53 seconds is about how long it will take you to read this post.
53 seconds is also the amount of time an elite football player touches the ball in a 90-minute match. (According to a study that looked at 30 French League 1 matches over a period of two seasons, see www.scienceofsocceronline.com)
For the purpose of this post, please don’t get distracted by if it is exactly 53 seconds. The point is, it is not 3 minutes. But, for argument sake, let’s suppose it was 3 minutes (180 seconds). That would mean in a 90-minute match, each player touches the ball just 3% of time.
When I think about that, it makes me wonder what differentiates failure from success in elite football. Is it the 1% - 3% of the time that each player touches the ball or is it what the player is doing, thinking about and focusing on during the other 97% - 99% of the time during the match?
The outcome (what the player does when he touches the ball) is what we celebrate because that is when goals, passes, headers and saves occur. If 97% - 99% of his time during a match is spent NOT touching the ball, greatness must be determined by his process (what he does when he is not touching the ball.)
As a Portfolio Manager, what percent of your time each day is spent executing trades compared to watching the markets, doing research, charting, thinking about positions and ideas? My guess is the ratio of time spent executing relative to time spent not executing is remarkably similar to that of the football data.
And yet, you celebrate the execution (1% - 3% of your efforts) because that is when money is made and lost but the process (97% - 99% of your time) is what will define your success.
Having a background in Sport Psychology and working as a Peak Performance coach to Portfolio Managers at Hedge funds, I immediately see the similarities between what it takes to be a great football player as well as an elite PM.
Greatness in both, requires the following:
- Continuous focus during the entire match (trading day) so that you are always in the right place at the right time if and when the window of opportunity (trade setup) appears for you to strike (execute your trade).
- Having the patience to watch the markets (game play) develop so you avoid getting in too soon or worse, over trading.
- Having the self-discipline to not give into your natural urge to do something because you feel like you need to make something happen.
- Focusing on your process and having faith that, over time, great process leads to great results.
How can you cross the bridge between putting some or all of these concepts into action?
Think about your experience playing a sport and ask yourself questions like:
- “When I was playing (name of sport), what did I do to stay focused (or patient or disciplined) during the game?”
- “How many hours did I spend practicing (working on my process) compared to the number of hours I spent executing in a game?”
I have found that getting you to relive your experiences as an athlete opens the door to helping you apply those same mental skills to your advantage as a portfolio manager so you can continue to Dare to be Great!
And if you can learn anything from the World Cup, it is that winning is less about what you do when you touch the ball 1% - 3% of time and much more about what you are focusing on during the other 97% - 99% of the time.
Process Leads to Profits,