Practical analysis for investment professionals
09 December 2014

The Intuitive Investor: How to Translate Intuitive Sensations

In last month’s piece on intuition I shared tips on how to tune into intuitive sensations. Specifically I focused on the importance of distinguishing between specific consciousness and its emphasis on naming and quantifying sensations, and holistic consciousness and its emphasis on experiencing sensations directly. Yet, for intuitive sensations experienced to be useful to investors, it is critically important to translate them into quantities (rarely) or words (most common). But how to translate intuitive sensations into information?

Expressing Yourself in Words

Here is an exercise to help you translate intuitive sensations:

  1. Think of an investment that elicits strong emotions in you. Perhaps you made a mistake and lost your shareholders’ money. Or maybe you experienced tremendous capital appreciation in an investment that brought you tremendous joy.
  2. Put the investment in your mind’s eye.
  3. Revisit your emotions about the investment.
  4. Focus only on the sensations or feelings associated with the investment and not the words.
  5. Hold your awareness of these sensations for an extended amount of time. It is likely that the sensations and emotions tug at your awareness.
  6. Now that you have a fix on your sensations, begin thinking of words that best harmonize with your experience of them. I strongly encourage you to cycle through many synonyms to see which words best express your emotions.

It is normal to experience more than one emotion simultaneously about complex objects such as investments. Repeat the exercise until you believe you have separated out the complex entanglement of emotions associated with your investment. Ideally at the end of the exercise you have a precise translation of your emotions about an investment. As you review the words you listed what new insights do you have about your investment?

I focused on emotions in the above exercise because until you have practice with tuning into intuitive sensations it can be difficult to notice the subtleties associated with intuition. Emotions, by contrast, are easier to recognize. So if you have mastered your emotions about investing, then consider yourself to either be an evolved and wise investor or an in-denial sociopath!

In all seriousness, emotionless, non-prejudiced awareness is the goal of a successful meditation practice, but that does not mean there are not still sensations associated with an investment. If you do not experience emotions doing the exercise above, then repeat the exercise by recalling any investment that you would like to understand better. Now instead of describing your emotions, identify words that best harmonize with your sensations. What new insights do you glean?

Writing Poetry

After many years of exploring intuition and trying to create structure around it in order to change its operation from serendipity to tool, I can attest that for me the most potent practice for translating intuitive sensations into information is to write poetry. (Yes, an online investment forum is recommending you write poetry!) Why poetry?

Writing poetry is a practice that merges the sensations experienced in holistic consciousness with language, one of the favorite modes of expression for specific consciousness. See if you can write a poem about your career, including the strong feelings generated by your successes and failures. How does your career relate to your sense of self-worth, to your personal development, or to your family? I am not advocating the cheesy kind of poetry that imposes a rhyming structure or other artificial structure (e.g., iambic pentameter or haiku) on your emotions. Why? Because you are trying to avoid specificity and structure to instead focus on the sensations contained in holistic awareness.

The Shareholder Letter

Many investment professionals are required to communicate with their investors, either through a client letter or a letter to shareholders. Writing this letter also provides a wonderful practice field for translating intuitive sensations into numeric or verbal specifics. As an exercise, write your next letter to stakeholders by recalling the previous period’s performance and the decisions you made during that period. Rather than “dialing it in,” instead choose to really tune into your real sensations and to share them with your audience. I am certain that your stakeholders will appreciate your authenticity.

Hopefully these techniques help you begin to translate intuitive insights into meaningful, actionable information. I cannot emphasize enough how important these are to practice, especially non-attachment. This brings to a close my once-monthly publication of The Intuitive Investor. I will continue to publish materials in the future when, and if, needed.

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

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About the Author(s)
Jason Voss, CFA

Jason Voss, CFA, tirelessly focuses on improving the ability of investors to better serve end clients. He is the author of the Foreword Reviews Business Book of the Year Finalist, The Intuitive Investor and the CEO of Active Investment Management (AIM) Consulting. Voss also sub-contracts for the well known firm, Focus Consulting Group. Previously, he was a portfolio manager at Davis Selected Advisers, L.P., where he co-managed the Davis Appreciation and Income Fund to noteworthy returns. Voss holds a BA in economics and an MBA in finance and accounting from the University of Colorado.

Ethics Statement

My statement of ethics is very simple, really: I treat others as I would like to be treated. In my opinion, all systems of ethics distill to this simple statement. If you believe I have deviated from this standard, I would love to hear from you: [email protected]

2 thoughts on “The Intuitive Investor: How to Translate Intuitive Sensations”

  1. Savio Cardozo says:

    Hello Jason
    Thank you for a thought provoking series – this last one, like the rest, is intriguing.
    I will digest this over the holidays, along with your book, and will let you know.
    I think my years of analytical training and being a consultant are going to get in the way so it may take some time before I can fully appreciate this skill.
    Best wishes of the season to you and yours

  2. Hello Savio,

    I am very confident that your interest in getting better will allow you to improve your intuition. It takes a lot of time! Also, even though I am confident in my intuition, I always strive for my more traditional hard data, analytical techniques to be in agreement with my insights.

    Happy holidays to you and yours!


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