Lessons Beyond the Court

April 27, 2023

Being from Milwaukee, I likely shouldn’t admit this (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone!) – but I don’t watch a lot of Bucks basketball. Nothing personal against the Bucks, but NBA just isn’t on my usual radar. However, once playoff time rolls around, I can’t help but get swept up in the action and this year was no exception.

Like so many people – in Wisconsin and across the country – I was disappointed to hear the Bucks were eliminated last night. I woke up to a newsletter from The Athletic with the headline “A Firing Worthy Collapse,” discussing last night’s loss by the Bucks that led to their elimination in the first round of the playoffs. Yikes, that is harsh!

I was going thru the day’s news earlier tonight (writing this on Thursday 4/27) – and I came across several links and shares of today’s press conference featuring Buck’s superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. His comments have gone viral and I can see why as they really resonated with me too – so much so that I shelved the article I had lined up for this week and decided to focus on his comments instead.

I encourage you to watch the full video for yourself. You can find a link to the video (within an article) here – but if you search his name, you’ll find about 100 quick links to the same footage and various interpretations of it.

The exchange starts when a reporter asks if Giannis considers this season a failure (clearly, the media has a spin they wish to put on this loss). You can see the exasperation on Giannis’ face before he puts together a very thoughtful reply that goes far beyond sports in my view. Here’s the key excerpts of what he said:

“It’s not a failure…it’s steps to success. There’s always steps to it. There’s no failure in sports. There’s good days, bad days. Some days you’re successful. Some days you’re not. You don’t always win…. Come back next year, try to be better. Try to build new habits”

I’ve already seen articles debating the merits of his comments in the context of professional athletes and the NBA. I’ll leave that debate to the basketball pundits. But as a person with my own goals and pursuits that I don’t always achieve, I certainly related to and appreciated his comments on a human level.

I also couldn’t help translating them to investing. Talk about a lot of parallels! Let’s take it one excerpt at a time and you too will see what I mean.

There’s always steps to it” – this is absolutely true of investing. It’s not one single action. It’s the compounding of thousands of individual actions taken (or perhaps more importantly actions not taken) time and time and time again. Over years/decades. Step by step – one after the other, in the direction of your goals

“There’s no failure” – this is also true of investing in my view. Sure, you can lose money on a given investment, sell at a realized loss, have a down year, or miss out on an opportunity. Any one of those could be viewed as a failure if you so choose to take it in that singular context. However, as long as there is still time on the clock (apologies for taking the basketball analogies a bit further!), you haven’t failed at investing. You’ve simply proven you are human. We learn from it, adapt as necessary, and move forward. After all, forward is the direction we are going and for the vast majority of us, at the end of our lives, we will have succeeded at investing (and so much more)

“There’s good days and bad days” – well this is certainly true of investing! In fact, my dad has always repeated a very similar mantra to me (“some days are better than others” is his chosen refrain). We tend to remember the bad days (March 2020 anyone?) – but there are just as many (in fact, far more) good days for investors too. The key is to accept both the good and the bad and stay the course, no matter what

“You don’t always win” – from day to day, this is reality for investors. Some days, if you are keeping score against a certain quantitative metric, the market may do better. Some days, your friend or neighbor may get in on an investment that you miss out on. On occasion, you may hold on to cash and then see the market go up 10%+ in a month. Things happen and you won’t always be perfect. You may not always “win.” But again (see above), it’s about the steps you take day in and day out. Take the next step and then take another one. Over time, you’re highly likely to “win” against your goals

“Try to be better, build new habits” – this last comment was perhaps my favorite in the context of investing. As long as we are alive and well, we have the ability to learn and adapt our behavior. When we know better, we do better. Investing – and personal finance more broadly – is ever evolving, right alongside your financial life. You need to adapt and develop new behaviors over time and be brave enough to change ones that aren’t serving you. As I always say, onward we go

Giannis was obviously thinking about his vocation (basketball) when he answered this failure question – but even he seemed to be trying to elevate the discussion beyond sports. There’s a lot to learn from what he said – whether you’re an athlete, an investor, or someone who is simply striving to be just a little bit better each and every day.

Thanks for the reminders Giannis. See you next season,

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