With Major League Baseball's "Midsummer Classic" (i.e., the annual All-Star Game) being played tonight, I was reminded of a fascinating Prager University video commentary I saw a few months ago by columnist George Will. It's titled "Baseball: As Unique as America." If you're a fan, you'll find it an enjoyable 5-and-a-half minutes.
For our purposes, I want to home in on one section of Mr. Will's commentary — one that relates to investing success:
Every team...knows this: If it wins only 10 out of every 20 games, it is obviously mediocre. But if it wins 11 out of every 20, it will win almost 90 games and have a good chance of playing in the post-season.
Which is why in baseball...little differences, ultimately, make an enormous difference. (emphasis added)
Even the best teams in baseball suffer losses. But success isn't gauged by what happens on any given day. Success is gauged by what happens over the entire season.
This is true in investing as well (and the season is much longer than in baseball!). You'll have losses. That goes with the territory. The key is to put more wins than losses on the board over an extended period of time.
Some wins may be big, the investing equivalent of a lopsided blowout at the ballpark. Those wins are fun! But much of the time you may "win by not losing" — a bit like a low-scoring game in which your team avoids errors and scratches out the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
To borrow George Will's phrase, "little differences, ultimately, make an enormous difference" — on the ballfield and in investing. A simplified example: an initial investment of $10,000 earning 8% annually over 30 years would grow to $101,000. At 10%, just 2 percentage points more, that same $10,000 investment would grow to more than $174,000. That's a winner.