Sunday, November 29, 2020

Tackling Your Problems Will Never Optimize Your Life--Or Your Trading

Note from Brett:  While going through my old trading journals, I came across this piece of writing that I had typed out (pre-computer days!) in 1997, seven years before I began working with traders in financial markets.  Reading through it today, I'm struck by how my concerns about traditional psychology are now mirrored by my concerns about traditional trading psychology.  Below is a segment from what I wrote in 1997; see what you think!

Traditional psychology offers relatively little to the average person.  It contents itself with solving problems, unlearning and relearning behaviors, remediating childhood conflicts, and ameliorating disorders.  It has little to say regarding the development of supernormal states of consciousness, creativity, and greatness.

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with developing insight into one's past, getting in touch with disowned experience, or learning coping skills.  These can be quite valuable and enriching.  But the remediation of a deficit will never produce the achievement of an asset.  Reducing unhappiness will not achieve joy, challenging negative self-talk will never generate greatness, and all the coping skills in the world will not yield the sustained focus, drive, and passion that are the hallmarks of extraordinary achievement.

A "psychology for the mentally well" begins with the realization, articulated by writers as diverse as G. I. Gurdjieff, Colin Wilson, William James, and Carlos Casteneda, that change is impossible while we remain in our habitual states of consciousness.  Talking about "issues" or working on changing behavior while remaining in our characteristic states is like trying to improve the reception on a TV by switching channels.  "What can one do in sleep?", Ouspensky asks his students.  "One can only have different dreams--bad dreams, good dreams, but in the same bed.  The dreams may be different, but the bed is the same."

Such is the state of most applied psychology.  It changes the content of our thoughts, but we remain in the same "bed".  An enhanced psychology would be one that wakens us, takes us from our bed.  That is because, when we can access different states of consciousness, we become able to process self-relevant information in qualitatively different, creative, and constructive ways.

Several days ago I found myself running late for a morning meeting.  In a frenzy, I attempted to beat the clock by getting myself dressed, checking on overnight trading in the financial markets, and getting my children to school.  I went to the closet to get my jacket, but it was nowhere to be found.  Twice I scanned the rack and could not find the jacket.  Meanwhile, the clock was ticking and I was growing frustrated with my mounting lateness.  Suddenly, without premeditation, I closed my eyes and evoked a piece of music that I have come to equate with a clear and calm state of mind.  I calmly walked back to the closet and began looking for the jacket between the hanging garments.  Sure enough, it had fallen off its hanger and was caught between to other articles of clothing.
What is important in this is that, in my ordinary state of consciousness, I was incapable of seeing between the garments.  The jacket was lost as long as I remained in my normal mode.  Only once I had shifted to another state was I able to see.  How much else lies "between the garments", unseen, while we fuss and fume through the racks of life?

My only addition to the above, now in 2020, is that the most important edges in trading lie "between the garments".


Further Resources