Shanking Your Way to Success: Tiger Woods & Roger McNamee

March 30, 2010 at 10:34 pm 1 comment

Spring has sprung and that means golf is back in full swing with the Masters golf tournament kicking off next week in Augusta, Georgia. Next week also marks the return of Tiger Woods in his first competition since news of Tiger’s sex scandal and car crash originally broke. As an avid golf fan (and occasional frustrated player), I must admit I do find a devilish sense of guilty pleasure every time I see a pro golfer shank a ball into the thick of the woods or plop one in the middle of the drink. I mean, how many hundreds of balls have I donated to golf courses across this great nation? Let’s face it, no matter how small, people derive some satisfaction from seeing others commit similar mistakes…misery loves company. Even the world’s elite, including Tiger Woods, slip up periodically.

For quite possibly the worst, nightmarish, meltdown classic of all-time, you may recall Frenchman John van de Velde’s 18th hole collapse at the 1999 British Open in Carnoustie, Scotland.   

Investment Pros Shank Too

Investment legend Peter Lynch (see Investment Caffeine profile on Lynch), who trounced the market with a +29% annual return average from 1977-1990, correctly identified the extreme competitiveness of the stock-picking world when he stated, “If you’re terrific in this business you’re right six times out of ten.” Even with his indelible record, Lynch had many disastrous stocks, including American International Airways, which went from $11 per share down to $0.07 per share. Famous early 20th Century trader Jesse Livermore puts investment blundering into context by adding, “If a man didn’t make mistakes he’d own the world in a month.”

Mistakes, plain and simply, are a price of playing the investment game. Or as the father of growth investing Phil Fisher noted (see Investment Caffeine profile on Fisher), “Making mistakes is an inherent cost of investing just like bad loans are for the finest lending institutions.”

McNamee’s Marvelous Misfortune

Since the investment greats operate under the spotlight, many of their poor decisions cannot be swept under the rug. Take Roger McNamee, successful technology investor and co-founder of Elevation Partners (venture capital) and Silver Lake Partners (private equity). His personal purchase of 2.3 million shares ($37 million) in smartphone and handheld computer manufacturer Palm Inc. (PALM) has declined by more than a whopping -75% since his personal purchase just six months ago at $16.25 share price (see also The Reformed Broker). McNamee is doing his best to recoup some of his mojo with his hippy-esque band Moonalice – keep an eye out for tour dates and locations.

Lessons Learned

More important than making repeated mistakes is what you do with those mistakes. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results,” observed Albert Einstein. Learning from your mistakes is the most important lesson in hopes of mitigating the same mistakes in the future. Phil Fisher adds, “I have always believed that the chief difference between a fool and a wise man is that the wise man learns from his mistakes, while the fool never does.” As part of my investment process, I always review my errors. By explicitly shaming myself and documenting my bad trades, I expect to further reduce the number of poor investment decisions I make in the future.

With the Masters just around the corner, I must admit I eagerly wait to see how Tiger Woods will perform under extreme pressure at one of the grandest golf events of the year. I will definitely be rooting for Tiger, although you may see a smirk on my face if he shanks one into the trees.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

www.Sidoxia.com

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing had no direct positions in PALM or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

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