Does it really matter if we win or lose the game? If so, who is it that we are competing against?
The phrase, caught up in the game, is traditionally attributed to "blind ambition" and the emotional trappings that accompany the desire to win the game. While there is nothing wrong with ambition, there is no reason why it needs to be blind...
For example, I find it difficult to believe that Investors, Home-buyers, Hedge Fund Managers, or CEO's of Financial Services Firms wanted to be burned by the current financial crisis. I do, however, find it much easier to believe that all of the afore-mentioned players found themselves, knowingly or unknowingly, caught up in the game, thereby making it nearly impossible to "win."
"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you..." ~ Buddha
The beauty of financial markets and the game of investing is that you may choose your level of participation, your entry and your exit. In fact, what most players in the game fail to recognize is the greatest control variable: The player may also choose their competitor.
Logic would then have us ask, "Who is the best competitor to select?" Upon answering the question, we may then devise our strategy to win:
- Choose your competitor wisely: Put simply, one may never "lose" the game if the competitor is chosen correctly -- and that competitor is you. Once you select your self as your competitor, all that remains is the acquisition of self-knowledge -- the recognition of your ignorance -- the source of your weakness. If you limit your competition to your self, you will always win, especially if your "reward" is the process itself, and the process involves the recognition of mistakes as tools for growth.
- Replace "the desire to win" with "the objective to learn:" The problem with the human brain is that it is not wired for financial success -- it is reward-centered -- it seeks the end and fails to appreciate or even recognize the means -- it is the rat seeking the shortest distance to a block of cheese. If the desire for the reward is removed, or at least shifted lower in priority, then the capacity to achieve the reward is increased -- it is the desire for the reward that often inhibits our ability to reach it.
- Turn down the noise: The media noise mantra of "beating the market" is feeding your desire. Where did your ideas come from? Did they originate in your mind or from Jim Cramer? Do you really need to read The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The Economist, Financial Times, and all of those Blogs to be a good investor or trader? Could you get by on just a few sources of information? Do those sources of information exist to sell advertising? Do they appear to thrive on inciting emotion or do they present information in a factual and unbiased manner? If it is data that you need, then why must an opinion be attached to it? Was your last decision influenced by an outside source? Did you seek the source or did it seek you?
"Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem." ~ J. Krishnamurti
I like to believe that the philosopher's greatest tool for growth is the mistake. If our focus is process-centered, or on "how we play the game," then our attention to winning or losing, and the damaging emotions attached to these ends, no longer impede our capacity to perform -- we enable our self to think outside of the game...
By virtue of finding reward in the journey, the blindness created by the desire for the destination is removed... and we begin to see...