I can remember being at school when there was a rumour flying around that one of the older kids wanted to beat me up. It bothered me slightly but I did my best to carry on with my day. The thing was, I had actually beaten this kid in a fight some six weeks previously, but at the time he was recovering from a broken arm, therefore it was in a cast, he was so confident of beating me that he thought he could beat me with one arm, which was not the case.
Fast forward six weeks and as I was going to my first class of the day, the older kid walked up to me and said;
“Today after school, I’m going to fight you and beat you up.”
Well, that certainly made it feel a lot more real than it had the day before, then to compound my misery he walked up to me at first break and said;
“I can’t wait till after school, I want to beat you up right now, let’s go out to the park.”
As we walked to the park, me flanked by three of my puniest friends and him by, what seemed like the entire second year, I started to have doubts;
“Yes I have beaten him before and even though a year younger, I feel faster and stronger than him, but his arm was in a cast; what if there’s a vast difference between that fight and this? He does seem very confident after all.”
To cut a long story short I beat him, broke his nose with a single punch, much to the delight of his ‘friends’. My victory all those years ago is not the point; the point I want to share with you is the power of vocalisation.
Vocalisation is an incredibly powerful tool, not just when you’re trading on Betfair, but in life in general, in his autobiography; Undisputed Truth, Mike Tyson talk’s about how his mentor Cus D’amato would talk to him every day as a 13 year old, telling him he was going to be the youngest ever heavyweight champion of the world and he’d get Tyson to repeat it, over and over again.
Guess what? Mike Tyson became the youngest ever Heavyweight Champion of the world.
Let’s analyse what happened to me all those years ago, I beat an older kid in a fight easily, then six weeks later he TOLD me he was going to beat me up, he TOLD me that it was just sheer fluke and luck the last time and this time he was going to smash me, he TOLD me that he was going to win.
Now of course he didn't win, he was smaller had a shorter reach and I boxed regularly at that age; but the point is for a while I completely believed that he was going to beat me up, right up until the point I threw an arrow straight jab, catching him on the bridge of the nose. I believed he was going to beat me and if I hadn't have caught him so true, knocking him down instantly then his belief would have grown and mine would have evaporated and he could well have beaten me.
The reason for this was that he vocalised his intentions, he added substance to the abstract subconscious thoughts that had been occurring in both of our adolescent minds, the moment he told me he was going to beat me up, that was all either of us could think about; him beating me up, then afterwards all of his ‘friends’ steaming into me and finishing off the job.
You saw this in every one of Mike Tyson’s opponents before and in some cases after he fought Buster Douglas, Tyson would stare at his opponent with a look that said, I’m going to kill you, cementing what he’d said in the press conference, all of Tyson’s defeated opponents, were beaten before they even stepped into the ring.
Now of course in a physical fight, your size, skill, technique, strength, brutality all go into helping you realise your vocalised thought so if you’re an 8 stone skinny kid, you better hope you've got some skill to bring behind that mouth, but in a sports trade on Betfair you don’t need any of that you just need the strength of mind to go with your convictions.
You get that strength by vocalising your thoughts, the reason for this is when you’re just thinking about a trade with the cold rational mind you need to trade; you’re using what Zen philosophers call the intuitive mind.
The intuitive mind is based almost entirely in the subconscious, it makes decisions based upon subtle adjustments to the thoughts made by your conscious ‘thinking mind’, it is the part of the mind that just knows whether something is right or wrong. Therefore if you keep your thoughts internal then they are going to mainly remain in your subconscious, rather like how the majority of an iceberg exists under water.
Vocalising your intuitive thoughts will help bring those thoughts above the waves of your conscious mind. This is why if you want to remember a dream you have to either write it down as soon as you wake up and/or talk about it with someone straight away or you’ll forget it, instead of just being able to remember the essence of the dream or how it made you feel.
This is very much like deciding on a trade, especially a ‘buck the trend’ trade, whereby the odds imply that perhaps you should be trading the opposite way, let me give you a scenario common to a lot of sports traders.
Gone In Sixty Seconds
Peter decides to trade on 0-0 between Manchester City and Burnley, Peter has perfectly valid reasons for the trade, but the game starts and after just two shots from Manchester City Peter panic’s and subsequently back’s out of the trade and loses a bit of money as the odds rose in the first 5 minutes of the game.
The game get’s to halftime and the odds of 23 that Peter could have got on 0-0 at the beginning of the game are now 5.3, Peter stare’s at the TV fuming inside as he realises that he could have got around an £82 all green book if he’d just stuck to his convictions, he just knew that this game would be low scoring, but for some reason he backed out just because of a couple of long range efforts from City.
Afterwards Peter sits there internally beating himself up and wondering why he didn't just go for it, when he knew that it would be 0-0 for a long time, giving him trading opportunities.
So; what just happened there?
The reason this happens is because of a neurological phenomena called, cognitive dissonance, mixed with another response called the fight or flight response.
When Peter is making his initial decision he knows that Man City have lost Aguero to injury and Dzeko and Jovitic aren’t really firing at the moment, Peter has also seen that Burnley whilst not scoring are not letting in any goals and have only let in 2 goals in their last 5 games scoring none.
All these facts about the game, Peter has picked up in the preceding weeks because ultimately he’s a football fan and watches as many live matches as he can on telly and never misses Match Of The Day. Add to that, Peter’s religious reading of the sports pages and the reasons for Peter’s initial decision are clear.
But, he stilled chickened out of the trade and didn’t make any money, in fact he lost a few pence – Why?
The reason is that all the information that I mentioned before cannot be held in Peter’s head consciously for any amount of time and so therefore it is the subconscious intuitive mind that stores all that precious information.
Think about it; imagine if you were consciously aware of every little thing you came into contact with everyday. You wouldn't have space to think about the things that really matter and so like a spare hard drive you use to free your computer up for the important day to day stuff, you store all this information in your subconscious, ready to be called upon should you need it.
The problem arises if the information you’re acting on is connected with an evolving event such as a football match, because then as Peter watches the match and sees Manchester City start like a firecracker, the reality of what he’s seeing doesn't match up to his earlier projections about the game that it would be really defensive.
So Peter’s thinking mind is in a state of cognitive dissonance and is mainly anchored in the conscious world so takes big cues from his fight or flight response; which is brought about by a chemical and hormonal change in his brain. So when Peter sees Kolorov take a shot from 30 yards, which sail’s over the bar, instead of thinking no worries, he thinks;
“What the hell are you doing man? Why did you make that trade? This is at the Etihad, City are going to thrash them! Back out now, before you lose all your money! Quick! Hurry! Panic!"
Avoid Panic – Talk To Yourself
Avoiding panic, knee-jerk reactions when you’re trading really is that simple, you just have to talk to yourself and I don’t mean an internalised monologue, I mean talking out loud to yourself.
You may feel more comfortable speaking in a low voice, but it must be clear, don’t make it under your breath or a whisper because a super quiet voice will just be interpreted by your brain as inner thought.
The reason you do this is because when you talk out loud to yourself you are dragging any subconscious thoughts to the surface, where they can be examined rationally by your thinking mind. Your thinking mind is in a constant feedback loop with your subconscious intuitive mind, but the problem is that you’re thinking mind, quite paradoxically, is not that great at thinking rationally, in fact I think a more accurate term is your acting mind, that’s because it works best when it just has to act, without thinking.
If you want to see a physical demonstration of this, watch videos of Glenn Johnson of Liverpool FC crossing the ball into the box. His first time crosses are sublime and when he unleashes one of these it seems to act like a guided missile looking for its target.
However, you give Glenn Johnson acres of space and time in which to cross the ball, his passes are invariably over or under hit, this is because he has more time to think about his action, rather than using his instincts and just doing what he knows.
One more example of how the subconscious stores things in our heads without us being consciously aware, is the silly things we’re told as kids by our parents or other adults, such as; ice doesn’t catch germs or when the ice-cream van play’s his music it means that he’s run out of ice-cream.
Kids are told these silly white lies all the time in order to give their parents an easier time, most of the time these things are forgotten, but now and again you will get an adult (I’ve done it myself) start to repeat a childhood fable, usually halfway through, the voice will trail off as they realise how ridiculous the fable is and the fact that they've never really examined the fable as an adult.
Right, now back to Peter, let’s look at the situation again but this time he talk’s to himself about the trade.
As Peter is about to put on the money he asks himself out loud;
“Why am I doing this trade again?”
He then goes on to answer himself;
“I’m doing this because Burnley haven’t conceded a goal in 3 games, they have let in 2 in the last five games and they can’t score for toffee."
On the other hand, City’s leading scorer got injured in the last week and without Aguero they haven’t been able to score this season, plus they seem to be playing better away from home than they are at the Etihad.
I think that Burnley will hold out till at least half-time and then if they do go onto lose, I think it’ll be by a goal, so probably 1-0.
So if it goes to plan I’ll half back out to lessen my liability on the 0-0, hopefully I can get to little or no liability by 20 minutes in or so, then I’ll look to cash out around half time, maybe even just after depending on how lively the game is.
If however I see City pinging the ball into the box and forcing the Burnley keeper into a string of early saves, then I’ll back out.”
So with that plan in mind the game starts and City have a couple of long range shots, he still feels a little anxious but Peter can now rationalise his fears and he now says this to himself;
“This is fine, these aren’t the kind of clear cut chances that worry me, plus Aguero isn’t on and these long range shots are making them look a bit desperate. I’ll stick with the plan, it should calm down after the first 5 or 10 anyway."
Peter sticks to the plan, the game calms down and Peter makes his £82 green.
So the next time you login to Betfair to make a trade, I want you to do two things, first I want you to open Evernote and open up your trading notebook or even buy an actual notepad and write your intended trade down.
Then once you’ve written it down, I want you to read it out loud; this will yank the trade from your subconscious and anchor it firmly in the real world in your conscious mind.
When you use this technique, what you’ll find is that the reasons for the trade will come to mind, write those down and say them out loud as well. This is especially important because it will stop that ‘What the hell are you doing?’ moment later.
You will have absolute confidence in your trade and therefore you’re much more likely to take it through to its ultimate conclusion. On the flipside you’ve prepared a plan for what you’re going to do when things go wrong keeping you calm.
A great analogy for this is if you’re in a building that you know may catch fire at any moment, you’re going to feel a lot calmer if you know the exact position of the fire exits and where they lead to. Whereas if you’re unsure of the layout of the building then at the first sign of smoke or sound of an alarm will have you diving out the window.
So remember, vocalise your strategy and make a contingency plan for if things start to go wrong. A wonderful side effect of using this method is that you’ll really start seeing the flaws in some of your trading plans and you’ll tend to only trade on what you feel is solid, which will make you a more confident and accomplished, money making, sports trader.
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The Zen Trader