Editor’s Note: G. (who requested anonymity) is a client with an engineering background who has been working on developing trading systems for the last several years. Over the next few weeks, we will feature his articles which take a deeper look into Van’s concepts including trading genius, abundance and belief systems. This is article 1 of 3.
In June of 2019, I took Van’s new webinar on ‘Trading Genius’. After a few days of reflecting on the energizing material covered in the webinar, I found myself asking the question: What differentiates geniuses from normal people? As I am prone to do when curious, I went to the internet to see what others had to say on this topic.
Fortunately, there were several excellent sources of insight into geniuses. I combined Van’s characteristics of trading geniuses with the best insights from the web to build a simple model that answered my question. Diagramming the inter-relationships of genius’s top-level characteristics added another view of what differentiates them from normal folks.
The hidden structure in the combined data revealed that geniuses were different from normal people in four key areas. They create highly personalized means by which they: (1) can learn deeply; (2) can process info and create new ideas; (3) can test out their ideas; all the while (4) serving higher purposes.
They also create supporting systems that allow them to quickly move back and forth between the ‘Level of Thought’ and the ‘Level of Reality’, to see which ideas work. The shorter the time between concepts and results, the faster geniuses can create their own positive feedback loops. In effect, they create a complete, tailor-made learning system, replete with emergent properties, non-linearities, and a top-down definition by higher layers on lower layers. No wonder it’s tough to generalize about geniuses… they are all using unique systems they designed for themselves.
How does this relate to trading? During the last five years, I have used several of their mental tools to design and modify my trading systems. Until recently, I wasn’t aware of the four components in the diagram and how they interacted, yet the mental tools listed herein helped me solve trading system design problems in unorthodox ways. I’m living proof that you don’t have to be a genius to productively use these tools! Being aware of tools that enable thinking-out-of-the-box is the first step in trying them out on a tough problem that doesn’t have an obvious or acceptable solution.
Let’s dig a little further into each of these 4 key components.
(1) They operate at high levels of consciousness.
- They can tap into their Inner Guidance, knowingly or unknowingly.
- They have a mission and purpose beyond their individual identity.
- They let the flow of the Universe take over.
(2) The rarity of their insights stems from unusually deep subject knowledge.
- Their innate curiosity drives deep understandings of a variety of subjects.
- They are insatiably curious and spend their time deepening their understanding in chosen subject areas.
- They look for deep structure via core underlying principles.
- Mastery of basic knowledge enables expert insights and unique distinctions to be made.
- They are dedicated to a high degree of mastery.
- They spend a lot of time mastering basic knowledge.
- They know some subjects so well that they can make distinctions and insights that others can’t see or appreciate.
(3) They are skilled in using powerful mental tools few know exist.
- Mental convolutions of novel subject-pairs result in innovative possibilities others can’t generate.
- They can hold opposites in mind and suspend thought, allowing an intelligence beyond thought to act and create a new form.
- They make juxtapositions between dissimilar subjects, to see things to which others are blind.
- They form more novel combinations than the merely talented.
- They take full advantage of the brain’s visual processing powers.
- They have unusually powerful visual and spatial abilities, to by-pass normal reasoning and math processes.
- They re-structure or re-conceptualize a problem by looking at it from differing perspectives.
- They use models and metaphors to simplify and to connect dots.
- They can use metaphors to perceive resemblances between two separate domains.
- They use simple models to approximate reality, and they know they are just models.
- They are able to change perspective and abstraction levels with ease.
- They have created multiple, unusual and distinctive maps of the world that they can view from multiple perspectives.
- They have the ability to move easily between big-picture and small-detail.
- “Systems Thinking” comes naturally to them.
- They tend to think systemically, not linearly.
- They know how to apply models within existing structures.
- They use dynamic models with interactive elements.
(4) They are strong-willed, dedicated empiricists.
- They persist until they create their own positive feedback loops.
- They operate using feedback rather than a lens of failure.
- Lots and lots of dead-ends are essential to finding out what really works and why it works.
- They can create insight from questioning mistakes and experiment failures.
- They are very productive: big wins emerge after many attempts.
- They are able to create and evaluate more novel experiments or solutions per unit time than others, to find something that works as fast as possible.
How can we normal folks benefit from knowing how geniuses work?
We can follow their reiterative process for solving an important problem:
(1) Check with your Inner Guidance or intuition on where to start
(2) Do a deep-dive into the subject matter until paths begin to cross
(3) Choose one of the mental tools to create novel, possible approaches
(4) Deep-dive and create again until you are ready to test an approach
(5) Use test-results to return to diving & creating
(6) Repeat all the above until satisfied or exhausted
(7) If satisfied, then move on; if exhausted, then rest up and start over
The process geniuses follow is not just personalized… it’s quite personal. It’s easy to imagine that the personal costs incurred in such a process could be quite high. Accordingly, the potential benefits have to be worth spending an unknowable amount of time and energy solving the problem or coming to an acceptable equilibrium via a partial solution. Their process is consuming, so the stakes in their minds have to be large.
The four top-level boxes on the diagram explain why geniuses are different from normal people at a high level, which is a simple way to answer the question I was posing. Understanding the specifics of the structure listed above has helped me demystify what geniuses do to get unusual results. How they individually take those four common characteristics and create a productive system for themselves is where the magic of true genius comes in: to obtain magical outcomes, they have to create their own wand first!
In gratitude to VTI … G