Inevitably, there comes a time during the trading day or the trading week that I ask myself, “why am I doing this?” If you’ve already given this critical query serious thought before you encounter the questioning pit, any momentary uneasiness simply creates a brief pause that’s but a small speed bump during your trading day. But on the other hand, if you have never really considered this question before, then that pause can turn into uncertainty, and in worst case scenarios, the speed bump may well become an over the cliff dead end.
I recently watched the Tom Cruise movie, Jack Reacher, and was intrigued by what the main character had to say about people’s four motivations for enlisting in the U.S. military. Of course, this is Hollywood talking, but here were Jack’s main reasons. (1) Most join because they are brave patriots who are eager to serve their country and protect its freedom. (2) Others join because they were raised in military families with a tradition of service. (3) Many are looking for a job or long-term career with all the skills and benefits the military can give them. (4) And some are just adrenaline junkies who crave danger and excitement.
Now my son has a good friend enrolled at West Point, and I can assure you that his motivation to serve is far deeper and more complex than Tom Cruise’s simplistic list. Nonetheless, considering such a list can be a useful segue into exploring what motivates you as an investor or a trader. As with anything in life, you will be more effective if you completely understand and appreciate your itch and why you need to scratch it. This goes whether you’re practicing law in a courtroom, signing up as a military recruit, or becoming an investor.
In writing this week’s blog, I was initially going to try to catalog all the different motivations of my investment class students, my trading buddies and myself. But as I flipped through the pages of my own trading journal, I realized what an impossible task that would be. I soon settled on simply trying to share with you only what motivates me – with the hope my readers will share what motivates them in exchange. Traders love to barter, so consider this blog just that.
To know what motivates me, one must understand that I was raised by an entrepreneurial father for whom I worked starting at age 13. As a college undergraduate, I started a sporting goods store on campus that employed 12 part-time student athletes, and then continued on thru a series of other start-ups culminating in a publicly traded NASDAQ company. My first point here is that I’m clearly wired as an entrepreneur, and the stock market allows me to continue expressing these entrepreneurial tendencies.
My second motivation is that I’ve managed a good many employees in my day, and I’m grateful that the market embraces me without the need for employees or clients. I love people, but I prefer to manage equities versus employees at this point in my life.
My third motivation is that after decades of navigating the increasing mountains of governmental regulations, legal issues and personnel challenges as an entrepreneur, I reached a point of fatigue and I’m now just grateful for the clean concise clarity of operating as an individual trader.
Fourth – I went through college on an athletic scholarship, my son now plays NCAA lacrosse for Swarthmore, and frankly, we are a very competitive family. The stock market provides the perfect arena to exercise my competitive nature.
Fifth – I have the type of mind that remembers pictures and graphs. Don’t take it personally if I forget your name, but I’ll be able to recall a chart that I traded ten years ago! I read Track & Field News cover to cover every month because I love the statistics in each issue. In another life, I would pursue a career as a trader from the very beginning. Trading fits my personality, I love it, and I have a special affinity for it.
Sixth, I cherish the flexibility and the working hours of being a trader. Sure you have to pay attention closely when the market opens and especially during the last hour. But when the markets close, you get to relax and let down your hair as if school is out for the summer.
Finally, I like the sort of people I meet in this field. My circle of friends and engaged student investors is a very choice ensemble. I had a classmate from India in my graduate school class who once told me that his goal in life was to get up each morning and work with a dozen friends. Hey, I’m there!
Bottomline: As an investor or a trader, when you encounter the questioning pit, as we all inevitably do, revisit your own list of motivations. If you do, that midday pause will be nothing but a small bump in your day.
Trade well; trade with discipline!
-- Gatis Roze