Showing Up, from George Parkanyi

September 7, 2009 |

 This past Friday in my 4-team men’s recreational over-30 soccer league, we wrapped up our round robin play to set the positions for the “final”. As we were the top team in the regular season (Brazil), we also ended up winning the round robin with a possible 7 of 9 points. And we managed to do so without scoring a single goal. How? One of the weaker teams played us to 0-0 draw, and then the next two teams (including our arch-rival Argentina who we now play on the final) defaulted for lack of players. As one of our opponents lamented - “Man those guys are good at showing up!”. And that got me to thinking about … showing up.

Now in this situation the point is not so much the seven points, given that six of them weren’t really earned on the field, but rather that in some situations, simply just participating creates opportunity. We have a berth in the final because enough of our players were committed enough to come to the field and play, and in this case just that was enough. (Personally, I don’t think the voo-doo dolls made any difference.) For so many situations in life, if you don’t show up, “put yourself out there”, or get into the game, the chance for opportunity to present itself is guaranteed to be zero. It reminds me of the joke about the man who keeps praying to God to win the lottery until finally in frustration God answers “Could you at least meet me half way and buy a lottery ticket!”. Sometimes it takes years and painstaking effort to make headway, but sometimes also it can happen in minutes – as in the case of the field promotion. Now you don’t necessarily have to go into battle, but in business for example you might advance because someone suddenly leaves, or you’re the only one around to deal with some unexpected crisis. By sticking it out and continuing to “show up” – both for the same things and for different things - you increase the odds that one day you’ll be in the right place at the right time.

I think that what typically holds people back from “showing up” is often fear, habit, or just simple loss of interest. My experience has been that when I forced myself into a situation I expected not to enjoy, of which I was afraid, or that I would find boring, more often than not - by far – the surprise has been to the up side rather than the down. I’ve found it’s not always so bad to jump into the unknown. (A fun book to read along these lines is “Yes Man”, by Danny Wallace. I highly recommend it, especially for pessimists.)

So what then would be the trader’s version of “showing up”?…

Anatoly Veltman writes:

"None have a gift like Beethoven - trading is a learned skill" Matt Johnson once said…; "the market tells me what to do, and when to do it, all I do is listen and follow."

1. Gold was mired in a tiny range all summer; the chart clearly broke out pre-Labor Day. The most widely-traded spec instrument EUR had carved out a similar chart-pattern; but was held back by the NFP report. Tens of millions of EUR traders were given a chance to prepare for Tue action — did they? (Same, of course, was true about daily CHF chart). I want to point out that trading Beethovens often see much more and much sooner than "efficient markets."

2. In summer of 2005, following post-Katrina Sunday night's "regular opening" fiasco (NatGas gapped 20% and trade was "disorderly") NYMEX announced an unprecedented 10am early open for Sunday following widely-anticipated Rita's land-fall. Pre-opening orders "matched" to what appeared to be little-changed (!) opening print: that's for a contract that just doubled (!) in anticipation of hurricane damage — while Sat reports clearly indicated Rita's miss (!) Seconds before 10am open, I entered offer at $12.299, right through the bid, and got a partial fill. My sale at $12.299 remained that night's high, and at regular 7pm night open the contract was changing hands 4% lower on good volume! To this day, I'm ashamed for participants who didn't show up at 10am that Sunday — although, who knows if I'd get to sell any more size if they did…


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