Little Things—Big Differences!

So often it’s the little things that matter in the end. Are you paying attention to them? “Little things make big things happen.” —John Wooden.

A few weeks ago, I delivered a webinar on WindoTraderBLUE and several primary market profile patterns. My goal was to illustrate the relationship between context, content and condition. A short time later, I received an email asking which of these three is the most important for day trading. My answer was and is that all three are highly important.

Currently, I’m re-reading The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin which I’ve read almost a dozen times. Josh in my opinion, is the real deal—a perpetual student— who became a champion many times over due to his commitment to learning and the application of what he learned.

Josh Waitzkin is both a national chess champion and Tai Chi Chuan push hands world champion. What strikes me the most is that these two activities are, in many ways, polar opposites physically. Yet they demand very similar mental abilities.

Note: In a future post, I’ll do an in-depth review of The Art of Learning which will include a summary of how this book can potentially help you become a better trader.

In his book, Josh recounts the number of hours he invested in practice versus competition. He reveals that many of those practice hours were devoted to cultivating self-discipline and focus. Today, I would like to expound on these essential qualities.

Some years ago, while living in L.A., I had lunch with the father of a friend of mine who was a major booster for the UCLA Bruins basketball team. At the time, John Wooden was the head coach of the Bruins. During lunch, Sam told me about a player he was helping the Bruin’s recruit from back East—Lew Alcindor. You may know him better as Kareem Abdul-Jabber who became a major asset for the L.A. Lakers.

Sam, a developer of several large office buildings in the San Fernando Valley, told me something else that day that to my chagrin but filed away. Perhaps it was because of my age, or maybe it was because I thought I already knew everything. I wouldn’t come across that bit of wisdom again until reading through The Art of Learning last week.

Sam’s story was about John Wooden, who won 10 NCAA championships—7 of them consecutively—over a 12 year period. Sam told how Wooden, who is well known for his attention to detail, would start each coaching season. You see, most coaches create their strategies around the assumption that they have access to experienced players. Not Mr. Wooden.

Sam told me that Wooden’s first meeting with the new recruits covered one of the absolute fundamentals of the game excluding passing and shooting. Those fundamentals were socks, shoes, and shoe laces. Wooden taught his players how to put their socks on and tie their shoes. He showed them how to lace the shoes so they would remain snug during practice and a game. At first glance, this may seem insulting. Yet there is a method to this focus: these basic lessons resulted in fewer blisters and sprained ankles.

Curious to see if I could find more data on Coach Wooden’s unconventional coaching style, I took to the Internet. Google returned over 400,000 results. I scoured several of the articles and a few videos. This passage, penned by Don Yeager, stood out the most:

“Just then, Coach Wooden would turn around and, with a glint in his eye, say ‘That’s your first lesson. You see, if there are wrinkles in your socks or your shoes aren’t tied properly, you will develop blisters. With blisters, you’ll miss practice. If you miss practice, you don’t play. And if you don’t play, we cannot win. If you want to win Championships, you must take care of the smallest of details.” Coach Wooden would then walk away, his first practice session complete.

Here are a few questions to tie it together:

To what degree do you focus on the subtleties of your trading process?

To what extent do you focus on the smallest details?

To what degree do you dissect what you’re studying?

How often do you master a concept so completely that you can put it into your own words?

When was the last time you became so immersed in a new trading methodology or concept that you gained a new perspective?

For another look at this concept of “detail work,” go back and look at the brief review I did on Little Bets, by Peter Sims. Or, better yet, purchase Little Bets and read the book especially about the effort comedian Chris Rock puts in to preparing for a new show and note the level of detail.

Until next time . . .