When The Market Gives You A Pass

Pregnant women should drink alcohol.  And smoke.  Seriously!  And they should be exposed to as much cigarette smoke as possible.

I have a photo of my parents at a baby shower thrown to celebrate the coming birth of a certain “bclund” character, and in the photo both of them are drinking and smoking. And get this; when my mother was at the hospital in the maternity ward, not only could the patients smoke, but the nurses and the doctors could smoke as well.

“Hello *puff* *puff* Mrs. Lund, how are we *puff* *puff* *hack-hack* doing today?”

“Oh just great Dr. Empysema, how about you?”

“Super!  Now, let’s *cough* *sputter* see about getting this *puff* *puff* kid out into the world shall we?”

And I can only thank God that my mother smoked.  If not, instead of being a reasonable six-foot four inches tall, I probably would have been some grotesquely freakish eight foot tall colossus.

I don’t mind being tall, but as far as I can tell it’s never really been a benefit in my life. I don’t think I got any more dates, was hired more often, or picked earlier for sports teams because of it.

Sure, I can get stuff off the top shelf, but I also have to watch my head around low hanging objects, so all in all it seems to be a “scratch” at best.  In fact there is only one time in my life where I can state without reservation that I was able to use height to my advantage.  And it was all thanks to my uncle Paul.

Technically Paul was my great-uncle, being that he was married to my grandmother’s sister.  I liked Paul.  He was my favorite non-blood relative.  A pudgy, short man with glasses, Paul more than made up for his lack of stature with his giant heart and sly sense of humor.

It was always a treat to see him at the holidays, especially on Christmas Eve.  That night was just not the same if he wasn’t there wearing his bright red plaid blazer and fringed Santa hat with bells on it.  And it was at just one such occasion where he gave me the “scoop” on how my height could come in handy.

“Brian, my boy…how the heck are you?  I can’t believe how tall you have gotten,” he shouted as he waddled through the front door.  “You’re even taller now than your dear old mom it seems.”

“Come over here son,” he whispered as he motioned me over to the corner of the room.  “Now is the time in your life where you are going to be able to use that height to get what I call a ‘free pass.’  It’s something you can do when you most need it–when your mother gets really angry with you.”

“But I have to warn you, it can only be used once.  One time!  That is all.  If you try it twice,” he said with a knowing gleam in his eye, “well then I can’t be responsible for what happens to you afterwards.”

With that he turned and stood toe-to-toe with me, and looking up, began to wag his finger at me in mock disapproval.

“Now, how often has this happened to you?” he continued.  “Your mother is yelling at you about something or another and you are just looking down at her thinking, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah.’  Well the next time that happens–and remember, you can only do this once, so save it up for when you really need it—while she is yelling at you, look down, pat her on the head, and gently say, ‘now-now mom.’”

“She will be so taken aback in the realization that her baby boy is now bigger than her that she will forget what she was upset about and let you off the hook.”

“Awesome,” I thought to myself.  As a typical juvenile delinquent male I needed every free pass I could get.

And not too long after that Christmas Eve it did come to pass that I was in the exact scenario that Paul had described.  My mother was yammering on about something I did wrong, and I was just staring at her, eyes rolling back into my head, hoping that my cerebral cortex didn’t snap, when “BAMM!” I pulled out the pass.

And you know what….? It worked!

My mom actually laughed out loud, hugged me, and then shooed me off while mumbling some half-hearted life lesson or something.

It was a nice moment for me, a mini-victory of sorts.  The type you need when you are an insecure teenager who doesn’t yet have much control over the course of your life. But as I looked back on the event a month or so later, I realized how risky my actions actually were.

There was no guarantee that it would work.  That my mother wouldn’t have gone ballistic right then and there in front of a room full of people.  Or that I wouldn’t be grounded until 2020.  In fact it hit me–Paul probably never was taller than his mother–and therefore his theory untested.

Wow….!!!  I got lucky.  I got my “free pass.”  And I decided that I was smart enough not to push my luck and try that same crap again.

Traders often find themselves in a bad spot in the market.  For some reason or another they may have made a mistake, a miscalculation, or took an overly risky position and now find that they are screwed.  Often panic sets in and with that panic an inability to act.  They freeze and stare at their screens in disbelief.  Or worse, turn their screens off and pretend that “this is not happening.”

In most of these instances the bloodletting only gets worse.  But once in a while, once in a great while, the market gives you a free pass.  The market reverses, your P/L rebounds, and you are given that rarest of chances–to get out of your screw up clean and unscathed.

When that happens, in addition to giving some humble thanks to the trading Gods, taking a moment to acknowledge your “pass” and how lucky you were to have gotten it is probably a good thing.

Immortalize that pass by printing the chart of your trade out and taping it over your desk, or better yet, tattooing it on your forehead.  Honor it like some sort of shamanic talisman–in the best Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison sense–and use it to ward off the evil spirits of bad trading.

Let it remind you not to make the same mistake again.  To never tap the market on its head and try to pacify it, no matter what your favorite uncle tells you.

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