Friday, May 8, 2015

Why We Trade

Why do we trade? To be sure, trading allows us independence, the opportunity to
work for ourselves. Trading also offers the prospects of a lifestyle in which evenings and
weekends need not be consumed by work. Some of us crave the competitive aspect of
trading, doing fresh battle each day. Others approach trading as a puzzle to be solved,
deriving a sense of intellectual achievement. Finally, there is income. A successful
trader can make seven figures in a year—and many of the traders I work with are living
proof of that.
So why do they trade? Once you have the money, all of trading’s lifestyle
advantages could easily be yours. Needs for competition and intellectual stimulation
could be met in so many other ways. Why do traders remain traders long after they’ve
won the game?
Perhaps we can illuminate this question by asking it of practitioners in other
fields. Why do artists continue their craft long after they receive recognition for their
paintings, novels, or films? Why do elite Special Forces troops stay in units that test their
mettle even after they’ve earned their coveted badges? A gifted athlete such as Michael
Jordan earned plenty of money and honors and, in fact, did retire on a couple of
occasions—only to return to his game. Why?
There is something deep here that speaks to the nature of productive work.
People retire from jobs and even careers, but they never abandon their callings. For
some, work means something more than earning a living or achieving a lifestyle. Work
is their path in life. It is the way they have chosen—or perhaps that has chosen them—
for self-expression and self-development.
Suppose the pastor of a large, successful church wrote a book, made significant
money, and promptly retired from the clergy and all religious life. What would that say?
Surely, we would think, this person’s faith could not have been too heartfelt. But why
should our productive work mean less to us than the clergy means to a devout pastor?
Presumably, the religious life meets deep, important needs for the pastor. Is it really so
different for the artist? The athlete? The trader?
The great professions are those that serve as personal playing fields. They are the
arenas we choose to express and develop ourselves. In mastering a discipline, we
cultivate self-mastery. In writing a poem or placing a large trade, we capture—in a single
act—our vision of how we see the world at that moment. The great occupations are great
precisely because they are such meaningful playing fields. Long after we’ve earned fame
and fortune, the calling remains to be more than we are, to return to the arena and do
battle with our limitations. The profound urge to extend the human grasp is common to
all the great callings. To run faster, to capture more beauty, to predict ever better: in no
small measure, our work is our pursuit of the godlike, however fleeting.
Maybe it is our different images of the godlike that animate our career choices. If
my deepest view of godhood is that of a meek and all-forgiving Christ, perhaps I will be
drawn to an occupation of service. If my deepest view is more akin to the ancient
Greeks, whose gods sent heroes on quests, then my calling may be on a battlefield or a
playing field. Either way, in work we find something divine within ourselves. Whether
as scientists, monks, or traders, we strive for those moments when we are just a little
closer to perfection, a little nearer to immortality. That is why we trade.

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