An out-of-town visitor was being shown the wonders of the New York financial district. When the party arrived at the Battery, one of his guides indicated some handsome ships riding at anchor. He said,
“Look, those are the bankers’ and brokers’ yachts.”
“Where are the customers’ yachts?” asked the naïve visitor.1
—Fred Schwed, Where Are the Customer’s Yachts?
In 1971, when the great boxer Muhammad Ali was still undefeated, US basketball star Wilt Chamberlain suggested publicly that he stood a chance of beating Ali in the boxing ring. Promoters scrambled to organize a fight that Ali considered a joke. Whenever the ultra-confident Ali walked into a room with the towering Chamberlain within earshot, he would cup his hands and holler through them: “Timber-r-r-r-r!”
Chamberlain felt that one lucky punch could knock Ali out. He thought he had a chance. But the rest of the sporting world knew better. Chamberlain’s odds of winning were ridiculously low, and his bravado could only lead to significant pain for the great basketball player.
As legend has it, Ali’s “Timber-r-r-r-r!” taunts eventually rattled Chamberlain’s nerves enough to put a stop to the pending fight.2
Most people don’t like losing. For that reason there are certain things most of us won’t do. If we’re smart (sorry Wilt) we won’t bet a professional boxer that we can beat him or her in the ring. We won’t bet a prosecuting lawyer that we can defend ourselves in a court of law and win. ...