Tiger Woods Needs a Trading Tribe™ | MartinKronicle - Michael Martin
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Tiger Woods Needs a Trading Tribe

I read Buzz Bissinger’s Tiger Woods is never coming Back on his recent performance at The Masters. “End the agony, Tiger. Come back from the exile. Forget the shattered pieces that have turned you so joyless. Just win the thing. Not for the sake of us but for the sake of yourself. Just win it.” Like Bissinger (who’s work I like) I am a Tiger Woods fan. But I believe that there is more to Tiger’s poor play than just missing his kids: his overall emotional golf system.

Having watched Mike Tyson get knocked out by Buster Douglas live, I am aware that outlier events occur in sports as well as in the S&P 500 trading pit. Like Tyson, who floored Douglas with a right uppercut at the 42 second mark of Round 8, Woods made a bit of a charge at The Masters, but he was ultimately derailed. Tyson never recovered as a professional boxer. Tiger may be relegated to moments of genius, and maybe a full comeback, but he has a lot of work to do emotionally. Bad golf is the runny nose, a symptom of what’s going on inside his head. There’s something deeper going on.

Tiger built his system to become the greatest golfer in the world, but there were many other components to the system to consider. Tiger’s trysts were an integral part of his overall system whether he knew it or not. Yes, he consciously made bad choices, but the emotional payoff for him at the time was very rewarding. It was the emotional equivalent of a free call option. Neither morals nor ethics were heuristics in this model and as reported, it cost him his marriage and a large legal settlement that makes his ex-wife one of the largest potential allocators on the planet now. (Emerging CTAs and traders rejoice!)

Remember, we run our systems based upon what we know and what we don’t know, the feelings we’re conscious of, and the motivations within our subconscious. Tiger Woods needs a Trading Tribe™ to figure out what his feelings are trying to teach him. In that regard, Ed Seykota may be the most valuable person to Tiger’s recovery than any of his golf coaches.

Take his assignations away, and he’s lost an integral input in his model, up to the time he got “stopped out” in the Cadillac in Florida on Thanksgiving. He built his fame and competitive skills around the following:

-Being away from newborn children who scream and cry
-Not having to support his wife who was recovering from pregnancy
-Rejecting his wife sexually
-No regard for bringing shame to the name of his father and mother
-Being out at clubs meeting potential sex partners
-Illicit sex with partners outside his marriage
-Hiding the sex from his then-wife
-Lying about his whereabouts
-Deceiving and lying by omission about his trysts from his sponsors, agents, and business managers
-Employing friends and business associates to book hotels and travel for his “rides.”
-Paying for his illicit personal activities through his business with pretax dollars
-He used his power so others would not challenge him and his behavior; megalomania
-Feeling invincible in that he had special rules a la Leona Helmsley

Each of these actions had an emotional payoff. Collectively, they had been integral inputs to Tiger’s system for golf greatness. Ed Seykota has said that sometimes people trade for reasons that have nothing to do with trading. In that context, Tiger may not have the need for golf that he did since he can no longer get the emotional payoff he was used to getting. I’m not saying Tiger doesn’t love golf, but it’s hard to say that he didn’t love everything else that goes with it. Being a professional golfer was the perfect platform to enable him in his sex addiction. Tiger is going to need to find a way to replace those feelings with healthy choices. Until he does, I think it is unlikely that we’ll see the same Tiger on the golf course that we once had. Personally, I hope he turns it around.

In his book Clutch, Paul Sullivan quoted Tiger: “I’ve put myself there, in that situation, more times than anybody else. I’ve also failed more times than anybody else. But along the way, you do succeed.” This was only part of the truth, and on some level disingenuous. Who’s to say that winning at golf was only a step in the direction of his real goal — having lots of sex with many partners, all because he was a famous golfer.

I am no one to judge Tiger Woods, but I think his example is a great learning opportunity of how one’s emotional system can be so integrated into one’s professional life (and traders are not immune from such behavior). In recovery, Tiger has to run his new professional golf system, one without the integral emotional feedback that he’s been used to for the past decade. That’s like telling a big global macro fund that they can’t trade forex anymore.

To say otherwise would be disingenuous about his real system.

Trading Tribe is a trademark owned by Ed Seykota.

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  • Adam

    I’m a fan of yours. There are few sites with quality posts that really matter or mean anything.

    There is nothing more important than developing that knack for isolating and seeing unchanging core experiences and ignoring surrounding noise (both in our trading and personal lives). As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the most important skills any human being can develop. I like the way you lay out this fundamental principle in your post.

    Looks like nature is putting Tiger through his paces. I wonder if he’ll ever come around to staying the pace rather than trying to set it.

    Kudos on your upcoming book.

  • Adam

    One last thing, my guess is the vast majority of people in life rarely comeback from major setbacks; we pay attention to or only hear about those who manage to comeback. So, that way, we can measure Tigers skill(or anybody else for that matter) by how well they handle setbacks. Otherwise, one may be forced to conclude it was a coming together of chance, environment and good conditioning that accounted for the apparent skill. So far, Tigers attitude seems to place him in the latter’s camp.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, I appreciate that.

  • Jeff

    Great insight Michael. Coming from an engineering background, I truly believe I can learn a lot by studying failures so that I can learn to avoid them.