Most of the trading literature teaches us to find ways to eliminate our negative emotions when we trade. At SMB we ask our newbies to make a list of things that may cause them to trade on tilt. Then we prescribe visuali-zation exercises to develop the emotional skill to eliminate and control these triggers. I had lunch recently with a world-class performer who offered a different take, and I cannot stop thinking about it.
Josh Waitzkin, former chess and martial arts champion and author of The Art of Learning, shared a different solution. What if you could take that energy that causes you to trade on tilt and channel it into a state of hyper-focus? Josh’s contention is that the real world, trading live, and practice (in our case, visualization exercises), are not the same. There will always be a new something that causes you to get upset and potentially trade on the tilt. And teaching performers to subvert their natural emotions is forcing them to change who they are at their core. This leads them away from a path of building on their unique personality. At the highest levels performers will crumble in these moments if they do not learn how to turn this negative energy into a heightened state of concentration.
I was talking with Dr. Steenbarger, the Coach K of trading psychologists, about this idea recently and he shared that when he was in danger of taking a significant trading loss his brain flipped to “it is on.” When I have a large position that has suddenly traded well against me and my screen is filled with red, I immediately close out all thoughts other than how best to escape. There is no time for banging and screaming and complaining. No time for thoughts of how unfair this is or how much this loss hurts. I think: How do I exit? Where do I exit? What are the best exits?
Remember John McEnroe yelling and screaming at the officials and then playing better? We all know great traders who burst out the most obscene cussing and then find a way back to profitability. For some getting really pissed can signal a short burst of anger but then moments of intense creativity and hyper focus.
I am not sure how these ideas best apply to trading. I am still thinking. But maybe as traders and trading mentors we need to figure out how to teach our traders how to turn negative energy into hyper focus.
You can be better tomorrow than you are today!
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