Ted Williams is regarded as one of the finest hitters in baseball history. His career batting average was .344. His career on base percentage at .482 is the highest of all time. He batted over .400 in 1941 and is the last person to do so. There are several ideas about what drove his success.
Among the theories is an eye defect that reduced retinal retention. Most people see a pitched ball as a blur, but Ted claims to have seen it as a series of distinct images. They tested that and it was likely true. Couple that with strength, speed and superb hand-eye co-ordination and you have the making of a hitter.
The physical aspects matter but hitting is at a different level of consciousness. The time allowed to understand the pitch’s position and trajectory, decide to swing and execute the swing, is very small. Even a slower pitch is in the air barely half a second and your conscious mind does not work that fast.
The superior result comes from simplifying. Depending on the situation with balls and strikes, batters look for particular pitches in particular parts of the strike zone. That cuts down the processing. It is a fast ball low and inside or it is not. If not I do nothing. Except with two strikes, then I may try to foul it off. The ability to foul off pitches is a serious value for a hitter.
The key here is that a batter need not swing at every pitch. Those that do not swing get better pitches. If a pitcher knows you swing at almost everything, there is little point throwing a strike. Williams walked half as often as he made a safe hit.
So, success depends on two things. Knowledge of what pitches you can hit and the discipline to wait for them.
Same thing with investments.
Deal with things you understand and when you don’t find any, do nothing.
Your lifetime investment return will be made up more of what you did not do than what you did. Charlie Munger has said that in the history of Berkshire Hathaway there are not more than 15 decisions that mattered in the long run. Without those 15, their lifetime rate of return would be no better than average. His partner Warren Buffett claims they say no to almost everything that comes their way.
For the rest of us we must learn about investments: what makes money for us, what is fashionable, how they are taxed and what markets do to evaluate them. We must learn about ourselves. Fear and greed and impatience being the important parts.
When we master all of those, we will know the part of the strike zone where we can excel and we will be disciplined enough to wait for exactly the right pitch.
I’ll bet Ted could foul off low outside pitches indefinitely. Force the pitcher up and in a bit.
Wait for what you like and can handle.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-77