- Two Titans Agree On Focus As #1 Factor
- Focus Has Never Been So Important
- Distractions = Toxicity To Minimise
- Personal Hacks To Stay Focused
- Talent Over-rated vs Focus Under-rated
In this article, I am looking forward to touching on different elements of psychology and mindset for the reader to reflect on. Today’s topic of conversation for me is really one of the big elephants in the room. I am referring to focus.
Two Titans Agree On Focus As #1 Factor
Did you know that back in early July 1991, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and Warren Buffett, were both present at a dinner table and what followed should speak volumes about today’s topic. These were two of the most successful men in the world, who, for many years, had taken it in turns to top The Forbes World’s Billionaires list. The host asked his dinner guests, “What factor do you feel has been the most important in getting to where you’ve gotten in life?” Buffett immediately replied, “Focus.” Bill Gates Jr. agreed.
Focus Has Never Been So Important
So, focus when trading, especially intraday trading, cannot be sufficiently emphasised.
So here is what neuroscience has taught us. Our brain has about 60,000 thoughts per day on average, which means we have about 1 thought per second. Now, here is where it gets interesting. Of these 60k thoughts, we are only aware of 3 to 5%. This leaves 95 to 97% of the remaining thoughts as happening at an unconscious or subconscious level.
So, if our brain is firing that many thoughts, and we know these thoughts for the most part are happening under the surface, yet they will determine how we behave and precede our actions, we better make sure we are engaged when we are performing our daily tasks. Especially when it comes to trading.
And to be honest, with so many distractions these days through social media and easy-to-access technology, I’d say that it’s never been more challenging to excel at keeping a razor-like focus state. Actually, it’s been well documented thru different research studies, even labelled as the worldwide employee engagement crisis. And the trend is getting worse every year.
Distractions = Toxicity To Minimise
Now, let’s get to the nitty and gritty. Why is keeping a focused mind so instrumental for your success as a trader? Because without it we become slaves of distractions, which I’d define as taking the attention away from what we are supposed to do. And what do u think that leads to? Poor pattern recognition, slow responses, missing trades, overlooking rules of your method, mismanaging trades, paying attention to the wrong things, and the list goes on.
So, to me, enhancing focus starts first and foremost by eliminating all the unnecessary stimulus. Becoming intolerant to distractions. Developing the ability to have our focus ‘switched on’ is vital in order to learn and interiorise new skills via neural-connections is. Therefore, focus forms one of the pillars you must possess to progress at this challenging game of trading.
Personal Hacks To Stay Focused
So, what is it that I do to keep my focus and engagement in such a demanding endeavour you may be asking? Here are a few actionable tips you can start working on from NOW. Start by meditating for about 10 minutes a day, ideally ahead of you trading day. What this does is that it acts as a vehicle that can help to rewire brain for success, build emotional IQ and other elements all essentials for trading success such as enhance the ability to be present in the moment, develop improved pattern recognition skills, retention of memory, etc.
A major challenge of mine before meditation used to be the activation of my fight or flight response to certain tense situations when trading, even if I theoretically knew as an aspiring professional trader that my attitude should be to stay calm, relaxed. The more I’ve meditated, the more I’ve contributed for my brain to also stay in a state of internal peace and happiness, while I feel more in charge of my emotions and dialogue. I also feel that has translated in my determination to make tough decisions in life in general.
The practice I’ve performed over many years is called Shamatha, I tend to do it in my morning, as a practice aimed to strengthen the mind’s stability and to counterbalance the symptoms of an agitated mind. Shamatha meditation—mindfulness or concentration—is the foundation of Buddhist practice. Trading is a very mental game, is played in your mind, that’s why you must know who you are, know how to play your game, and play within yourself. Meditation is a great venue to sharpen your mind.
Internal dialogue as a concentration enhancer is very powerful and traders under-estimate it. In a nutshell, the moment that one starts to act as the commentator of their own trades real-time, a whole new universe of awareness and presence in the moment transpires. The level of engagement and concentration goes up considerably. The art of controlling emotions, gaining clarity when trading, reinforcing an idea, strengthening one’s profile, starts from being true to ourselves, hence having a constant self-interaction is immensely valuable.
If you start practising this dialogue, you will gradually see the speed and quality of your decision increase as your distractions and poor judgements decrease. Isn’t that the point of running a trading journal? The advantage of an inner dialogue, in many ways, is that it acts as a form of a preemptive circuit breaker, allowing us to anticipate unnecessary mistakes that would otherwise get registered in our journal.
It goes without saying, that what I’ve also had to resort to is have in place strict protocols such as setting my phone on plane mode, lock my room in case any of my kids decides to storm into it, and have my energy levels up by working out. Remember that regular exercise increases the level of endorphins in your blood, hence reinforcing the good habits of happiness, calmness, all critical to staying focused on the task at hand.
When I sit down, I also make sure I am concentrating on my breathing to regulate my emotions and calmness. Also my posture when sitting is important. What this does is it keeps me more actively in a state of alertness for new opportunities. I also make sure I compress my trading into slots of no more than 2h. There might obviously be some flexibility depending on the day, but I know that if I exceed 2h, my focus starts to take its toll and I can easily burn out.
What’s more, technology also helps me. What I mean here is that as a trader we must ask ourselves. What type of technology I can automate that when implemented it will be a useful tool to keep my focus on point? I found that sound alerts ahead or at the close of a candle, setup alerts or an indicator that alerts me when high volatility events happen, are all advantageous features.
Talent Over-rated vs Focus Under-rated
Recent scientific research has shown that most successful musicians and athletes owe their extraordinary success not to talent as was previously thought, but to a lifetime of dedicated practice or training. Many people who haven’t managed to achieve the success they were hoping for blame their bad luck, lack of talent or lack of connections. The truth is that some people are more successful than others mainly because they are better at focusing their mental resources.
“The weakest living creature, by concentrating his powers on a single object, can accomplish something. The strongest, by dispensing his over many, may fail to accomplish anything,” observed the Scottish historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle.
So, there you have it. I hope that it provokes critical thinking with you. Ask yourself, what are u doing to improve your focus? Remember, constant repetition is what counts.