The last time we heard from Whitney Tilson he was waving a tearful goodbye to the business of managing other people's money in order to focus on more stimulative and enriching life experiences. The goal, Tilson wrote in his farewell letter to investors, was “to find opportunities that are personally interesting, give me the chance to collaborate with great people, and are sufficiently remunerative.”
It should be no surprise that Tilson's search for a pursuit that is interesting, collaborative and remunerative led him to dabble in seminar management, with the Kase Advanced Seminar on Value Investing and Hedge Fund Entrepreneurship. What is surprising is that Tilson's career switch has also allowed him to dabble in acute sleep deprivation and manic Powerpoint-based cries for help, as evidenced by the former hedge funder's recently published slide deck, My Experience With Extreme Sleep Deprivation.
Though Tilson spent decades at the intense and invigorating work of investing (and sometimes losing) investor money – alongside occasional forays into television appearances, blogging/writing, and public speaking – he didn't feel the iron grip of stress-induced madness until he was teaching a course for a dozen-odd hedgies and aspiring hedgies. The seminar ran 8:15 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily, leaving him only the wee hours of the morning to diligently plan (read: feverishly scrawl) the next day's agenda, a process that looked something like this:
After a week, Tilson was averaging 5 hours of sleep and beginning to feel a whole lot of feelings, which he was generous enough to share in his powerpoint:
• I feel a bit manic
• I’ve become more giddy/goofy
– Say or write whatever pops into my head (be careful Whitney!)
• I don’t feel as sharp mentally
– Maybe a 5-10% decline if you tested me
– My crossword puzzle times are slower
• My head, throat and eyes hurt and my nose is running
• I’ve become very emotional
– I’ve cried more in the past week than in the past decade
• I started crying in front of my students as I described a particularly difficult episode in my life, which was definitely not on the schedule!
• I get choked up every time I talk about my wife’s serious car accident a few weeks ago, and I feel much more intense love for her than usual (I know, I know, there’s nothing greater than infinity, but you know what I mean! ;-)
But these are just the negatives. Like a good coke binge, Tilson's lowest lows have been eclipsed by the highest highs:
• I haven’t been this creative and productive in more than a decade;
in only a week and half, I’ve created remarkably in-depth, highquality
content (in my opinion), captured in roughly two dozen new
slide presentations across three subject areas:
1) How to be a better investor (find more good investments, avoid value
traps, manage the portfolio better, etc.);
2) How to be a better hedge fund entrepreneur (create/launch a stronger
fund, raise more capital, hire the right people at the right time, create
more compelling presentations and investor letters, better cultivate
mentors, etc.); and
3) How to be a better person (a better friend/husband/father, more
optimistic/confident/resilient/happy, better avoid calamities that can
derail a life (death/serious injury, bad marriage/suffering a permanently
impaired relationship with a loved one, loss of reputation or wealth,
Don't believe him? Here's proof the no-sleep thing is working:
• I conceived of this slide deck and created it from 1:00-2:30am on
the 10th night
Also, in a bit of news that would annoy Tilson's past investors:
I’ve had two million-dollar ideas (literally) in the past three days
According to two updates to the slide deck, both added on Christmas Eve upon arriving to Argentina for a family trip, Tilson's now at three-plus weeks of little sleep, waking up around 3 a.m. nightly “bursting with ideas.” He's “almost getting used to it,” which may not be so bad, really: “It would be a game changer if I could add another ~3 hours to every day the rest of my life!” It would also be a game changer if all it took to be a successful hedge funder was to stagger around the office in the same soiled clothes you've had on for the past three days, a haze of cigarette smoke and ground-up Adderall dust hanging in the air, yammering about the vision you had last night of an eagle with the head of a snake devouring a small human child, which was obviously an allegory for value plays in the energy sector. If only.
Tilson's concluding thoughts:
• It’s an amazing feeling to be this creative and productive
– I feel like I could conquer the world right now!
• However, it would not be good for me, mentally or physically, to do this very often
– Saying or writing whatever pops into my head is particularly dangerous
– But going on the occasional “jag” (as my mom calls it) could be very beneficial
• I wonder how long it will take me to get back to normal?
Our concluding thoughts: Please seek psychiatric help and/or medical attention, Whitney. In any case, keep writing.
UPDATE: As of December 28, there is a new update to the slide deck:
• The moment I went on vacation, my sleeping problems
• The last three nights I’ve slept completely normally,
without taking Ambien, for 8-10 hours
• It’s remarkable to me how quickly I’ve gone back to my
usual good sleep
• When I get home, I’d like to try to see if I can adjust to
sleeping from 11pm to 6am regularly on weeknights –
seven hours of sleep is the minimum specialists
recommend – which would add an extra ~30 minutes to
Tilson sent the updated presentation to Dealbreaker, along with the following message:
I’m going to sleep with a calm mind – about to have my third night in a row of good sleep I think. Amazing what a vacation can do…
We're pleased to hear that all is well. You can read the updated slide deck here: My experience with extreme sleep deprivation-Whitney Tilson.