Saturday, December 12, 2015

Building Success By Breaking Things

There's an interesting fallacy in trading psychology:  Because many trading errors are made when people are in states of high physiological/emotional arousal, the conclusion is that a state of Zen-like calm and emotional restraint is necessary for trading success.  That would be a great theory, except in over a decade of working with professional traders, I can't find any successful ones who are particularly close to enlightenment.  It takes a degree of achievement orientation and drive for success to perform well in any field.  Those qualities ensure that failure will not be an easy experience.

Of course, there are ways you can become less emotionally aroused.  You can turn everything you do into a routine and then tell yourself that you'll make money because you're disciplined and follow a process.  You can trade with such small risk that no loss can ever throw you.  When markets change, your discipline will become your noose, ensuring that you continue to do the wrong things.  And when you trade well, small risk taking will ensure that you make small amounts of money.

But you'll have emotional control and a smug sense of superiority relative to all those traders who lose money and pound their desks.


The best traders I know are like the best entrepreneurs I know:  they hate failure and they court failure.  They hate failing, learn from mistakes, try new things, get knocked down, and refine the things they've tried.  They build things and push them until they break.  The breaking is no fun; it is frustrating; it is anything but an emotionally neutral experience.  But it's what feeds eventual success.  

If you try 10 new things in a year and two of them are successful, five of them are so-so, and three of them are dismal disappointments, you'll collect quite a repertoire by improving the so-so ideas, maximizing the successful ones, and turning the failures into funny stories when you go out.  How different from that is the person who becomes depressed because they're succeeding in only 20% of their ideas!

You can't learn the limits of your ideas unless you stress them.  That means that sh*t will break, you'll "fail", you'll be disappointed--and you'll channel all that into figuring out how to make your ideas stronger.  

If you're not developing things, breaking things, and using your frustration to make things better, you're moving too slow.  Real failure occurs when markets change faster than we do.

Further Reading:

Adapting to the Market's True Clock

The Greatest Challenge in Trading