In this holiday special of The Acquirer’s Podcast Tobias chats with Tim Kohn. He’s eKohnomics on Twitter, Fintwit’s dumb football player, and was drafted in 1997, in the 3rd round, to the Oakland Raiders. During the interview Tim discussed:
- Warren Buffett Of The NFL Locker Room
- Coconut Risk And How To Apply It To Investing
- From Unlikely College Basketballer To The NFL
- Picked Up By The Raiders Without So Much As A Tryout
- From NFL To Australian Rugby League – Eddie Murphy Style
- What Does It Take To Be An Australia-Truther?
- Twitter Is About A 100 Times Force Multiplier On LinkedIn., And Some Favorite Books
- Hank – The Sawed Off Golden Retriever
- How To Top The Wonderlic Test
You can find out more about Tobias’ podcast here – The Acquirers Podcast. You can also listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast platforms here:
Tobias Carlisle: Let’s get underway.
Tim Kohn: Let’s go.
Tobias Carlisle: Hi, I’m Tobias Carlisle. This is The Acquirers Podcast. My very special guest today, and this will be a really fun episode, is Tim Kohn, he’s eKohnomics on Twitter. He’s our resident NFL offensive lineman. I looked up his stats before we started. This is according to The Combine. He’s six foot five, 330 pounds, he runs the 40 and 5.31.
Tim Kohn: Ooh, that’s wrong.
Tobias Carlisle: That’s what they-
Tim Kohn: Now, my best-
Tobias Carlisle: … That’s what they recorded.
Tim Kohn: Oh my goodness. No, no, no. Actually, in The Combine or ran a five one two. Outside of that, ran under a five. That was actually my forte, was running. I wasn’t a very good football player, I was actually a better athlete.
Tobias Carlisle: Well, we’re going to talk to him right after this.
Speaker 3: Tobias Carlisle is the founder and principal of Acquirers Funds. For regulatory reasons, he will not discuss any of The Acquirers funds on this podcast. All opinions expressed by podcast participants are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Acquirers Funds or affiliates. For more information, visit acquirersfunds.com.
Tobias Carlisle: Hi Tim, how’re you doing?
Tim Kohn: Doing great. Thanks for having me.
Tobias Carlisle: My absolute pleasure. I wanted to look up some of the statistics about how hard it is to get from high school football into the NFL, and this is what I found online. High school football to college, the chance of getting in, about 5.8% of guys get through. College to the NFL is about 2%. Your chance of getting from high school to the NFL is nine in 10,000, which is the equivalent of having an IQ over 150. The average PhD IQ is 130. I think that that’s an interesting thing because the Wonderlic test, which is one of the… Well, you might have to tell us what the Wonderlic test is. But you topped the Wonderlic test. What’s the Wonderlic test?
Tim Kohn: Basically, it was the… kind of the default IQ test that the NFL adopted for NFL players. I imagine what appealed to them was the fact that it was only 12 minutes long, which frankly, I think it respects the attention span of most of us as we’re entering into the NFL. So you answer 50 questions that get progressively harder over a 12 minute span, and the first five or 10 are appallingly easy. It’s like, “Oh my goodness, why am I even bothering with this?” And then by the time you get to say 25, 30, it’s like, “Oh my goodness, this is getting real.” Around 40, it’s like, “Ooh, gosh, I should’ve paid more attention in class.” So it’s essentially just a measure that… Obviously, it’s not a perfect one, but it’s one that they kind of get a fast and dirty sense of gray matter.
Tobias Carlisle: I saw you talking it on Twitter a little while ago, and I went and sat one online when I found it. It’s the 50 questions in 12 minutes. I’ve got to say, I’ve never felt claustrophobia like that before. You’ve got about 15 seconds to get through the questions, and as you point out, the first ones are… they take about five seconds, and then you get to these questions that you really need 30 seconds to figure them out and they just… You just get further and further behind. It’s absolutely terrifying. So my hats off to you, sir, for getting through that. So you were a four year starter, team captain at Iowa state. Tell us a little bit about your career there.
Tim Kohn: Well, the funny thing is I was probably the most unlikely college player that you could imagine; I was tall and geeky, which is, I guess, maybe a pre requisite for a lot of offensive linemen. But I was really more of a basketball player. I did not play football till my junior year in high school. And even, then I didn’t play much. I was kind of on special teams. I was six foot six and about 210 pounds and still not really strong. I was kind of a string bean. I got up to 250 my senior year, still wasn’t widely recruited and somehow I caught the eye of some major programs after playing in the high school playoffs. I had great showings against a lot of players who were well-regarded, and that got me situated at Iowa State, which frankly…
Tim Kohn: At that point, I’m already playing with house money. I’m getting my school paid for, this is great. I get to play against some top flight competition. I never really… I guess a habit instilled from high school to college and thereafter is that I never actually set far in the distance type of goals. Everything is, what is the next most important priority I need to address or can address right now? And just make steady incremental progress, and it’s amazing what it accumulates to. So from a college standpoint, I started as a defensive lineman, moved over to offensive line when they decided that of all the things in football I did well, eating was probably number one.
Tim Kohn: They also said… My offensive line coach, Steve Loney, who was a coach in the NFL for several years, fantastic guy, probably one of my favorite people playing ball, he had this term for me. He said, “Timothy, you are the smartest dumb guy I’ve ever met.” Or I actually got that backwards. I’m the dumbest smart guy he’s ever met. Because I got into things where… I think I might’ve have even told you the story. I jumped off sides three times in one game, three times in a row, which you never see an offensive lineman substituted in the middle of a series. Well, I got substituted out. They pulled me out. He was out of his head at that point, but…
Tim Kohn: So college was an interesting experience. Incrementally, year by year, I became more and more relevant. I had a running back who was a Heisman candidate two years in a row, finished, I think, fifth and then second in those two years. Back then, you didn’t have football on TV everywhere. You didn’t even have YouTube showing highlights of things. We were only on TV one week a year against… when we played The Iowa Hawkeyes. So there wasn’t much media exposure for any of us, but there a lot of highlights of the Troy Davis, our running back, running, and typically, I’d be in frame. So a lot of national sports started saying, “Hey, who’s number 77, that guy blocking for Troy Davis?” I defaulted on to a lot of preseason and postseason honors lists in my junior year, and all of a sudden being a pro football player became a potential reality.
Tobias Carlisle: So what’s that process like? How do they… How do you know that you are sort of on their radar screen, and then what do you need to do to sort of progress to the next level?
Tim Kohn: The first clue is when agents start calling you. They’re fishing, they want to find somebody who… They’re looking for a value stock, right?
Tobias Carlisle: Right.
Tim Kohn: If you’re already a top flight guy, you’re getting the attention of all the major institutional players. Now you’re getting… I was a microcap, so to speak.
Tobias Carlisle: [crosstalk 00:06:45]. You’re not a [inaudible 00:06:46].
Tim Kohn: That’s the only micro thing about me at the time. I was about 330 coming out of… Oh well, about 323, I think, when the Raiders actually drafted me. It was a situation where… Agents were starting to call me and let me know, “Hey, Scouts are noticing.” And then you’d hear from your football coaches that, “Hey, some Scouts were in to watch Troy, but they also wanted to see some film of you.” So you kind of get some early indications that way. You also know that the more press that you would get typically builds some momentum around your brand. Your stock is literally rising.
Tim Kohn: I actually used this to my advantage. I was not somebody that had any kind of public speaking or communication training, but I realized the better I can help solve the reporters’ problems and giving them interesting quotes or perspectives, the more often I’ll find myself on TV, radio, or in print. And the more often I’m in print, the more people will just kind of think, “Oh, well this guy must be one of the best players on the team.” So I always took pains to make sure that I offered some interesting commentary.
Tim Kohn: I remember there’s one game where we played against University of Northern Iowa and we’d had some trouble with them in the past. We had one drive where we drove over, I think, 95 yards, about 11 or 12 rushing plays, no passing plays, we just grounded out, scored a touchdown. The reporters asked me about that and I said, “Well, that drive was the catharsis of our frustration.” At which point, the next day when we’re warming up, essentially getting ready for our post-game practice, I can hear my offensive line coach, Steve Loney, coming down and he’s just like, “Timothy, Timothy.” He’s holding a newspaper and he’s saying, “Timothy, what in the hell is catharsis?” Sorry, coach.
Tim Kohn: The psychology department at Iowa State was absolutely thrilled. They were like, “Hey, a football player used this term in the right context.” The bigotry of soft expectations. Low expectations. But it was a great experience from a college standpoint. I had interest from bigger programs. I doubt I actually would’ve had a pro career to speak of if I hadn’t been at Iowa State, if I hadn’t been essentially blocking for Troy Davis who was a fantastic college back.
Tobias Carlisle: What don’t folks know about the offensive line that… What are the special skills that you need, or what goes on in the line that we don’t know about?
Tim Kohn: The one thing is that offensive linemen actually take pride in their anonymity to a great extent. You see some exceptions, but… I remember when I was on the Broncos. This was instilled by the coach, coach Gibbs. But there was a rule that anytime you are actually in print, in the media, or on the media for anything, that you owed a fine to the team fund for a party at the end of the year. So when a March Laureth, who was very well known on-
Tobias Carlisle: Big Stink.
Tim Kohn: Yeah, Stink was actually on a lot of Campbell’s commercials back then. This was when the Broncos were going to the Superbowl regularly and Troy Davis was on these commercials and Stink was on them. Coach Gibbs was always delighted. He was like, “Stink, every time I’d see you on TV, I know I’m putting in another 100 dollars into the party fund.” [inaudible 00:09:53]. We actually, in a way, take a perverse joy in being the facilitators of success, even if we aren’t directly the ones that are getting the laurels. That’s actually something that is kind of ingrained in me too. I’ve never had the attitude where frankly, I had to be the sole recipient of any credit of any kind in any type of success. I just wanted to make sure that I was doing my part to drive the outcome. Blocking and tackling, that’s a big part of what I’m about.
Tobias Carlisle: So let’s talk a little bit about the draft, because that’s something that… I think that a lot of us who have fans have watched the documentaries and so on, on television. So you went round three. What’s that like? You watched the stars go through and round one budget, but you… It’s a huge achievement. So what’s the… How are you feeling by day three?
Tim Kohn: Well, actually, it was a different structure back then. Here’s the weird thing. I’m in Iowa during the draft, and the first and second rounds are on the ESPN, the third round and every round thereafter, is on ESPN2. No problem today. Back then, ESPN2 wasn’t on every cable system. It was something that frankly was a nice to have. So I knew I was probably going to be drafted on ESPN2, not ESPN. So we were like, “Well, what do we do?” Fortunately, the basketball coach at Iowa State at the time, Tim Floyd, their basketball offices next to the Colosseum had a satellite, so they had ESPN2. They basically offered my family, the use of his office. So we went there grateful, watching it on a big screen, nervous, obviously, not knowing what to expect.
Tim Kohn: Situation got a little bit more disrupted by the fact that at the same time that the draft was going on, Kiss was having a concert right there in the coliseum. So the music is pounding through the walls, and we can barely hear. I can barely hear the brick cell phone that I had rented for one month, because this was 1997, that I’d given the number to my agent, to all the front offices of the NFL teams and a very select number of other people, because I didn’t want anybody else ringing on it. We’re sitting there watching the draft, and I get a call midway through the third round, and it’s my agent. He’s saying, “Tim, I got some great news. A buddy of mine in Dallas is listening to their sports radio and they say that the Cowboys have you next on their draft board.”
Tim Kohn: I’m thrilled, because the Cowboys are a great team, they’ve got a great offensive line coach. It seemed like, “Wow, this is going to be incredibly great.” So I hang up, and it’s a few minutes later that the phone rings again. I thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is it.” I pick up the phone, and what kind of threw me off honestly was that it was a woman’s voice. Because you don’t necessarily, at the time, expected to hear women being involved in a lot of the front office decisions, what have you. She said, “Hello, it’s Tim Kohn there?” I said, “Yeah, this is Tim.” “Well, congratulations. You’ve been drafted by the Oakland Raiders.”
Tim Kohn: A little bit of context here about the Raiders. My agent said that all but two teams did due diligence on me, and what are the two that didn’t were the Raiders. So there was really no expectation that they’d have any interest, let alone investing a third round pick in somebody like me. They had never talked to me, never worked me out, never did anything. So I’m thinking that this is total BS. I’m picking up the phone and saying, “You know what? This isn’t funny. If this is Doug’s girlfriend, I don’t need these types of calls. There’s enough stuff going on.” She said, “I don’t know who Doug is, hold on for coach Bugel.”
Tim Kohn: So I’m like, “Oh my goodness, what have I gotten myself into?” And then I hear a man’s voice, and it’s Joe Bugel. He says, “Is this Tim Kohn?” Oh man, I’m so screwed. And he says, “Yeah, coach.” “I hear you’re quite a character.” I’m like, “Oh man, I guess you have no idea.” So that was kind of the good news, obviously being drafted in the third round in the Raiders. That was kind of a cool idea that I’d never even thought about. But the bad thing was that my wife and I had set our wedding for a couple of weeks after the draft and on a weekend where all the teams that showed interest in me did not have many camps.
Tobias Carlisle: Oh my.
Tim Kohn: So it would be, what’s the weekend that the Raiders have [inaudible 00:14:01]? Right on my wedding.
Tobias Carlisle: Oh no.
Tim Kohn: So my wife is literally balling, or my wife to be, she’s just absolutely… She’d invested so much time and bringing family together for the wedding. So my agent worked a miracle, had me fly in early, do some stuff, practice all day Friday, leave overnight. Basically did the… I landed in Chicago at 6:00 AM, had breakfast with my agent, got into Demoine around 8:30, went up to the tuck shop, got my Tufts, I missed my rehearsal dinner. I am dehydrated, I’ve got essentially tan lines from my football helmet around my face. It was just… It could have been a disaster, and yet somehow the wedding went perfectly well. I didn’t fall over at my first drink, being dehydrated and exhausted when the session kicked in. Soon thereafter, it was just a getting acclimated and transitioning to being an Oakland Raider.
Tobias Carlisle: What a good woman.
Tim Kohn: Very much so.
Tobias Carlisle: Why did The Raiders not doing any diligence and why did they pick you up?
Tim Kohn: There’s an unofficial story around this, and that was that L Davis has had a very competitive relationship with Jerry Jones, and he found out that Jerry Jones wanted to draft me, so he picked me two picks before the Cowboys pick. They had absolutely zero need of a guy like me, because earlier in that same round, the third round, they drafted a guy from Nebraska who was the same size as me, played left tackle, all the same. They basically picked two of a kind in the same round, just to basically pique Jerry Jones in the Cowboys.
Tim Kohn: This happened again later on in the draft with Chad Lovett. I think The Raiders in the late fourth round picked him up when… Essentially, I think it was Jimmy Johnson and the Dolphins were really keen on picking him up early in the fifth round. So it wasn’t necessarily a meritocracy that came to me. I would say my position with the Raiders. But in hindsight, I probably would’ve had a longer career had I gone to Dallas or even fallen into the fourth round and gone to like the Eagles or the Ravens. But it’s weird being in my 40s now, I’m genuinely grateful for the fact that I had a brief career, even though that meant that I had to endure a great part of my post football life being on the top 10 draft busts of an Oakland Raider history.
Tobias Carlisle: That’s rude. But you end up playing for the Broncos as well, you go to Australia to do a demonstration [crosstalk 00:16:30]. Tell us that story.
Tim Kohn: Oh my goodness. So much good stuff with that. But actually, that was, I believe, right before Sydney hosted the Olympics, so they had the brand new stadium for us to occupy. The Broncos were playing the Chargers and… Why can’t I remember his name? He was the Chargers punter. Is it Darren or something? He was a Australian. That was kind of the linkage there. Man, there’s a lot of stories about that whole experience, but… Like, one very well known Bronco, first night out, went to the red light district, Christ’s Cross, I think, in Sydney and-
Tobias Carlisle: The cross, yeah. I think it’s a little bit cleaner now than it was then, but yet-
Tim Kohn: Well, 20 years ago, he made an Eddie Murphy-style mistake, if that reference possibly… Anyway.
Tobias Carlisle: We got to keep this one safe for work.
Tim Kohn: Yeah. Anyway. It was an interesting week. I got to understand what getting your beef served blue meant.
Tobias Carlisle: Oh yeah. Don’t get the blue rare.
Tim Kohn: Oh my goodness. So I’m amazed I didn’t come away with like some kind of Trichinosis gnosis or something-
Tobias Carlisle: You want to tell everybody what blue rare is?
Tim Kohn: Essentially, it means that essentially, it’s still mooing. It’s that rare. It’s cold, it’s purple.
Tobias Carlisle: It’s almost like you get the… you know when you get Pokey, and it’s kind of like they’re just seared on the outside and the inside? You can get a warm blue, which is… they actually get it a little bit warmer before you, or you can get a cold blue, which is just inedible for anybody. But sorry, I’ve interrupted, keep going.
Tim Kohn: No, no. I had great food in Sydney. I think I had some fish and chips with Pacific cake, which I thought was great fish. I had never had that before. It was just an unusual experience, because I was very much a marginal player. I did not actually get into the preseason game because I was so bad, they were worried that I would get hurt and be on their injured reserve. So at that time, we had watched the movie Office Space, which I assume most people are familiar with. This was on SpectreVision down there at the time. It was a 1999 movie.
Tim Kohn: We watched it as an offensive line unit in the hotel probably for like three nights straight. We got it memorized. We were saying all the lines in the locker room. It was then that I realized that I was Milton on the Broncos. They actually did not have a locker for me because essentially, those locker rooms in Sydney were not built for NFL squads, especially a pre-cut down. So they set up all my pads and equipment in the lavatory, in the stall. So I basically had my shoulder pads, helmet, everything else like that… anytime that somebody needed to relieve themselves, I had to kind of clear out and let them essentially steam my clothes, whatever the case might be.
Tim Kohn: I was totally the person that was essentially being [Miltoned 00:19:28] like, “Oh, we’re going to have to have you move to the back. Is that all right? We actually we want to save some fuel on the flight back to America, so we’re just going to put you in a boat so you can row back. If you can be back in time for practice, that’d be great.” So I basically started doing Bill Lumber at impersonations all over the place. That is actually… I think if you talk to Stink or anybody else on that team, that’s probably what they remember most about me is that, “Yeah, Tim, what’s happening? We’re going to need you to clear out of this locker room and maybe go get changed in the hall. Okay? Great.” It was a great experience in the sense that man, that’s the first time I left the continent. I’m just sad that Australia has ceased to exist since-
Tobias Carlisle: Yeah. So let’s go into that. You’re in Australia [inaudible 00:20:17]. What’s an Australian [inaudible 00:20:18].
Tim Kohn: I found it so hilarious. I can’t remember when this went viral, but when that professor… I think he was from Southern New Hampshire University or something like that, essentially criticized the student for basically asserting that Australia was a real place. No, Australia is not a real place, and not sure what she was confusing with. But I just thought that was too funny to leave alone. So anytime there was something about… Obviously, Australia has got distinctive wildlife, Australia never has a recession. My goodness, this can’t be a real place. Right?
Tobias Carlisle: It sounds like it doesn’t exist.
Tim Kohn: It’s obviously a lot of fun.
Tobias Carlisle: I think it’s part of the flat earth, because Australia, because it’s down under, therefore it must not exist because there’s no down under on the flat earth.
Tim Kohn: Frankly, Sydney at the time, 20 years ago, and I’m sure even more so now, left a great impression. I actually do love Australia and would go back if the trip was an inordinately long coming from Iowa, but-
Tobias Carlisle: I hear you. It’s a long trip even from Los Angeles. You transition out of the NFL and into finance, and you’ve got your CFA [inaudible 00:21:25]. So how was that process? What was that transition like?
Tim Kohn: I had to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up until I was 27, until I was clear of the NFL at Iowa State, which is an engineering and a STEM school. I of course went into liberal arts. I was in political science, international studies. I avoided math [phobically 00:21:46]. I basically had no interest in finance or business of any sort. I thought I was going to do, maybe pre-law, was essentially my game plan. And then once I was in pro football, I had a little bit of extra money. I thought, “Gosh, I need to invest it.” To my chagrin, I found out that I was the only guy in the locker room losing money in stocks in the late ’90s. There was a lot of stuff that was involved with why other… I was being dealt with unethically. I’d probably put it that way.
Tim Kohn: By the way, if there has ever been a contrarian indicator in hindsight that I just think is absolutely astounding, we have TVs in the locker rooms as you would expect, even back then, 20 years ago. Do we have ESPN on? Mostly. But in 1999, everybody had CNBC on, and it was probably the most contrarian indicator that you have guys that barely think about anything besides football are now all of a sudden fixated on finance. The business section of USA Today, all the newspapers around the facility, business section was always unaccounted for. You can actually read the sports section there, and you couldn’t find the business section because somebody else was already reading it.
Tim Kohn: So you knew how great or how strong practice would be based on how the NASDAQ did that. If the NASDAQ closed up 50 points, man, you saw a spirited practice. People were sprinting through the drills and it was crisp. If Yahoo basically disappointed on earnings and the NASDAQ dropped 40 points, man, you never saw a sorrier bunch of dogs that you had to whip through a practice. So in hindsight, I have the recognition from 1999 that, gosh, there were a lot of signals. We couldn’t say we weren’t warned when you had that whole shoe shine boy type of anecdotes with regards to the euphoria of the market at that time. Not being a business or a finance-
Tobias Carlisle: Just tell us your phone.com story.
Tim Kohn: Oh my goodness. Yeah. Oh my goodness. Monday night football in 1999. I’m with the Raiders and we’re playing against the Denver Broncos. Our pregame meal pretty much… It’s usually several hours before you leave for the facility, and this was basically right at the market close. One of my wide receiver teammates who I will remain nameless just so that he can hold his head up, he was day trading at the close. And then after, he closed his laptop, comes by the table that I’m sitting and says, “Hey Kohn, do you trade stocks?” I’m like, “Not so much. I’ve got some mutual funds, but…” “Man, hey dog, phone.com, dog. Splitting three for one, dog.” Like, “Really? Was that good?” “Yeah, man. Three for one.” “What does phone.com do?” “It’s button three, four, one.”
Tobias Carlisle: Just like buffet.
Tim Kohn: Oh my God. Exactly. So I thought, “Yeah, this is something that I’m not going to invest a whole lot of energy into.” But then when I realized how far behind I was, everybody else from an investment standpoint going backwards, nothing motivates like humiliation. You swallow a lot of ego to try to overcome some deficiencies when you’re confronted with them. The first book I read in finance was a Suze Orman book, and it was like the The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom. Obviously, there’s no pride or dignity involved, I’m just leafing through this, and everything is a revelation because I never knew any of this stuff before.
Tim Kohn: The more I learned about the unforced errors that I had committed up to that point, the more I realized, “This is really genuinely interesting to me. I think that there’s a lot of football players, including guys that…” In the NFL, you have a 401k plan that matches two for one. So you put in 18,000, you’ve got 54,000 working for you, and yet it was a crime how many players would actually refuse to contribute anything and allow that 18,000 to become 9,000 net of all the taxes and deductions and things like that. 9,000 versus 54,000.
Tim Kohn: Unfortunately, it was distressing. There’s a lot of players that needed help from a financial literacy standpoint. A lot of unforced errors, a lot of frankly errors of omission or laziness in some cases. Because frankly, finance didn’t have the same appeal as what was happening on a football field for a lot of those guys. But yeah, from that point forward, life after football was going to be finance. I started at a wire house through an NFL partner program, moved properly to Schwab, working literally the 1-800 line, starting at the very bottom, no ego involved. During that time, just realize that, “Hey, I got to fight to at least catch up to where other people my age are at in terms of acumen and understanding.” So got my CFP, got my MBA in finance to really atone for what I should’ve been studying as an undergrad and then pursued the CFA, which I dare say was probably as challenging or more challenging than anything I accomplished from a football standpoint.
Tim Kohn: The unicorn aspect, I guess, on my profile is that I think I’m the only former or current NFL player to have the CFA charter. I tried getting the CFA Institute to verify that because they’ve got all the work experience of their charter holders, but I’m not so sure that… They didn’t give me anything affirmative one way or the other on that. So I haven’t seen anybody else, so I’m basically going to claim it.
Tobias Carlisle: Yeah, you should say that. Just put a little star there. If someone can show you otherwise, then you can take it down. How does football prepare you for a life in finance?
Tim Kohn: Frankly, resilience, risk management. Because when you’re a pro football player, you’re trying to make sure that… Your greatest asset is your ability to earn an income, and your income depends on you protecting your knees, protecting your back, doing whatever it takes to essentially put yourself in a good position to succeed. Well, sometimes that also means, hey, you want to budget or allocate your effort and other aspects in terms of what you’re doing on the football field. The other aspect with football is that it frankly gives you a sense of mortality. Everybody eventually will be confronted the fact that their football career is finite in the same way that investors have to understand, hey, there’s only so many years that I’m going to be able to put money away and then it’s got to carry me the rest of the distance.
Tim Kohn: Well, a lot of football players get this in a concentrated dose. If the average career is about three years or so, which mine happened to be, well, that’s not going to be enough to carry you through your 30s, let alone your 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. So from that standpoint, just being smart about marshaling your resources and keeping yourself in the game to a great extent. Football players do have some unique challenges, not just the unforced errors, but you want to talk about, as an asset, the most vulnerable asset imaginable is a football player’s compensation. They could go hockey stick, they can go, like I did, to WeWork.
Tim Kohn: Making sure that their portfolio price is less volatile is kind of a necessary diversification consideration for a lot of players. I don’t think they necessarily buy into it. You still hear or see football players that make very risky investments typically with folks that they haven’t done due diligence with. Essentially, it’s kind of predictable outcomes in many of those instances.
Tobias Carlisle: There’s not a lot of guaranteed pay in the NFL. Is there? It’s mostly, you’re only paid if you play.
Tim Kohn: There’s more and more these days. But man, I played, I signed a five year contract and I got cut after one year. Which meant that the balance of the contract was gone. The only thing that you could count on was the signing bonus upfront. Nowadays, you hear a lot more about guarantees and other types of things, and that’s good. We’re still not where Major League Baseball or the NBA is, where you could basically get a hangnail that takes you out of a few games and you’re still going to get paid or if you get cut, they still pay you the balance of your contract. So it’s not quite at that point. But then again, given the injuries and given the physical damage, it’s understandable how football teams, from a risk management standpoint, don’t want to guarantee too much from obviously such a violent sport.
Tobias Carlisle: So let’s talk a little bit about coconut risk. What is it, how do you avoid it?
Tim Kohn: It’s funny. One of the things that I enjoy doing most in… especially in the last eight years of my career is getting around the country and being able to talk to investors, retail investors mostly, but talk to investors about what’s going on in the markets, what should they be paying attention to, what shouldn’t they be paying attention to? If it’s a new audience, I usually share this story with them because I think that there’s some relevant lessons from it. Usually, this is the part of the presentation where somebody introduced me and they introduced me as a football player. My credibility has already taken a hit with this audience because I look like I should be working in somebody’s security detail or maybe bouncing outside the nightclub, not necessarily espousing on the market or global economy or anything like that.
Tim Kohn: And then they mentioned that I’m a football player, and so now I’m definitely damaged goods from their standpoint. How many concussions did he take? Usually the first thing that I do highlight is like, hey, the number, the total is actually under double digits. But the worst hit to the head that I ever got, did that happen on a football field? It happens where most of us get clobbered over the head, at a wedding. So I was at my brother’s destination wedding in Jamaica. This was about seven years ago. It was at an all inclusive resort, beautiful grounds. They set up our table for the rehearsal dinner right on the beach. This was almost like just postcard. Beautiful, moonlit night, warm breezes, palm trees swaying. You had waves lapping up on the beach, food, libations plentiful everywhere.
Tim Kohn: It was around that time that I’m telling some type of off-color story to the table, which has my future in-laws to-be second guessing all their daughter’s life choices. Literally, in mid sentence, I get struck over the head by a coconut. Coconut had dropped four stories, xylophoned, ricocheted off my head, landed in my wife’s purse and somehow I didn’t get knocked out. My head went right into my hand. There were some drunk Canadians that were walking by at that time. We had met them earlier in the day and they saw it happen. They said, “Dude, the coconut curved to hit them.”
Tim Kohn: Everybody’s just like, “What the heck happened?” There’s a clamor. Somehow, like I said, I hadn’t lost consciousness. The only thought that I could register was pain, pain, pain, pain, pain. My head down to my back was a tuning fork of pain. Once that subsided enough for me to have two thoughts in parallel, I still had pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, but now I also had another thought, that, “Oh no, I’m all wet. I must be busted open. I’m going to be a gory mess for all the wedding pictures.” I pulled my hand away and the fluid is clear, the coconut cracked on my head. So I’m actually feeling pretty good about this, like, “Hey, my head is intact and this coconut is all cracked.”
Tim Kohn: So they moved me to the [inaudible 00:32:28], which is basically the custodian’s room with like a short little examination table, and a doctor comes in from an hour away, he’s like 20. He comes in and says, “Hey man, I heard you got hit by a coconut, man.” I’m like, “Yeah, this coconut,” and I’m holding it. He’s like, “Oh, that’s not such a big coconut, man.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s good to know. How about if I climb four stories and throw it to your head and see how will you turn out?”
Tim Kohn: Anyways. It’s one of those funny things where… The morning after, I did not go to the hospital. I was not going to die in a Jamaican hospital. I figured if I’m going to die anywhere, I’ll die on the premises of an all inclusive resort. But I did successfully wake up, and I was an immediate celebrity on the grounds of this resort, because I think that everybody had heard that some big bald guy got hit by a coconut, or maybe it was just the fact that I had a six inch unicorn horn sprouting out of the side of my head from where the coconut hit. Everybody was very courteous. “How are you feeling today, Mr. Kohn? Would you like some breakfast today, Mr. Kohn? Are you feeling especially litigious today, Mr. Kohn?”
Tim Kohn: Bottom line is, anywhere now, after that whole experience, anytime I’m anywhere South in there’s Palm trees about, I’m immediately looking up. I’m scouting it out. I want to see if there’s any coconuts dangling or hanging down from underneath. In the process of keeping my eye on that coconut risk, inevitably, I stumble over something right in front of my feet that easily I could have just stepped right over. For a lot of investors, especially retail investors… I could probably introduce you to a few people who’ve been in cash since 2008 or 2009. There’s investors who still are looking for coconuts, and they might have that coconut that has 2008 on it or 2000 to 2002, or it might have a China trade deal or a Trump logo, some other type of horrifying, but arguably maybe a low probability risk relative to the ones that they are accepting that frankly could be much more easily and productively addressed.
Tim Kohn: So trying to get folks to realize that anytime you’re at one extreme or the other, overly bullish or overly bearish and despondent, you’re basically… One extreme or the other, you’re depriving yourself of half your peripheral vision. You’re basically rendering moot the half that goes beyond that extreme. Try to find ways of getting investors to essentially regain some centrality in how they perceive markets, how they perceive their investment situation, recognize that it’s not a one-size-fits-all type of situation.
Tobias Carlisle: So what have you been doing in finance? What have your roles typically tended to be?
Tim Kohn: I’ve actually done a little bit of everything. From a retail client facing standpoint, if it involves high net worth clients in particular, I’ve done all nature of roles predominantly with one company, with… I don’t know if I should mention the company in this context, but a company that-
Tobias Carlisle: Describe them without using their name.
Tim Kohn: Well, gosh, what’s probably… I guess zero dollar commissions. Maybe that might be anonymous enough. It’s situation where I had a 19 year career doing a little bit of everything, it was a fantastic environment to learn and to be able to be productive, to learn all the right sales skills, but not necessarily learn sales skills to the exclusion of everything else. So essentially, I’ve done things such as being a financial advisor in the branch, been a portfolio consultant, building portfolios for high net worth clients, been a manager of a team of portfolio consultants in that context. For the last eight years, been a more of a product specialist.
Tim Kohn: You hear the word wholesaler’s a dirty word, but maybe more of a subject matter expert for a number of managed solutions and just trying to essentially do presentations, workshops, things like that, in front of as many as like 300 people, as few as maybe a dozen people, depending on the circumstance. So that’s been largely what I’ve been about for the most part here. But everything I’ve ever done in this industry was something that I’d never done before and required some stretching. And then once I made that effort, I found that, my goodness, I love doing this. There’s something that is very appealing about it. So now that I’m in a situation where I’m trying to look at what is my next chapter going to be, I’m frankly very open-minded. There’s a lot of things that have immediate appeal to me, but I don’t write off that there is anything that frankly I won’t find something to really clamp onto and be enthusiastic about.
Tobias Carlisle: So you’ve got a very impressive bookcase just over your shoulder there, and there is another one that is sort of a little bit bleak to us, but what’s been the most… What’s motivated you the most? Which one has appealed to you? Which book has sort of spoken to you?
Tim Kohn: Actually, this book is actually pretty good. I actually-
Tobias Carlisle: That’s my book, Deep Value, for the folks who are at home.
Tim Kohn: There we go.
Tobias Carlisle: Tim’s completely pandering.
Tim Kohn: That’s right. This was not prearranged. I wanted to just bring this on you at some point.
Tobias Carlisle: I love it.
Tim Kohn: Actually, I’ve read about, or I read about 90 plus books a year. A lot of folks think, “Oh yeah, he’s trying to be that cliché, ‘Hey, the best CEOs read six books a month, read a hundred books a year’, or whatever else.”
Tobias Carlisle: And they don’t do anything else.
Tim Kohn: Frankly, it’s more tied to a bit of insecurity, if I’m going to be entirely candid. When you play football, you’re very aware, especially these days, of how much cumulative impact you’ve absorbed through your head. I’m more fortunate than most that my cranium is actually about 80% concrete, so that actually has helped preserve a fair amount of my gray matter up to this point. But the more I can read, especially across different disciplines, and the more I can maybe apply it to what I’m doing professionally, the better I feel about how my brain is hopefully not betraying me the way that my knees and my shoulders and everything else might be at this point.
Tim Kohn: So some of the books that… this year, for example that I’ve been especially keen on… This was, I think… David Crosby had actually recommended this and a few others, Alchemy by Rory Sutherland. This is essentially making a lot of behavioral finance and some Nassim Taleb type of philosophy. Very readable and consumable. It’s actually very engaging. I listened to the audio book read by the author, and it was almost as much fun listening to him tell what was in the book as it is reading and underlining. So that’s probably been my favorite book so far.
Tim Kohn: I actually was very lucky to get a collection of papers from [inaudible 00:38:55], I got to give him a shout out because he and Jim O’Shaughnessy, Hugh Toby, Jeff Mackey, a lot of folks on FinTwit have been fantastic about supporting various aspects of my transition right now. But also, certainly that book on some of the papers that had gone… basically been produced by AQR, and that’s been very educational from a finance standpoint for me. Every year, I actually put out a blog. It’s the only blog I do once a year, essentially recounting what I thought were some of the more interesting books. It’s kind of a self-indulgent exercise, but something that I’ve done for like 14 years. [crosstalk 00:39:33].
Tobias Carlisle: You’re a great Twitter follow. Just tell everybody your Twitter handle right now. Normally, I do that at the end, but let’s do it now because folks should follow you on Twitter.
Tim Kohn: It’s at 77cyko, psycho psybeam cyclones, KO for corn. I thought that was clever at the time, way back when I got on there. I really didn’t realize how path dependent I would be on a handle. But no, Twitter’s been fantastic. Even leading up to this session, I was actually just going through Twitter and laughing my tail off because there’s so many characters, so much that is interesting that I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. Toby, I’m not so sure if we would have ever come across other than maybe at a conference or something.
Tobias Carlisle: No, it’s true. Twitter is a place of-
Tim Kohn: As much as LinkedIn is a great resource for a lot of professionals, I would say that Twitter is about a 100 times force multiplier on LinkedIn.
Tobias Carlisle: I saw-
Tim Kohn: Really just amazing.
Tobias Carlisle: Somebody described yesterday… I saw this on Twitter, somebody described LinkedIn is the conference that you go to and Twitter is the bar after the… or it’s the bar at the conference?
Tim Kohn: It’s where actually you are really revealed.
Tobias Carlisle: Where you do the business.
Tim Kohn: Yeah. That’s half the reason that frankly, I’m always astonished when people say that I’m a great follow because I don’t actually add a whole lot of substance to the conversation around different financial matters. Mostly, I’m going to give a… maybe a snarky football player’s interpretation of what’s going on and some type of plan or dad humor or whatever, or essentially just railing on the existence of Australia, things like that and-
Tobias Carlisle: Or non-existence.
Tim Kohn: There you go. It’s an amazing platform though. I’m incredibly grateful for… I actually invested in a hedge fund, Arco Capital. I probably shouldn’t even say that actually because-
Tobias Carlisle: No, that’s okay. I had Peter on. Peter was on an earlier episode, Peter Reb of… from Arco Capital. I’ll have to look up what episode number that is, but you can go back through the back catalog and find the interview with Pete. He specializes in micro cap, Pete style micro cap investment.
Tim Kohn: The guy is constantly impressing me. He’s brilliant. Obviously, that’s very niche, what he does, but man, that’s a niche that frankly I couldn’t find too many good solutions independent of engaging with him. So that’s been, I think, close to three years, and that’s been good. There’s old folks like Lawrence [inaudible 00:41:58], and I mentioned-
Tobias Carlisle: He’s also been a guest.
Tim Kohn: I remember watching him. There’s a lot of his stuff that I hadn’t read that I went back and looked at as a result of that pod because the things that I see him tweet and I’m like, “Okay, well, I’ll read that later and I never do.” I’m like that, “So it was interesting. I want to go back and…” If you recomposed international indexes relative to the US, the valuations are relatively similar, that type of thing-
Tobias Carlisle: That’s fascinating.
Tim Kohn: That’s just it. That’s why all my career, I’ve actually had a great deal of humility about how much I don’t know. That’s part of the reason that motivates me to read as much as I do and to be around so many smart people on Twitter, to be surrounded by so many fantastic intellects who are very generous in producing the fruits of their efforts. Granted, they’re looking for some recognition, possibly some business in some way, but it’s an impressive marketplace of ideas. Even beyond the humor and entertainment aspects, I think that Twitter is missing out on an opportunity to monetize this product. I’d hesitate to say-
Tobias Carlisle: That’s said too loudly.
Tim Kohn: Yeah, exactly.
Tobias Carlisle: I’m a big fan of that Rory Sutherland book. I’ve been a fan of Rory Sutherland for a long time because he writes about behavioral ideas, but he writes about it in the context of advertising because he was… I think he’s the chairman or the worldwide chairman of-
Tim Kohn: Vice chairman.
Tobias Carlisle: … vice chairman of Ogilvy, which was… That was David Ogilvy, who also wrote a great book about advertising, which I have in my bookshelf back there. It’s one of the red ones, Ogilvy On Advertising, which he talked about… he sort of got this quantitative approach to advertising where they’d go and measure things. But then the magic was in the copy and to subtle. It’s the kind of air to that whole idea and the way that he sort of laments a little bit the amount of sort of quant that has come in, and he’s got these interesting solutions that are… you wouldn’t ever expect.
Tobias Carlisle: So one of the ones that I remember from the book is that they talk about, how do we make the trains go faster between these two points? And he said, “People don’t want the train to go faster. What they want to be able to do is to get onto any train going through, because then their…” You need to measure their commute from their front door to where they’re trying to get to. If you let them get onto any train rather than the single one that they’ve bought the ticket for, they can show up at almost any time, and it’s not kind of as… If they have to get onto the one train, they have to be there 30 minutes before the train arrived. Otherwise, they’d miss it. In the time that they’re there, two other trains going in the same direction may have left that they don’t have tickets for.
Tobias Carlisle: But if you made the ticket kind of fungible for any of the trains, they could get there two minutes before the train leaves, and if they miss it, then it’s not such a big deal because you get on the next one or you get on that one. So he’s got these very kind of creative, left brain behavioral solutions to what look like quantitative problems, and I kind of love the book for that reason.
Tim Kohn: One of the things that stayed with me that I’d never connected with in other behavioral finance context was he made the observation that people think that the conscious brain is the oval office when in reality it’s the press office. It’s the one responsible for explaining what the hell the oval office was tweeting about, that type of thing. From that standpoint, that really resonated with me because I’m also reading a book right now that just came out by Bill Bryson, I think it’s called The Body. He writes great stuff; very entertaining, very engaging.
Tobias Carlisle: He’s got one about Australia.
Tim Kohn: In the Sunburned Country, right? Is that?
Tobias Carlisle: I think that’s right. Yeah.
Tim Kohn: That’s actually the one I need to read yet. But I’ve read about like three or four of his book.
Tobias Carlisle: It’s fiction, Tim, because it’s a non-existent place.
Tim Kohn: You know what though? We all have those fever dreams, right? They seem very real at the time, but… The interesting thing that I didn’t realize is that the brain, because we actually have about a 0.2 second delay between what our senses pick up and what we feel or what we perceive, the brain actually has evolved to extrapolate 0.2 seconds ahead. So what we’re actually seeing in real time is seldom what’s actually going on and we’re actually extrapolating a small amount, which probably to me, not only does that have fascinating implications from a finance standpoint, we’re accustomed, we’re frankly evolutionarily compelled to produce forecasts. Even if it’s only a fraction of a second ahead, that’s something we’re comfortable with, something that we insist upon. We don’t like simply just providing or making provisions for what might happen and adapting, we have to know what somebody thinks is going to happen before we’re satisfied, even if that person’s forecast is no more valuable than essentially my forecast. So it’s amazing. There’s a lot of things that seem like deficiencies in how we invest, but we’re survival necessities in many cases.
Tobias Carlisle: Well, it’s been absolutely fascinating chatting to you, Tim. We’re coming up on time. If folks want to get in contact with you, what’s the best way of going about doing that?
Tim Kohn: DMS are open on Twitter. So finding me at @77cyko C-Y-K-O. If you can handle all the dog pics and everything else like that, I’m glad to have you as a follower. I always just enjoy engaging with folks. If folks have an interesting take or they’re got a good sense of humor, that’s somebody that I want to interact with on a regular basis, and that’s the really amazing thing about Twitter-
Tobias Carlisle: You got to tell us a little bit about Hank.
Tim Kohn: Oh, my goodness. Well, actually, one thing I was going to show here that I forgot to. Just because a lot of people doubt the veracity of that coconut story, if you can see this… Sorry, I’m trying to figure out. [crosstalk 00:47:41]. This is the coconut.
Tobias Carlisle: Oh my God. Yeah.
Tim Kohn: So this was against my noggin. So it’s about the size of a softball, I suppose, hard and yellow, it wasn’t like one of those brown, furry ones. But yeah, Hank is just this little Cavachon 15 pound dog. I’ve always had big Labradors and the 60, 70, 80 pound dogs and my wife’s like, “We’re getting another dog. It’s going to be a tiny dog.” So Hank looks like a sawed off golden retriever. He totally looks like he got shortchanged with half the leg length and… I don’t know, he’s just a funny dog. I never thought I’d actually be that big into a little dog. I’m walking around the neighborhood, and it looks ridiculous. It’s like a harness Schwarzenegger from True Lies with that little teacup terrier walking around. But yeah, he’s a great dog. So I unabashedly will post pictures every few days or so of Hank, so-
Tobias Carlisle: It’s a good looking dog. I can confirm he’s a good looking dog just from the photos on Twitter. What about an email address? Do you want to share your email?
Tim Kohn: Sure. TimKohn70@hotmail.com. So yes, I am gen X, so Hotmail is the…
Tobias Carlisle: All right. I’ll stick that in the show notes. it’s been an absolute pleasure, Tim Kohn. Thank you very much.
Tim Kohn: Thanks, Toby. This has been great.
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