Humility, without a doubt, is a celebrated value for speculators. Not just here on Dailyspec but anywhere trading is a means to self-actualization.

A humble man is a learner. Taking responsibility for mistakes is the attitude that allows the flowering of the virtue of humility on the tree of cognition. But what if humility is the antidote to ego? Is humility the absence of ego?

No! Humility is a sub-set of the Anti-ego or Un-ego (kindly allow this word as anti- is an extreme and un- only a nullification).

A humble mind has only adapted to overcome one of the three primary perils of the human mind (hard wired over the journey from chimpanzee to man). That one peril is that the human mind is coded to prove its superiority.

The other two primary perils are that the human mind loves to posess and control on one hand and loves to enjoy. Those amongst the humble who haven't been working on addressing these two default states of the human mind are the Humbly Egoistic.

To overcome the desire to possess & control it seems one good approach is to be the custodian of the risk capital at disposal. Even if one is 100% shareholder of his firm, such a person sees the firm as a distinct entity from himself.

Such a person will be able to accord due respect to risk, risk capital and the human resources around. This creates a greater shift from ego towards un-ego than being just one who is quick at accepting mistakes.

The devil however, is the primordial wiring in each mind to enjoy. The pursuit of joy is not the same as pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of joy then naturally has to keep meeting with agony, disastrous drawdowns and such things. If one can start working on ignoring the neural circuits that motivate one to find joy one lays a conjecture the same neural circuits are the ones that create a sense of being evaluated, being judged, producing suffering. Abandoning a path that is sub-optimal is the iterative process to seek the optimal. For such a mind then work is a responsibility & fulfillment of this responsibility the stepping stone to satisfaction.

All the three states of humility, state of custodianship and abandoning the path of self-judgements combine together to create the ego-free man. The unegoistic trader (it's an asymptote obviously, of an idea and not the absolute ever) is then the one closest to reason. Any other man not working at freeing himself from each of the three primordial hard-wirings is then at risk of not acknowledging the most potent idiosyncratic risk, i.e. the self or the origin of ego.

Getting back to the first couple of sentences in this note now, the whole idea of self-actualization is a powerful oxymoron then. In actuating excellence the whole crux is in leaving the self aside! Is that what the Chair does when he leaves shoes outside his trading room?

Nature hasn't designed a single variety among the species with vision that can see itself. At most we can see our transposed mirror images. That's the natural design. So ego is a perception derived from observing with our three primordial mental lenses how the universe is treating us. That explains why traders prefer to trade alone, replace phone ring tones with beeping lights, mute the #NB# tubes etc. etc. No, its not being alone. Unegoistic state of mind is being without the imaginary perceived notion of the self.

For all the accusations of selfishness on a trader, the truth stands placed well thus, a trader has to be self-less to remain in the game. Neither humble, nor humbly egoistic and certainly not egoistic a trader true to his grain is self less. A trader is a state of mind where only a responsibility to capital and a focus on risk exist. Rest is left with the shoes, outside the dealing room.

Laurence Glazier writes:

Thanks for posting this. The question of ego is interesting, because it normally relates to expectations of society and colleagues, and in this sense it is a diversion, but a sense of self-worth would preferably not depend on the opinions of others.

Every work of art is in some way a self-portrait, and every trade reflects the trader, which makes the activity very useful for self-observation. And humility, aside from the basic truth (that, from a distance, we are dots living on a dot), helps remove noise from the signal. But beyond the floating bubble freed from ego, there needs to be direction and force, and it is there that resistance to progress is very helpful in developing the core, for without resistance can there be growth?

In fact, resistance appears to home in on every nascent growth, and tests our mettle. Ayn Rand had many rejections from publishers before Atlas Shrugged saw the light of day, though it should have been evident to them all that here was a fabulous book.

Sushil Kedia writes: 


Thanks for the thanks. But why only art? Every human output has some reflection of the self. That precisely is the point that the human mind has become hard wired with the 3 perils enumerated in the post. Goal for reaching a state that produces excellence is to overcome & bypass these three default factory states we come packaged with.

For example, the necessity of counting is to bypass the self. If counting validates a theses, a trade is fired. There is no self in this. The self is so tightly coded into our personages, for example, that soon a counting based trader will brag "I do not let any trade happen here that are not validated by counting". The I has to be cut down to the size it deserves to be. Not sure if many here give credence to NLP, it works out well at this end of the world. So this sentence when changed to "without validation from counting trades do not happen" removes the I.

In fact, with my EQ trainer who I have accepted as my Guru in every way, the pact is to avoid using three words in any conversation with him, "I, Me, Mine". Instead he has approved sentences such as "Sir, would you care to meet Sushil" and not "Sir, would you care to meet me".

As we practice being less and less conscious of the illusory perceived image of the self by not giving it so much importance the mind shifts closer to higher EQ states.

If it is the "I" that suffers fear, greed, lust, anger an endless spectrum of idiosyncratic emotions then this "I" is the most vulnerable piece of code that hangs around without due acknowledgment on the trading desk. Once acknowledged that it is the I that is the biggest source of idiosyncratic risk a trader starts getting trained to ignore it and focus on the defined processes.

A trade or piece of art that doesn't carry the reflections of the self is super. Let us acknowledge the shades of grey and paraphrase this line. A trade or piece of art that reflects less of the self is superior. 

Laurence Glazier writes: 

I would agree with a lot of this, and we might indeed abandon use of the words me and I, and refer to ourselves by our names, and perhaps even them place them in quotation marks, like "Sushil" or "Laurence".

We live in an age of automation, which started long ago and develops now with AI. A trading system which is fully automated with signals for going in, adjusting, and coming out, can be done by a machine, and it is a special interest of mine to be less like a machine and be more essentially like a human.

Removing the I, if such a thing is truly possible, would create a tabula rasa. How much great art has come from such a state? If such a blank slate is achieved, one might prefer to inscribed it with new patterns, a new identity informed by inner qualities rather than influenced by the culture and education of our childhoods. But such a planned approach may not be as good as natural development. I am all for the "considered life", however.

While trading is for many people an art for its own sake, art - in the sense of painting, writing and composing - can be a transcending activity. Charles Rennie Mackintosh put it well:

"Art is the Flower - Life is the Green Leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing, something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious more beautiful - more lasting than life itself."

Picasso thought that every child is born an artist. A plant may flower in nutritious light and soil. Leonard Cohen wrote - there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.

Being in a comfort zone is not always a spur to creativity. Without resistance, how can the spirit progress? In my experience questions are of much more intrinsic value than answers. Some questions from me:

Would you rather buy a painting or paint it? In what sense can a painting be owned?

I'm always glad of the opportunity to reflect on these things!


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