What Watching Tiger Woods Can Teach You About Trading

Most people don’t know that Tiger Woods’ name is actually “Eldrick.”  Eldrick Tont Woods to be exact.  We all have just been calling him by his nickname, Tiger.  His other nicknames include; El Tigre.  The Woodster.  The “T” Wood.  Wood-a-licious. And in certain gentleman’s club’s in the South Florida area, “The Big Wood.”

After his performance during the last few years his nickname though should probably be “Chernobyl.”

Unless you are really into practicing Schadenfreude, watching Tiger Woods melt down in the Masters over the weekend was pretty painful.

Here you have perhaps the greatest player ever to walk the links; so dominant at one point in his career that major championship sites like Augusta National actually began “Tiger-proofing” their courses by adding yardage to their tees in order to slow him down.  And now he is turning into the butt of too many jokes to mention.

As a trader, the take away from watching Woods implode is to understand that trading, just like golf, is mostly mental.

[Note from Brian’s inner dialogue:

Really Brian?  That is the brilliant conclusion you came up with for this post?  That trading is a mental game?  Great, maybe next you will tell us that water is wet and the sky is blue.  If people wanted simplistic crap like that they could read any of a hundred other blogs or Alexander Elder’s books.  You better friggin’ dazzle us with something else here pretty quick.]

Okay, I get it.  Saying that Tiger is off his mental game is obvious, and the comparison to trading too easy.  But what isn’t so easy to understand is exactly why Tiger cracked.

This is a guy who was on national TV hitting golf balls at age two with Bob Hope.  A guy whose father drilled golf into him throughout his youth with the intensity of the Green Beret he was.  Yet that didn’t crack Tiger.

He played for Stanford and at age 20 became the first golfer to win three consecutive amateur titles, but nothing in that process phased him one bit.

He went pro, signed massive endorsement deals, was covered by every major sports outlet, and became the fasted golfer ever to reach the #1 ranking, and yet his game never faltered.

He went up against the legends of golf and proceeded to destroy them and the courses he played on.  Along the way he got married, which could mess up anybody’s head, but not Tiger’s.  Having two kids was a drop in the mental bucket for him.  And even while banging every stripper and porn star he could get his hands on, his mastery of the game never lapsed.

And then one night his wife found out about his affairs, and his game has never been the same.  But I don’t think it is because his wife found out about the affairs, I think that it is because of the publicity, that the world found out that Tiger Woods was out of control.

Tiger Woods bought his own press.  He believed in his own infallibility; not just on the golf course, but in life.  And having the public know that he was not 100% in control at all times was more than he could bear, and he snapped.

If only he had learned from Kevin Costner’s character in the seminal golf move “Tin Cup.”

Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy: The critical opening phrase of this poem will always be the grip. Which the hands unite to form a single unit by the simple overlap of the little finger. Lowly and slowly the clubhead is led back. Pulled into position not by the hands, but by the body which turns away from the target shifting weight to the right side without shifting balance. Tempo is everything; perfection unobtainable as the body coils down at the top of the swing. Theres a slight hesitation. A little nod to the gods. 

Dr. Molly Griswold: A, a nod to the gods? 

Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy: Yeah, to the gods. That he is fallible. That perfection is unobtainable. And now the weight begins shifting back to the left pulled by the powers inside the earth. It’s alive, this swing! A living sculpture and down through contact, always down, striking the ball crisply, with character. A tuning fork goes off in your heart and your balls. Such a pure feeling is the well-struck golf shot. Now the follow through to finish. Always on line. The reverse C of the Golden Bear! The steel workers’ power and brawn of Carl Sandburg’s. Arnold Palmer! 

A nod to the gods.  A surrendering of ones ego in admission that we are fallible and perfection unobtainable.  Tiger’s failure to understand, acknowledge, and accept that concept is what wrapped him so tight, that when the illusion was shattered, his game collapsed and may never recover.

The goal in trading is to make money, not to be a perfect trader.  The real take away from watching Tiger Woods is to learn that in the markets, just like in life, ego kills. Pridefulness kills. Vanity kills.  Self-importance kills.  Self-delusion kills.

As traders we lose on trades.  We sell to soon.  We miss an entry.  We top tick a move. And we have losing streaks.  We are the definition of fallible; every one of us.  And thinking otherwise is the kiss of death.

What bclund is, is the intersection of markets, trading, and life (with some punk rock, pop culture, and off-beat humor mixed in).  Don’t forget to subscribe for free Via E-mail or Via RSS and follow me on StockTwits and Twitter.

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