Truth and Trading

Recently I’ve been listening to The Teaching Company CD’s while I work out. I was particularly intrigued by a discussion of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor who had always wanted instead to be a philosopher. His philosophy could be summarized in this way: Get out of bed, do your duty, and appreciate things along the way. Not bad.

He believed in certain absolute values for living, and chose the values of Socrates which are truth, justice, courage, moderation, and wisdom.

Asking myself how these values impact trading I came up with some new insights. But first let’s look at how Marcus Aurelius defined these values. Professor J Rufus Fears, who teaches the course on “Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life” explained it the following way:

1. Truth: Truth is an absolute value. Some things are true in all places and times. Resisting evil, for example, is always right.

2. Justice: Justice consists of treating others as one would wish to be treated. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” summarizes this concept of justice.

3. Courage: Courage means standing up for justice.

4. Moderation: Nothing should be carried to excess.

5. Wisdom: Wisdom enables a person to know what justice is, to recognize when courage is required, and to do what is right.

So how do these values play out in our trading? In this column, let’s explore truth as it applies to your trading.

One of the clear, clean things about trading is that truth is immediately and finally manifested. The price goes up or down or nowhere. Your trade or position is profitable or not. You can’t spin it any other way. You’re right when you make money. You’re wrong when you lose money. That’s just the way it is.

There are also other truths involved. You just got lucky. You have a robust and proven method for trading that you can rely upon over time. Your methods are flimsy at best, unpredictable at worst. You have no method or you have a million methods which amounts to the same thing. Your impulses frequently and easily override your methods, or you rigidly apply your rules even when you clearly should not.

You keep clear records so you can assess what works best, or you don’t and at the end of the day (or the week or the month), you have no idea. Your record of action is either clear or murky. To correct it, it needs to be clear.

You need to tell yourself the truth as you go along. No excuses. No complaints. No trumped up stories. If you can truthfully analyze your trading mistakes as well as your trading strengths, you can make adjustments, and develop a personal style that will lead to trading success.

Telling the truth about each day’s (week’s, month’s) trading doesn’t mean you have to be brutally cruel to yourself or gloomy about your trading. What it does mean is that you don’t have to do that again, and you can optimistically look forward to the next day’s trading. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

You want to keep your trading in true alignment with any known or possible clues as to the on the ground truths in relevant areas. There are fundamental truths, technical truths, methodological truths, inter-relational truths, and personal truths. The closer you can get in any or all of these areas, the better your prospects. You will seek to know the truth, and those truths will power your trading.