Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vitality, Greatness, and Success in Life and Trading

The first post in this series dealt with factors that underlie creative genius and how those relate to performance in the trading world. My own observations regarding very successful, productive, and creative individuals, however, suggest that more may be at work in generating elite levels of performance and success.

The first common element in my observations is something that, for lack of a better word, might be called "vitality". Vitality has several components:

1) A high energy level; people with a high level of vitality spend a relatively high proportion of their time actively doing things in a purposeful manner, even when those things are relaxing and recreational.

2) An active mind; people with a high level of vitality spend a good deal of their time encountering new ideas, new people, new places, and new experiences.

3) High psychological well-being; people with a high level of vitality experience positive moods more frequently than negative ones.

4) Productivity; people with a high level of vitality accomplish a great deal. They are not just active, but active toward directed ends.

The vast majority of the very successful traders I've encountered have unusually high levels of vitality. Not only do they spend more time reading about markets, researching markets, and thinking about markets than their less accomplished peers; they also are more active and productive in their personal lives. They participate in community activities, travel, spend time with their kids--it is if they are plugged into a different, higher voltage circuit than others.

"How do you have time for it all?" is a common question these high-vitality traders encounter. And yet it's not an issue of time: it's a function of how time is utilized. Low vitality people spend a great deal of vegetative time that is neither productive nor rejuvenating; it's as if they're running on spent batteries. High vitality people often have very good work/life balance because they are actively doing things that enhance life and work.

We are all familiar with the distinction between active and passive learners. An active learner is one who reads the chapter in the textbook before going to the lecture. She comes to the lecture with questions and ideas already percolating. A passive learner simply copies notes on the board from the lecturer and then reviews the chapter before the test--perhaps never generating meaningful questions or ideas.

Or how about the difference between truly religious people who attend a service and those that are not religious? The religious person meditates on the meanings of the prayers and uses the time to actively connect to a higher spiritual power. The non-religious person simply repeats the prayers and never seeks or makes a connection. Who feels vitalized and who feels bored during the service?

High vitality people attack life the way that the active student attacks learning; the way that a devout monk approaches prayer: with interest and intent. The secret to their vitality is that they engage in effortful activities in a manner which gives energy, rather than drains it. This enables them to persist where others drain their batteries.

Think of how you review your trading performance (and how often you review). Think of how you review markets and factors that influence markets. Are you digging into yourself and digging into markets, like the active learner? Or are you going through the motions like the bored person at church?



brian said...

That was very insightful and a topic upon which I have reflected for some time. I think vitality won't make you profitable, but a lack of it will ensure you fail.

Vitality must permeate all aspects of your life and trading if you are going to unlock your potential. For example, trading coaches babble on about how discipline is central to successful trading, but they almost never discuss what lays at the core of good discipline. It is acceptance of discipline in how you live your life. If one is unable to control one's weight, how can he ever expect to control himself and exercise discipline while trading? If you cannot keep from flying off the handle while driving, how can you maintain a level head while trading? What you call vitality is the energy and the drive to apply yourself to your goals in all aspects of your life. Vitality is what MAKES you a trader rather than someone who just trades.

I would only add one caveat to your excellent post. It is OK to be human. Energy, drive, and creativity run in cycles. Keep the faith and don't sweat the bottom of the cycle when you can't bear to look at another chart. Walk away, play fetch with the dog, or read a nice book on something vacuous. Doing so always brings my mind back to the markets and gives me back my enthusiasm. Our goal is to be profitable traders, not perfect ones.

Brian F.
El Paso, Texas

Glen said...

Great post, ties right into a book I am currently reading, "The power of Full Engagement".

Michelle B said...

Vitality is when you act like you are alive.

I am told by many, oh, I can't trade because trading does not interest me. And I counter back, and you think that trading interests me that is why I do it, like how you watch football because you enjoy it?

I trade the way I cook, the way I garden, the way I have conversations, the way I exercise, the way I make pottery, the way I sew, the way I write, the way I do watercolors, the way I learn new stuff, the way I have relationships--with curiosity and with focus on building upon my knowledge base. All those activities are different from each other, yet all are opportunities for me to apply some basic principles of fulfillment, growth, and learning.

Some people have a contrived, artificial way of interacting with stimulus. Stimulus gives you an opportunity to apply what you know, to re-evaluate what you know, and to learn new angles. For many, stimulus is something that must feel good right away, something that keeps them awake.

I always bristled at job titles and when I found an administrative job at a small local history museum, I was told that I would do many things, like quilt-making, calligraphy, washing out the toilet, balancing the budget, data processing, being an liaison with the public and the county, receptionist, gift shop attendant, book editor, newsletter writer, etc. And I said, bring it on, please. Best 'real' job that I ever had.

But there was a common principle that tied all those diverse activities together: it was the openness to apply myself, using my knowledge base and my interest in learning to grow and be happier. It is the perspective of seeing how I can fit into the big world, not how the world can fit into my tiny palm.

DreamJOBZ said...

Dear Brett, G'day

Wonderful post.

"The secret to their vitality is that they engage in effortful activities in a manner which gives energy, rather than drains it."

Here I would like to add perspective of Effortful Vs Effortless. I know you meant the same what I am trying to deliver here.

One good example, I can give about EFFORTLESS is,

Let us says, someone is very thirsty, drinking water doesn't require much effort, once the thirst is over. Then we need effort to drink more water. For us, to be a successful trader, first one need to be 'Entrepreneur' before trying to be a trader. He needs to see themselves as "Me Inc". He could be working somewhere, but his responsibility on his life is so strong & passionate that he owns his task/job.

And to be an entrepreneur/ a responsible person, it all starts from a dream. Dream creates thirst. Only knowledge/innovation can quench his/her thirst.

I would like to share my another thought about Dreaming and Undreaming. LOL, there ain't word like that in the dictionary. How can I explain?

Let us see I will do my best, I when I see next opportunity to post. Live Awesome,

Raj, DreamJOBZ

madi said...

And yet, another good forum.

Yes, so often I shy from the word "greatness" when it applies to me, as if greatness is the antitheses of humility. I read this and say to myself, " Why not? Why not, me? What would happen if I put on this greatness suit and wore it for a few days, like it was mine? I deserved it, like I bought it, and own it?"

Thanks, Brett, for instigating this idea. I'm putting on this fancy suit right now! OOH! ...more later...