Saturday, January 09, 2010

What It Means to be Free

Thanks to readers for their comments on my post regarding traders in a free society. This may seem to be a topic peripheral to trading and trading psychology, but I believe it gets at the heart of what trading is all about.

From Enhancing Trader Performance:

"Let us not forget what it means to be a trader. It means that I am free to own property: shares of a private company or contracts in a commodity. I can take delivery of my property and dispose of it as I wish, or I can trade it to others. My decisions are mine to make; I need not follow the dictates of those who would put other interests--those of gods, governments, or guns--above my own. If I lose, it is my loss. If I profit, the gain is mine.

Freedom means that I have a voice. If I like an investment, I can tout it in online bulletin boards and blogs. If I don't like the way the government is managing the economy, I can vote my conscience, not only at the ballot box, but in the marketplace by investing or withdrawing my funds.

But freedom is even more than that. Freedom is the ability to make one's living by one's judgment, and not being limited to subsistence through the toil of his or her hands. Freedom is the ability of a single individual sitting right here, right now, at a personal computer, to write words that can be read years later, in faraway lands. Freedom is downloading reams of market data and conducting research that, just years ago, would have taken weeks to complete. Freedom is the ability to see who is bidding, offering, buying, and selling in global marketplaces. It is the unfettered opportunity to participate in the economic vigor of developing nations.

Without freedom, there is no trading. Trading is a celebration of economic and political freedom. Slaves are traded; they do not trade.

All this freedom, however, is for naught if we, ourselves, are not free. It is the deepest of ironies that we experience greater freedom--far broader potentials--than those who came before us. And yet, in our lives, in our abilities to master ourselves, we are no freer. Amid opportunity, we remain partial; tethered to our conditioning.

What it means to be free is to be able to choose, to live with intention. The free life is one that we guide: a life lived with purpose, direction, and meaning.

Trading, like all great performance activities, is an opportunity to cultivate the intentional life. Pursued properly, it is a path to freedom."

p. 253-254