Ego and trading

In an interview piece on Salon.com, Karen Armstrong, the religious historian and former nun, discusses ego:

So what was the spiritual message (of all religions) that rejected violence?

First of all, they all insisted that you must give up and abandon your ego. The sages said the root cause of suffering lay in our desperate concern with self, which often needs to destroy others in order to preserve itself. And so they insisted that if we stepped outside the ego, then we would encounter what we call Brahman or God, nirvana or the Tao.

This got me thinking about the trader’s Tao, and the importance of trading without ego. This is difficult because trading is a solitary activity and it is very much about the self. I find it helps to view the market not as something against which we must prove ourselves, but as something that just ‘is’. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to extract a profit, just that we should try without ego. If you watch the film clips in my vodpod strip on the sidebar, if you subscribe to Trader Magazine (I will not be renewing my free subscription), or if you read the many accounts of top hedge fund managers, it is easy to believe that one need’s an inflated sense of self in this game, but I believe this is a fallacy. Ego is best avoided as it brings about false confidence, arrogance, and an inflated sense of self, which can give rise to ultimately destructive trading behaviours, to hubris. What is more, the seed of ego is nourished not only by positions that are moving against us, but also by early trading successes, and we simply cannot afford to let it take root. Without ego we are more balanced and our motivation and confidence is pure. This is not easy to achieve, but I believe it is worth striving for.

I have added ‘abandon ego’ to my behavioural road-map.

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2 responses to “Ego and trading

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the concept of losing one’s ego. It is sound advice. However, the ego is tricky. It’s not just something one can turn on and turn off. I think of the ego as a little child. I have a responsibility to the child. I cannot simply abandon it without serious repurcussions.

    Losing the ego is a process and the process involves “parenting” the childish ego until it is mature enough to function on its own. We need the ego in order to get many daily activities done, such as paying the bills. The problem is not with the ego itself, the problem is the control that most people’s egos have over their supraselves.

    Does that even make sense? It’s something that must be experienced and can really only be learned experentially. The best guidebook I’ve read on how to exist outside of the control of the ego is the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I did not understand a single word of it until the 5th read.

    This book teaches one how to die. After all, releasing the ego is a death of sorts. The death of the ego, however, does not come with the death of consciousness. Most people, if they were truly to let go of their egos in an instant, would become instantly terrified.

    It is not a suit or a pair of shoes. The ego is merely the other side of the supraself coin. It cannot be discarded completely while existing within the earthly realm.

    Nonetheless, I admire and cheer your disposition toward loosening the ego’s grip in trading. Kudos to you for sharing the deep secrets of true profitabily. They are all within.

  2. Interesting post, Calex. I suppose my main concern is with the ego in the negative sense i.e. excessive ego. Also, perhaps there is more room for ego and concern with the self in some avenues of life more than others. In the market, I see little room.

    This Tibetan Book of the Dead sounds very interesting. I’ve added it to my Amazon wish list (already too long!). I feel it may resonate with where I am in life, as I have gradually been coming to terms with the idea of death, and I am no longer opposed to it. It is part of the cycle of nature, to be accepted, not fought against. Maybe releasing the ego relates to this process as it involves a re-evaluation of one’s importance in the grander scheme of things.

    all the best

    Caravaggio

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