Monday, December 08, 2014

Fighting for Tomorrow and Living in it Today

A shoutout to Adam Grimes for a thought-provoking post on the development of the trader as an example of the hero's journey.  Adam's point is that, as we move from lesser to greater competence and expertise, we are inevitably tested.  It is our ability to weather these tests and learn from them that determines whether we truly become--as Joseph Campbell describes--heroes of our own stories.

Campbell's quote above adds one key observation to Adam's post:  we only become heroes by finding and pursuing causes larger than ourselves.  We all know boasters and self promoters who puff themselves up as gurus.  The hero does just the opposite, subordinating self in the service of a greater ideal.  The entrepreneur is driven by a vision; the soldier soldiers on when inspired by a righteous cause.  We survive the challenges of heroism, not because we've mastered one or another psychological techniques, but because we tap into energy sources that call upon the best within us.

I've found it to be a warning sign when traders are predominantly focused on aims smaller than themselves.  They're trying to get through the next trade, the next day.  They're trying to earn that next paycheck.  At some point, it becomes all about coping and getting by.  Rarely, very rarely, do I hear traders speak of accomplishing great things, tackling worthy challenges, and expanding in exciting directions.  More often, I hear, not the hero's quest, but the worries of the worn-down warrior.

To be sure, trading brings its worries and the best of us become worn down at times.  What elevates us is tapping into our strengths, while pursuing noble goals:  our competitive drive, our intellectual curiosity, our vision of building a trading or investment business, our mentorship of others, our contributions to the world based upon our success.  

Psychologically, profits are necessary in trading, but not sufficient.  It is what we achieve to earn profits and how we make use of those profits that define our hero's course.  We hear of fear and greed, lack of discipline, cognitive biases, and the perils of poor emotional self-control.  All can undermine us.  But perhaps, like the tree rotting away from the inside, we only fall prey to those once our vision decays.  A tree with a strong core survives the strongest winds.

One of my favorite Ayn Rand quotes is, "Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today."  A good self-evaluation is this:  Are you living in today?  Are you caught up in yesterday?  Or are you fighting for tomorrow and living in it today?

Further Reading:  Finding and Transcending Trading Mentors