With the suspension of the NBA season due to COVID-19, followed by cancellations of most other professional sports’ seasons, I was left with a void in my life that watching repeats of old games could not fill. But then the ESPN docuseries, The Last Dance, captured my attention on Sunday nights. The series documents Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls. While watching it, I found myself floating down memory lane, recalling summer days shooting hoops with my dad in our driveway, or convincing my parents to make exceptions to the no TV on a school night rule because the Bulls (our home team) were playing.
Those were the days. . . .
One segment of The Last Dance that I found intriguing was when Jordan injured his foot early in his career. Doctors said that if he returned to play without rest and healing, he had a 10% chance of reinjuring his foot, and if he did, his career would be over.
Jordan responded that if this was true, there was also a 90% chance that he would be just fine. Bulls owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, tried to explain his risk-to-reward ratio to Jordan by creating the following scenario for him.
“If you had a terrible headache and I gave you a bottle of pills, nine of which could cure you, but one of which could kill you, would you take one?” he asked.
“Well, it depends on how bad the f***ing headache is!” was Jordan’s response.
So, this response got me thinking. . . .
When it comes to investing, we use probability to our advantage. Over the long-term, the likelihood of making money is high if we stick to our plan. Our most significant advantage is that we can play the “game” every day so that the chances of winning will be on our side. Even during times of uncertainty and pullbacks, like the present, we can still stay invested.
As long as you have an extended time horizon, you can recover. Unlike in the NBA and other professional sports, we don’t get knocked out of “the game” just because we make a misstep or need time to heal.
But when it comes to our health, although we may understand probability and mortality rates, we don’t make life-and-death decisions based on probability alone. We only get one life, so we usually behave more thoughtfully when we can’t perceive control.
We make our own choices and decisions about how we want to live, and we surround ourselves with those we trust. Michael Jordan made his own business decision and went back home to rehab with his family in North Carolina. But unbeknownst to the Chicago Bulls, he also started playing local pick-up games. Fortunately, Jordan did not reinjure his foot. And luckily for us, we were able to witness years of the amazing gameplay of one of the greatest players of all time.
During these disruptive times, we are all facing difficult choices and challenges. But I believe that in the long run, we will end up stronger and wiser than before. Most likely we have been able to reflect, and reevaluate if necessary, on what is really important to us. Sometimes we can see with fresh eyes the importance of little things with family and friends: walks and bicycle rides, home-cooked meals, drive-in movies, shout-outs to health care workers.
We have also experienced to a greater degree of how technology can help us: working and schooling online at home, FaceTime visits and Zoom gatherings with coworkers, family, and friends. But of course, we still long to be connected, to be face-to-face, with friends, family, and associates.
I too look forward to seeing all of you as soon as it is safely possible, and I wish everyone health and happiness. (And may any headaches you have be small ones. . . . )