Saturday, March 28, 2009

Using Trading to Find the Heroic Within Ourselves

A reader of The Psychology of Trading notes the book's theme of developing one's heroic potentials and asks: "How do I channel these heroic impulses to help me achieve my goal of becoming a consistently successful trader? I fear that the heroic impulses related to trading may be setting the bar a little too high for now."

All of us have moments in which we experience ourselves nobly and heroically, as people capable of accomplishing great things. We lose our petty fears and insecurities and, instead, focus on what is possible and how we can attain it. Tapping into that sense of the possible is what provides reservoirs of energy, fueling unusual productivity and achievement.

Readers of the trading performance book know that a developing trader's goal should *not* be to become "a consistently successful trader." Rather, the goal is to become a consistently good trader. If success is defined as making a living from one's trading, that will be a project that requires substantial initial capital and skill development. While such success may be a long-term vision that sparks your efforts, you will not internalize a sense of heroic stature unless you are doing heroic actions daily.

A heroic action is not simply making a boatload of money on a given trading day. Any fool with a decent sized account can strap on the leverage and make money on a lucky trade. Rather, heroism is defined by the effortful pursuit of valued goals. The trader who overcomes an impulse to overtrade and instead makes just a few good trades in a day has accomplished an important piece of heroism. The trader who develops his or her own unique idea and acts upon it decisively to make money is living out a heroic role.

Over time, living that heroic role--day in and day out--leads to internalizing a sense of heroism. You become the person who, not only wants success, but deep inside lives it, expects it, and deserves it. This is the lesson of what may be my best post ever: create experiences that mirror back to you the person you wish to become. Heroism is about bridging the real and the ideal: enacting what is best within you. Your challenge as a trader is to structure each trading day so that you can experience yourself as a winner, even when you happen to lose money.


Lavonne said...

Dear Dr. B,

Thanks for the post. I always draw inspiration from the advice you so generously share.


PS: My copy of the Daily Coach arrived in the mail this week, and I am marking it up as I make my way through it :)

JDMoodie said...

"you can experience yourself as a winner, even when you happen to lose money." Losses are for learning, losing days are great lessons and I find that makes the losses worth it.

I happen to have my best days when I only make 4 trades or less...I think it is because I know to stop when I am ahead or past my primary goal. Those days feel good...not necessarily heroic though. Sometimes it's tough to stop when you "think" you are on a roll.


Curtis said...

Which trader would you prefer to trade your money?

Trader A made 20 trades over a given period and net 20%

Trader B made 1000 trades over the same given period and net 16%

I know which one would I'd prefer (Hint it wouldn't be Trader A). But I can understand how over trading could be a source of loss for most retail traders but statistically the trader with more trades is more likely to have an edge.

*Disclaimer: Assumes no outliers, equal work involved in trading, a fairly large account size, and that the given period represents the entire population of trades.

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Thanks, Lavonne, I'll be interested to hear your feedback re: the book!


Gustavo's Trades said...

Brett, I love this posting, come back to it often. Here is its Portuguese tranlation: