The Trader’s Dilemma: Trading vs. Trader vs. Mastery

Do you know what it takes to become a master trader? There is a proven path to this often elusive goal. A while back, when working with a client in a strategy session, he asked me what I thought it took to be a ‘master trader.’

My answer, several short stories about past and current clients who I have personally worked with and consider masters—a surgeon, a sports psychologist, a cabinet maker, a trader, an investment advisor, and a real estate broker. I used these different examples to illustrate the qualities of mastery, not a vocation or occupation.

After thinking about his question and my response for a few days, I decided to do a series on Mastery for two reasons:

First, based on my work with hundreds of clients, I believe we all possess the core attributes, skills, talents, gifts, and/or potential to be Masters. Yet, based on what I’ve learned and experienced, most don’t achieve it because they:

Aren’t clear about or don’t understand what it truly takes to achieve mastery.

Know what it takes but don’t see it applicable to what they do. Consciously choose to NOT pursue it based on the investment required.

Second, from having supported various educational offerings for several hundred traders since 2002, most traders are interested in trading strategies and tactics versus developing themselves as master traders. This is neither right nor wrong, it is a matter of choice.

Now, before we go any farther, let me say that I do not profess to be an expert on mastery nor a master trader. I am a perpetual student, a facilitator, and a coach. I started trading in the early 1990’s and like many others was a relentless pursuit of the ‘holy grail’ because I believed it existed and all I had to do was find who had it, have them teach it to me, and I would be an incredibly successful trader. My discovery, after sizable investments of time, energy, and money, was that it was up to me and no one else.

My purpose for writing articles is to stimulate thought, your thoughts about you, trading, and mastery as well as make a difference in how you pursue your development as a trader. By the way, in case you’re wondering why am I writing these articles, my purpose is to help you achieve the results you seek, your way.

To that end, I’ll take you on a brief journey and explore the qualities of mastery—qualities written about, talked about, and personally witnessed in clients. Here are a few of the topics three we’ll cover in future articles.

Mastery is Culture Driven

Those that I have known, know, and learned about who can rightfully be called masters live their lives and do what they do based on their personal culture. They know their values and live congruently with them. They continually refine their behaviors so they remain congruent with their values as time and conditions evolve. They unconditionally and non-situationally walk-their-talk.

One such individual who I’ve talked about before is Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates and profiled in Jack Schwager’s latest book, Hedge Fund Market Wizards. In the other articles we’ve profiled several individuals who, through living their personal cultures, created unique and highly successful lives and businesses.

Masters are Craftsmen

They are highly skilled in their craft to the point of being artist. For example, a cabinet maker who does work for us on occasion continually seeks out and studies tools used in other parts of the world as well as knowledge on how they use different woods in their work ranging from doing entire rooms to fine cabinetry and furniture.

His tools, coupled with his passion and love for his craft have brought him commissions from many celebrated individuals and companies. Two breathtaking projects we were privileged to see were an entire library/office in cherry hardwood and a complete master suite on a very large luxury yacht. Yet, at the same time, he will do very small projects ranging from exquisite boxes to lamp tables if they interest him.

Masters are Focus Oriented

They learn about and know things beyond their primary focus. They continually build on what they learn and experience and never stop advancing their understanding of the basics. For example, a surgeon I know not only mastered his skills as a surgeon but also very significant skills in technology. He pursued numerous avenues to become knowledgeable about the use of technology in surgery when technology in surgery was in its infancy. Today, because of his exceptional skills in performing surgery using technology, he is recognized acknowledged by his peers as a true master.

To achieve mastery, he defined his principles and goals. He structured a realistic and workable plan, and took small, consistent steps forward. His learning journey has been based on one step at a time, spanning college, pre-med, medical school, an internship, two residencies, countless educational events beyond the minimums required for professional licensing, plus almost 15 years of courses, working with different instrument manufacturers, computer hardware experts and software engineers.

Additional attributes requiring exploration, study, and internalization:

  • Mastery is Purpose-Oriented Mastery is Practice-Based Mastery Builds on Passion Mastery
  • Orchestrates Support Mastery is Whole-Brain Thinking
  • Mastery is Finding and Living Your ‘Right Fit’ Mastery is Knowing and Owning
  • Mastery is Choosing and Deciding

Until next time . . .