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The Spiritual Side of Trading: Selfishness and Discontent


The selfish trader wants it all for himself. The sad part is that he believes he can get all. The selfish trader is most apt to fall for marketing hype telling him he can know exactly when and where prices will change direction (turning points.) The selfish trader is blind to the fact that those who proclaim they can predict market turning points are not able to predict with any certainty where the next tick will be. Selfish traders are akin to, though somewhat different from greedy traders. The Bible has a lot to say about greed. Notice:

"A greedy man brings trouble to his own house." Proverbs 15:27 Here's another one: "They are like greedy dogs...everyone is for his own gain." Isaiah 56:11

I don't know about you, but I hope that I will never be viewed as being like a "greedy dog," out only for my own gain.

The apostle Paul warned against being greedy for money (1 Timothy 3:3), but that is what we have witnessed among so many traders. I recall one trader who was so greedy that he repeatedly gave back substantial profits in his lust for even more. His trading records time and again showed profits of $1,500, $1,800, $2,000 and even more, yet on every one of those trades he ended up losing money. He simply could not bring himself to take the money when it was there. So he hung onto trades, hoping for even more. When the market turned, he kept telling himself prices would once again move his way. But they didn't, and he sat and watched his unrealized profits vanish into thin air; he watched them turn into losses and, when he no longer could stand the pain, he gave up and exited the trade. To ease his pain, he simply turned off the screen so he didn't have to watch. In doing that he added self-deception to his problem with greed.

Greed and selfishness are nothing more than human lust. It's interesting to see what God inspired the apostle John to say about it. You'll find it in the book of 1 John 2:16: "For everything in the world—the cravings of man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father (God) but from the world." We live in this world, and it takes great effort to overcome the pulls and temptations that are a part of society. In our greed and selfishness we want more and more. We want every toy and device we can get our hands on. But the more we get, the more we want. There is no satisfying greed. Greed is an appetite that can never be filled.

One of the wisest traders ever is quoted as saying he was content with getting his piece out of the middle of a move. Content is an important word in trading. It is the opposite of discontent, and discontent is the twin brother of greed. Unless you can be content with your piece of the market, you will continue to strive for more. In trying to get more, you will lose what you have. It's like Aesop's fable about the dog and the bone. The dog looks down into the water and sees his reflection: a dog with a bone. He opens his mouth to grab the bone in the reflection and loses the bone he actually has. We have seen many traders who are like that. They are selfish like the dog, they are not content with what they have, and they are greedy for more!

Derivative transactions, including futures, are complex and carry a high degree of risk. They are intended for sophisticated investors and are not suitable for everyone. There are numerous other factors related to the markets in general or to the implementation of any specific trading program which cannot be fully accounted for in the preparation of hypothetical performance results, and all of which can adversely affect actual trading results. For more information, see the Risk Disclosure Statement for Futures and Options.