Friday, January 12, 2018

When Your Passion Becomes Your Poison

A while back, I asked the question:  Does your trading psychology have a dark side?

It's an important question.  So many times, it's not our weaknesses that trip us up, but the misdirection of our strengths.

Consider the motivated, eager, passionate trader.  He becomes so pumped up that he pounces on the first "setup" or idea to come his way, only to lose meaningful money minutes and hinder his subsequent efforts.  That very passion has become his poison.  Enthusiasm, taken to an extreme and not directed, breeds impulsivity and overtrading.

The risk prudent trader can become risk averse.

The active trader can become overactive and distracted.

The competitive trader can become frustrated and unfocused.

The creative trader can flit from one idea to another, one system to another, never developing expertise.

The disciplined trader can become rigid and unable to adapt to a change in the market.

In all these cases, strengths can become vulnerabilities.

This helps explain why so many common approaches to trading psychology don't work.  When we try to reduce or eliminate our problems, we find it difficult to stick to those efforts because those problems spring from our strengths!  We naturally gravitate toward what we do well and what speaks to us, so it's not surprising that we find ourselves repeating problems despite advice to the contrary.

So how do we use our strengths and ensure we don't abuse them?  The key principle to keep in mind is that we best channel our strengths by cultivating their opposing, balancing qualities--and then integrating the two.  The more we draw upon a single strength, the more we need to develop a balancing strength.  A good example would be the aggressive trader.  He or she reaches a new level of development by blending patience with aggression.  The blending of the balancing strength--patience--with the original strength creates a new, higher-level capacity.  The potentially crazed warrior becomes a self-controlled, lethal sniper.

Yet another example of using a balancing quality to channel a strength would be for the introverted, analytical researcher to develop a social network and identify when positioning runs counter to tested models.  The blending of the research focus and the ability to read sentiment creates an entirely new opportunity set, where it becomes possible to take advantage of situations where the crowd leans the wrong way.

Notice in these examples, by cultivating a balancing strength and integrating it with a strength and passion we already possess, we create something new.  We create opportunity.  Strengths only have a dark side when they are overutilized and unbalanced.  Cultivating balancing strengths can literally take our game--personally and professionally--to new levels.