Saturday, April 23, 2016

Limiting Your Challenges vs. Challenging Your Limits

A while back I wrote about rock musician John Mellencamp, who decided that his band had gotten into a rut.  As a challenge, he required each member, including himself, to learn a new instrument that would be featured on songs for the next album.  That album explored an entirely new sound for the band and became one of their most popular.  The band talked about what they wanted that album to sound like, departed from their usual music to make it happen, and extended their success.  

A savvy trader recently pointed out to me that the quant fund Two Sigma held a competition for their staff to program a robot to play winning air hockey.  That assignment had nothing to do with trading whatsoever, but it forced the staff to learn new technologies, new programming languages.  That investment in development can eventually help the fund research and develop new opportunities.

At some point, you've grown within your skill sets and it's time to learn new skills and make new music.  Focusing day by day, traders attempt to limit their challenges by sticking ever more closely to what has worked.  In that mode, they never get around to challenging their limits and becoming ever better at what they do.

I recently spoke with a trader who took the time to learn--really learn, as a discipline--mindfulness meditation.  He attended regular classes led by a master and practiced daily.  He found his time in front of markets quieter, moving slower.  He found it easier to step away from screens when nothing was happening and stay more focused when decisions needed to be made.  In learning outside of markets, he has become better within markets.

What are your limits as a trader?  What skills can you learn to challenge and extend those limits?  If you're not growing as a person, will you really grow your trading?

Further Reading:  Maximizing Our Trading Environment