The Holistic Trader

“One of the major differences between good professional traders, and non-professional traders is that the former do not view trading as separate from the rest of their lives. They work to ensure all aspects of their lives support each other and are in harmony.”

Chapter 10 of Alpesh B. Patel’s book The Mind of a Trader is an interview with Neal T. Weintraub. It started off the same way most of the previous chapter did, discussing things like motivation and goal setting. Then it totally switched gears and hit me with a section called “The Holistic Trader.” In this section, Weintraub addresses how stress can affect your trading and details a list of things to help avoid this. The following is his list with some personal insight as to how each item affects me personally.

  1. Diet / Reducing Caffeine – I struggle with this one probably more than anything else. I love fattening, greasy food and strong, dark beer. Where I have fantastic self control when it comes to trading a system and doing my market homework, I have awful discipline when it comes to diet. I will make a new excuse everyday to have a pizza and Red Bull. This is something I need to change immediately.
  2. Aerobic Exercise – This is one I have struggled with lately. I have always stayed in respectable shape, but I find myself often running out of time for excercise. I enjoy running, but just can’t seem to find the time to do it consistently anymore. Again, I need to make some changes here.
  3. Meditation / Yoga – I got a yoga DVD from Netflix once and sat on the couch while watching it. Not for me. Although Russell Simmons swears by it. I would love to spend more time in focused meditation, but once again I seem to run short on time and this is one of the first things to go.
  4. Journal – I have tried keeping an investing journal before, but I never went back and read anything. This blog is my new, high tech version of a trading journal. I am able to document all of my thoughts and trades here and search them however I need to.
  5. Support Network – Partly through this blog and partly through some other groups, I have established what I feel is a pretty good support group of investment friends. I hope to grow the blog community to better achieve this goal.
  6. Take Breaks – Weintraub says you should get yourself out of the rut and suggests going somewhere different for lunch. I do a pretty good job here as I go out to lunch most days and generally have enough other projects that I can take my mind off of trading when I need to. The problem for me is generally finding enough time to focus on trading.
  7. Get 6-8 Hours of Sleep – This is another one I am pretty good at. I generally get to bed by midnight and get up around 7am.
  8. Identify Areas That Are Causing You Stress – This one is tricky for me. I am pretty good at identifying stressors. My problem is being able to do anything about them.

I have done a little research on stress relief for my own personal benefit, but it never occured to me that I will be better at trading because of it. I guess with less stress, I could be better at everything I do. I am planning to read the book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers which is supposed to be very helpful for stress relief. Hopefully I can do a better job of implementing these things.

One of the reasons I don’t do a good job of stress relief is that when I am crunched for time, things like exercise, diet, sleep, and meditation go out the window. Weintraub says that I should factor into these decisions that time spend on stress relief is indirectly time spent improving my trading. Perhaps with that outlook I can make a better effort.

This section closes with the following quote from William James:

“Man alone, of all the creatures of the earth, can change his own pattern. Man alone is the architect of his own destiny. The greatest discovery in our generation is that human beings, by changing the innner sttitudes of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives.”