “There’s so much emphasis in this industry on what’s going to change: how the economy is going to change, where are we going next, what innovations are going to change,” Housel said. “But I think what matters a lot more, what is most impactful and important is what will never change. Which is just an innate part of human behavior that we will do forever and that we can know for sure will be part of our future?”

-Leslie Albrecht

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswire

11-04-22 1636ET

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