For years, I’ve counseled readers to be smart and disciplined in their investment approach.
That means acting rationally and with deliberate forethought of potential consequences, both positive and negative.
In my experience, the best investors don’t have a world-class intellect. They have a first-class temperament.
Hurried decisions tend to be bad ones… as I was reminded on the golf course last week.
I’m a fairly low handicapper and came into my home course’s 18th hole – a par 5 – one under par for the round.
On the 18th tee, the wind – which had been in our faces – suddenly swirled around and started blowing from behind.
My tee shot sailed farther than usual. I hoped to hit my second shot onto the green, about 235 yards away.
If I made the eagle putt, I’d shoot a 69. And scoring in the 60s is rare for an amateur.
As I reached my tee shot, however, the wind switched and was blowing into me again.
There was no way I could fly a 3-wood 235 yards into the wind.
I would have to lay up instead.
In the threesome ahead of us was a regular member of our men’s group, Dr. Bob Rotella.
If you don’t know Dr. Bob, you should. He is the world’s leading sports psychologist. And a great guy.
He’s worked with Olympic gold medalists, world tennis champions, the winners of 84 major golf championships, and NCAA champions in basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and track and field.
Many of today’s finest athletes, including LeBron James and Rory McIlroy, work with him.
He has also been a consultant to many of the world’s largest companies, including General Electric, Ford, Coca-Cola and Merrill Lynch.
Bob has devoted his life to helping people become exceptional at whatever they do.
(I recommend his book How Champions Think, which ought to be required reading in every high school in America.)
As Bob and the rest of his group putted out, the wind shifted behind me again.
Instead of laying up, I could go for the green. But only if I hit before the wind shifted yet again.
I waited impatiently as the threesome shook hands and walked off the green.
When they reached their carts, I addressed the ball.
I hit the shot flush, but the wind carried it high and left.
To my horror, I saw that Bob and his partners were still standing beside their carts, talking.
My ball headed toward them like a guided missile.
I yelled “Fore” repeatedly, but they couldn’t hear me. I cringed as the ball came down right on top of them.
I have a friend who went to the emergency room two years ago and got six stitches in his face after a playing partner hit him with a pitch shot from behind the green.
But this ball was coming in hot from 235 yards out. It would do a lot more than sting.
As the ball fell out of the sky, I cringed. It was as if the CIA had ordered a drone strike on Bob Rotella.
When the ball hit the ground, the three men wheeled around and looked my way, as I made a sad-looking “sorry, guys” gesture with my arms.
Fortunately, no one was hurt. And I apologized to the three of them after the round.
It was a stupid mistake.
I’d acted in haste, thinking only about the potential upside – hitting the green and going for an eagle – and not the asymmetrical downside: hitting a friend and going to a funeral.
(For the rest of my life, people might have whispered, “There goes the guy who killed Bob Rotella.”)
Okay, I exaggerate. A little.
But there is an investment corollary…
Think back on the financial blunders you’ve made in the past. If you’re typical, your biggest mistakes were rash ones.
Companies that you impulsively bought before they soared higher. Stocks you sold immediately before the profits got away from you.
How different things often look in the luxury of hindsight.
The bottom line? Acting impetuously dents your performance, hurts your returns, and leaves you with nothing but embarrassment and regret.
Just ask my playing partners.
Click here to watch Alex’s latest video update.