In expert tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are won; in amateur tennis, about 80 per cent of the points are lost. In other words, professional tennis is a Winner’s Game – the final outcome is determined by the activities of the winner – and amateur tennis is a Loser’s Game – the final outcome is determined by the activities of the loser. The two games are, in their fundamental characteristic, not at all the same. They are opposites.
After discovering that there are, in effect, two different games and realizing that a generic strategy will not work for both games he devised a clever strategy by which ordinary players can win by losing less and letting the opponent defeat themselves.
… if you choose to win at tennis – as opposed to having a good time – the strategy for winning is to avoid mistakes. The way to avoid mistakes is to be conservative and keep the ball in play, letting the other fellow have plenty of room in which to blunder his way to defeat, because he, being an amateur will play a losing game and not know it.
If you’re an amateur your focus should be on avoiding stupidity, not seeking brilliance.
Avoiding Stupidity is Easier Than Seeking Brilliance
The point is that most of us are amateurs but we refuse to believe it.
This is a problem because we’re often playing the game of the professionals. What we should do in this case, when we’re the amateur, is to invert the problem. Rather than trying to win, we should avoid losing.
This was a point Charlie Munger, the billionaire business partner of Warren Buffett, made a long time ago.
In a letter to Wesco Shareholders, where he was at the time Chairman, Munger writes:
Wesco continues to try more to profit from always remembering the obvious than from grasping the esoteric. … It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent. There must be some wisdom in the folk saying, `It’s the strong swimmers who drown.’
source: farnam street