The Game, from Ryan Carlson

March 11, 2009 |

 Recently I finished reading Ken Dryden's The Game , which is widely regarded as the best book on hockey and one of the best sports books ever written. Ken is a very deep thinker who graduated from Cornell and earned a law degree from McGill while goaltending for the Montreal Canadians. In his 8 season career, Ken won the Stanley Cup 6 times before deciding to retire at age 32 and currently serves in Canadian politics. It is a timely book to read as I've been thinking over the state of trading, what works or no longer does, and most of all how 'the trading game' relates to myself. The book opens with a couple quotes I found interesting for him to choose:

"The trouble with people like us who start so fast….is that we soon have no place left to go." - Pomeroy in Joseph Heller's Good as Gold

"I leave before being left. I decide." - Brigitte Bardot

Continuing with the theme of impending retirement, Ken wrote:

“I have thought more about fear, I have been afraid more often, the last few years. For the first time this year, I have realized that I’ve only rarely been hurt in my career. I have noticed that unlike many, so far as I know, I carry with me no permanent injury. And now that I know I will retire at the end of the season, more and more I find myself thinking —I’ve lasted this long: please let me get out in one piece. For while I know I am well protected, while I know it’s unlikely I will suffer any serious injury, like every other goalie I carry with me the fear of the one big hurt that never comes. Recently, I read of the retirement of a race-car driver. Explaining his decision to quit, he said that after his many years of racing, after the deaths of close friends and colleagues, after his own near misses, he simply ‘knew too much.’ I feel a little differently. I feel I have known all along what I know now. It’s just that I can’t forget as easily as I once did.”

The above citations stuck me not because I'm looking to step away from trading but perhaps looking to retire certain methods and strategies that are losing their effectiveness. But it's not easy to reinvent oneself and drop old ways while they still work.

To share another quote that Ken opened up a chapter,

“More often than I like, I am saddened by a historical myth….. I can’t help thinking of the Venetian Republic in their last half century. Like us, they had once been fabulously lucky. They had become rich, as we did, by accident…..They knew, just as clearly as we know, that the current of history had begun to flaw against them. Many of them gave their minds to working out ways to keep going. It would have meant breaking the pattern into which they had crystallized. They were fond of the pattern, just as we are fond of ours. They never found the will to break it.” – C.P. Snow, The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution

Further in the same chapter, Ken described how the Soviets, in the 1972 Summit Series against NHL All Stars, changed from playing a game which was "too patterned, too predictable" to a more ambiguous way which left him with the following conclusion:

“So where do we stand? There can be no more illusion now. We have followed the path of our game to its end. We have discovered its limits. They are undeniable. More and better of the same will not work. The Soviets have found the answer to our game and taken it apart. We are left only with wishful thinking. We must go back and find another way.”

The cycles of change being reimposed on competitors is something common to the markets and I'm grateful for having read this book during my search for a new formidable edge.





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