The word comes from the Latin word, contexere – which means to weave together. Context refers to the circumstances which the person is referring to while defining a situation or explaining something.
What is meant by context? Context is the circumstances in which a rule is applicable like an author of a report shall explain when is a theory applicable or when it is not, how you can apply it to different places. The context of a person at any point in time is defined by the knowledge he is having about the subject, how he is thinking about the information, how he is linking it to other things.
Context in Markets
Why do we have markets or people with different opinions?
How two people who read the same thing can have different interpretations:
Two very respectable investors, both read the same chart and had a different interpretation.
Let us think what affected their interpretations, After reading the chart their mind was able to link it to something they had read or heard or experienced in the past and they developed their information on that. It was also dependent on which type of investing or what they were thinking at that point of time in their life. It may be also dependent on the case they are working on or how their mood is. There can be endless factors.
What does it mean? Are they both wrong? No, both are right in the context of what they are saying. Now another person who just hates analysis may interpret nothing from this, or another person who has a different viewpoint may reject both interpretations or a young analyst may learn from one and not the other.
Even when we get the same information or when we are taught the same theories our interpretation of the theory at that point of time depends on our past knowledge about the subject, our way of thinking, our mood, etc. There are so many factors affecting a person at a particular point in time, though not all are important – all seem to be interconnectedness.
I was recently reading the interview with Prof. Sanjay Bakshi (an excellent teacher and investor), and the interviewer asked him what he was doing or focusing on?
He focuses on the word ‘Right now’, we change over time, similarly our investing styles evolve. Even the businesses change and involve.
Context For an Investor
Himatsingka Seide Ltd. is a company which I used as an example in one of my previous posts and told that if it was held for 16 years (2001-2016) and an investor would have made 18% CAGR. It was clearly a growth investment.
While recently reading Prof Bakshi’s articles, I realized that he made an investment in the same company as a company which was dirt cheap. In his news article in 2002, he recommended it as a value buy, as per him it was selling below cash. At that time in his life, he was a Graham-style value investor.
What does it mean?
It is how you define value or growth which makes the difference. You are always saying it in some context.
The same company can be a value buy or a growth buy, value or growth is dependent on the situation of your buying.The context of a person defining the investment, as during a lifetime same business may be a value investment or a growth investment.
In markets there are different investors each have their own circumstances, own viewpoints, own philosophies, the good thing is we evolve we never remain the same. That is the beauty of our world we are all same yet different. It is very important when you hear someone get to their context and you may find some similarity, then some profound insights regarding what the other person is speaking.
What can we Learn from Context – Different Viewpoints
Why do we have fights?
If we listen to different viewpoints with the context and try to respect different opinions we will find profound insights and develop. We will evolve.
I am always intrigued by the thought of why people are different and why they are same. Over time, I have realized one thing it is the way (Context) of seeing things that matter. Anytime anything (a situation or thing) is described by a complex system of interactions which are going through our mind at any point in time.
Let me start with an example:
What comes to your mind?
Let us try to get hands on different viewpoints.
1) For some layman, apple may be tasty or not and he will eat it as per what he is feeling. His definition of taste will also be affected by how it is presented, whether he has previously tasted that apple. – Your Past
2) Now lets think from the point of view of a Doctor, Gene Biologist (Sorry for the wrong designation), he will say that so many processes need to be right in your body for you to digest apple like you need to have bacteria, the right genes, they should work in right combination, they should release proteins in right combinations and finally the proportion of bacteria, genes, proteins all need to match with your food and your past experiences. If you have some heredity illnesses + Some allergies may be formed due to the food. In addition, finally, the entire process should have proteins, bacteria, juices all in the right proportion (range) for digestion to occur.
3) An ill patient who is on a liquid diet, if he eats apple will cause his infection while to you the same apple may give nourishment. – When a person is eating an apple it may cause benefit to one while the danger to other – An apple a day not always keeps the doctor away – Context is very important.
4) A physicist will see apple in terms of matter and say that it has various atoms within it interacting to release energy
5) A Buddhist will see the emptiness beyond apple and will eat it slowly and enjoy it.
6) A poor child who has not eaten for a long time will consider it as the best moment of his life.
What does this mean? Are they all wrong, No they all are right in the context of what they are speaking or thinking and their own circumstances. Even with something as simple as an apple, people see it in a different way.
Another thing we know from the doctor’s viewpoint is that eating is a very complex system and the process is imprecise (Not perfect). If I put eating food in an equation it would be something like this:
Food (Good or bad) = Past experience * Bacteria * Brain * Genes * Cook making it * Current state of mind * Current state of body* Economic condition* Atoms
Add time and evolution to the equation, as the process keeps iterating and changing over time.
When considering anything at any point in time, we can consider and think from different viewpoints and then form an informed opinion on an issue. I call this type of thinking as systems thinking. Further, this process needs to evolve over time.
What else we can learn from the above discussion?
It is how we define things which really forms our opinion. Like simple phenomena of eating an apple- depends on how we will define it (good or bad).
Let’s start with an example:
I like a girl named xxx, she is very beautiful, yet my friend comes and says she is ugly he does not like her. Why is this difference? Because his and my definition of ugly or beautiful are very different. Imagine I am a layman and my friend a Buddhist monk, I am relating beauty to facial or bodily features while he is searching something for inner peace.
What does this mean? Are we both wrong? It can be only ascertained as per our own definitions. Over time I have realised is there is no one good or bad, there is nothing good or bad, by using such words we trick our mind into reinforcing and ignoring facts, yes something is not suitable for us, bad or good is all how we define it, again we forget in the impermanence of life and conditions, It is our state of minds.
Life has a lot of systems which are imperfect, we should cherish them. As imperfection is dependent on how we define perfection. Everything is a process which is ever changing never the same. Constantly interacting.
Let’s take an example, of marriage,
When we marry all have different choices and preferences, we all feel she/he is the right partner for me as per our own-self. Yet it is at a very particular point of time as the marriage/relationship evolves over time other cards of the deck open up. Sometimes the experience is good, yet other times it is bad. Sometimes it ends up in divorce while other times in beautiful, happy families. We all start up at different points some marry after many years of a relationship while some just see the face and go for arranged marriages.
What does this mean both the approaches (Love or arrange) are wrong/right? No, I mean both approaches evolve with different strategies and different mindsets. If you don’t know each other in the starting of the marriage you will most probably follow a very different cautious approach while the if you know each other well you may follow a very different approach. Though both will change as life progresses and you play the game of life together.
Similarly, you can think of companies/stocks/investors following different approaches. It is the viewpoint of the person at that point in time which is very important. If I present you with a video of how I look, you may form a very different opinion of me while in reality, I may be a different person. While in both cases it is the point of view of the person who is looking which matters in addition to my own viewpoint.
Even the simplest of things could mean different things to different people. Have a look at counting experiment from Professor Richard Feynman. Even something basic as counting is thought differently by different people. Like my father told me in Japanese culture if you tip at a restaurant it is considered as an insult.
Process – Imperfect
Everything is almost a continuous process and we should get that into our thinking, nothing is fixed forever, it is only some patterns which persist longer. From the gene biologist viewpoint of apple we can see even eating an apple is a complex and imprecise process. Thinking about, the continuity of a process and its evolution over time can help us understand any process.
At any point in time lot of factors are interacting to make a thing through. Systems are complex yet imperfect. The context of the person speaking anything is very important. For example, A newspaper heading saying “Eat green carrot juice to remain healthy”, this line may be important for some people and wrong for some people. It needs to be taken within the entire system a person is operating. This line may be applicable to you at some time in your life while not at the other time (evolution).
Remember while Idolising or Blindly Following Someone: You will have your own path, you will have different circumstances and life will be different for you. Yes, there will be similar situations in past lives of other people, yes idolizing someone helps but understanding their context or true meaning of what they are speaking helps more, as you can apply that knowledge where it is required.
In addition, seeing facts as they are help, as if your loved one is a smoker, there is high probability he/she may cause you indirect harm no matter how much you love him/her. This also does not mean he/she is a bad person as it is just a feature of his/her nature, not entire self.
It is very useful to consider different viewpoints before jumping to a conclusion. We should love to enjoy the variety of life. Differences of opinions should be happily listened to. Don’t judge anyone, consider the entire system of any business, industry or person. Nothing is permanent, some patterns persist longer than others, hence we should embrace changes. Imperfection is dependent on how we define perfection. Any feature is only at a point in time. Everything evolves as time changes.