"How the hell does this guy win? He hits like a caveman who found a tennis racket!" - 'Incredulous opinion' heard by Steve Jamison - Winning Ugly
If you've never heard of Brad Gilbert, or ever read his excellent book Winning Ugly, you should. His success in tennis didn't come from overwhelming physical gifts and great strokes, it came because he out-strategized his opponents. Simply put, he knew how to win.
He had a contrarian style of play, preferring to play to his opponent's weaknesses and capitalizing on any resulting opportunities. The mental fortitude to adapt to any player and situation is what gave him his edge.
He believes that anyone can improve the fastest and the most if they improve the way they think, if people work as hard on their minds as they do on their strokes.
He wrote his book in 1993, and it's amazing how relevant it still is today 25 years on.
I learnt a lot from this book about mental strength. The biggest surprise was how relevant Brad Gilbert's philosophy is in investing.
"Ya know, that's life." - Serena Williams, after losing in the 1st round of the 2012 French Open
Whether by design or not, the markets function very much so like the natural world: in cycles. Day always follows night, which always precedes day. High tides always follow low tides, which precede high tides. Good times follow the not-so-good times, which precede the good. And on, and on, and on, ad infinitum.
That's why as an investor you shouldn't be afraid of market downturns: they'll surely be followed by bull markets. You just need to strategize, have a plan of action for both up and down markets, and be prepared to execute when the time is right.
Preparation is the only antidote to the uncertainty.
For our purposes, having an investing methodology/process and making sure that you can carry it out is the best possible preparation. Also, the old adage "diversification is the only free lunch in investing" applies in the face of uncertainty and a market downturn.
Brad Gilbert emphasized the importance of preparation, of having a process, in the very first part of his book, eloquently titled: "The Early Edge: The Match Begins Before the Match Begins". This results in what he calls "serious short-term memory loss", the ability to mentally wipe the slate clean when things go bad, to forget about it immediately and not get ruined. It helps the great players to stay committed to their goals, and come out fighting harder and better than before.
Winning is hard enough when you believe in yourself, it's impossible when you doubt yourself.
It is critical to work to eliminate doubt by practicing 'serious short-term memory loss'. This only works when you are prepared: i.e. have a solid action-plan for your goals, which itself only arises when your goals themselves are clearly defined.
"To me, how I define absolute greatness, when somebody says: how do you see it, how do you know it? When I watch a Micheal Jordan, when I watch a Kobe, when I watch a Fed, Nadal, a Tom Brady, at the highest level, when other people will say things are going a million miles an hour, for them, it actually slows down to where it actually becomes absolutely clear what they're going to do.
...That, to me, is the clearest thing that I've ever seen of greatness, that things slow down for them. For the same other person that maybe is close in talent, that it speeds up and they make a bad decision." - Brad Gilbert: "Winning Ugly" | Talks at Google @ 1:02:58