What a year it’s been.

We’re still more than two months out from the calendar ticking over, but it can’t hurt to take a look at some of the unforgettable lessons that can make us better investors.

There are three lessons in particular I think we should start with:

1. Avoiding the next Dick Smith 

The death of Dick Smith was dissected in glorious, forensic detail by the financial media this year in a way we don’t often get to see.

The lessons on how to avoid the next ‘Dick Smith’ came in thick and fast. They also varied widely, ranging from classic gems like ‘do your homework‘ and ‘avoiding companies with debt‘, to ‘understand how inventory accounting works’.

Ultimately though the post-mortems concluded the same thing: Don’t buy what the private equity guys are selling at the party.

I think all these points are valid takeaways, but for me the saga reinforced the vital importance of having a clear competitive advantage in a world where local retailers now compete with global competition.

2. Getting aboard the next Webjet Limited (ASX: WEB)

Webjet has been a standout performer in 2016. Shares are up 110% since the start of the year after continuing its strong run of operating growth, joining the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AJXO) (ASX: XJO), acquiring Online Republic and preparing a huge partnership with European travel business Thomas Cook.

But not so long ago it felt like one of the most hated companies investors could buy. The share price halved between 2013 and 2014 even as the company built the foundations for today’s success.

The lesson here is a great one: the market can persistently misprice companies for extended periods. Focusing on the long term trajectory a company is taking and holding on to your conviction will give the market time to adjust.

3. ALWAYS being ready for the unexpected

If there was one ‘oh crap’ investing moment this year it was ‘Brexit’. Few people expected the outcome of Britain’s vote to exit the European Union and fewer still know where it will lead.

But regardless of the implications going forward, in a year of little volatility, Brexit was our absolute best reminder that unexpected, low probability events happen more frequently than we would like to believe.

Don’t allow yourself to become complacent in an environment of low volatility. For investors serious about building long-term wealth there are some easy steps to prevent wiping out and now is a great time to consider how exposed you are to an unexpected shock.

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Motley Fool contributor Regan Pearson has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.