Finding wisdom in dreadlocks

David MoonBlog

There are a few things I learned for certain growing up in rural 1960s and 70s Alabama, one of which was that anyone with dreadlocks was a thug. A hoodlum, not to be trusted and, ideally, to be avoided. I knew this was true, because it was the opinion of most adults in my daily life – and they certainly would 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 couple of 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 ended up being around each other more and more while he was at UT – to the point that my wife and I began to consider him part of our family. Dreadlocks and all.

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

I am still tempted at times to judge a book by its cover, but I learned not to socially disqualify a man because of his hair.

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

It’s probably easier to change your mind when you don’t attach your ego to your positions – something that 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 Reverend George Doebler, founder of the UT Medical Center Chaplaincy Program, regularly says that when a person thinks he knows something, he might know as much as half. But if a person is convinced he knows something, he almost certainly knows less than half.

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

I’ve changed my mind about plenty of important and not-so-important things, and I try to actively search out opinions that widely diverge from mine.

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

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management. A version of this piece originally appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK.