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What Agincourt teaches us

by | Feb 5, 2024 | financial planning

I like to read about history, there are many lessons that can be learned and insights gained. A history of Agincourt I read recently had me thinking about decisions and their outcomes.

“Agincourt: Battle of The Scarred King” by Michael Livingston, offers an engaging exploration into how the seemingly impossible was achieved. The Battle of Agincourt stands as a testament to overcoming overwhelming adversity—where the English, despite being exhausted, outnumbered, and on foreign soil, secured a victory that etched King Henry V into the annals of heroic legend.

Henry’s leadership during the 1415 clash is notable not merely for the decisions made but for the successful outcome those decisions produced. This pivotal moment in history demonstrates that the merit of decisions cannot solely be judged in hindsight but must consider the context and constraints of the moment.

When we think about decisions there are four possible outcomes:

  1. The right decisions that work: These are the decisions that, when made, lead to the desired or positive outcomes, reinforcing our belief in making informed, strategic choices.
  2. The right decisions that don’t work: Sometimes, even well-considered decisions fail to produce the intended results due to unforeseen variables or sheer misfortune.
  3. The wrong decisions that work: In these instances, decisions that might not have been made with the best judgment or information somehow lead to successful outcomes, often seen as flukes or lucky breaks.
  4. The wrong decisions that don’t work: These are the choices that, predictably, lead to failure or negative outcomes, often serving as learning opportunities for future decision-making.

How would you order those four outcomes? 1, 2, 3, 4 perhaps?

But isn’t a wrong decision that works better than a right decision that didn’t?

This highlights the degree to which luck plays a part in successful outcomes. Luck often goes unrecognised but, as every golfer knows, “the more I practice, the luckier I get”.

When it comes to financial planning, the harder we practice (i.e. the more experience we have) the better the outcomes clients get, despite the seeming mayhem all around us.


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