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Customer Review

131 of 136 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent book with some interesting references to follow up, December 24, 2012
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This review is from: The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing (Hardcover)
Be aware of all the five-star reviews that have only read one book, or those that have read three books from the same author and nothing else.

This book is neither a masterpiece nor the author's best book, but still an interesting book.

I think most of the book is based on the author's blog entries. I personally prefer the blog entries which are more concisely written. I feel that this book has a bit too much filler material. The book is clearly not written for professionals in the investment community (even though they too can profit from reading the book).

I would have liked the book to go one step further than just present extended blog entries. Sometimes the author lack a critical eye. Sometimes he presents an interesting academic finding and then moves on to the next thing. One is left with a lot of lose ends. What was the point of including the stuff on disruptive technologies for instance. We don't know because the author does not tell us. Personally, I still found some chapters interesting and especially the references to more specialised sources in psychology and management. This requires extra work, but the author has a good ability to read widely. If you do not want to do this extra work I don't know if the book will provide you with value. After finishing the book you are not left with a clear way to distinguish luck and skill. You are left with the general notion that luck plays a big role in investing. Not sure that is sufficient for even most lay-persons.

One thing the author misses is that luck and skill are not cast in steel. Luck is like a Russian doll. What is luck for an investor is not necessarily luck for the CEO. What is luck for the CEO is not necessarily luck for the R&D department. Etc. Failure to realise this point makes some of the discussion feel very superficial.

The book contains a lot of sports analogies. The author is talking about US sports, so these sections will not be fun readings for non-Americans. I am not a sports fan in general, so I think that these sections are a bit too lengthy (~30% of the book). In fact, the book contains more sports discussion than investment discussion (~10%). And even more psychology (~60%). Another weakness with the book is that the author is not pushing the investment parallels strongly enough.

Some advice if you have read Taleb. Mauboussin's book is more in the informal style of Taleb's Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets. Personally, I would prefer Taleb's The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: "On Robustness and Fragility".

If you have not read any of the author's books, pick up More More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (Updated and Expanded) (Columbia Business School Publishing) instead. That book is richer in providing various ideas. I would also advice you to check out the author's blog (on Legg Mason site) to get a feel for his writing. The blog is written for a professional audience, so it is more to the point and largely lacks the filler material.

This book is worth between three stars a bit depending on your own writing style preferences (more academic vs more informal).
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 27, 2013, 5:54:32 AM PST
Excellent review Jackal.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2014, 5:54:14 PM PST
HM says:
Ditto for me, on Jackal's review! Nice commentary and the inference to N. Taleb's writings.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2014, 11:25:11 PM PST
Jackal says:
Thanks. It is always nice not to be trashed when writing a fewer stars review.
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