The opening day of my semi-professional baseball league last Saturday presented me with my first live pitching situation since last year.While I was mentally prepared for the start of my fifth season in this competitive league, weather constraints over the past month had limited practice sessions to indoor batting cages. The opposing team's first pitcher was decent, throwing a great deal of junk with moderate velocity. But in the fifth inning, they brought in their ace long reliever to try to maintain a 7-4 lead. I waited on deck to bat against this 24-year-old ball player, who reminded me of the young blond-haired flamethrower depicted in the final scene of the movie "The Natural." Before I walked up to the plate for my turn at bat, I carefully monitored my thoughts. I had a feeling that this would make for a great analogy to trading under high-pressure situations. Careful as I was, I was so impressed by the pitcher's velocity that I caught myself thinking, "Wow, this guy throws a lot faster than the previous pitcher. I hope I can make contact." This self-defeating line of thought was making me more nervous than usual, and I was certain that if I continued to think this way I would not succeed. I was giving the pitcher too much power and not giving myself the credit that I deserved based on my stats from years past. I was freezing up in anticipation of an event where I felt uncertain. I needed to find a way to reclaim my mental edge.
Regarding his emotional awareness, Roger realized that he felt pangs of anxiety and insecurity when faced with an early roadblock. He noticed that his face flushed and his muscles tensed. His thought log indicated that thinking about those past losses he'd incurred by pulling out prematurely made him feel angry. My solution for him was to focus on his evidenced-based "anchors" to boost his confidence and to stay strong throughout the trade, even when things get ambiguous. After we met, Roger was able to use his anger as a cue to thinking about his 70% success rate on positions that he wavered on. He stuck to his guns and stayed strong with his convictions. He dug in and stayed for his at bat. As Woody Allen was once said, "80% of success is just showing up."
write to the Stock Doc with your trading, emotional or investing dilemmas. Dr. Cass always welcomes comments and stories, for which he'll try to offer valuable solutions in later columns.