Hank Aaron Tells You How To Produce Great Results
Traders who are naturally strong mentally are able to bounce back after a big loss and still trust their guts.
Editor's Note: Minyanville is proud to introduce our newest Professor Dr. Tom Hanson and his first column; an exclusive interview with home run king Hank Aaron. Dr. Hanson has a Ph.D. in education specializing in sport psychology. His client list includes the New York Yankees, Fortune 100 companies and many individual performers in the world of sports and finance.
Would you like to be in the top 5% of all traders for 23 years?
Hank Aaron was in the top 5% of all hitters for his 23-year career and I find the same principles I've used to coach major league hitters helpful in my work coaching traders.
In this article I'd like to share some of the things I learned when I picked Aaron's brain for two hours about what made him so good for so long.
He was emphatic that it wasn't his talent that made him successful, his mental approach did.
Here are some fun facts on Aaron that will help you better appreciate his accomplishments:
- The all-time leader in Home Runs, Aaron averaged 33 per year for 23 years (in 2005 less than 5% of all Major League hitters hit 33 or more).
- The all-time leader in Runs Batted In, Aaron averaged 100 per year for 23 years (in 2005 only 6% of all Major League hitters drove in 100).
- He's also first all-time in Total Bases, the equivalent of 12 miles of base running ahead of second-best Stan Musial.
- He hit .300 fourteen times.
- He continued to perform at this level in 1973 and 1974 despite thousands of hate letters and many death threats from people who didn't want a black guy to break Whitey Ruth's record.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
How did he do it? More importantly, how could he help you be in that top 5% for even a few years?
"I knew that in order to be the best I could be, I needed to be great mentally," he said. "Many players had my talent, but what made me different was my mental approach."
What goes into a mental approach?
"It all depends on how a guy prepares himself to do battle," he said. "I think so many hitters don't know mentally how to get themselves prepared to play or to hit against a pitcher. Every pitcher pitches different and you have to approach it that way."
(Every day the market is different and…)
How did he prepare?
"I visualized. You see it in your head what you think might happen."
Talk us through an example.
"Well, say we play the Mets tomorrow and Koosman is pitching. Then mentally, my whole pattern of thinking would be 'What is it that I need to focus in on, that I need to think about, as a hitter? What is good for Koosman, what works good for Koosman, and how he's gonna try to get me out in different situations?"
"Then I would start visualizing myself, like I'm standing at the plate, with runners at first and second, or second and third, whichever, how he's gonna pitch me in that given situation. Then I would start visualizing, for example, if the bases were loaded, how he would try to go after me."
"Then I would look at it, for example, in the eighth inning, seventh inning, sixth inning, and I would put myself in all of these different positions and put him in the same positions and try to figure out what is going to be best and what I am going to be looking for. So, I visualize all these different situations."
"Over the course of the day?" I asked.
"The day, the ballgame and all. And I don't only do that just once, I do that all day long.
I just tried to put myself in different situations facing different kinds of pitchers."
So every single day he visualized what he thought he'd see and what he wanted to have happen.
Visualizing got him focused on the most important thing, the ball, instead of death threats and other distractions.
Visualizing put him in the right mindset to hit. Hitters need to do their preparation before they step into the batter's box because they have just two tenths of a second to decide if they are going to swing at a pitch. If they're thinking in the box, they're out.
Visualizing every day made him consistently good.
As a trader, you need to be focused on what's most important and block out distractions. You need to be in the right mindset in order to clearly see the pitch the market is throwing at you right now. The right mindset also gives you clear access to your gut so you can make fast, accurate decisions.
If you're thinking too much while the pitch is on its way, you're out.
When you are off-center emotionally, it's like you've had a few beers: your vision and thinking are impaired.
Ten minutes into the interview, Aaron said, "You know, this is the most important part about hitting and no one has ever asked me about this before. They always want to talk about technique, like where my hands are. But that's not it. It's where my head is."
I had goose bumps the size of golf balls.
But that also speaks to the poor attention the mental game gets.
In baseball I'm still amazed at how players from the Major League level on down tell me that the game is 80% or more mental, but they spend almost no time working on their mental game. They focus solely on their hitting technique.
Traders tell me that trading is 80% or more mental and emotional, but they spend almost no time working on their mental and emotional skills.
Traders who are naturally strong mentally are able to bounce back after a big loss and still trust their guts. They do well and make a bunch of money.
Traders whose confidence is shattered by a big loss, who can't take a few key strike outs, get sent to the minors (a regular job). Their rational minds may say "hold your position," but they are hi-jacked by their emotions and pull out too soon.
I asked Aaron: "This incredible, consistent focus you had, do you feel you could just naturally do that or was it something you learned?'
"Oh, I learned it," he said. "It's like learning your ABC's, you do it through repetition."
There are lots of tools available to help you be like Aaron and consistently be in that right frame of mind.
But for now I suggest you copy Aaron and make a regular morning practice of visualizing yourself in different situations. See what you expect to happen and see yourself responding great. See what adversity you know could happen, and see yourself responding great.
When you're mentally and emotionally prepared, you simply make better decisions.
It won't guarantee you'll be a top 5% guy, but it will help you find out how good you can be.
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