Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Four-Leaf Clover Principle

This morning, I went for a jog in the forest preserve park down the street from our home. Winding down the run, I cut through a section of the park and noticed to my surprise that, after the recent rain, clover covered the ground.

I have quite a few childhood memories of clover. As a grade-school age kid, I had a daily paper route and delivered newspapers from house to house. I used to watch the ground when I walked to see if I could find any four-leafed clover. If I found any, my mother pronounced it a lucky omen. She preserved the clover by pressing it in a heavy book and keeping it safe in a clear wrapper. I recall opening our family picture album and having a few pressed clover fall out. Maybe my mom thought that would bring luck to the family.

Those memories returned to me during the jog and I began to scour the ground for a four-leaf clover. I thought that would be a nice reconnection to my past; maybe it would be lucky, too.

There were no four-leafed clover in the first patch of ground that I examined. Nor the second, third, or fourth. Disappointed, I raised my head and began walking home.

On the way, the thought soon struck me that you can never really look for four-leafed clover. I never actually found one by looking for it; rather, I would be walking along and one would suddenly jump out at me. It was being primed to see one, but not *trying* to see it, that would lead to the discovery.

Most things are like that in life, I realized. You can't *make* things happen. You can't make people like you, you can't make stocks move your way, and you can't make yourself successful. When you press to make things happen, you're no longer properly primed to see opportunity when it presents itself. You're so busy looking for the clover that you miss the patch that lies several steps ahead.

How many times do we press to get in a trade, when it's just sitting back, seeing the trend, and finding a good place to participate that makes us the real money? How often do we try to make a public speech turn out perfectly or try to get to sleep, only to have the trying interfere with what comes naturally?

What makes the four-leafed clover lucky is that it presents itself to us; we cannot make it appear. It's true of all life's four-leafed clover: they appear when we're ready to see them.

I smiled as I made my way home. I realized that there were a couple of areas in my life where I had been pressing to make things happen. What I needed to do was stand back, do the right things, and position for the best possible outcomes. All we can do in life is walk through lots of clover fields and keep our eyes open. Eventually the four-leafed opportunities will present themselves.

As I walked just beyond the picnic tables, a few steps before I reached Greene Rd. to return home, a large four-leafed clover stood out on the ground. I held back a tear as I carefully plucked it and brought it home. I pressed it in a book and put it in an airtight clear wrap.

Somewhere, Mom was smiling. And I was feeling lucky: my blog topic for the morning was set.


adoshi said...

Dear Dr. Brett,

This post alone make is so difficult for me to adjust my daily routine without you, it is painful to know that I will be missing all of this amazing insights from you. You are responsible for many positive changes in my life. Thank you.

Luis Paulo said...

These more than any trading related ones, are the kind of posts I will miss

Radek Dobias said...

It is great to see you turn Taoist on your morning jog, no doubt a spiritual tradition that would deepen and enhance your experience further.

nqtraderjay said...

Excellent writing. I was happy as I was in a state of total unknown a couple of weeks ago. I stopped daytrading the futures for good reasons. I needed to find what my next thing was and I had this very strong feeling that everything was going to be better and great. I had total confidence that the answer was right in front of me and would reveal itself to me soon enough. I enjoyed the feeling and went with it. And it came to me just as I knew it would eventually. So now I have a set of plans and I'm working on them and it feels good. I have a set of goals and a plan. Short term, intermediate, long term, and emergency. Going thru this for 18 months has made me less dysfunctional. That's a nice clover.

JYY 葉傑森 said...

Dr. Brett,

I have been an avid jogger myself for few years now. Recently upon hearing this podcast from EconTalk gave me motivation to look into ways of changing up my routine exercise.

If you haven't came across similar info, you might find the podcast interesting.


Mark said...

Geez, I am really going to miss you. Your blog is the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing I check at night. And your brilliance and generosity are completely unmatched. I hope one day you come back and hope you eventually publish more books. Your an insperation.

Toad said...

Simply beautiful.

teds said...


I never found a four leaf clover… but I did find you blog.
I too held back a tear as I printed this post, and as you with your four leaf clover, preserved it.
Hope you are also smiling.

Thank you Doc

Ebisu said...

Reminds me a bit of an old saying I was told as a college student trying too hard to get A's in every class:

"When the pupil is ready, the teacher will come."

I eventually learned that "ready" really meant "receptive", and not "aggressive", or "eager". When one is aggressive, they focus well but miss much - including many opportunities, or four-leaf clovers.

About trading, it also reminds me of what Dr. Alexander Elder said in one of his fine books on trading:

"The market keeps sending you messages - all you have to do is listen."

madi said...

Dr. Brett,

Being part Irish, I can identify with your experience. We used to look for four leaf clovers every spring in our front yard.
In a similar vein, yesterday, I picked up my second penny in as many days. Both times it felt really good. I remember the story of Warren Buffet picking up a penny in an elevator and saying, " The beginning of my next billion!" I've never never looked at it that way. I always thought that the penny belonged to someone else and I had no right to pick it up.

But, maybe the person who dropped this shining penny knew they dropped it and was too lazy to pick it up? Maybe, in a cosmological sense, this penny was meant for me? Isn't there an implied protocol that a penny on the street is "up for grabs, anyway?"

Just like good trades or a four leaf clover, sometimes good fortune is there for the picking. I've always thought that if reward or opportunity didn't come from hard work, it was not real.

Maybe, opportunity is staring right at us all the time?

I haven't written in my blog for quite a few weeks. I think that I'll elaborate on this submission and post it at

Thanks... for your continued insight and experience sharing,

Roberto said...

Hi Dr. Brett!

How sugary sweet. Though I do understand the principle - how could one not? - I don't believe a word from this story.

Not needing to hold back a single tear makes me a cynic or what?

Best regards and enjoy a wonderful day!


niklas said...

Hi Brett,

it is a very nice allegory. Very true to most important things in our life. We just cannot *make* them happen, they will come to us, if we are a bit lucky and patient. Regarding trading, we should just sit more on our hands...


OKL said...

Staying composed, relaxed and a focus on what you're looking for... when it comes, its obvious to you but everyone else.

Make a run for it, grab it, hit the target and get out before everyone else realizes what is happening.

Nice little drop of life Doc!

Maybe you can't post that many trade/market related stuff, but I suppose these are fine! They are for me anyway.

Oh yeah, good ol' Mom is smiling somewhere.

Scott Trader said...

You will be missed, Brett.

Thank you for this excellent pearl of wisdom.

You are my four-leafed clover -- and I've held back a tear or two while contemplating your departure.

This is not going to be easy :)

All my best,

Matthew C. said...

Beautiful story Dr. Brett, and right on.

rmendez said...

a really good friend of mine told me a long time ago that good things are like butterflies.. if you try to catch them, they will fly away but if you stand still waiting, they will come to you!!! :) your post just made me smile, thanks (rosie)