Morning Market Thoughts

Good morning. I hope you had a relaxing weekend as we start moving into the last month of summer. Yesterday I was listening to “The Tim Ferriss Show” while I was working out. The theme of this episode was “How to Turn Failure into Success.” There is always a takeaway from each podcast. I’m a regular listener. And as I listen, I am always receptive for some little tidbit, lesson, behavior, or thought process that I can directly apply to my life. In this one, failure was discussed. “Failure is not an option.” That phrase is a fairly common one when people discuss meeting various challenges in life. I’ve always been inspired by that phrase. But after giving it some thought, I realize that “failure” is most certainly an option. In fact, it is a certainty.

You cannot go through life without failing. You cannot try anything worth achieving without failing. Failure is more than an option — it is a necessary ingredient in the formula for success.

When I was younger, going skiing with my brothers was a regular ritual during the winter. We went often. I also enjoyed water skiing during the summer months because I had the best situation a guy could ask for. I didn’t own a boat…but my friend did.

But whether it was skiing on snow or water, we always took the same approach: “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.” This is a pretty simple concept — the only way you get better at anything is pushing yourself to a higher place, knowing that you’ll fail along the way.

Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots. Ted Williams failed to get on base 60% of the time…and he is the last .400 hitter that will ever play in the majors. Tom Brady has failed a lot. Out of 8,224 passing attempts during regular season play, he threw nearly 3,000 incompletions (152 of which were interceptions…an average of about 9 interceptions per season).

Can you think of three athletes who have been more successful than Jordan, Williams and Brady? I can’t. Yet I do see that failure is a common ingredient in achieving greatness. These guys didn’t let failure knock them out of the game. They had a goal in mind, and they realized that failures are stepping stones on the path to exceptionalism. When you choose to allow a stepping stone of failure to become a wall that prevents you from going forward, you haven’t failed — you have quit.

Winners fail all the time. It’s a part of the process of accomplishing great things. But winners never quit.

You have chosen to take control of your own financial future by trading. Accept the inevitability of making mistakes. Learn to distinguish losing trades from mistakes. You can do everything right and still lose money. And you can do everything wrong and still make money. Making money does not define the quality of the trade. Doing everything perfectly defines the quality of the trade. The profit or loss is then beyond your control — it’s a function of markets.

If you want to be exceptional, look beyond losses and focus on learning from your mistakes. By addressing your mistakes, you are working on your game in the same way as Tom Brady works on his passing, Michael Jordan worked on his jump shot, and Ted Williams took batting practice.

Strive for perfection. You’ll never quite realize it…but if perfection is your goal, quitting will never be an option, even after a string of failures.

Oh, and I couldn’t address failure without bringing up Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

You can fail thousands of times. But you can only quit once. Never quit.

–Dan

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