Taking That Excruciating Final Step

A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.  -General George S. Patton

In my tennis life, I always listened to General Patton.

As a player, I'd rather play a competitive set than worry about my new second serve having the perfect amount of spin. As a coach, I'd rather get started with the lesson than worry about having the perfect lesson plan.

In my trading life, however, I haven't really listened at all.

It's not that I've disagreed with Patton. It's more like I've disobeyed. In trading, I've had a history of waiting and waiting so I could research just a little bit more. For some reason I thought waiting was a good thing because it's better to be safe than sorry.

But why did I do that? Why did I take a idea that works so well in all facets of life, and disregard it?

It's all about the money.

Money does strange things to people. One of my favorite stories is about a famous high-stakes gambler. Although he was just an above-average golfer, the gambler claimed he could beat anyone in the world if the stakes were high enough. If the money on the line was extreme, he said, even the best golfers in the world would eventually get nervous and crumble. Because he never freaked out about money, it made him a gambling superhero (or so the story goes).

Yet it's always seemed to me that the stakes of pushing a button on a screen are much higher than fixing a top-ranked kid's forehand. It doesn't make any logical sense, but it's a real thing.

Because of that, it hasn't been easy taking that last step. It hasn't been easy to:

  1. Do a lot of research.
  2. Come up with a good (not perfect) solution.
  3. And get started.

Why? Because there is money on the line. I've constantly felt the need to triple-check my double-check because money is so important. And I'm pretty sure it's cost me.

Taking action is the most important thing we can do in our lives. Don't like what we look like? Take action and change our diet. Don't like our job? Take action and start looking somewhere else. Don't like the toxic people in our lives? Take action and start kicking them out.

Don't like the amount in our trading account? You get the picture.

So why don't we do it? We don't do it because that last step is a doozy. The last step can be the hardest thing we've ever done in our lives.

Which reminds me of another story.

Did you know that Muhammad Ali was once set to fight Wilt Chamberlain? It's true. Ali was the best boxer in the world at the time and Wilt considered himself to be the greatest basketball player/athlete in the world. Because Wilt's ego knew no bounds, when asked about it, Wilt said he absolutely could beat Ali.

What started as a fun hypothetical turned into an actual fight. The hype kept building until they reached the time of the mandatory pre-fight press conference. It was going to happen.

And then during that press conference (both fighters were present), Ali was asked how he'd counter the 7 ft 2 inch Chamberlain's height advantage.

Ali simply responded, "TIMBER!"

Chamberlain withdrew his challenge to fight Ali that same day.

When faced with the final step of actually getting in the ring with the best fighter in the world, Mr. Chamberlain decided to get the heck out of Dodge. It can happen to the best of us.

Getting back to trading, what if we were presented with a system that could possibly give us a 12-month return of 50% or more in 8 of the past 14 years? And what if that system still made good money in the six years it didn't make at least 50% (with a max drawdown of under 50%)?

Would we do it? Does that qualify as a good solution that could be applied with vigor now? Or would we wait ten minutes to see if we could do better?

What would we gain by waiting?

It seems pretty clear, General Patton was right.

Maybe it's time to finally listen to him.

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