Saturday, October 31, 2009

When Trading Dreams Seem to be Fantasies

Well, I'll date myself in the goth scene by telling you that I'm listening to
one of London After Midnight's tracks from "Violent Acts of Beauty" while writing this. What else does one listen to on Halloween?

The song, though, is about disappointment: what happens when everything you felt was perfect and pure were but nothing more than fantasy.

Just about every trader I've known has gone through that wrenching period of doubt. The successful ones get to the other side, where the fantasies are replaced by hard--but useful--realities.

The fantasy is that you'll start trading and, within months, begin making a fine living. You'll be your own person, doing what you love, making plenty of money, and having time for all that is important in life.

It doesn't happen. Not within months. Not within trading, nor within any other performance discipline.

You don't pick up the golf clubs for the first time and, within months, join the PGA tour. You don't go on stage for the first time and, within months, land a contract on the Broadway stage.

So much of what frustrates us in trading is not the trading itself, not the markets. It's the expectations--the unrealistic expectations--that we bring to our trading. The demands that we place on ourselves. The fantasies that ensnare us.

You start as a novice and first grow to competence. Only after that do you hit that elite level of expertise where you can make a living from your performances.

But if you have to reach competence before you reach expertise, that means that when you start out you are *not competent*: you are incompetent. It's not easy to embrace that reality. For months when I first swing golf clubs or play a piano, I'm not going to impress many people. And that's OK.

Because in the beginning, you don't have to be good; you just have to get better.

And better.

And better.

Sean sings about "going to the open sea and...going to say goodbye to me". To kill off our fantasies and unrealistic expectations seems like a kind of suicide. Some people can never let them go. But once you've enter that sea, you can find a different "me": someone who finds opportunity in setbacks and pride in the real, challenging, and sometimes wrenching efforts that define the path toward genuine success.