What Trading and Wimbledon Have in Common

07/08/2010 12:01 am EST

Focus: STRATEGIES

Occasionally, we get to “look” inside the mind of a great performer. This year's programming for the Wimbledon tennis championships offered such an opportunity. What many consider the greatest tiebreak in tennis history—the completion of the fourth set of the 1980 Wimbledon men's final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg—was replayed point by point with both McEnroe and Borg providing commentary. We got to see and hear what was going on in the minds of two great tennis champions.

Momentum Shift

McEnroe won the tiebreak 18-16, giving him the fourth set. It brought the match to dead even with one set left to play. Although the match was even, momentum had clearly shifted to McEnroe as he overcame Borg's deft, expert play.

Commenting 30 years later, McEnroe said he knew the momentum had shifted. Borg had had several match point chances during the tiebreak, but couldn't convert them. McEnroe figured that Borg was demoralized and that the Wimbledon championship—the most coveted title in tennis—was on his racquet. Borg admitted he felt down and expected that he would lose. In fact, he said he was "sure of it."

But that didn't happen. Borg found deep within himself the will to overcome McEnroe's momentum. Borg, not McEnroe, won the 1980 Wimbledon championship.

A Career-Defining Experience

John McEnroe said this loss to Borg was a significant moment in his career. Borg's mental ability to dig deep within himself and not let the loss of the tiebreak get the better of him was eye-opening for McEnroe. McEnroe said that he witnessed in Borg an exceptional level of mental toughness that he, too, wanted to possess. This experience was career-defining for him. He then worked hard on the mental side of his game and soon became one of the great players in tennis.

A Lesson for Traders

How many traders become demoralized by a loss and then become entangled in their emotions? Unfortunately, the answer is probably most. When things looked the bleakest, Borg dug deep. He didn't feel sorry for himself or shift attention to his emotions. Instead, he remained committed to his game and kept his focus on what mattered most: Executing the right actions.
Borg's way of dealing with a defeating situation is a lesson for traders. Despite how bad it looked and how poorly he felt, Borg's attitude remained resolute. Rather than focusing on the tiebreak he had just lost and letting defeating thoughts and emotions take center stage, he focused on what he needed to do to beat McEnroe.

Trading abounds with adversity. Everyone has losses. Like Borg, when faced with a disheartening challenge, traders need to pull deep from within and keep attention focused on the right things. You may be down and feel like the world is against you, but allowing those thoughts to dominate will only mar your trading. The goal is to succeed, and the only way to succeed is to execute the right actions. Traders should focus on what I call high-value actions (HVAs)—actions that are under your control and bring about effective trading.

Apply HVAs to Your Trading

You can never control the market, and you can never control how any given trade will turn out. But, you can control your actions and apply HVAs to your trading. Trading HVAs includes identifying the next high-quality trade setup, projecting a reasonable target, assessing risk/reward, finding the entry trigger, and managing the trade. If you focus on HVAs, you are putting yourself in the best position to make a next good trade no matter how dismayed you may feel.

By Gary Dayton, Psy.D.

High-value trading actions are in the repertoire of every successful trader. You are invited to learn more about trading HVAs and developing a successful mindset at the author’s Web site

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