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This is an article by Ken Long, trading coach and master trader.

Your beliefs about your trading activity influence the way you plan, prepare and execute your trading plan. How you mentally frame your approach to trading has major implications for your success in trading—even how you define success.

Grail Seeker

If you think of trading as a quest for the Holy Grail, you probably use the language of mysticism, spirituality, and intuition and find yourself in search of the magic keys to the kingdom or purifying yourself in order to be worthy of receiving divine inspiration. You might spend your time in search of magical moments where the true knowledge of the world is revealed to you in strange and mysterious ways.

Your success or failure in the markets would be tied deeply and directly to your soul and would be a reflection of God’s judgment on your true worth as a human being. Robert Pirsig describes the mind set of Grail seekers as a “romantic approach” in his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He associates this mind set with the hippie movement, bohemians, and “dabblers in art.” He describes them as people in search of a spiritual connection to intuitively satisfy their desires. They dream of connecting to the world as it should be on its highest plane of existence.

I honor and value the search for meaning through the pursuit of excellence in life-long journeys. However, quest seekers can never be satisfied truly until the moment of ultimate satisfaction when they receive the Grail. Everything short of that is filled with yearning and emotional cycles that possibly bounce from ecstasy to despair based on the interpretation of the moment.

Surveying Western literature reveals very few that have actually achieved the Grail. I therefore cannot recommend this as a strategy for those intending to make money in the markets in fulfillment of their financial objectives within personal parameters for risk. Think of the psychological pressure that such a quest would place on every trade you make and every decision to act or not act.

Master Craftsman

Let’s contrast this nearly unachievable, idyllic, super spiritual, almost narcissistic pursuit of the Holy Grail with the craftsman’s pursuit of perfection.

I admire and aspire to the master craftsman’s appreciation of the art, wisdom, knowledge and goodness that lives in his hands, heart and mind. He seeks to manifest these values in the world through right thought and right action. He comes from his center to speak his truth to the world in a quiet, humble, human voice. The voice acknowledges both the possibilities of the human spirit as well as the shortcomings of those who dream big.

The master craftsman values attention to detail in all things, however, the master craftsman knows better than anyone that he is imperfect. His appreciation and pursuit of perfection, his perfection, is perfection. He is aware of the mistakes he makes along the way. He has a sensible and routine approach to managing risk, doing no harm, caring for tools and his workplace. He also cultivates calm and patience, and acts appropriately when the preparations have been made and right action must be called forth to be in harmony with his craft.

The craftsman who aspires to be a master craftsman respects his art, acquires knowledge of that which is knowable, appreciates that which cannot be known, and seeks to live with grace while taking care of business in the usual way. He accumulates perfection in small daily contributions of virtue and he puts that tiny little piece of the Grail in his spiritual bank. He values the journey, appreciates the way and has earned his rest and just rewards whenever he gets there in his own good time.
Choose your metaphors wisely.

About the Author: Ken Long is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army with a Master’s Degree in Systems Management. He is a doctoral candidate researching the management of uncertainty and an active trader. He is a proud father of 3, a husband, teacher, student and martial artist. The above article was reprinted with permission from Ken’s blog. Read more of Ken’s essays.

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