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Don’t judge a book by its cover or a man by his hair

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There are a few things I learned for sure growing up in rural Alabama in the 1960s and 1970s, including that anyone with dreadlocks was a criminal. A gangster, not to be trusted and ideally avoided. I knew this to be true because this was the opinion of most of the adults in my daily life – and they would certainly never lead me astray.

But they never knew Deanthonie Summerhill.

I’m not sure when or how Deanthonie and I met, although we had a few things in common. We both grew up in Alabama and came to Tennessee for college, albeit about 25 years apart. And somehow, despite Deanthonie’s dreadlocks, we grew closer while he was at the University of Tennessee—to the point that my wife and I began to consider him part of our family. Dreadlocks and all.

After ending his college football career and graduating from UT, Deanthonie returned to Alabama, earned a law degree and now has a beautiful family with two children.

Sometimes I’m still tempted to judge a book by its cover, but I’ve learned not to socially disqualify a man because of his hair.

The late Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s longtime partner at Berkshire Hathaway, was right when he noted that if you went an entire year without changing your mind about something important, it was a wasted year. Munger was 99 years old when he died last November; I suspect one of the richest and (in my opinion) wisest men in the world has had a lot of practice changing his mind.

It’s probably easier to change your mind if you don’t attach your ego to your views – something all successful investors eventually learn. Only a fool becomes so committed to a position that he ignores any evidence that he might be wrong. The Rev. George Doebler, founder of the UT Medical Center Chaplaincy Program, frequently says that when someone thinks they know something, they may know half of it. But if someone is convinced that he knows something, he almost certainly knows less than half of it.

Years ago I learned the value of quickly and matter-of-factly admitting my mistakes. Not only does it allow me to move past a mistake more quickly, it also creates credibility – both with myself and with others. It’s hard to take completely seriously someone who never admits their mistakes or always has an excuse.

I’ve changed my mind about a lot of important and minor things, and I’m actively trying to seek out opinions that differ greatly from my own.

And what about men’s hairstyles? I’m not sure. Both Deanthonie and I are now bald.

David Moon, president of Moon Capital Management, can be reached at [email protected].

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