Bill Walsh on Attitude, Preparation & Mastery

Decision Making, Investment Process, Luck / Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

Bill Walsh was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers back in the 1980s where the team won six division titles and three Super Bowls. Here is some wisdom from his philosophy of leadership—The Score Takes Care of Itself

Whether it is in sports or the market, things can unfold differently than we imagine. Therefore, being ready is a necessity, not a luxury.

When you’re thorough in your preparation, you can almost go on automatic pilot and reduce the chance of making emotional and ill-considered decisions. Competition inevitably produces randomness that can leave you grasping at straws, I attempted to reduce the randomness of my responses. 

Preparation is all about avoiding silly mistakes. And when you prepare, focus on things you can control. 

The final score of a football game is decided, on average, 20 percent due to luck. I accepted the fact that I couldn’t control that 20 percent of each game. However, the rest of it—80 percent—could be under my control with comprehensive planning and preparation. 

Just as the outcome of a game is determined in part due to luck, what happens in the stock market is largely outside our control. Instead of obsessing over what’s going to happen next, focus on things that don’t change—self-control, preparation, and mental fortitude. Get these right, and the return takes care of itself.

I directed our focus less to the prize of victory than to the process of improving—obsessing, perhaps about the quality of our execution and the content of our thinking; that is, our actions and attitude. I knew if I did that, winning would take care of itself. Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results, the process rather than the prize. 

Thinking determine actions, actions determine results. If you want a good return, focus on how you make decisions. If you want to make good decisions, focus on the quality of your thinking. How do you improve your thinking? That starts with having the right attitude—the hunger to improve. 

There is no mystery to mastery. It applies to anyone anywhere who wants to get really good—who wants to master his or her profession. You never stop learning, perfecting, refining—molding your skills. You never stop depending on the fundamentals—sustaining, maintaining, and improving. Superb, reliable results take time. The little improvements that lead to impressive achievements come not from a week’s work or a month’s practice, but from a series of months and years.

Result comes from what you do when no one is watching. That applies to whatever you do in life. Attitude is everything. 


Walsh, Bill; Jamison, Steve; Walsh, Craig. (2010). The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership: Portfolio.

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