Last year, I noted in the Price of Paying Attention that listening to all of the noise out there hurts your investing returns. If you digest a lot separate sources, if you crave input, if you are entertained by current events, you run the risk of getting distracted by a huge amount of meaningless junk.

My own solution to navigate all of this noise involves 3 steps:

1) Focus on the data (not the commentary);
2) Keep refining your process;
3) Eliminate bad or biased sources with extreme prejudice

These have helped me steer clear of distracting, biased, unhelpful or misleading noise. I learned this weekend that there is an enormous amount of nonsense that simply falls off your radar when you work this way.

Consider this list of things I do not have even the slightest interest in:

• Who the next Treasury Secretary will be
• The Herbalife hedge fund battle
• 90% of Wall Street Research
• People who don’t believe in Evolution
• The Fiscal Cliff
• Dell Going Private
• Why Ben Bernake is going to cause hyper-inflation!
• 75% of what is on CNBC
• Any reality television
• Those QE and Gold cartoons from ExtraNormal
• Lance Armstrong’s doping
• What the European Central Bank will do next
• Nouriel Roubini’s parties
• Birthers, 9/11 Conspiracists, Global Warming Denialists
• Lindsay Lohan’s next movie/arrest/rehab visit

That’s just off the top of my head.

There are millions of things that I have no interest in. The list of items I specifically mentioned are what I believe have a negative value — they are worth less than zero — these are meaningless distractions that take my attention away from more important things.

I am not claiming to have found the holy grail, but I have learned what makes me more productive and efficient.  Note that the vast majority of the things I don’t care about are coincidentally also items I have no control over.

If you want to find more time to focus on what you are supposed to be doing, then you must eliminate the junk. It could be worth about 1000 hours of found time per year to you.



Avoid the Noise (January 2013)

The Price of Paying Attention (November 2012)

Who Do You Trust? (January 2008)

Lose the News (June 2005)

Category: Financial Press, Investing, Philosophy, Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

42 Responses to “Things I Don’t Care About”

  1. D. Harmon says:

    Add the debt ceiling…

  2. Moss says:

    One or two are worth knowing as they can be instructive.

  3. Moss:

    At what cost? That’s the calculus you must do . ..

  4. jnkowens says:

    The wife was watching some morning “news” show or another while I was getting ready for work, and a woman who is a personal fitness / yoga / meditation guru came on, and caught my attention.

    The gist of what she said was this: There is very little we control in the world besides ourselves. We should focus on taking the very best care of ourselves we can, by being very deliberate about what we allow into our bodies and our minds, and by filtering out as much junk as possible. This is how we become “our best selves”.

    Good stuff, IMO.

  5. greybridge says:

    Kim K’s baby

  6. jadoube says:

    Wrong on CNBC.

    Correct answer: 100%

  7. hyde says:

    my biggest one is arguing on the internet. Not caring about this saves meuntold and immense amounts of time and energythat can be better spent on something useful.

  8. george lomost says:

    So how do you keep track of “sentiment” ?

    “1) Focus on the data (not the commentary);” Read Damasio: people who only focus on the data make terrible decisions.

  9. Ritholtz says:

    Sold to you

  10. Greg0658 says:

    price of pay’g attention – or care’g
    ‘coincidentally . have no control over’ .. I don’t know about you but imo us 5thEstate’rs are shape’g the world this . much :-)
    hear ya tho and thanks for care’g about the real important stuff

  11. Tutti says:

    I really don’t care what every single hedge fund manager / wanna be MM or trader on twitter thinks. 99.975% of it could be classified as derivative, incorrect or uninformed. It’s great for news, but I seriously don’t want to hear about someones lawn gnome and this weeks generational low opportunity.

  12. Jbones2 says:

    Agreed. 75% of CNBC … but also 100% of Santelli

  13. Clem Stone says:

    It can be enlightening to track the results of investment ideas that you act upon from a particular source.

  14. Greg0658 says:

    ps – remiss to not add now (imo)
    the world would run on autopilot much better IF this next sentence were not the OpSys
    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his ….”

  15. robertso2020 says:

    Great list. Although I was surprised about the singling out of Global Warming Denialists. Does that mean you only listen to Global Warming Believers? Both sides of the Global Warming “debate” seem to violate your third rule of eliminating “bad or biased sources with extreme prejudice”.

  16. Chad says:

    The problem is the the info on the Global Warming Denialists side has a very high amount of “bad”, while the information suggesting that Global Warming is happening has a much smaller pecent.

  17. ZedLoch says:

    Nouriel Roubini’s likes to party? Did you make that up?

  18. Bob A says:

    add to that anything that appears in a Facebook feed and 99.9999999% of what happens on Twitter

  19. robertso2020 says:

    Actually, I would have figured that pie chart would make you skeptical. I’m certainly no expert on the matter…if anything it’s one of those things “I don’t care about”. However, my gut tells me we may be getting this one wrong and we will have wasted a lot of time and money (a few will make money) focusing on the wrong environmental disaster. That being said, I would never voice my opinion publicly—only on an anonymous blog—because it is pure gumption supported with zero facts.

  20. warren.buffett says:


  21. Frilton Miedman says:

    “75% of what is on CNBC”

    Nate Silver’s “The signal and the noise” comes to mind.

    I also second Warren’s mention of ZH, they do the same thing Santelli does, mix and mingle real facts with sensationalist opinion and compile data into their own revised reality.

  22. MorticiaA says:

    I have a list of my top 4 priorities written in the upper corner of my office white board. If someone comes into my office to chat, I look at it to make sure the person is helping me with at least one of those items on the list. If not, I kindly tell them that I have work to do.

  23. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    There’s a lot of wisdom in the 80/20 Rule.

    The biggest challenges are identifying what is currently in the 20% bucket, and then structuring your time and energy on that bucket, especially if you don’t have control of your schedule. (Like Dilbert, I’ve been at companies where meetings seemed designed to change the ratio to 90/10 or worse.)

  24. [...] Ritholtz at the Big Picture has another take on the topic. In his post he talks about the many things he does NOT care about, [...]

  25. Hammer of Thor says:

    I recommend watching Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States (available on demand on Showtime). Not investment related but interesting.

  26. bobmitchell says:

    Barry, I’ve been telling you for years now to get NR’s agent. Who needs P&L when you have plenty of T&A?

  27. RW says:

    Like Sherlock Holmes (A Study in Scarlett) when Dr. Watson is astonished to learn that Holmes is ignorant of the Copernican theory and the structure of the solar system and Holmes makes it clear that this has nothing to do with his work and risks “elbowing out” useful facts with useless ones so he will do his best to forget it now that he has learned it.

    A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that has difficulty laying his hands upon it.

    PS: Nice graphic on the peer-reviewed scientific articles WRT global climate change. I would be willing to bet the majority of the few articles denying that change were in the first decade of the debate. Scientists aren’t entirely immune to herding or error if it comes to that but consensus typically builds differently than it does in popular culture because it is oriented to data and theoretical/modeling strength tested over time rather than personality, prejudice or money so those only familiar with fads, popular trends or PR and astroturf campaigns do not realize why it should, for example, be given more weight than industry groups who profit from carbon. Pity that.

    NB: Part of the problem is that the exclusion list, the list of sources not worthy of further attention, has to be personally constructed to a large degree because traditional vetting sources such as news media have become untrustworthy — either they are into the “balanced,” opinions on the shape of the earth can differ, bullshit or they are outright bullshitting themselves — so finding trustworthy vetting sources is part of the task; e.g., the economists/pundits who signed this open letter to Bernanke have suffered virtually no ill effects in their careers or in demand for their punditry despite being 180 degrees wrong for years.

  28. Irwin Fletcher says:

    Good post and very helpful.
    However, there is one exception to your “Reality TV” item.
    Shark Tank!
    It’s interesting some of the deal structures proposed and gives me ideas on some of my private deals.
    Plus, I love watching Cuban take on the other guys.

  29. ToNYC says:

    My own solution to navigate all of this noise involves 3 steps:

    1) Focus on the data (not the commentary);
    2) Keep refining your process;
    3) Eliminate bad or biased sources with extreme prejudice

    Two steps is all here, you think?
    You can eliminate 3) if you re-consider that 1) defines data as being Agenda-free, which wipes bad and biased sourcing whether for freak show eyeballs, policy-driven narrative, cognitive-dissonant mass-turbulation, but rather first-person information, that doesn’t go away when you stop just believing it.

  30. Moss says:

    Understanding what the ECB will do next has been very profitable.

  31. ben22 says:

    reality tv?

    I take issue with that being on the list…you know, after a long day of focusing only on things that matter I often need a break

    I therefore sometimes rest the brain while observing mindless junk! (reality tv) and its never cost me anything in markets either :-)

    about a year ago I put “multi-tasking” on my list of things I don’t care about…mostly because science tells me that my brain isn’t built to do it effectively

    I also make note of the fact that you say you are not interested in Lindsay Lohan’s next movie/arrest/rehab visit however you did not say you were not interested in the next time she shows up in Playboy

    interesting Barry….

  32. Frilton Miedman says:

    Doubtful & ToNYC, even hard data has to be parsed for selection bias & omission.

    A source with an agenda can easily cite one solid fact, while completely ignoring, omitting or burying the rest of the relevant data.

  33. ToNYC says:

    FM Says: You might have read to the end of the sentence:
    You don’t waste time parsing first-hand information, or a similarly-schooled associate’s report of first-hand information, since your life and mission depends on all of it and the recall of only it.

  34. old dog says:

    Heartily agree. Cf. Steven Covey, “The Seven Habits…”

  35. [...] Ritholtz published an interesting piece today: Things I Don’t Care About. The premise is by identifying and ignoring these things, one can recover considerable time used in [...]

  36. [...] on the Data. As I have said repeatedly (and I’m not alone in this), focus on the data.  As my masthead proclaims, I strive for a data-driven perspective [...]

  37. Francois says:

    ” 75% of what is on CNBC”

    You meant to write 99%, yes?

  38. [...] – How to tune out noise and focus on things that matter (Barry Ritholtz, The Big Picture) [...]

  39. mackaan says:

    Be honest… it would kind of depend on the reason why Linday Lohan is arrested ….

  40. [...] Things I Don’t Care About (January 15th, 2013) PERMALINK Category: Financial Press, Really, really bad calls, Television, Web/Tech. [...]