Bugger The Silver, Go For The Gold

Have you ever wondered what motivates an athlete to devote countless hours of practice, training, pain and sacrifice, often physical as well as financial, to have the opportunity to compete in their chosen sport at the highest level? And what drives them to win?

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In 1990, at the Commonwealth Games, Australian Andrew Lloyd found himself running against the current Olympic champion in the 5000m. With a lap to go he was in third place about 50m behind the race leader. At the final straight he somehow found a sprint to go past the 2nd placed American and then was about 15m behind the tiring John Ngugi from Kenya. Lloyd was just about done but victory was close. Something clicked inside Lloyd and instinct took over. He was famously quoted to have been thinking – “bugger the silver, go for gold.” Which he managed to do, defeating the Kenyan by a whisker.

If you are anything like me, you might have approached the current Rio Olympics with a bit of a “take it or leave it” attitude. But as the games have progressed I found myself increasingly drawn in to the excitement of the various competitions and the incredible stories of the athletes and teams.

There have been so many amazing stories of success, often unexpected, and equally, stories of those athletes who did not live up to their own or other’s expectations of their performances.

One of the most inspiring stories of these Rio games so far for me has been the gold medal win of the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens – a brand new event for the Olympics. When they found out that Women’s Sevens would be an Olympic event, a new coach was found – Tim Walsh, a former professional rugby player. He began recruiting and training a team specifically for the Rio Games, drawing on athletes from a variety of sports, training and converting them to the skills necessary to play Rugby sevens.

But Walsh did much more than just coach the athletes physically. Every piece of the thought process, written or spoken with his team was not just about competing at the Games. It was about winning. It was about Gold. Every team member when they spoke to the media or among themselves at training spoke as if they were going to Rio to win Gold. Not to compete. Not to win games. To win Gold.

It was a singular focus that produce a single result – a Gold Medal. The only people not surprised were the athletes and Walsh.

The Australian Men’s Basketball team has won 4 of their 5 group matches, beating highly favoured France & Serbia along the way. Their only loss was to the seemingly invincible USA by just 10 points. Australia led for at least half of the match and it looked like there would be a major upset, before the NBA players of the US team found their groove.

Andrew Bogut, one of Australia’s big (7ft!!) stars, was incredibly upset that they lost the match. They believed they could win, but were not able to defeat the USA – the team they will most likely face should they progress to the gold medal match. Bogut had this to say after the defeat in the round robin match to the USA.

“Just like an NBA team, you want to have the goal of trying to be there at the end. What’s the point of playing otherwise? So I think we had that mindset from the start, and the guys were kind of afraid to say, “gold medal.” They’d say “Let’s get a medal,” and we said as a group, “No, let’s go for gold.” 

It remains to be seen how close the Boomers will get in their quest for Gold. I will watch with interest.

The desire to win in elite athletes these days goes far beyond representing their country. There is so much money available to winners of Gold, that many are tempted to go down the dark path, using drugs to enhance their performances. At a higher level, some nations have been proven to sponsor official (but obviously secret) doping programs, so that their athletes can bring home more Gold. They must believe that the national prestige earned on the global stage is worth the sacrifice of the athletes and the ignominy of being caught.

Invariably, those who do the wrong thing are increasingly being captured in testing. And increasingly, the public are showing less tolerance for drug cheats, with some athletes being booed at the start line or on the dais. Even other “clean” athletes are now making pointed comments, registering their disgust at drug cheats.

All for Gold, all to win.

But then who remembers the 2nd place getters? Those who on the day were the second best in the world at what they do. Almost no one.

As investors, we too want the Gold. We want the winning results from our investing activities that will produce the best possible outcome for the quality of our lives.

Yet to get that result, you will need a singular golden focus. If you are going to play the investing game, you might as well go for Gold. Because second place, while admirable, may not get you the results you need.

As a child I was always involved in some sort of sport – athletics, football, cricket, basketball, rugby, soccer – developing a competitive nature, even though my talent was at best average. I always wanted to win but if I couldn’t win, I wanted to do my best. I didn’t win much of anything, a few medals and trophies here and there. My main claim to sporting fame at school was being Captain of the School “B” cricket team. Yet I never entered a race or an event with the idea that I couldn’t win.

The investing marathon is a race that anyone can win. The finish line, the one you set with your own financial goals, is ever present. If you stay on track, you will inevitably cross that line at some point in the future and “win” your financial race. How quickly you do so, is up to you. You won’t need any shortcuts or performance enhancers – you can win without them.

If you are going to race though, I recommend doing it with a golden attitude. Be the best investor you can be. Train (by learning, practicing and doing) hard. The results will show.

They always do.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.