Vincent’s blog: You want a billion dollars? Start with controlling your fears

The night is pitch-black and the wind is howling a good 30 knots. I am very tired and rolled into a ball, hurled under the dodger to stay away form the wind and salt-water spray. My watch beeps every twenty minutes to keep me honest and prevent me from falling into a deep sleep. Two of us have been sailing Makai, a 50ft pleasure yacht, for the last ten days without much sleep, from Bermuda to the Bahamas. What started as a fast sail south, ended in a few days of windless drifting, which turned into a prolonged gale. Yes, we have an engine, but thanks to the helpful Shell fuel station in St. George, Bermuda, we got slime instead of clean diesel clogging all our fuel lines and filters, thus making our engine obsolete.

So here we are, sailing back and forth in front of Exuma, an island in the Bahamas, which according to our guide has good facilities. We are waiting for day-brake to try to navigate the reefs. We think we can make the razor sharp reef-studded entrance to Georgetown without the use of our engine. Georgetown is also known as chicken harbor amongst sailors, because once safely on anchor inside you have to take risks and work hard to get out. Many choose not to move. We have to make this work since other harbors are far away and we are running low on energy.

We relayed with another sailboat and arranged for a rendezvous with the Georgetown tugboat. We committed our vessel to entering the channel with no chance of turning around. We missed the first marker and slid very close to a dangerous reef only to find to our dismay and disbelief that the Georgetown tugboat was in fact a local fisherman with a small rubber duck lookalike boat. We managed to change tack and secure a strong line to the rubber duck tug and dropped our sails. It all just worked out.

Now you say, “What has all of this to do with my pending billion”? Yes, you are right: let me try to tie this together. Sometimes life hands us a bad set of cards and we just have to accept them and deal with them as they present themselves. In this instance our deck of cards was awful and could have cost us our boat. This experience taught me a few invaluable lessons.

You see, our little sailing adventure was much like everything else in life. In life, we constantly have to adapt to a changing environment, adjust expectations and our assumptions are often far away from reality. Fear of failure is real and can make chickens out of us. We wouldn’t want that to happen, would we? So here are a few things I think helped us reduce our fears and could help you with investing:

1-Set a clear goal

Having a clear defined goal helps us focus and direct all efforts towards attaining it. For us, it meant getting our boat safe into Georgetown, period. Nothing else mattered.

2-Mentally rehearse your options

Go over all the possible outcomes and rehearse them in your mind. Reality will feel almost familiar when you do this, even when things go wrong.

3-Positive self-talk

You know you constantly talk to yourself. Be aware of what you are saying: it is important. Most self-talk is negative. If you begin with negativity, rest assured you will not attain your goal. Be positive, it pays.

4-Control your arousal

Many of us know how it feels to get the fever over something. Dopamine is very addictive and so are quick wins. Arousal takes over all other emotions and is blinding. Fear and greed are not distant cousins, but more like Siamese twins. Recognize your arousal and control it by slowing down. Always double-check you are acting rationally.

5-Consider insurance

These days we can insure almost everything, but our view on insurance is rather asymmetric: we mindlessly buy insurance for our new iPhone, but fail to think about insuring our investments. However, take care what and with whom you insure. When a hurricane hits, you wouldn’t want to be the person whom insured a home on a Caribbean Island, with an insurance company that only has clients on that island. Clever insurance contracts do exist; ask Berkshire Hathaway.

You see, when you are handed a set of cards, which give you little chance to win, go and play, but play with the five above suggestions in mind. Despite the odds, you will likely come out smiling.