My formal education is in math, physics and engineering. I take pride in the fact that my last economic course was in high school. My background may be analytical quantitative work but I prefer abstract thought using adaptive models that exist in the confines of my cranium. A contrarian by nature, I’ve never felt comfortable going with the herd, and my recent experience in the financial markets has only heightened this quality.
Above all, I am competitive to the point that if I was a character in a movie it would be my fatal flaw. For better or for worse competition is what drives me and in the end will always dictates what I do in life.
I have been ranked in the top in the world in two strategy based video games each with millions of active users. To put this in perspective, in the US, there are 1 million high school football players. The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) Smite hit 10 million active users, of which last year I was ranked #2 in the world. On a relative basis that would put me at the Peyton Manning/JJ. Watt level of elite.
But how does one improve at a game? When you are young, the process of learning is not understood. But the more games you play and the older you get, the more you understand the patterns for success.
Especially when you reach the pinnacle, and at least for me this is where I made my biggest breakthrough. For people who are just starting out, they think of the elite players as having unlimited ability and knowledge. They think the elite can use those attributes to beat anyone at any time no matter the odds. And on a relative scale that may sort of be true, but when you reach the top you begin to understand that elite players are just like everyone else. They are human, they are flawed and above all they are limited.
Anyone who has watched American football for the past decade knows the Peyton Manning wins every game before he even steps on the field. The man, a modern embodiment of Sun Tzu, is able to understand his opponent’s limitations with such accuracy that he knows how fast they are, how much ground they can cover on a given throw, how long he has to get the ball out if they are unblocked – he knows their limitations better than they do and uses that knowledge against them. But on top of that, he uses their limitations to build an adaptable model that allows him to understand how his opponents will respond to different stimuli and situations.
Over the course of a game, his opponents’ limitations don’t change, the situations and stimuli do. In Peyton’s case he calls the plays (changes the situation and the stimuli) that his opponents are forced to react to, and by knowing their limitations he can predict how they will react which allows him to pick his opponents apart like they aren’t even there, because in reality that’s exactly what he’s doing, playing in their gaps – where they can’t touch him.
And that is the approach I have taken towards investing. Playing where my opponents can’t get me, taking advantage of their weak spots. But unlike Peyton, I do not get to call the plays. I am more like his opponents, who have the difficult task of predicting the stimuli and situations before they even happen. And most importantly, I must use my knowledge of the limitations of the global macro game makers (central banks and governments) to predict how they will react to said situations. Not only do I have to predict how these behemoths will react, I have to be faster and more accurate than the other players.
The task I have set for myself is audacious, nigh impossible, and above enthralling. I believe my edge lies in my enjoyment of the process, my agile contrarian mind that has survived the herding process of western education and above all my love for competition and games.
The great general doesn’t concern himself with the strength of his army when his opponent is exposed. You attack when you see an opening, with everything you’ve got regardless of your strength. And although I may be small, I plan on hitting hard when I do spot such an opening.