Serving in the Marine Corps was an unforgettable experience. Civilians often tell us “thank you for your service”; however, the real “thanks” is due to the Corps for giving us valuable life lessons. The not-so subtle teachings bestowed upon us by heavily muscled, insanely aggressive Marine Corps Drill Sergeants are still, literally, ringing in our ears: “Listen here, pond scum, you better run faster, shoot straighter, and decide quicker if you are going to win in battle!” Years later, we would test that theory in real-time, battling insurgents in Iraq.
As we trade in our flak jackets for laptops and neckties, the lessons learned in combat and are not only relevant, but vital on the battlefield of high finance. Four core lessons apply to frontlines and finance:
- Humans Are Emotional: Systematic processes beat behavioral bias.
- Rambo isn’t Realistic: Act based on evidence, not on stories.
- Complacency Kills: Focus on fundamentals and never stop learning.
- Integrity is Everything: Do things right and do the right thing.
The first three lessons all revolve around the theme of preventing overconfidence. Human beings are fundamentally prone to decision-making errors. In terms of finance, these biases can potentially create inefficient prices in the marketplace. So, lessons learned in the heat of combat also apply in the heat of fast-moving markets. We, as humans, are flawed, but we can overcome our deficiencies through systematic decision-making processes.
Underpinning all of these traits is integrity: do things right and do the right thing. Period. In the end, whether we are operating in a business environment or a military environment, integrity is everything.
Thankfully, the lessons learned in the military kept us alive and brought us home. Today, we continually discover that the “combat classroom” proves to be the best preparation for a deployment to Wall Street.
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