October 23, 2011- On Trading, Focus, Aristotle and Happiness

When the Greek philosophers referred to happiness, they didn’t simply mean a positive, sunny mood.  Instead, happiness was intimately tied to fulfillment: the sense of actualizing one’s potentials and being the person you’re capable of becoming.  A happy person in this sense can go through periods of sadness and loss, anxiety and frustration.  Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine a goal-directed life that doesn’t encounter such obstacles.  What contributes to the happiness, however, is the deep sense of being on the right path in life; the sense that you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing. 

In that context, the opposite of Aristotle’s happiness isn’t sadness, but rather a certain kind of emotional disease: a vague but pervasive existential guilt that you’re letting life’s opportunities slip by; that you’re settling for less than you rightfully should.

To prepare a challenging trade idea, execute it with a plan, and then see it make money yields a kind of happiness that can’t be achieved by the same profits from a dumb luck trade.  Pride, not as in overweening arrogance, but as an inner sense of conviction about the rightness of one’s choices is an important manifestation of Aristotle’s happiness.  (Ned Davis’ quote reminds me on the importance of making money, rather than right)

We profit from our life’s endeavors when we pursue our happiness.  You will know you’re pursuing your happiness when you’re so involved in what you’re doing that you don’t want it to be limited to business hours.

Trading can be a great job and a potentially lucrative career, but only if it’s also a calling.

This  is a psychological paradox: to best focus on any single performance, it helps to be diversified among performances.

Diversification, in life and markets, reduces performance pressure and allows us to become immersed in what we’re doing.

It’s not necessary that one feels great after every single trading day.  Much of psychological well-being is a function of the fit between a person and her social and work environment.  Risk and reward is proportional.  Pursuing large gains invariably brings large drawdowns.  The key to success is trading within one’s risk tolerance so that swings don’t change how one views the markets and makes decisions.  How one manages trading, depends largely on how one manages the rest of his life.

– Faceless Trader

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2 Responses to October 23, 2011- On Trading, Focus, Aristotle and Happiness

  1. JL says:

    FT … been quite unsettled by this post of yours since i read it days ago.

    anyways .. you said that: “The key to success is trading within one’s risk tolerance so that swings don’t change how one views the markets and makes decisions. How one manages trading, depends largely on how one manages the rest of his life.”

    let me share with you my take on trading, focus and happiness (i have nothing to say about aristotle tho) via this quote i came upon just this morning:

    “Every desire you have at its core exists because you think attaining it will make you happy;
    but happiness can only be attained in the present moment. Therefore, any desire you have to be happy in the future is blocking your ability to be happy now. Only when you are at peace with what is now, will you ever find happiness now.” – Jackson Kiddard

    Like

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