There is a fascinating concept in Major League Baseball where, during warm-ups, the players do something called “fake hustle.” When running, they swing their arms faster than normal and over-exaggerate their leg movements but do not actually run any faster. From a distance, the coaches believe the players are hustling and giving 100%, but in reality, they are faking it. We all know the players are not doing themselves any favors by only “simulating” full effort in practice. In fact, it could be argued they are actively sabotaging their team by not putting in the hard work needed to be successful when it counts.
You may have been there, just think back to high school or college. A full semester of preparation, clearly assigned reading and frequent lectures along with pop quizzes when you least expect it to help prepare you for the final exam. If you actually complete the reading, pay attention in class, and take the quizzes seriously, completing the exam can feel like filling out a form. You know all the answers; you simply fill them in. However, if you bagged the reading, slept through class, and took a peek across the aisle during quizzes, the “fake hustle” catches up with you at the final exam.
The concept of the “fake hustle” also rings equally true in any business. Sticking with baseball, as the great George Costanza explained to Jerry and Elaine regarding his job with the New York Yankees – “if you always look annoyed, people will assume you’re busy and leave you alone.” But after a period of time, it becomes apparent to management who is producing and who is not.
Investment consulting deals with its own “fake hustle” issues. Simply going through the motions during client meetings or bringing investment ideas to the table that do not align with the client’s short- or long-term investment objectives, simply to give the appearance of adding value and/or being active is a “fake hustle.” True value-added consulting comes from full engagement with the client through an ongoing consideration of their evolving objectives and risk tolerance. This isn’t a recipe for constant portfolio tinkering, in fact, sometimes it takes more strength and conviction to simply stay the course. In other words, do not move the eggs from one basket to another just to prove to the client you are handling the eggs. Portfolio shifts should only be made to provide protection or add value/benefit. Motion for the sake of motion is just a “fake hustle” no matter the context in which it occurs.