Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Greatness in Life and Trading

A while back I wrote several perspectives on achieving greatness as a trader. There are many traders who want to do well, and many who want to make money. Few of us, however, think of ourselves greatly. That, we're told, is boasting. Pride goeth before the fall. We shouldn't think that we're better than others. No one likes an egotist.

Abraham Maslow, the humanistic psychologist, recounted how he would ask the students in his classes to raise their hands if they expected to achieve greatness in their professions. Inevitably, no hands raised. "If not you, then who?" he asked.

When people perform their work greatly--when they pour themselves into what they love and work at it because that's their enjoyment and they couldn't possibly settle for less--they develop a level of mastery that is uncommon. They begin to experience themselves uncommonly: at a deep level, they feel that they *deserve* success. They know they're special.

When people perform their work routinely--when they do what's expected of them, but never are wholly absorbed in what they're doing--no mastery develops. The common level of effort leads people to experience themselves commonly. They want success, but at that deep level, they don't feel that they've *earned* it. They've done nothing special.

How can people experience themselves greatly if there's no single thing during the day that they undertake in an exemplary way? Good enough *is* good enough, but it's not good enough for greatness. In life as in bodybuilding, if you don't go beyond yourself and set the bar just beyond your comfort level, you never grow and develop. You never become more than who you are.

We internalize greatness by doing things greatly; by making those extra, exemplary efforts that take us to a new place, where we *see* that we are more than we thought we could ever be.