Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trading Psycology - Becoming the Person You Know You Can Be

In bodybuilding, there is a principle known as "train-to-failure" (TTF). The idea is that
you lift that amount of weight that permits you at least ten repetitions, but continue the
lifting to the point of failure: the point at which you can no longer sustain the repetitions.
Such a heavy-duty program, as outlined by the late Michael Mentzer, is low force (to
minimize injuries) and high intensity (drawing upon the body's full reserves). This
program also contradicts usual practice, which has athletes lifting every day. Mentzer, a
world class bodybuilder, found that a limited number of repetitions to failure were
sufficient to stimulate muscle growth, as long as there was an adequate period of
recovery following the training stimulus. When first espoused, the idea of doing a
limited number of intense repetitions and then staying out of the gym during the recovery
phase was heretical. Now it is the backbone of many successful approaches to
bodybuilding and strength training.
As Mentzer noted, the idea of TTF is itself a reflection of a principle in exercise
physiology called SAID: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. The body, according
to SAID, will develop along the lines of the demands imposed upon it. If you impose
intensive demands upon a muscle set, that set will develop more than others that have not
been challenged. The opposite of SAID is deconditioning: the absence of demand upon
the musculoskeletal system. Astronauts in space for a considerable period of
weightlessness lose body mass due to deconditioning and, at times, have had to be carried
from their spacecrafts due to a loss of strength. Their bodies adapted to the absence of
demand.
The vast majority of people live their lives the way uninformed athletes train: they take
on too many demands, none of which are sufficiently intense to take them to failure.
Theirs is the equivalent of lifting a twenty-pound barbell for hours on end. They become
tired, but not strong. By the time they get old, they are chronically tired, and then retire
from all demands. For many, retirement is an exercise in mental, physical, and spiritual
deconditioning.
Truly great people live their lives on a TTF basis. They challenge themselves until they
fail, and that provides new challenges. They ultimately succeed, because the challenges
that produce failure also build their adaptive capacity. Their minds and their personalities
exhibit SAID: they adapt to imposed demands.
Now ask yourself: If you trained in the weight room as hard and as smart as you train for
trading success, how strong would you be?
The reality is that few traders train at all, and those that do rarely impose demands on
themselves that require growth and adaptation. The bodybuilder knows that effort is a
friend, a stimulus to development. You push yourself to your limits, and then you adapt
to those imposed demands. In simulated trading--and in the practice that comes from
trading small size--it is not enough to concentrate and focus: you develop the capacity to
operate in "the zone" by testing the limits of your mental stamina. Similarly, don't just
follow your trading ideas; test them until they break. Then you'll be able to figure out
where they are weak and how you can fix them. We cannot know our limits unless we
are willing to venture beyond them.
Mentzer realized that, to become the person you know you can be, you have to do more
than you think you can do. Paradoxically, you will find your greatest freedom, in the
gym and in life, in the imposition of your most stringent demands.

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