Nick McDonald

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Nick McDonald: Trading lessons from the FIFA World Cup

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Colombia's James Rodriguez, one of the stars of this year's FIFA World Cup.  Photo / AP
Colombia's James Rodriguez, one of the stars of this year's FIFA World Cup. Photo / AP

Love it or loath it, there is no escaping it. The FIFA Football World Cup is the greatest sporting show on earth uniting humanity in a way that nothing else can. It makes us laugh, it makes us cry, it makes us jump for joy in a way that people seldom do under normal day-to-day circumstances. It is a licence to celebrate success and that is one of the things I love the most about it.

For those interested in performing in any endeavour at peak level, there are numerous lessons to be learned from football. Here are some of my favourite parallels between football and trading, inspired by the 2014 FIFA Football World Cup.

1 - You must love what you do
"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."
- Pele

How many professional players at this world cup do you think get up each day wishing they were elsewhere? Not many I expect.

Most have fulfilled a lifetime dream by making the world's biggest stage and their passion and dedication to the game shines through on the field and echoes throughout the stadiums and TV screens.

Traders too must love what they do to survive all the highs and lows. Indeed surviving that volatility is the only way to make it to the top which requires having enough love for the game to keep you going and on track - under the best and worst of circumstances.

2 - Strategy is crucial
As a start point, strategy is among the most important elements in any successful endeavour. Often strategies change and they always evolve, but usually they consist of small tweaks and improvements over time as compared to major shifts in direction.

Will the USA football team now sack the entire team and coaches for failing to make the quarter finals? Or will they celebrate just how well they did and look for incremental improvements to make the quarters in 2018? I think the latter.

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Trading is the same. Professionals always have a strategy and then look for incremental improvements. Amateur traders on the other hand, tear everything up and start again on a whim after just a couple of minor mistakes. If you can learn from both success and failure and tweak the strategy accordingly, you are on the right path.

3 - Routine cannot be understated
Imagine you are playing in the Football World Cup final. The day before, you head out for a few drinks with friends; a few too many drinks, a skipped meal and after bad night's sleep head off on the team-bus with a hang-over and no breakfast.

Sound probable? Not for a peak performer!

Peak sports people have a routine. They eat a certain way, sleep at a certain time and wake up fresh and alert to a routine of stretching, meditating, running or whatever it takes to get ready and focused. When they hit the field, they are ready to perform.

Poor performing traders every day, somewhere in the world, are trading when they are sick, hangover, injured (often mentally), distracted or the like. If they want to perform, they need routine just like a sports person, not necessarily as strict, but a process and routine that ensures you only trade when you are focused and at your best.

4 - Mental rehearsal is the domain of the best only
In the 1998 World Cup, David Beckham was red carded and sent off for kicking an Argentinian player. England lost the game and upon his return to the UK, 'Becks' was vilified with effigies burnt and death threats to him and his family.

Now fast forward four years to the 2002 World Cup. Beckham takes revenge and scores the winning goal against the same team. He is hailed a hero. Afterwards Beckham stated that he had spent the last four years mentally rehearsing scoring the winning goal against Argentina in a World Cup.

How different might this have been if he had spent the last four years rehearsing the failure and hurt of losing, as compared to the absolute desire and passion of winning?

Traders must also expect to win. Visualising a positive outcome is no guarantee of success but it is a good step in the right direction and much better than expecting to lose. I have met a lot of successful traders in my time and not one ever expected to lose! Yet I meet losing traders consistently who expect to lose and wonder why they are so unlucky.

I have run out of space this week so will continue next week with four more lessons from elite football players - Feedback, sacrifice, risk management and hard work.

Nick McDonald is a New Zealander teaching everyday people how to trade the worlds markets via his company Trade With Precision.

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