Sunday, July 16, 2006

May You Stay Forever Young

What prompted this Alphaville or Bob Dylan moment (actually, for the record, as I'm writing this The Sisters of Mercy are playing "More", which equally suits the occasion) was an exercise I tackled this weekend. I decided to research how I would make trading decisions if I *had* to place trades in the first few minutes after the open using only the most recent market data. Of course, this meant that I had to toss out all my historical research, indicators, etc. and figure things out from scratch.

It was really hard.

But it was amazing how I ended up seeing patterns in high frequency data that I would never have seen otherwise.

It even gave me an idea for a promising trading concept, based on figuring out the early odds of trending vs. mean reversion.

But it was really hard.

Of course, not everyone tackles these kinds of projects on weekends. Some people get by with a little understanding; some people get by with a whole lot more.

If I have one fear, it's the fear of ossification. It's that body snatchers fear that somehow, someway you'll wake up and become like everyone else. You'll think the same thoughts you always thought, visit the same places, listen to the same music. Imperceptibly, you'll have become old. Not in years, but in spirit.

I recently bought a new car. There were lots of great luxury cars on the market, with incredibly comfortable rides. So, of course, I bought the car with the performance-tuned suspension, rear wheel steering, and torque-at-every-point-in-the-curve. Not a comfortable car at all.

Hard to drive well.

Hard, like figuring out what to do in the markets based on several minutes of data.

But there's something to be said for operating out of the comfort zone. Novelty keeps you fresh. Throwing away the old, and facing the world with an empty mind is a bit scary, but it's the only thing that lets new things inside.

There's a great quote from a book I'm reading this summer: Lila, by Robert Pirsig:

"If you want to drink new tea you have to get rid of the old tea that's in your cup, otherwise you cup just overflows and you get a wet mess. Your head is like that cup. It has a limited capacity and if you want to learn something about the world you should keep your head empty in order to learn it. It's very easy to spend your whole life swishing old tea around in your cup thinking it's great stuff because you've never tried anything new, because you could never get it in, because the old stuff prevented its entry because you were so sure the old stuff was so good, because you never really tried anything new...on and on in an endless circular pattern" (p. 25).

Getting old is that endless circular pattern, the point at which you're snatched for good and forever entrenched in your comfort zone.

Better to be forever young: to always be willing to operate outside of comfort, encounter new experiences, and learn new things. But that takes an empty mind and a willingness to throw out old tea.

Back when I was in school, our teacher made us tell the class which animal we'd like to be.

Some students wanted to be dogs, others cats, some horses.

I said I'd like to be a moth, because moths burn themselves out chasing distant lights. That pretty well brought the exercise to a halt.

But hey, hey, my, my, Neil Young would have understood.

May you never rust.

May you stay forever young.