What Pick-Up Artists Can Teach Us About Good Trading

Neil Strauss’ book “The Game” brought into the public eye a community called Pick-Up Artists (PUA), who are devoted to improving their skills at meeting and achieving dating success with women. Much like many of the people he discusses, the author himself underwent a profound transformation, from an unconfident “average frustrated chump” to a charismatic, fearless ladies’ man.

It is an encouraging story, but one which seems quite far removed from the world of trading. However if we dig deeper, there are several lessons that we can draw from their experience that are surprisingly relevant.

  1. Through focused training with a like-minded group, we can acquire excellence in a field
  2. The quickest way to acquire excellence is to copy what works
  3.  Skills must be learned and then practiced to perfection
  4. Embrace new tools and technologies that work
  5. You must have a compelling motivation
  6. Our minds can either spur us on or hold us back—and we need to get it sorted
  7. Ultimately, the game itself has to be emotionally and spiritually fulfilling

Let’s look at each one in turn.

1.       Through focused training with a like-minded group, we can acquire excellence in a field


In his book, Neil Strauss joined a group of like-minded people. They were united in their goal—completely dedicated to improving their skills with woman i.e. to attain excellence in the field of women and dating. Because they were focused on their goal, the community was also sharing information, practicing, and challenging each other to improve their game. Even though they were all new to their field, the immersion in this climate and the focus on this goal propelled them to success. This environment of constant practice fosters true excellence, more so than any skill development undertaken just by oneself. Plus, at various points, Neill or the group had mentors who really helped him to develop further as a PUA.

Bottom Line: Find a support group or mastermind of people dedicated to trading excellence. Find a mentor.

2.       The quickest way to acquire excellence is to copy what works

If something is proven to work, then often the easiest way to emulate success is just copy those techniques. Having found mentors/trainers and techniques that worked, Neil Struass quickly settled on imitating everything that they did, provided that it worked. In this case, Strauss borrowed all of the various tactics that his trainers used and also used the same tools as other famous PUAs to master the “inner game” that is so necessary for success. The techniques that produce excellence are often not just “tactics” but also much deeper—the thought patterns, the beliefs and the experiences. By mimicking the entire mindset of a winner, we can become winners ourselves.

In trading, there is a ton of literature by successful traders and authors that can help us. Often times, the easiest way to get up to speed in trading is to try to emulate the beliefs of successful traders. For instance, the book Market Wizards contains numerous interviews with outstanding traders, given a firm insight into how they think and approach their craft.

Bottom Line: Find what works and imitate it 

3.       Skills must be learned and then practiced to perfection

There are two parts to skill acquisition—learning how to do it and then practicing to perfection. In The Game, Neil Strauss learns the basics from his mentors and buddies and then he is out every night practicing his skills. By practicing in different environments and pressure levels, he was able to get enough experience to hone his skills. At some point, they become thoroughly internalized and automatic. In trading, we need to practice the various necessary skills, e.g. doing our preparation work, reading the tape, evaluating setups, putting in trades and keeping good records. We need to consciously practice these and set up routines to help us, so that we do it even if we’re feeling stressed, losing focus or the markets are going haywire. These skills are crucial to success and we have to practice them to perfection and automaticity.


Bottom Line: Practice makes perfect


4.       Embrace new tools and technologies that work

In his adventures, Neil Strauss tries out a variety of new tools and strategies to improve his chances with the ladies. Other famous PUAs, such as David DeAngelo, do the same and have borrowed in new technologies from the world of therapy, evolutionary psychology and even yoga. In exploring new tools, they were hoping to do things differently, better or just faster. Whatever the outcome, they grew as people and learned from the experience – whether the result was successful or not. Ultimately, by continuously searching for and embracing things that are more useful. For trading, the analogue is clear – look for new tools, idea and technologies that can help you. These can include a new software package, some new backtests or just trying out something from another field. It may cause some short-term discomfort, and it may not even work, but the only way to become the best possible is to innovate and to seek out new tools that can take you to the next level.

Bottom line: Seek out and find the best tools to help you on your journey

5.       You must have a compelling motivation

Most of the PUAs had an overwhelming motivation: to start being really successful with women for the first time in their lives. Their discontent had grown and grown until they reached a breaking point and decided to take massive, decisive action.  For them, the desire to finally get this part of their life sorted overwhelmed any potential obstacles and doubts. In trading, we need to have a similar compelling motivation otherwise we may not persevere through the psychological toll, the P&L swings and the stress of a life in the markets. For some traders, it comes from liking the challenge and wanting to be their best selves. Other are motivated by competition and the firm desire to be #1. And yet more want the lifestyle that a career in trading can provide. The key is commitment—you have to want to be a successful trader with every fiber of your being. If you’re saying things like “I’ll just give this a try” or “Let’s see how this goes”, then you might as well give up now. There has to be a motivation – and it must be compelling enough to overwhelm anything that yourself or the market can throw at you.

Bottom Line: Get in touch with why you’re really trading and make sure you’re committed fully.

6.       Our minds can either spur us on or hold us back—and we need to get it sorted

For me, one of the most intriguing parts of The Game is when Strauss discusses the mental blocks that often held people back in dealing with women. It turns out that a lot of them are deeply-seated and assert themselves in ways that we can barely anticipate. For instance, people raised in very conservative, religious families can often become very scared or nervous when they’re around the opposite sex. This manifests itself as sweaty palms, stuttering, etc—physical reflections of someone’s mental coding. Strauss actually underwent hypnosis for a period of time, in order to clear out all of his subconscious mental blocks with women. Similarly, some people that Strauss knew had certain attitudes or beliefs that lead them to be naturally successful with women.

In trading, we can have subconscious desires or beliefs that block our trading—for instance, a dislike of wealth or a fear of success. Just like “approach anxiety”, these beliefs will assert themselves in unexpected ways that can harm our trading– whether we like it or not. To improve as a trader, we have to get this sorted. Read up on trading psychology, familiarize yourself with techniques like NLP, meditate or just keep an active in-depth journal—whatever it is, make sure that you are discovering and addressing any mental blocks and reprogramming yourself for success.

Bottom Line: Pull up the mental weeds that could get in the way of success.

7.       Ultimately, the game itself has to be emotionally and spiritually fulfilling

If you recall at the end of the book, Neil Strauss eventually tires of the game because while he has lots of fun, he finds it unfulfilling. He finally finds one girl that he genuinely likes and starts a relationship because he’s tired of “The Game”. While it sounds a bit cheesy, almost Hollywood-eqsue,  it does reflect better his core beliefs– because ultimately, he finds that more emotionally rewarding.

Our trading has to be aligned with our core beliefs in life. If we don’t find it emotionally rewarding or if it is spiritually alienating, then it will be almost impossible to sustain good performance. For instance, if you thought deep down that trading was harmful to society, or not compatible with oyur religious beliefs, or that it gave no satisfaction, then you would end up hating your career and your overall wellbeing would suffer. Take a good look at yourself and ask whether or not trading is compatible with your deepest spiritual goals and if it is fulfilling you. If not, get clear about your spiritual goals and emotional needs.

Bottom Line: Good trading must be compatible with all parts of your life.




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