This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 20 July 2013.
Like many Australians, I spent this week watching the first Ashes cricket test against England. Watching Michael Clarke and his teammates take on England at Trent Bridge reminded me of my cricket days, and one glorious day in particular. It was the summer of 1985 and I was playing for the Under 9A team (to be fair we only had one cricket team at each age group, so making the A team usually meant you just had to meet the low qualification of owning a bat and pads). I was picked as a specialist fielder, which really meant I could neither bat nor bowl but was good at making up the numbers so we could field 11 players.
Towards the end of the match, to my utter surprise, the coach put me on to bowl. He had either had too many beers during lunch, or perhaps the match was that far gone that he figured I couldn’t do any real damage. I eagerly seized the ball and went through a few quick warm-ups. Feeling pumped, I ran towards the crease and unleashed my first delivery. Unfortunately some miscommunication between my head and my hand meant that the ball hit the pitch just in front of me and bounced seven or eight times as it slowly made its way down the pitch. Unnerved by such a devastatingly useless delivery, the batsman forgot to make a shot and the ball rolled gently against the stumps. Out! What a start! My second delivery was equally innovative. With the adrenalin flowing, I accidentally ended up throwing the ball with as much force as a Brett Lee thunderbolt. The new batsman had no choice but to dive out of the way to save his life and I had my second wicket. The rest of the over was unremarkable, until the final delivery. Some further head/hand miscommunication meant I launched the ball high into the air like a rocket-ship. It was an old-fashioned donkey drop and again the batsman had to dive out of the way to avoid being hit in the head as the ball plummeted back to earth and hit the wickets. Out! Sensing this was a life or death struggle between my bowling action and the rules of cricket, and cricket was losing, the coach took me off and I retired from bowling forever with the respectable figures of 1 over, 3 wickets, no runs.
Just like my bowling figures, it’s easy for your investing results to mask the real truth of your abilities. It’s possible to put money into something speculative and watch it double overnight. You might pat yourself on the back, thinking how clever you are, when the reality is that it was probably just luck, with very little skill involved. Being realistic about your achievements is an important step to investing wisely.