Thursday, June 04, 2009

Trading Lessons From Ted Williams

The sports greats have much to teach us about success in any performance domain, including trading. Here are three things we can learn from baseball legend Ted Williams:

1) Believe in Yourself - Williams broke into the major leagues with a brash confidence that turned off many people. When he was sent to the minor leagues, he informed the Red Sox's starting outfielders that he would be back and would make more money than the three of them put together. We live up to our deepest image of ourselves; Williams experienced himself as a great talent long before the world recognized his hitting genius.

2) Work Hard, Work Smart - Williams treated hitting as a science and learned his batting average for pitches placed in any given part of the strike zone. That enabled him to wait for good pitches and play to his strengths. How similar that is to trading, where the successful trader waits for the trades that provide an objective edge. "Proper thinking is 50% of effective hitting," Williams asserted, emphasizing the importance of doing homework to learn the ins and outs of each opposing pitcher.

3) Seek Success, Don't Just Avoid Failure - In 1941, Williams went into the final game of the season with a batting average of .3996. His coach knew it would be rounded to .400 and offered to bench Williams to preserve his average. Williams insisted on playing, went 6 for 8 in a doubleheader, and finished the year with a historic .406 average. Recently I worked with a trader who was up by a very solid five figures late in the session. He saw an idea at the end of the day, put on size, and meaningfully added to his day. He was driven by a desire for success, not just an avoidance of loss.

So many of the qualities I see in great traders are exemplified by Williams. Great things happen when confidence leads to skill building, which leads to greater confidence.