Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Myth and Mystery of Trading

Trading Myth Mystery
The Adventure, the Myth, and the Mystery: A Project Marathon Update

R.J. Hixson of Van Tharp Trading Institute

Since the last Project Marathon update on June 16, I have traded very little—practically not at all. I didn’t expect this in mid-June but with the children out of school for their summer break, my family has had a very full schedule. In the last six weeks, we’ve had two weeks of vacation travel—(semi-vacation for me really), two weeks with family visiting us here, one full week of workshops, and one week over-packed with multiple family activities. While I like to breathe, it seems like that’s merely optional for certain periods. LOL.

Each weekend recently, I decided whether I was going to trade any swing or intraday systems in the coming week. During these last several weeks, my schedule did not support me trading well. I know guys that have full schedules and that trade well with their schedules. My experience is that I’m not there right now. I also remained fully aware of the aggressive goals I set for myself for 2010. (Progress check—about 100R to go and about 75 tradable days left in my year.)

While I was off last month from working “in the business” (trading), I was not off from working “on the business” (reading, research, systems). As I did that kind of work, it struck me how I have continued to invest time and effort in pursuit of trading well even in the absence of consistent fantastic results. “Why is that?” I wondered.

That question stayed with me for awhile and two occurrences happened that related strongly to that question. One was listening to an author, the other was a test that a friend sent me.

The Adventure

This last month I’ve been listening to Bill Moyers’ interview of Joseph Campbell from the documentary, The Power of Myth.

Campbell discusses at length one of the recurring metaphors from mythology—the hero’s adventure. In the pursuit of some arduous goal (the adventure), the hero must lose his self and find support from beyond himself.

Van’s Peak 202 exercise of setting a goal far beyond your comfort zone puts you on the edge and, in effect, on a hero’s adventure. Libby Adams remarked about the wisdom of this exercise recently and Joseph Campbell confirmed it with his explanation of the metaphor of the hero’s adventure.

For me to net 131R this year, I have dragons to slay and a journey to take. I have to let go of the little selves—the parts of me that say, “I can’t,” “I don’t deserve to,” and “I don’t know how.” I have an especially large one that says, “I need to prepare more.” I have to call on a higher power and on my family, friends, and colleagues for support as well. These are not actions I would have had to take with an achievable goal.

People often write in asking if they should go for the goal of becoming a full time trader or joining the Super Trader program. Van provides Campbell’s recommendation to these folks, which relates to the hero’s adventure: follow your bliss. If that’s trading, great—go for it. If trading is not blissful, however, Van recommends pursuing whatever it is that generates bliss for you.

Interested or Committed?

A friend recently attended a weight loss session where the instructor gave everyone a little test to see if they were interested in weight loss or truly committed to it. My friend then adopted the test to trading. (Thanks Jim!)

If you are “interested” in trading…

1. You stick with it until something better comes along (another pursuit or something else in life).

2. How you feel determines your outcome. If you don’t “feel like it,” you stop working on trading-related tasks.

3. You need to see results. When trading isn’t profitable, you lose motivation.

4. You blame everything else (people, markets, circumstances) for your struggles with trading.

5. Whenever you face challenges in life, you give up trading and plan to start again tomorrow, next week or next month.

If you are “committed” to trading…

1. Nothing stops your efforts. You stick with trading, no matter what.

2. Emotions don’t control your actions. You stay on track even when you don’t feel like it.

3. Your motivation isn’t linked to your equity curve. You assume that if you stay motivated and work hard, you’ll eventually see results.

4. You don’t depend on other people or market conditions for your success. You know it’s up to you alone and no one or nothing else.

5. Bad days or a lot of challenges don’t affect your efforts. You keep going in spite of them.

As I read through the statements, my position fell much more on the committed side of the picture.

Back to Why

So what’s the source of my commitment? Bliss is definitely part of it for me. From big picture assessment, to spreadsheet “grunt work,” to self-development, I love the entire process of trading. If I didn’t, there’s no way I could have kept pursuing trading for as long as I have. Still, there’s a reason, a part that I can’t explain fully—it’s a mystery.

Campbell talked at length about the role of mystery in our lives. After listening to him, I’m comfortable allowing that mystery and even appreciating it. I don’t have to get to the underlying reason or analyze it further. Mystery makes life more than a practical or rational activity and connects us to the Divine.


Rather than end this article with opinions, it might be more useful for you to consider your answers to the following:

* What brings you bliss?

* Have you set any goals for yourself beyond your comfort zone?

* Are you “interested” in or more “committed” to trading?

* What actions will you take based on your answers to these questions?

About the Author: R.J. Hixson is a devoted husband and active father. He started trading again almost two years back after completing Van Tharp’s Super Trader Program & Trading Workshops. His previous poor trading symptoms appear to remain in remission. At the Van Tharp Institute, he researches and develops new products and services that will help traders trade better. Despite his advancing years, he still loves the music of young bands typically found on college radio stations. RJ can be contacted at Dr Van Tharp Trading Institute