“I have a high tolerance for repetition.”

Esquire is the only print magazine I still subscribe to. They always seem to have a good cover story, usually an interview with a big movie star. I base my reaction about the movie star on one question: Would I want to have a beer with this person?

In the most recent interview from the December issue with Channing Tatum, my answer was yes.

The entire premise of the story is how unlikely it is that Tatum is basically his generation’s only super-duper movie star (he’s 34). He was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and didn’t do very well in school. He had a scholarship to play football at Wake Forest but didn’t end up taking it for academic reasons. He went to LA with no acting experience whatsoever and somehow became one of Hollywood’s biggest draws at the box office.

Even though he wasn’t very good in the classroom, he learned how to channel his energy through martial arts, which is what eventually led to his successful acting career. Here’s his explanation for how it happened from the Esquire interview:

“It wasn’t complicated,” he remembers. “I learned to appreciate repetition. That’s why I can dance. It’s how I learned to act. I have a high tolerance for repetition. And for the first time in my life, I was busy enough that I didn’t want to stop until I got it right. That never happened in school for me. Not once.”

“I have a high tolerance for repetition,” is now my new favorite phrase for portfolio management. If you think about it, repetition plays a huge role in any good investment process. You have to constantly do the right thing over and over again. One of the best qualities of a good process should be the fact that it’s repeatable over a wide range of environments.

But I also like the fact that Tatum systematically sought out ways to minimize his biggest weakness and even found a way to use it to his advantage. This story reminded me of a chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath about how weaknesses define certain people. Gladwell featured the President and COO of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn. Cohn has a severe form of dyslexia. On a good day, it takes him 6 hours to read 22 pages of a book.

Because of his dyslexia, he was never great in school, just like Tatum. That meant he had to develop a different set of skills that would allow him to succeed. This included learning how to deal with failure and how to read people:

“My upbringing allowed me to be comfortable with failure,” he said. “The one trait in a lot of dyslexic people I know is that by the time we got out of college, our ability to deal with failure was very highly developed. And so we look at most situations and see much more of the upside than the downside. Because we’re so accustomed to the downside. It doesn’t faze us. I’ve thought about it many times, I really have, because it defined who I am. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my dyslexia. I never would have taken that first chance.”

The first chance he’s discussing is the random nature of how he got his first job in finance as a trader. He was able to bluff his way into the role, with basically no knowledge of finance or investments, because he was so good with people. He had to develop those skills since reading and schoolwork weren’t in his wheelhouse. They helped him not only survive, but thrive as he’s now at a top post at one of the most competitive organizations in the world. Learning to deal with failure was perfect for a future trader working on Wall Street.

Everyone has their own glaring weaknesses. There are two options for how to deal with them: (1) Complain about your situation or (2) Look for ways to systematically minimize your weaknesses and play up to your strengths.

Channing Tatum Did Not See This Coming (Esquire)
David and Goliath

Further Reading:
The Bill Russell Investment Strategy



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  1. Cordura21 commented on Dec 07

    What do you think about the other big important part of the process, which is to deal with the peak and valeys of energy that is necessary to run the process?

    Cheers, Cord

    • Ben commented on Dec 07

      Great question. It’s not easy. Markets can be emotionally draining. First, you have to be comfortable enough with whateve process you choose to implement and make sure it fits your personality type and time constraints. Nothing is ever perfect, but there are strategies that are better or worse for certain people. And then you have to work on making as much of it as you can systematic to automate good decision-making. Otherwise you’ll completely burn out.

      See this one from last week for more: