Mastering Your Craft

peyton-manning-509-10192014

It was unavoidable here in Colorado yesterday. The buzz and hype made it almost impossible not to hear something about Peyton Manning’s attempt to break the record for all time touchdown passes thrown. It was everywhere. I watched the game and I enjoyed watching the touchdown pass happen. But there is something I enjoyed much more and that is I enjoyed watching a performer that doesn’t have the most “talent” do something that most men more talented than he will never even get a chance to accomplish. And more importantly, I started thinking about why that is. Why does Manning excel? Why does his passing ability appear so effortless and exact and not just for one game, how does he do it over 15+ years?

So, obviously I was trying to think about this in terms of trading because that’s what I think about most and I had a few points I wanted to mention and discuss.What does Peyton actually do to prepare for a season or a game and second, does it apply to my trading? These are the questions haunting me as a trader right now. How does work ethic play into trading when it’s so damn much waiting!? Is it possible to be as prepared for a trading day as Peyton Manning is for a football game?

So how does Peyton Manning Prepare?

I read a very interesting article related to this subject named “Inside Manning” by Dan Pompei. (You can read the full article HERE if you are interested). There is a section describing Peyton’s pres season preparation when he was at Indianapolis.

“Even a decade or into his NFL career, at the start of each training camp Manning demanded that Christensen coach him as if he were a peewee quarterback. “He wanted me to go over the center-quarterback exchange, how he hands the ball off, his drop, his first step, cadence, how his stance looked under center and if the know was bent right. If you tried to skip anything, he was taken aback by that. Some people would be rolling their eyes. But He was the same every year.””

That is pure mastery. The master is never above the simple details of his or her craft. This is an amazing example of pure preparation of the master. Get the foundation right. If he did not do these things at the beginning of every season, there is a good chance that it would cost them yards or possibly even wins. He is never above the smallest detail because that smallest detail is what will give him an edge. I love it. I want to trade like this!

Trading, like football, is a game of inches, not yards. Trading is just about dollars, not thousands of dollars. The thousands come, just like hundreds of yards happen in football over the course of a game, but not without the principle of getting the inches first. Yes the yards are marked on the field but the players know that between every white line is 36 inches and that is where the game is actually won and lost. Peyton knows that. He knows that a bad habit of stepping out too steep will throw off the angle that the running back is taking to the line and that one too many steps in his pass drop will result in misplaced and mistimed passes. Peyton understands it’s a game of inches, not just yards.

So what does he do to make sure he is able to get more of those inches that the other team? He prepares. I just gave you an example of the simple and rudimentary exercises he goes through at the beginning of every year. What else does he do?

Peyton is well known for his film watching routine. When football games are over, the coaches and players watch film of their game to try and pick out what worked well and what details need to be addressed before the next game. This is done at most levels of football and usually one to two practice days are devoted to this type of study. In all reality, this is the study of how to be a better football player. This is the only feedback on their play they can get. It’s like a traders chart. It’s just a representation of what they actually did and how they performed on the field.

So how does Manning approach film? According to an article in the New York Post titled “Peyton’s film studying is stuff of legend”,

“Manning is not the most athletic quarterback. He is not the strongest quarterback. He certainly is not the fastest. But no one can debate he is the most prepared.”

and

““I think it’s worth it to take time to get as familiar as you possibly can with what I would call an unfamiliar opponent. We played them in the preseason. We have not played them in the regular season. That’s a lot of games that are out there, that are available to study. You try to get to know their schemes. You try to get to know their personnel. There is plenty out there to study.”

Peyton is the most prepared football player when he steps on any field or does anything. Even the celebration for the record breaking pass the other night was planned out by Peyton. He let’s very few details through the cracks. He prepares by watching hours and hours of film and studying his actions and reactions as well as his opponents actions and reactions. We can do the same kind of thing as traders.

So what does this have to do with my trading? Or your trading?

I have been convicted this past weekend that there is a way to make being a trader as methodical and preparation focused as it is for an NFL quarterback. So I have committed to three new processes that I want to make habits because as Aristotle said:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

1. Chart Images- I’ve started to take many more chart images, both of trades I am in as well as trades I have passed up and then save them for the end of the day to see if price action gives any clues as to why one trade works better than another. I want to study these setups and make sure I know what I am looking at. Peyton tries to take all of the surprise out of what a defense can throw at him, I would like to try to do the same. Let me be clear here though, it’s not an exact set of rules, its principles, or training of the reactions. As traders, as with quarterbacks, our reactions are more important than our rules. Lets create positive reactions based on what we know we have seen before.

2. Define the rules- Football is easy when it comes to rules. The player doesn’t define them, they show up and play to the best of their ability. But scoring, game play, penalties, wins, losses, are all well defined before  a player steps on the field. By this I am not referring to my system, those are price principles. What I am referring to is things like hours of operation. Don’t try to stare at charts at all hours of the day because your afraid of missing something. Manning has 1 hour of clock time every week to operate in. They will either win or lose. There is no 9:30 pm check the field one more time before bed to see if there is anyone open for a pass. Ya, sounds stupid doesn’t it?

     As traders, we must define our own rules and there are no referees there when we want to go out of bounds. I am working very hard to define the rules of my game. My hour, my day, my week so that I can operate inside of a structure. It will create better opportunities for success.

3. Don’t be afraid to check it down. “Checking down” is a term meaning if the quarterback drops back and wants to take a shot deep but can’t find anyone open, he has a safety valve, someone running a short route and he can check down to that receiver and get a yard or two and move on to the next play. This week, I’m checking down. If the trade doesn’t show me exactly what I want right away, I’m getting out for a pip or two and moving on to the next trade.

I think what really excites me about coaching football or trading or playing hockey or whatever I do, is the idea of peak performance. Nothing good has ever come from half assing anything in life. Be committed, find a way to put in the work necessary to know your craft inside and out.

And one more thing while I’m thinking about it. Peyton Manning operates at peak performance because he knows he is not living on a financial cliff all the time. As traders, we will never perform at our best when we are worried about the next trade sending us packing back to another job. Figure out a way to let trading be in a state of allow, not need, as Matt would say. If Peyton had to feed his family solely based on each pass, I bet the pressure would get to him too…

Just my thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.

TradingLife:MasterIt

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