Hunger, from Craig Mee

June 18, 2009 |

Should golf pros who want to win a major, practice in cold wet windy annoyingly uncomfortable environments?

Should surf pros who want to win the world title do the same, train in crappy onshore beach break conditions?

…so when it's game on, they will be so happy to be warm, and comfortable and hungry for the win?

Should we traders be in cramped humid stuffy rooms, with no daylight, to reinforce the value of money and stay focused?

Scott Brooks disagrees:

Professional athletes as well as military personnel should practice/drill in the worst conditions so they can thrive in the best conditions. But no one performs at his peak in these conditions.

Drilling and practicing are very different from actual live game day executions.

Traders aren't forced to trade in bad conditions. We should trade in conditions that optimize our ability to think clearly and perform.

There is a big difference between drilling/practicing and actual execution of a task. Trading is real life execution. Game days are real life execution, Battle is real life execution. You don't want to be at anything less than your best when it comes time to execute.

If you're a professional athlete and it's raining on game day, both you and your opponents have to play in the rain. If it's the day of the battle and it's freezing cold blizzard, both you and your opponents have to execute in those conditions.

But when you're trading, you don't want to put yourself in a less than optimal situation. Your opponent has probably created the most comfortable environment that he can to optimize his mental acuity. Why would you want to give yourself the handicap of being uncomfortable?

Create the "peak performance environment" so that you have the highest potential to reap the greatest rewards for yourself and your clients.

Riz Din adds:

A documentary series recently aired in the UK that provided insight on the natural life on the small South Pacific islands. In these small islands, life has evolved in strange ways, producing several instances of flightless birds for example. Unfortunately, after many many years of comfortable living, the introduction of new predators onto the islands wreaked havoc.

I agree with Scott that the physical conditions should be optimal, but I would add that the mental aspect needs to be tended to well, as complacency can spell death when market conditions suddenly turn, strategies stop working, etc. Better to retain the ability to fly, just in case.





Speak your mind

8 Comments so far

  1. Keith Shepard on June 18, 2009 6:47 pm

    >>Should we as traders, be in cramped humid stuffy rooms, with no daylight, to reinforce the value of money and stay focused?

    You’ll get nothing and like it.

  2. Anonymous on June 19, 2009 7:02 am

    There was a spiited debated over this issue some years back where the Chair, Mr. Brooks and others weighed in with their views on this issue. I remember the Chair writing that he would turn off the air conditioning in the trading room thus making the conditions uncomfortable sometimes unbearable. He should weigh in with his views on this.

    Mr. Brooks commented on the importance of maintaining a proper esprit de corp in his business practices and adhering to a very dour and no fooling around ethic. He should expand his thoughts which he has shared in the past.

    Comments on sports. The downside of practicing in terrible conditions is the risk of developing bad habits. In golf, the margins of error are so small that practicing “in the rain” or “in the cold” could adversely impact one’s swing plane endangering one’s ability to properly execute the shot. I would think that this applies more to extreme weather conditions as this might give a player a slight advantage when conditions are raw such as those seen in British Open venues as opposed to the majority of times when events are contested over ideal conditions.

    Football: Theories abound that Southern Teams have advantages over Northern Teams when temperatures and humidity is high. Eg. Miami Dolphins hosting Green Bay in September. Conversely the opposite can be true as evidenced by Tampa Bay’s dismal record in sub 40 degree weather. Also, Denver Broncos have a home field advantage playing their home games at 5240 feet. In fact, their stadium used to be called Mile High Stadium. I am sure psy ops was played to the extreme here to instill fear in opponents who would have to play in rarified air.

    Baseball: The Great American Pastime starts out practicing in Florida and Arizona in Feb and March and then teams leave to go to their respective stadiums. The Cubs have played when it was snowing in April as have Boston, Ny teams and others. Some players as a result are slow starters and warm up their averages when the temp rises. Jim Thome is one such player who typically comes on slowly and then blossoms during the dog days of summer.

    Cycling: Most cyclists practice at high altitudes to build stamina and RBC’s. Lance Armstrong does the majority of his riding at high altitudes in Europe before the start of the Tour de France. He typically destroys the field in the mountain stages virtually guaranteeing victory through his methods.

    Basketball: Bob Knight comments that he practices his players under extreme conditions and often “berates and dehumanizes ” them so when they visit inhospitable locales such as Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, they are prepared for the worst. Teams who meet little adversity or top level competition might not be prepared for the times when they will meet a high quality team. U of Cincinnati under Huggins and Memphis under Calipari have been criticized for this.

    Boxing: Gene Tunney used to do his road work by running backwards in his preparation of Jack Dempsey fight. Mike Tyson was known for a similar running regiment. Other boxers try to find sparring partners who can mimic the style of the upcoming opponent for proper preparation.

    There are many more anecdotal sports stories that can be developed and one can quickly see that there are pros and cons to the arguments. Suggestions could be sailing, beach volleyball, wrestling, swimming, rowing,tennis,

    Visitors to the site should be encouraged to weigh in with their own particular testimony.


  3. Craig Bowles on June 19, 2009 7:41 am

    People that are good at golf play every day out of habit. Maybe not a flash flood in the winter, but in the summer, you one-club-it barefoot and make up the holes. Adventure golf is great. Even the members at Augusta National tee it up late in the evening and play from the clubhouse down to #6 green. Golf and trading are such humbling sports that you’d go crazy without a sense of humor.

  4. david higgs on June 19, 2009 9:14 am

    Rocky Balboa use to pound a side of beef before each fight, to tender perfection,,,,,,worked for him!

  5. Bill Hannahs on June 19, 2009 12:50 pm

    It seems intentionally putting employees in oppressive environments would do more to distract them from their work than encourage them to perform better. It would also make employee retention a challenge.

    While athletic training under adverse conditions is often unavoidable. It is best to prepare for the specific conditions that will be present on the day of the competition.

    It seems if you want to keep traders hungry, have a tiered environment where results are paid in part by better digs. You just have to be careful you aren’t unnecessarily hindering employees with draconian measures. You want your employees focused on their work, not the environment.

    Working long days at a desk is tiring enough and dismal conditions will be more likely to exhaust workers. Exhaustion trumps hunger. Look at the Iditarod, home to some of the hardest workers on the planet. Once a dog team gets exhausted it stops eating and a downward spiral is initiated. Even huskies can become picky eaters and unmotivated to do anything when driven by a misguided musher.

    To expand on sl’s example of Lance Armstrong, he not only trained in the mountains he trained on the roads he would later race upon in the Tour de France. Sometimes he would be riding those roads in cold and rain. Other times he would ride them in sunshine and heat. Both extremes are present in the Tour. He prepared for what he would be faced with in competition.

    If he just wanted adverse conditions he could spend the Spring in Belgium racing over the cobbles in the cold rain. Or he could seek out even higher altitude roads in Colorado or Columbia. But he doesn’t since that is unfocused adversity that will not prepare him for the specific challenges he will face.

    Likewise, a golf pro or surfer should train in cold rain if that is a factor he may need to overcome in the event. But if that is the limit of their training they will be unprepared for sunny weather and will probably show up at the event sick.

    Armstrong didn’t limit his training to the mountains. He prepared for all factors that he would encounter in a Tour de France. He worked in a wind tunnel perfecting his position on time trial bike. He worked with clothing manufactuers to be sure he had the best suited clothing to keep him comfortable in the crunch of competition and exhaustion. He left no detail unrehearsed.

    It is prudent to train in the conditions you will compete and not to try anything in competition that you have not already become accustomed to in training. Because when you are in competition you don’t want to be surprised by how a new pair of shorts really shaffes you in an unexpected way. You want to reduce the factors that will distract you from victory.

  6. Steve Leslie on June 19, 2009 3:36 pm

    Rocky Balboa beating a side of beef was not an original method. Stallone took this idea from Joe Frazier also from Philadelphia who in all likelihood was the first to "work the beef". Catching a chicken also was not original. Other old school training methods for boxers. John L. Sullivan would chop wood. Some would work out in junk yards. Tyson would train in the Catskills away from the media and the insanity that covers boxing. Reporters would marvel at the great Sugar Ray Rpbinson jumping rope during training. Ray Leonard and Roy Jones Jr. worked the speed bag like Perlman played the violin. Bert Sugar said that Rocky Marciano had a right hand made out of cement. Probably due to as a result of working the heavy bag. Boxers have been known to train with ankle weights.

    Swimmers would "shave down" before a major event.

    I once saw Jerry Rice run with a small parachute hooked to him. John Matuzak would sprint up a hill until he heaved. Lombardi would devote entire practices to a few running plays. To increase his endurance and acceleration, Roger Stauback would run between a set of telephone poles and then jog through a set.

  7. Paolo Pezzutti on June 21, 2009 9:33 am

    In the military when you are young they train you to live and understand difficult conditions. When you are a senior officer you still remember those days when they were teaching you to bear the pressure. When you give an order, even if you are comfortably sitting on a desk at the headquarters, you do not forget what it means for the men on the field. In trading, starting from the most difficult situations, can test your motivation and determination.

  8. Steve Leslie on June 21, 2009 6:27 pm

    I submitted this link several years ago. I like to read it regularly. It helps ground me in many areas. I strongly recommend it for anyone who has an interest in military leadership. 


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