To be a successful investor, you must accept that you'll be wrong a lot. I've been doing this for about 20 years and I've had my share of disasters alongside some fantastic calls. Knowing you'll make big mistakes lets you get started, but realizing when you've made a mistake, as early as possible, will help you waste less time and make more money.
Two weeks ago, I explained my bullish view on Tesla Motors. The company was about to unveil a more affordable electric sedan, the Model 3. Starting March 31, about 115,000 customers around the world pulled out their credit cards to drop a deposit of $1,000 (U.S.). All for a car that wouldn't even be unveiled by the CEO, Elon Musk, until much later that night in California. One week later, Tesla had accepted 325,000 deposits for a car. Oh, and the Model 3 isn't expected to ship to customers until at least the end of 2017.
I don't know anyone who was expecting this level of order activity for the Model 3, and I'm not aware of any other time in history when hundreds of people lined up at local stores to buy a car. Those in the bear camp can either pretend this doesn't matter or they can face the truth and realize that Tesla is, so far, succeeding.
I often don't get things right the first time. In late 2012, I was very much not a fan of Facebook's stock. I felt it was overvalued compared to Google and strongly expressed that opinion in the early days of this column. But I kept looking for evidence to either confirm or crush my argument.
By late 2013, I'd changed my mind. I realized I was wrong. Facebook had dramatically improved its advertising tools, the lifeblood of its revenue, and was seeing incredible growth coming from mobile users. I added the stock to my portfolio, and it has gone on to meaningfully outperform Google. They've both outperformed the S&P 500, but I made more money by noticing my own mistake early on.
Today, I'm shocked by how much value Facebook has created by giving its users amazing tools. I still use Google search and YouTube every day. But I find myself spending more time inside Facebook's apps for both business and pleasure. I'm fascinated by how some Facebook features only work on mobile devices. As an example, it's now possible to stream live video into a private Facebook group or to fans of a Facebook page, but this live streaming can only be done from a mobile phone, not a computer.
I can't guess all of Facebook's next big moves, but we'll get a peek at some of them this week as the company hosts its annual developer conference, F8, in San Francisco. Looking at the agenda, it's clear to me that Facebook is heavily focused on video, virtual reality and helping businesses communicate with their customers. I'll be following the event with keen interest.
It's taken me a while to get here, but I'm finally at the point where I believe Facebook is likely to outperform Google over the next decade. The company is much better positioned to monetize mobile users, and is doing a much better job of giving businesses the communication tools they need to reach their global customer base. All of this continues to make the Facebook platform more valuable and a bigger source of time investment for the general public. This is all great news for a business that depends on advertising revenue.
It would have been easy to sit back and argue that Facebook was overvalued, and remains overvalued. I could have argued that my Google investment outperformed the market and ignored the truth. And yet that mistake could have cost me money.
With any high-growth stock, it's essential to keep a critical eye on past investing decisions in case they appear to be steering you down the wrong path. In 2012, I made an investing decision based on the importance of Google search, almost not noticing the stealth-like improvements Facebook kept making to its business.
Similarly, when 2020 rolls around, I'm expecting Tesla to be cranking out hundreds of thousands of Model 3 vehicles at a reasonable profit. But if execution is poor or something else gets in the way, I'll need to stay honest and clear-headed. I'll need to admit I've made a mistake and drive on.
The author owns shares of Facebook, Google and Tesla, both personally and in his Strategy Lab model portfolio.