Sem Verbeek is an up-and-coming tennis professional who has his eye on winning championships and promoting financial freedom for his fellow athletes. Foolishly.
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This video was recorded on October 12, 2022.
David Gardner: An undeniable truth reflecting on the state of our global culture today is that we humans like sports. I’m thinking most of all that we are fans of sports. Now, many of us, self excluded, are avid, and in some cases accomplished, athletes in one or another of hundreds of sports, but that’s still a rarefied crowd. The reason we use a phrase like “weekend warrior” to speak of some older person who plays tennis on the weekends is that in doing so, she is separating herself from her peers. She’s not just a dime-a-dozen kind of a person. She plays tennis on the weekends. Every weekend. She’s a warrior.
As many warriors as there are, there are far more fans. And perhaps like you, dear listener, I too am a fan, and a fan of a lot of sports. Because of this undeniable truth that humans like sports, think of the worldwide popularity of a single sport, football.
The billions of fans and dollars, the avidity and resources driving just that one sport. Because of this undeniable truth that humans like sports, well, those who play them professionally, the weekday warriors, if you will, become of greater interest.
This week’s show we have one of the top 1,000 or so players in the world of the sport of tennis. If I told you we had one of the top 1,000 or so lawyers in the world — nothing personal, lawyers; I was just having fun, making a point that you might not be as interested — but when a year ago, I welcomed Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich onto this show, That was a sit-up and listen week for this podcast and an episode that’s been shared around and relistened to many times since.
Well, this week’s guest, Sem Verbeek, is also of great interest to me and I think you’ll find for you too. Many more of us play or continue to play tennis, at least on some weekends, than will ever continue to play football. Sem’s experience, his story, his perspectives, and his optimism about investing, business, and the future — thinking also here at The Motley Fool Foundation — will, I think, shine through. You’re about to meet another excellent athlete this week, who is a fellow Fool. Only on this week’s Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. Very excited to get started this week. But before we do, I want to mention what’s happening next week. Next week, I’m inviting Robert Brokamp of Motley Fool fame, Bro to so many, financial planner, star personality of Rule Your Retirement, which is a subscription for many of Fool over the years, also co-hosted the former Motley Fool Answers. Robert will be on with me next week because it starts to get scary. Am I right? It starts to get scary. The later we get into the month of October, for many of us, it gets scarier and scarier. My thought was, why wouldn’t we have Robert on next week to tell some scary stories of people who didn’t do there will?
One of the themes of 2022, I think it’s fair to say for this podcast, I will not beat around the bush, is death. We’ve talked about death over dinner. We’ve talked about the importance of recognizing our mortality and, especially from a financial standpoint, being prepared. Not leaving those who come after to pick up the pieces and figure out what the heck we meant to do with our resources that we just left splayed all over the playing field out there. Scary stories of people who didn’t do their will next week with Robert Brokamp.
I also want to mention the first week of November, it’s going to be my latest edition of Mental Tips, Tricks, and Life Hacks. This series, which will continue its episodic history making, is always improved by your best mental tips, tricks and life hacks. I already have a bunch of myself, but [email protected] is our email address. Do you have a good mental tip, trick, or life hack that has served you well in life, whether in your investing life, your business life or your life life? Great. Drop us a line as early as this week, and we’ll begin a compelling list, I hope, of listener-submitted mental tips, tricks and life hacks coming the first week of November.
Well, let’s get started with this week’s guests. I want to say ahead of time, I think you and I are going to find that the tennis world probably is a little bit different than we might have thought. There’s a lot to learn about sports, investing, business, and life on this week’s podcast. Let’s get started.
Sem Verbeek is a Dutch tennis player. Sem has a career high ATP, that’s the Association of Tennis Professionals, doubles ranking of 104 in the world that was achieved in November of 2021. His career high-singles ranking thus far is number 531. Now, to be in the top 5,000 at an artistic or athletic pursuit would be for most of us, I think are remarkable dream come true. Well, Sem has done that at the age of 28 years old. Today, Sem has achieved becoming one of the top 500 tennis players in the world.
Now, for tennis fans, on a side note, you may want to know he plays left-handed with a two-hand backhand.
Even more to the point of this podcast, Sem is a self-described, along with many of us, your host here included, Fool. He follows and exemplifies many of the concepts floated here on the Rule Breaker Investing podcast over the years, and of course, from the Motley Fool at fool.com.
In some ways this interview is analogous to my interview with Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich last year. “Two Fools,” it was called, which is exactly what this one is called and officially makes this into a series. Sem and I will be discussing his background where he came from, tennis and the world of tennis, and of course, the worlds of investing and business. Wide ranging, and we’re going to be joined by a special guest in a bit. But in the meantime, Sem Verbeek, such a pleasure to have you on Rule Breaker Investing.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. Thank you, David. It’s an honor to be here and I’m still wrapping my head around how this all came to be, but yeah. Thank you for the opportunity to share a bit of my story.
David Gardner: Well, long-time listeners will know it was a Mailbag note that you dropped about a year ago or so where you introduced yourself to me and to our audience. We’ve gotten to be friends since, and I look for many future highlight moments in our friendship going forward.
But let’s start, Sem, with where you were born. I did mention you are a Dutch tennis player. You speak impeccable English, but where were you born, Sem? To what family were you born? Maybe what’s a memorable moment or two from your early childhood?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. Like I said, I’m a born and raised Dutchman. I was born in Amsterdam, actually. Haven’t moved outside of Amsterdam officially up until this time. I have one older sister, her name is Liz, and my parents, Frank and Cora, who are still together, which is great. I came into a very loving family, very close. We’re still all very close, which is nice. Love of sports. That’s how I came into tennis, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit.
Like a memorable moments. As a young boy in the Netherlands, I started playing football at a young age, or soccer for your American audience. There’s a big football team in Amsterdam called Ajax that I’m a big fan of and continue to support to this day. One of the most memorable moments of my life so far, not just childhood, has been able to walk onto the pitch as holding hands with one of my favorite players of all time. I still have a shirt which he gave to me and still hangs proudly in my house. That was definitely an amazing moment.
David Gardner: Sem, who is that player, and why was it an amazing moment for you?
Sem Verbeek: His name is Wesley Sneijder. He doesn’t play anymore, unfortunately. But as a young boy, that’s your dream to play for Ajax in your hometown and we were season ticket holders. My dad and I went for a very long time and to be on that pitch and see my dad in the stands there and have a little wave was really cool.
Another memorable thing about that moment is that at that time, I was already taller than he was. He did not really appreciate that, [laughs] which is just very funny.
David Gardner: You were already taller than your father or Wesley or both?
Sem Verbeek: No. Definitely not my father. I’m trying to catch up, but he’s still taller than I am. But then Wesley. Yeah, so it was funny because they panned the camera to all the players. That was already a little bit above what he was, but I’m sure he doesn’t remember.
David Gardner: Sem, you and I have not gotten to meet each other in person yet, but at least looking at the stats, I see online your 6-foot-4 how tall is your dad?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. He’s a few centimeters taller than I am. He’s almost two meters on the nose, which I think is like 6’5″ and a little bit.
David Gardner: Got it.
Sem Verbeek: But I’m hoping to catch up.
David Gardner: Well, it seems less likely you’ll ever catch him, although now turning the age of 56 and having, at my last two annual physicals, learned that I lost a half inch and then a quarter inch. I actually now realize you will catch him, won’t you?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. Well, let’s see how that goes in a few years.
David Gardner: Speaking of your family Sem, what was your father’s calling or professional life and your mother and what was life like in your household growing up?
Sem Verbeek: My dad has always been really passionate about work. When my sister and I were growing up, my mom was more of a house daycare and a housemaker, where she would drive us to all of our practices and bike us to schools. We don’t use cars very much in Amsterdam, and luckily we lived and my elderly home is still close to where I went to school for elementary school. She would walk us to school and all of that.
But my dad is, how they met actually is at for a advertising company in the Netherlands. I’m not sure if that was in Amsterdam, but that’s how they got to meet. Then my dad now has been in corporate finance M&A for a while. He is now working for a company called Improved Corporate Finance. They do a lot of stuff in technology and energy and the new mobility. So it’s been cool being at the forefront of what’s hopefully going to happen for the next few decades. But he’s always been an entrepreneur and had that entrepreneurial spirit for a long time.
My mom now has a small shop, a boutique shop, in Amsterdam as well, which is going great.
David Gardner: I think it’s time to give that shop a plug now. Most of our listenership is American, but about a quarter of our listenership is international. Some are either already in Amsterdam or are passing through. Can we give your mom’s shop a plug on this podcast?
Sem Verbeek: Absolutely. It’s called MaisonNL. It’s the French spelling, M-A-I-S-O-N and then the N-L of The Netherlands. They do have a lot of interior and gift ideas, and it’s really cool. She’s really into it.
David Gardner: Excellent. Sem, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask, how’s your sister doing and tell me a little bit about her life. I tend to go strong to the hoop on people’s parents but you mentioned Liz?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. Liz is my lovely sister. She’s about two and a half years older than I am. She was a great field hockey player when she was younger. I think sports has always been important in our family, and I think she took that to heart. After her degree in the University in Amsterdam, she went on to be a great personal trainer and has found the gym and fitness to be a real help to her.
David Gardner: Awesome.
Sem Verbeek: She’s in Amsterdam right now working, and everything is going well, thankfully.
David Gardner: There’s a lot of entrepreneurship, obviously, swirling around you and your background. What did you understand as a boy about the worlds of money and/or business? What was your viewpoint at, let’s say the age of 10, if I was interviewing you 18 years ago, asking you what you thought of business.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. I just always understood that people have to work. I always saw my dad as someone who is really hard-working, and luckily, he was also really good with money. Growing up, we never had any problems or any issues of when it came to money. We grew up comfortably, which I’m very grateful to them both.
But yeah. You get into it when you are driving to practice, you’re in a car, and you get to see what brand it is. I’ve always been a very curious child. You can ask my mom about that. I would ask her the question “Why?” almost every single moment of the day? Yeah. I think that natural curiosity kind of sparks, just the entrepreneurial spirits in general.
David Gardner: Wonderful. Before we get to, I think, a dominant part of our interview, tennis, I’m going to ask you one more pre-tennis question. As I mentioned, we are obviously of origin an American podcast — a quarter of our listenership, again, is international — I’ve still, to my shame, never been to Amsterdam. So could you put in a word or two for the, let’s say the Chamber of Commerce for Amsterdam or the Netherlands more generally. How did growing up in Amsterdam shape you?
Sem Verbeek: It’s a great question. I think it always felt obviously like home. What I’ve loved is that you can be outdoors a lot in Amsterdam. That shaped me into loving sports and always wanting to be active. Especially the home feeling comes from being able to bike almost everywhere. Especially in the U.S., I’ve noticed from studying there is that you need a car for almost everything. Growing up in Amsterdam, like I said, we used to bike lots and we used to walk a lot. It’s an interesting combination of feeling like a town where you could just go from one place to the other really quickly but also then the international allure of the city.
Obviously, growing up, I didn’t know much about how international Amsterdam was. But you would see a lot of foreigners walking on the streets. People from different continents and speaking different languages. That stuck with me now as I’m thankfully traveling a lot for tennis.
David Gardner: That’s wonderful. You just said the word. Let’s go there. As we go there, I’d like to welcome another special guest. George Khalaf was a nationally ranked college tennis player here in the U.S. Yet he tells me he only dreamed of competing at the level that Sem does. George keeps up his tennis, he’s a weekend warrior on the public courts in Brooklyn, New York. His tennis highlight was representing his home country of Lebanon at the time in a national team match against Saudi Arabia. The year for those keeping score at home — and I am — was 1996. It was played in Beirut.
George then spent the first half of his business career in the private sector as a management and strategy consultant. The second half in the nonprofit and start-up space. George was the co-founder and executive director of Empatico. That’s a digital platform that connects children around the world to build bridges across lines of difference.
But everyone should know that today, George is also now the program director at The Motley Fool Foundation, tasked with finding funding and amplifying innovative solutions that will turn strivers into thrivers as we work toward our vision of financial freedom for all.
I especially want to commend George because he’s taking a day off from his own vacation in the Poconos, where he seems to be in something that looks like a closet. George, while your sound is not professionally produced from a studio this week, we’re delighted to have you. Welcome.
George Khalaf: Thank you, David. It’s such a pleasure to be here. I remember when you passed on the Mailbag note from Sem a few months ago and you said, hey, would you like to follow up with Sem? I said, are you kidding me? Tennis and the Fool, two of my passions coming together in one person, one space. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of this conversation.
David Gardner: Thank you, George. Really looking forward to you pulling up a chair because, you know tennis far better than most of the rest of us, especially me. You have such a heart and a knowledge base around financial inclusion and around, of course, the work of financial freedom for all, which is one of the topics we’ll hit a little bit later. But friends, we are talking about tennis right now, and I’ll just kick us off. Sem, at what point did tennis enter your life?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. I was around the age of 10. My mom actually played for a recreationally, pretty a good level. They played at a local club, not too far from where I grew up. Sometimes I would watch her practice and just be really interested, as the curious kids always was in my childhood.
I do remember stories from my mom and dad that if we were on a beach vacation, we would always bring those little beach paddles with the small rubber ball. Apparently, I had a knack for that very young. My dad sometimes says there were people that would walk on the beach and stop and just watch us hit balls for a while, because I was apparently pretty young when that was happening. The feeling for the ball was always there, but the introduction to actual tennis was around the age of 10, 11, when I started playing once a week? Yeah.
David Gardner: I always imagined, anybody who is a professional tennis player today clearly either being born with a tennis racket or picking one up somewhere around the age of four. I definitely get the beach paddle. I actually love it started that way, Sem. But obviously you loved football/soccer growing up. That was probably your initial dream. Is that fair to say that you would have loved to be playing for the very team you mentioned earlier?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah, Absolutely. Still miss it sometimes. I get to play every once in a while. Just have to be a little bit careful with injury risks.
David Gardner: Yes. Well, now so many of us in the U.S., often, our sports are through our school. We play for a school team. Some of us who get really good at sports often play for a so-called travel team, which is in addition to our school team. What was it like for you starting at 10 or 11? Were you playing for your neighborhood, your school, all the above? What was it like to get started in earnest, already double-digit age in this new sport?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. How it works in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, is you just have clubs where you can sign up for lessons and to become a member. I signed up for lessons at the club that my mom was playing at. As everybody starting something new, the beginning is always fun. I think that’s the most important for anyone picking up a new passion or a new hobby: Let it be fun in the beginning. I was always very interested in sports and moving. I think that, in combination with having that feeling for the ball at a young age, made me progress maybe a little bit more quickly than some of the other kids that I was in a group with. But yeah, I just loved being outdoors and just hitting the ball as hard as it could.
George Khalaf: It’s interesting, Sem, as I’m teaching my own kids tennis, because I obviously have a passion for it and I’m out there teaching them. There’s a debate sometimes among players: Should you focus at an early age exclusively with one sport, or should you just be a well-rounded athlete and then start to focus later? I think the two professional athletes who exemplify the extremes are someone like Roger Federer, who I’m sure you know, he’s picked up a lot of sports before focusing on tennis. Then the opposite extreme is a golfer like Tiger Woods, who, there are images of him at the age of three with a golf club and starting to pick up golf. He’s the example of extreme focus at an early age. Whereas Federer is more the example of that well-rounded, do a lot of sports and then focus. It sounds to me like you’re more the Roger Federer approach to sports and tennis.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. Just about the only thing that’s similar between Roger Federer and me maybe at this moment. But yeah, obviously I can only speak from my experiences, and I see that there is merits to both ways. Just linking that to finance and investing, I think it’s important, especially in the beginning, to diversify. What it has done for me is build your athleticism. You get different movement patterns, and especially as a kid, just being able to move in different ways and having difference technical skills, but also at that age, also having some mental skills is so important when you start focusing on that one sport.
Especially important knowing that people like Roger Federer and like Tiger Woods are so extremely talented that the vast majority of the people cannot do what they do. I think they figured that out as well as they got better and better at their respective sports. But just making sure that as a kid, and especially for the parents, I would say have them play as many sports as possible, because you never know what other passions they could cultivate as well.
David Gardner: Sem, at what point on your path, maybe your mid-teens, does it become clear that you are going to be probably full-time tennis, maybe 110%. Wait, that’s one of my pet peeves I hate when people say 110%. Can only be 100. Anyway, at what point does it become clear to you that you are a tennis player going forward?
Sem Verbeek: When I started actually getting lessons around the age of 10, I started progressing quite quickly. I wanted to play more. One time a week became maybe two times, three times a week. At the same time, I was also still playing soccer, football, six times a week, including a match day.
Eventually, in the Netherlands, you go from elementary school to what we call high school, around the age of 12 and 13. I was getting to the point in tennis where if I could take it a little bit more seriously, I could maybe be good in my region or something like that. But I was also still playing football, like I said, almost every day. That’s where my parents sat me down and said, “It may be a little bit too much with how much homework you’re going to get and how much school is going to be to play both sports as much as you would like so maybe it’s time to make a decision there.”
I think the novelty of tennis and just the natural learning curve there made me lean toward tennis a little bit more. I think it was around the age of 12 where I started playing tennis as my primary sport.
David Gardner: That continues through, you end up at university, I’m assuming somewhere, yes. Not everybody does. In fact, a lot of Europeans don’t. They are still incredibly well educated. There’s not an expectation everyone’s going to college, which it does feel like has become the case often in the U.S. But what was it like, that transition for you, both as a young man and as an athlete, toward university?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah, and I think if I had stayed in the Netherlands, I don’t think I would have ended up in an American university, but it so happened that when I was 14, I wanted to do a maybe a summer tennis camp while my family wanted to have a vacation in the U.S. So we combined those two, and I ended up at a summer camp in Florida tennis school.
David Gardner: Wow.
Sem Verbeek: IMG Academy when I was 14. That lasted two weeks. And then at the end of the two weeks, I think it was the director of tennis there said that he wanted to have a chat with my dad. As we came back to the Netherlands after, he mentioned that they invited me for a full school year if I wanted to.
After a long summer of saying yes, saying no, not really knowing what to do, it actually came down to the very last moment that I was able to say yes. I just woke up apparently that one day and said let’s just give it a try. I ended up actually going to boarding school in the U.S., where I started in tenth grade at 14 years old. And yeah, I was away from my parents.
What I think the U.S. high school system does so well is preparing you for college. At that point, especially at 14, I had no professional aspirations. I was nowhere near good enough to say I’m not going to school or anything like that. Yeah, that one-year turned into three years. I graduated from an American high school in Florida. For me it became the natural progression to go to college then.
As I was at the tennis academy in that school, it never really seemed to me that there was a professional path after high school. I would see all of these actual professionals at that time come in, and we would be divided into groups based on level, and I was never one of the top players. I was always maybe two or three groups below the very top.
That also became clear to me, I want to go study. At that time, learning already was a lot of fun for me, as it still thankfully is. I never said this is for me, and I think that not being one of the best at that age was really a blessing for me, because it made me focus more also on the academic side, not just the athletic side. Then ended up in California for my studies, which was awesome.
David Gardner: Where?
Sem Verbeek: I went to University of the Pacific. Go Tigers. I went there in 2012 and graduated in 2016. Again, it was really more the academic side that made me lean toward University of the Pacific. It was actually one of the only universities where the coach responded to my email of a request if I could maybe walk on to their tennis team. That was my introduction to college sports in the U.S., and they had the degree that I wanted to study. The coach was willing to let me walk on the team. Those four years became one of the most valuable times of my hopefully long life so far.
David Gardner: Well, George, now it makes sense to me why Sem speaks such good English. I did not know, Sem, that you’ve gone to an American prep school and of course, out to Stockton, California. The University of Pacific claims to be California’s first university.
Sem Verbeek: 1851 I think.
David Gardner: You know your stuff. Just the name has always been alluring to me, because I picture that beautiful ocean out there, and I picture probably some lovely tennis. Maybe my first tennis question, is it windy at the University of the Pacific, and does that affect tennis?
Sem Verbeek: Very much. I was lucky to have visited there. Because like you said, the Pacific sounds like the ocean and palm trees and the California allure to many people, but Stockton is right in the Central Valley. It’s in the middle of the very big state of California, and it can get very windy, and it can also get very deceptively cold. Both of those things affect your tennis game a lot.
George Khalaf: Sem, I’m curious. With someone like me with very modest tennis career, if anything, I always when I look back, I played the junior tournaments, the 12s, 14s, 16s, 18s, and I’ve always found that experience very lonely. I had these images of me going out on Court 52 with a big water bottle, windy. You’re out there battling, and you’re 13 years old, and you’re alone on the court, and you end up crying, and there are questionable line calls and that whole junior tennis experience. There’s some PTSD from it. Then when I went to high school, I really loved the team experience with high school tennis. I even loved more the team experience with college tennis. I’m curious, what is life like on the tour, and what are some of the biggest misconceptions of life on the tour?
Sem Verbeek: Great question. I feel very much the same as you did. The team aspect was definitely different, but also very nice. Coming from Europe and having played soccer or football, I think that helped me in that team dynamic. I think it helped me find my role relatively quickly in the team at Pacific.
The transition going from college into the pros very much reverses that process. Naturally, I think professional athletes and especially athletes that play solitary sports, where most of the time tennis is one-on-one, they tend to be a little bit more on the selfish side. It’s more of a stereotype for professional athletes that they think about themselves all the time and they do what’s necessary for them.
But the beauty of college sports, and especially, for me, college tennis is that you already have people on the tour that have gone through the system that you have as well. There’s more of an instant connection there to help you find some grounding as you go into the sometimes very lonely travels of what tennis can be. You’re spending most of the time either on the courts or in your hotel room, and oftentimes alone, especially if you’re not able to bring a coach.
What people see on TV, whether it be sports or tennis, life is definitely not as glamorous when you work your way up to the ranking where you can get on those TV tournaments. I think people have a very misconstrued view of what professional sports is. Where the climb to get there is a tall, tall mountain, and a mountain that’s, I think, worth climbing if you have the drive and you have the capabilities, but there’s a lot of hard lessons learned along the way. That’s for sure.
David Gardner: Well, I’ve definitely picked up that George is coaching his kids to be, I bet, pretty good tennis players. I failed in the coaching of mine because I didn’t really know tennis very well though I have great admiration for the sporting. Great regret now that I kept telling my parents, no, I don’t want tennis lessons. I’m doing something else, and now I regret it.
But I’m thinking about the power of coaching, whether it’s George coaching his kids or, Sem, looking back on your career, is there a particular coach at a certain level? Is it the Pacific coach? Who is a coach that you think of that has most made you the player you are today?
Sem Verbeek: I think the coach at Pacific was instrumental for getting me to where I am today. His name is Ryan Redondo. And that inclination to not becoming a professional lasted very much into my four years into college as well. What he did so well in college is focusing on the process and focusing on just becoming a better tennis player.
Whereas the college system, especially for the coaches, can be quite brutal, because they are judged on their wins and losses, and budgets for colleges go to where most of the winners are. If you’re not winning enough, it has a big impact on the team. At least to me, I fit into his system and what he taught really well and I hope he shares this feeling, but I feel like we definitely cultivated a beautiful relationship that still lasts into our lives right now.
He made me realize that there is a path for me into the professionals. My junior year in college, I was out with an injury for almost all of the season. That was really when I sat down with Ryan and said, last year is my last year of studying, but also potentially my last year of tennis. That’s when we looked at each other and said, that doesn’t really make any sense. You have so much left to learn, and we both felt that I could become a much better tennis player than I was already then.
That was really the inspiration to say, let’s see if I can make it work after college. We devised the same four-year plan that the college does from freshman to senior.
David Gardner: Wow.
Sem Verbeek: That four-year transition ended at the beginning of this year. We sat down again with everybody who was involved now, my parents and my current coach and everybody who’s supporting me, and said, is it still worth it? Are we still going in the right direction? How is it financially? All of the hard-hitting questions that I think everybody investing but also in business has to ask when they’re doing something entrepreneurial. Thankfully, we decided to keep it going for four more years, so very grateful.
David Gardner: What a great coach, and what a wonderful relationship that you’ve maintained. It does remind me and one of the questions that I was prompted to asked by my friend Gaurav Kumar, one of our Twitter followers and fans of the Rule Breaker Investing, podcast is he was like, hey, David make you ask Sem, how is tennis similar to investing?
You’ve already spoken at least once to that, and feel free to mix that in as we go forward. But another similarity between it seems to be tennis and investing, at least through your career, Sem, is the importance of playing the long game, of thinking ahead. It’s not just about returning the next serve, it’s actually as much about where you’re going to be three or five years from now. If your career now at the age of 28 hasn’t ever proven the beauty of playing the long game.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah, absolutely. I think just what you say so well on your podcast and the message that the Fool sends so well is, when in doubt, just zoom out. Especially with this year and the markets, it’s important to take a step back and see where was the market three years ago, where was the market five years ago, etc.
I do the same for my tennis. We go through so much ups and downs in a season that it’s important to recognize where you are now, at least for me. Five years ago, that would have been an absolute dream. Right now, if I’m feeling a bit down to myself or I’m losing matches that I don’t think I should be losing, it’s a great reminder to say, where were you a year ago? Where were you three years ago? And how have you progressed since then? Then if you go through your process now, you can also ask that question into the future and say, will it help me a year from now or three years from now or five years from now if I’m lucky enough to be playing still at that time?
I think the long game in every area of life will give you a great advantage.
David Gardner: Now, we’re obviously going to shift in a little bit toward money and investing more explicitly. But let’s stick with tennis at least a while longer, guys, because I feel like there’s an opportunity to give some free tennis tips to the duffers out there, the weekend warriors. George has numbered himself among them.
George, I insist that you provide at least one tennis tip yourself, a very accomplished tennis player. At least the people I’ve hung out with, you’re the best tennis player I know.
Gentlemen, I feel like we have to speak to the people here and improve the game of tennis in our small way through this channel on this podcast this week. I’m going to turn to Sem first. Sem, what is your top tip for duffer weekend tennis players?
Sem Verbeek: Well, first I have to commend everybody who is a self-proclaimed weekend warrior. Thank you for keeping the game alive and for all your passion.
A nontechnical tip is really just make sure you keep having fun. I think that’s such a big thing that gets lost for us professional tennis player sometimes where it can feel like work, it can feel like a drag, but they are definitely moments that bring us back to why we do this and the reason that we got here. Especially if tennis is something that you do not that often, as we do, make sure you keep having fun, and surround yourself with people that think the same. If you can find a doubles partner or a hitting partner, that makes it even more fun. Hang out with that person.
David Gardner: I love the fun message, and fun is something that is very important to us at the Motley Fool, and I think it’s very important to all humans, so thank you for leading with that, Sem.
Now a tip No. 2 something technical about the tennis game that too many of us are getting wrong too much of the time.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. So a great thing is there are many different grips and how you can hold your racket. One of the simplest steps that I can give is when you’re a little confused as to what grip to use — and this is specific more for the forehand, so it’s going to get a little bit into the specifics, is lay your racket down on the courts or on the ground, and the grip that you use to pick your racket up, that’s most closely associated to the grip that you’re going to use to hit a foreign.
If you’re ever confused as to how you need to hold your racket, just remind yourself to put your racket down — which is also a great mental tip to not get caught up in our thoughts and in our own minds. Put your racket down for a little bit, about a couple of deep breaths, and then when you pick your racket up, just stick with that grip and see how it feels.
David Gardner: Love it. I remember the tennis to instructor I had when I was 10 when I did go to lesson and say, “You’re shaking hands with the racket,” and so that’s another thing, that’s the forehand mentality though, I think, yes.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah, definitely.
David Gardner: I’m able to say yes because I’m seeing Sem because our listeners rarely know this, but we’re always doing this via video. We don’t actually tape the video, but I saw Sem nodding his head vigorously, yes.
Now, George, I think we should play a little tennis here. Let’s keep tennis tipping back-and-forth between you and Sem. George, what’s a tip that more weekend warriors will benefit from?
George Khalaf: I do think I have to underscore the having fun. That’s critical, especially for younger players. You want to be out there, you want them to want to be out there, and that’s how you improve.
The other tip I would say is sometimes when you see junior players, the skills needed to win matches when you’re 10, 11, 12, 13 are very different than the skills that are going to win matches at 15 or 16 or as you get older, so don’t be discouraged if you’re coaching someone who’s younger and you’re getting them in tournaments and they’re not winning the matches that you feel like they should be winning.
That doesn’t matter; they’re trying things out, they’re playing perhaps more aggressively, they’re working on shots that might not be successful when your 10 or 11 but will be successful as they get older.
To be more specific, at 10 or 11, in tennis, there’s style of play that’s called a pusher. A pusher is essentially somebody who just gets a lot of balls back, and eventually, somebody’s going to make a mistake. The pusher depends on his or her opponent making a mistake, and they’re winning points not by actually hitting a good shot, necessarily, but by being very patient and waiting for the opponent to make a mistake. That strategy is successful, particularly in the junior ranks up to a certain level.
Then, when players start to develop their game and be more aggressive and are more successful hitting winning shots, that strategy becomes less and less effective over time.
Sem Verbeek: I love that. That’s a great message. I think also if you’re a parent out there that has a kid that is athletically gifted, whether it’d be in tennis or in the other sports, is keep in mind that they might not like it as much as the parents sometimes do, and that’s where the fun comes in, again, like you said. Keep also in mind that the odds of them becoming the greatest ever are slim, but the odds of them having fun while they’re doing it should be increased.
David Gardner: The last thing I’d say is for some of the more recreational weekend warriors, when I see people who are out there who come back and want to come back… We as human beings naturally gravitate toward a sense of community. If you can create that fun community among like-minded players, that community is going to want you to come back, and it creates that healthy peer pressure to be out there on a beautiful day and to keep going, and you have people to compare your game to and to have fun with. It makes tennis a little less isolating and more like a team sport and something fun to do with friends.
Sem Verbeek: Then someone who plays predominantly doubles on the professional tour, I’ll give a little doubles tip here as well. If you’re at the nets, keep your racket up. Keep your head up as you’re playing tennis, but make sure you keep your racket up. I have to keep reminding myself of that even now.
David Gardner: Yeah. In my case, it’s self-defense just to protect my beautiful face.
Well, thank you, guys. Our five minutes of free tennis tips are now over, but that was wonderful. And again, so many people have some experience with the game. They may not even be weekend warriors, but they have associations or they’re touching other people.
So, especially that mindset that often you gentlemen are speaking to so important and enjoyment. I am not a weekend warrior, but I’m now picturing a third of the people out there on the weekends aren’t even having fun there, just angry and staying in. It sounds people need to have more fun in the tennis world, and I think you’re helping.
Well, let’s now move over to another topic of great interest, of course, to all of our listeners and to both of you gentlemen, and that’s money.
Now, I want to talk a little bit here with a professional tennis player about money on the tour, what it looks like. I will start by asking Sem, when I initially got to know you, I thought, well, Nadal, Federer, these guys are all multimillionaires, and surely, everyone on the ATP Tour and the Challengers Tour, which we’re going to talk about as well. But all of these professional tennis players, they don’t need any finance or money tips. They don’t need the Motley Fool, they’re all rich.
Then I think the scales began to fall from my eyes, and I started to realize the world’s not quite as I thought it. Sem, I think in an early exchange I had with you, you were pointing out to me that the vast majority of professional tennis players are scrapping to make it somewhere the next weekend. I say “somewhere” because it pops around I know. You are in France as we speak, I believe.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah, that’s really well said, and especially travel costs is one of the biggest costs for us as professional tennis players. But I think it’s important for people that are not necessarily familiar with the professional tennis system. There’s really three levels to this. As you go on, you start with the ranking of zero, and that just means you have zero professional points.
David Gardner: That is my ranking. I will be retiring undefeated un-scored upon as a zero.
George Khalaf: Mine too, David.
David Gardner: Not you, George.
Sem Verbeek: Anyway, as you get started on the professional tour, you go on what they call the ITF Tour. To link that to investing. That’s where most of the micro companies are and unfortunately, also some penny stocks are there, although they are not really going to make it there. But that’s the first step for almost all professional tennis players.
David Gardner: What is ITF stand for? Sem, I always like to break down acronyms. What does ITF stand for, for the newbs?
Sem Verbeek: The International Tennis Federation.
David Gardner: Thank you.
Sem Verbeek: As you progress through the ITF and through the professional rankings, you can get into the tournaments like you did you mentioned, which are the Challengers, and the Challengers are organized by the ATP, the Association of Tennis Professionals. That’s where more of the small-cap players/companies are, and they grow into the mid caps. That’s really a level where you’re getting established in the world as someone who can really play tennis but who’s not on TV yet or is not quite yet at the peak of where they hope to be.
As you progress and as you find success on the Challenger Tour, you go on the main ATP Tour. I think that’s what most people associate with tennis is the ATP Tour, the Grand Slams, where they see on TV or the smaller tournaments. But those are where the names, like you just mentioned are, and to link that back to the stock market, those are the mega caps and the large caps and just a company that everybody is familiar with.
David Gardner: Well, our listeners your are going to absolutely appreciate the metaphor that you’re using. We can continue to use it or not, but that’s great, I get you on the market cap of where we are.
Sem, could you give me a quick sense of how many people are we roughly talking about on the Challenger Tour? How many people, rough numbers, are on the ATP?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah, it’s all fluid because of the rankings.
David Gardner: Right.
Sem Verbeek: But I would say, at least for doubles to be consistently on the main ATP Tour, you’re going to have a ranking of about 70 or 80 in the world.
David Gardner: Wow.
Sem Verbeek: Then, below that to get into the Challenger Tournaments, anywhere from that 80 mark to about 250, maybe 300. That’s where you can consistently play or regularly play Challenger Tournaments. Below that, it starts to get a bit tricky.
David Gardner: I was trying to like in this to a sport, I do know better, which is baseball but I’m going to have a short story to present a little bit later, but I realized it doesn’t really work that well because they’re really hundreds thousands, I would say, of baseball players who are in the minor leagues, but we’re really talking about a pretty rarefied air here, 250 players are so even on the Challenger Tour. This is a smaller community than I was thinking.
And yet Sem, I think part of what you’ve done is to recognize that a lot of your peers don’t know a lot about money, investing, and keeping up with their finances.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. I consider myself one of those people. Thankfully, I got in touch with the Fool, and it’s about a year and a half ago. As I mentioned before, I’m lucky that I really like learning. I think the recognizing the power of being in charge of your own finances, and as your metaphor to baseball, one big difference is that we’re not contracted by the ATP as professional tennis players. We are what they consider independent contractors. Which means that we can make our own schedules and we can decide when we want to play. But it also means that we’re also in charge of our own finances. As you progress through a tournament, as you win more matches, you get prize money, you get “reimbursed for your achievements.”
But to keep going with the business investing metaphor, as professional tennis players, especially in our ranks and the ranks below us, you’re simultaneously the CEO of your own tennis career, you’re the CFO of your own tennis career, and you make all of your own decisions.
I’m one of the lucky ones that have a college education, so I have some understanding of the economy and growing up and still having a dad that has a very entrepreneurial spirit and has always been very good with money, has helped me with that. But there’s a lot of people that, now through their tennis, it has to be their means of surviving for them but also maybe even being in charge of their family finances and escaping the hole that they were in before that. I think having an understanding of how money works and how the world works with money is vital to that for sure.
David Gardner: Sem, as a professional tennis player, what can players who are members of this, who are on the Challenger Tour, and then those who are on the ATP Tour, what type of membership benefits exist? Is there a orientation, is there training? What does that look like for a player?
Sem Verbeek: As you get to a certain ranking threshold, you can apply to be an official member of the ATP, and you get a quick introduction into what the ATP is. One great thing that the ATP has done is they have partnered with Coursera, the online learning platform, to give players at least opportunity to pursue free online classes.
Now, do I wish that was utilized more by us players? Absolutely. But I think that’s one of the great benefits that are there.
But I think in general, especially for people in my situation, it’s become clear that sometimes you have to make decisions purely based on your finances. Those might not always be the most professional decisions, but they’re the decisions that are financially available. Especially if you lose first round in one tournament and you have to make sure to get to the next tournament. That can hurt quite a bit. The finances of how the ATP Tour works below the main TV level can play a big toll on people’s mental health as well, and it can add a lot of stress to what is also already a pretty stressful life just based on how much we go through up and downs.
David Gardner: So, Sem, tell me a little bit more about the offerings. So when you mentioned that partnership with Coursera, are those online classes? Do they include any courses on financial literacy? How is that customized in any way? Because I imagine most of the players on the Challenger Tour, as well as the ATP Tour, are in very different life circumstances. Whether they’re supporting a family or whether they’re fresh out of college or even high school and making their go at professional tennis.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah, absolutely, and that’s a great observation. It is more so a blanket for everybody. What Coursera does really well is they have classes that are associated with different American colleges that you can take online at your own pace. But like you said, a career and life has many different stages.
One thing that has become clear for me as I’ve played professional tennis for a three years now is there are expenses that are always going to be there. We’re always going to have to travel. We’re always going to have to provide our own food. Sometimes, we’re going to have to pay for our hotel, and if we’re lucky enough, we can afford a coach. Especially in the earlier stages, as the prize money often doesn’t catch up with the expenses that we have, one thought that I had was how can we make those expenses go the longest way.
Again, some people might not know how credit cards work, or as we start to get prize money, we get it deposited into a bank account, but how do we choose what the right bank is for us? How does the banking system even work?
Especially now was this year, which was one of my motivations to reach out to the Motley Fool Foundation, was with his record inflation going on. How do we protect our finances as much as we can? That’s why I think having a basic understanding of how can we save something or how do we budget appropriately.
If we get through those stages where we’re losing more money than we’re making, how do you then start thinking, again, going back to the long game, how do you start thinking about investing? How does the stock market even work? Right now those are all questions that apply to me as well.
One thing I think that the Fool Foundation does so well, and I think is a big strength of yours is trying to make the message stick. One thing that makes a message stick is making it customized to where people are in their career stages, but also in their life stages. Some players might be thinking about buying a house now and starting a family. So how does the mortgage work and how do you go about maybe getting a loan? Those are all questions that I don’t have an answer to.
But one of the things that felt appropriate to me is to say, hey, look ATP, you have hundreds, if not thousands of people from all different backgrounds, different cultures, and different age groups that are all trying to do their best as they navigate the world of tennis. Maybe it’s more of your responsibility to tailor some education to the different stages of careers. What if you make it into the top where the Nadals are, where the Federers are, how do you make sure that your contracts are legit? What if you get to a point where you’re lucky enough to have an agent, how does that work?
There are so many questions that are particular to athletics and also finances that I think The Motley Fool Foundation could help. So much within a partnership with an ATP.
David Gardner: Well, that’s delightful to hear, Sem, and thank you. I’m hearing you. First of all, you are on the Challengers Council, I think I know that about you. So as an articulate, well-educated person thinking about the benefit of those around him and supporting his peers, you are one of the few people that represent the Challengers to the ATP as the ATP work with you all to improve the lives of people on Challengers Tour. Am I right about that?
Sem Verbeek: Yeah, you’re right that I am among the Challenger Council, and that’s a group that we started with a few players in combination with ATP. It’s not an official recognized body, but it’s a body of players that are passionate about a couple of things.
One like you said, is improving the life for everybody, and one thing that is so important in having a representative is someone who has gone or is going through the same things that the people they represent are.
Then the second part of that is, we’re all trying to get higher up. With my ranking is right now, I hope in a year or three years, five years, I am much higher than I am right now. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to make the world a better place for people that are coming up to the ranking where I am now. As we are thinking about leaving a legacy, I think the Challenger Council is a great way to do that.
David Gardner: Wonderful. Well, thank you. So it’s really something that the entrepreneurial you, supporting, helping start to advocate at that level. I’m asking a leading question here — you don’t know where I’m headed, but you’ll understand once I do. But my leading question is, do you find that the ATP is responsive? Do they feel aligned and supportive of some of your requests and thoughts coming from the council?
Sem Verbeek: I think so, yes. We’ve especially felt that with this new person that’s been hired this year as the head of the Challenger Tour, his name is Richard Glover. He’s been great in collaborating, and we’ve had numerous calls.
What’s also important to realize is that the ATP is not only made up of players but also of the tournaments, and obviously, the player counsel is only really representing the players, so there’s always a little bit of bias as [laughs] we are trying to make the tour better for players. And some of the ideas or the thoughts that we have might not be the most appropriate just because of the tournament side and the corporate side of ATP as well. But all of it is just a great learning tool and a very motivational way to do things for me.
David Gardner: You’re describing an ecosystem and one that’s larger than, of course, just any one of these bubbles in the Venn diagram of tennis. It’s not just about the players, not just about the tour, it’s not just about the ATP, it needs to be connected.
But the reason I’m asking about this, my leading question because I was having a humorous conversation recently with a friend from baseball. I’m about to hold up Major League Baseball as not as good a player as the ATP. This is a brief digression, but it’s a funny story.
My friend has been involved in Minor League Baseball for a long time and in recent years, baseball fans will know that a number of Minor League teams have just been cut. Like you’re no longer feeding the major leagues. I think a lot of people in Minor League Baseball who feel tied to Major League Baseball are increasingly feeling alienated and not supported. That’s why I’m delighted to hear of the proactive alignment that I’m hearing, in general, that the ATP is showing, I think, good leadership.
My friend was just describing negotiations a few weeks ago in New York City where effectively and a Major League Baseball executive was speaking to all of the Minor League teams, saying, we want you all to take this new sponsor. We’re going to be doing a broader umbrella advertising deal. We need you guys — these are my words, of course — to take this sponsor. The sponsor is a company that works in male erectile dysfunction.
My friend who has been working within the family environment of Minor League Baseball for a few decades, struggling to figure out how to communicate how this really doesn’t work very well to the big head honchos with all the power, came up with something like this:
He said, there are not that many kids who go to Major League Baseball anymore. I still love the game, we do, I love the game, but admittedly, there are a lot of corporate tickets, boxes, and there aren’t as many kids.
You go to a Minor League Baseball game in the United States today and there are families that are going. He said in so many words to the Major League Baseball exec, what you’re asking us to do is, we’re Disney, it’s our parade, and the third float in the parade is going to be a big male erectile dysfunction float in the middle of our parade.
Anyway, story ended, but it’s interesting for me to hear at high levels for these sports — they’re all businesses — who’s actually aligned and working toward a win for everybody and who is holding others over the barrel, saying you’re going to take this advertising package, right?
Sem Verbeek: Absolutely. I think it comes back to a message that I think you love to spread about conscious capitalism, where you want all stakeholders involved to be winning and not just one part. I think it’s important for us as ATP players to know that we are one part of the puzzle. It doesn’t mean that we cannot advocate for what we think are improvements, but we also got to realize how the business side of the ATP works and also how the tournament side of the ATP works. Having the opportunity and the chance to be more connected with people who are on the inside of the ATP has only made me more motivated to advocate even more. That’s been a lot of fun.
David Gardner: Great.
George Khalaf: Sem, I have a question for you. It’s so clear that you’ve got so many interests on and outside the tennis court. You in fact didn’t think about professional tennis, you didn’t think it was a reality till during your junior year in college was when you started making that plan. If you weren’t a professional tennis player, where do you think you’d be today?
Sem Verbeek: That’s a fun question. This is going to date me a little bit, it’s a 28-year-old, but there is in 2011, I had hip surgery as a 17-year-old because of my tennis. And even funnier than that, I was supposed to go to Boston University, and when the coach heard about my surgery, he de-committed from me — no hard feelings, coach, but which meant that I had to take a gap year between high school and college and go through the rehabilitation process. That stuck with me so much that I knew one of my passions was going to be something related to sports medicine and the human body, and that is never really gone away. That’s also the degree that I studied at the Pacific. It was health and exercise science.
I think if I weren’t playing tennis right now, I’d be somewhere, either still studying to be a doctor, or at some point, hopefully, working for a professional sports team on the medical side. Because I know how big of an impact it can have as an athlete. It’s enough to be able to play the sport that you love so much. It really takes part of your identity away, and to be able to guide athletes back to where they were and hopefully better places through medicine is definitely one of the passions that I have and will still continue to be as I close my tennis career — hopefully in a long, long time from now.
George Khalaf: Sem, knowing what you know now, what advice would you have given yourself when your career first started?
Sem Verbeek: Great question. My career has spanned four years now. I started at the beginning of 2017, and the pandemic year, especially the first year of 2020, was a bit weird. But I think it comes back to a principle that I read in one of Jim Collins’s books is figure out first who and then what. I think that was such a big eye opener for me, where who you surround yourself with is so important, because these are the people that are going to be reiterating your process to you when things might not look the way that you wanted them to. If you find whether they be that coach, or for me, that doubles partner, where you feel good with and you feel like you have a click with, you’ll figure out what to do together at that point. But figure out the people that are genuinely cheering for you when things go well.
I think one of the things that I would like to tell my younger self is you can be a role model to anybody. You don’t have to be on prime-time TV for people to be inspired by you. There’s always going to be people that want to be in the situation that you are, whether that be if you’re ranked 1,000 in the world, 500 in the world, or No. 1 in the world. Make sure that you know that, and make sure it doesn’t freeze you up, but it more frees you up to know that people are looking up to you and you live a great life, even through the roller-coaster ups and downs of a professional tennis life.
David Gardner: That is wonderfully said. Sem, you are exemplifying, for many hearing us this week, how to think and how to be. Thank you for your leadership, which is very evident to me. There is that old African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go together.” I think I heard you just say that in so many words as you realize it’s about having a group and a team around you and thinking broadly about others, not just yourself.
If you want to go fast, go alone. I know a lot of tennis players do have to go alone, and I appreciate George describing Court 52 and it’s raining and windy and you’re crying in the second set, you’re feeling very alone. But indeed, for those who have the benefit of having a coach, a wonderful family, and exemplars in their own lives, I think that’s the way to go far. Let’s hope, Sem, you continue to go far, and I hope we’re sending some others farther as a consequence this week.
Closing question for you, Sem. Again, this one inspired by our Twitter following. It’s a lovely question. Sem Verbeek, how would you say investing has helped you as a tennis player, and how has playing tennis helped you as an investor?
Sem Verbeek: I love that question. That’s a great question.
First and foremost, I think professional tennis has helped me in investing because of the focus on the mindset. There is a lot of things in tennis that I don’t have any control over, but the thing that I have the most control over is my process and how I prepare myself for matches and how I go about my training.
I think that has helped me in investing because there’s so much going on in the financial world with the stock market going up and down every day. Having all of these TV channels all saying different things, but the same thing, and not really knowing what to tune out.
I’m very much right now in the very early innings of my investing journey, and I think the process has to be good from the start. What has helped me is if I don’t have a good process with the very limited amount of money that I have in the market right now, I’m not going to be able to have a good process when that hopefully increases in years and decades.
That has also linked me back to my tennis, is where just focus on what you can control and sometimes the outcome is not as you wanted, and that ties into the second principle of a mistake versus a failure. Right now, as with my learning portfolio, a lot of it is down.
David Gardner: Mine too, by the way. The first 12 to 18 months of your investing journey has been very, very unusual and surprising.
Sem Verbeek: Yeah. But my normal is I started with my pretend portfolio, my learning portfolio, in the middle of last year, and it didn’t really matter what I did; everything seems to go up. I was like, oh, this is easy, this is great. As this last year has proven, it’s not that easy and it’s sometimes not that great.
But anyway, what I realize, tying it back into the process, is there’s a difference to me between a mistake and a failure. Where a mistake is where the outcome is not as you wanted, and that could be for my tennis, losing a match where I felt I had a great process. My preparation was great and I did everything I needed to do, but I lost.
Tying that back to investing, that could be at a great investing thesis. I did everything I wanted to do when following that company, but I’m down big. That could be a mistake. Whereas a failure would be I’m investing in this business because I feel I’m missing out on a very easy gains. I diverted away from how I researched the company or the things that I need to read before I decide to invest.
I think knowing that there are so many businesses in my portfolio that are so far down reminded me that it might not be a failure, because I did what I needed to do, and also my time horizon is not done yet by far. That reminds me of my tennis, where we’re going to lose many matches in a year, and the thing that we have to focus on is how do you prepare, how do you bounce back, and how do you keep a steady mindset throughout the year.
Borrowing a line from you is, don’t only learn from your losers or the matches that I lose, but definitely also from your winners and the matches that I win. When I think about the matches that I won or the matches that I’ve played really well, I always want to ask myself the question, what did I do? What was my process? What made me play well? What can I take from that for my next match?
I think it’s a great question to ask for the businesses in your portfolio as well, is to say, what happened? What did the business do for the stock to go up? What did I focus on in my research process? Or what happened in the world for this to be beneficial for this business? Not just looking at the things that are down but also definitely learning from the things that go well.
George Khalaf: Sem, thank you so much. My wife always jokes with me that I’m obsessed with tennis and I see tennis and life as one and the same. What you learned on the tennis court, all of it is life lessons. Having this conversation with you and hearing you make the connection between what you’ve learned on the tennis court and how it relates to your investment philosophy and your mental toughness and your health is just music to my ears. Always love talking to you, Sem, and I know we’re going to have many more conversations to follow, Fool on.
David Gardner: Well, my watchword throughout this very difficult year of 2022 has been, for anyone who’s listening, “Just keep swimming.” But I think this week it’s particularly appropriate simply to tweak it to “Just keep swinging.” I want to thank George Khalaf, the program director at The Motley Fool Foundation, and really a very accomplished tennis player who’s just at this age now a weekend warrior.
George Khalaf: Thanks, David.
David Gardner: Of course, George. I most of all want to thank our special guest, Sem Verbeek, for his authenticity, his inspiration. Some pretty good tips, not just about tennis, but about life, but most of all his presence out there on the Challenger Tour, thinking about how to make it better for those around them, not just in the world of tennis — although yes, that — but in the world of financial freedom for all, how can we make it better? Sem, you are part of our solution as we continue to go forward as fellow Fools.
Thank you for joining us. Thank you for joining with me for this special Two Fools podcast, Sem. Fool on, my friend.
Sem Verbeek: Thank you very much. Keep Fooling on.