Game, Set, Match

RT @LeadToday The best leaders don’t focus on what has happened, they focus on what’s going to happen.

When I was flying back from Dubai last week I had chance to watch one of the greatest tennis matches ever played. The in-plane entertainment system had the McEnroe v. Borg Wimbledon final from 1981 and I was mesmerized by the sheer mastery of the sport. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old man, I remain convinced that late 1970’s early 1980’s were the Golden Age of tennis. No titanium rackets the size of a small house that allow even 85 pound girls to hit 200mph passing shots with their pinkies. In the early 1980’s the rackets were made of wood, the sweet spot was the size of thimble and touch was more important than power. Hitting perfect strokes was difficult as it was supposed to be and McEnroe and Borg was the Davinci and Michelangelo of the courts. Watching Federer and Nadal play on the red baked courts of Rolland Garros today I cannot help but feel that while today’s great players are clearly superior athletes, they are no match for Bjorn and John when it comes to style.

Despite my longing for the past, I continue to love the game of tennis and am constantly amazed at how similar it is to the art of trading. Tennis above all else is a game on anticipation. Great players never stand still, they are always moving towards where the ball is headed. To succeed in tennis you must commit yourself before you are certain of the balls direction. If you wait until it is hit, you’ll be too late. You’ll never reach it on time. Does that sound familiar to anyone trading FX? It should, as traders we operate in the same murky environment of uncertainty and must anticipate price action in order to profit.

Professional tennis players are never afraid of being wrong footed. The cost of anticipation is that sometimes you will guess wrong and move to your right while your opponent sends the volley screaming to the left. If you watch professional tennis players however, you’ll notice that they never get upset at losing those points. They accept those losses as part of the game.

As traders we are wrong footed by the markets all time, perhaps even more frequently than professional tennis players. But in contrast to the tennis player’s detached manner traders tend to react emotionally every time it happens. In fact many of us put on temper tantrums worthy of John McEnroe whenever markets stop us out. That’s a big mistake. Even McEnroe himself admitted that his outbursts cost him dearly when he played. It is a testament to his skills as a player that he was able to overcome his own demons to become the champion that he was. For the rest of us who have not been blessed with such remarkable gifts it is wise to learn from the attitude of the many men and women who play professional tennis. Take chances, anticipate as best as you can, and never let any single volley affect your whole match.

Boris Schlossberg

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