How You Will Know That You Are Truly A Trader.

Assassinations.  Acts of war.  Man’s capacity to visit death and destruction upon his fellow-man. These are the originating events that spark that age-old question used to mark a moment in time, “Do you remember where you were when…..?”

For my grandparents and parents generation it was Pearl Harbor and JFK respectively. For my generation it’s 9-11.  With my kids generation I’m pretty sure it will be the day they discover that Justin Bieber is in fact a zombie cyborg, sent to this planet by an evil alien race in order to hypnotize us through musical pablum, before starting the invasion where they will rightly lay us to waste.

But life is also full of many other memorable though less dramatic events, and the way in which we remember them varies from person to person.

For example, my wife remembers places and events by the food associated with them; a typical conversation between her and I will often go like this….

“Hey honey, do you remember that cool little restaurant we went to up in Los Angeles for our anniversary?”

“Hmmmm…..no I don’t really recall the place.”

“C’mon, you remember!  It was where they had the great view of the ocean?”

“Yeah…um…its not really ringing a bell.”

“I can’t believe you don’t remember. There was a five alarm fire in the gunpowder factory right across the street during our meal!”

“You know…..I am just not good at remembering things like that.”

“But it was that place where a bunch of movie stars were eating, and I got into a fist-fight with Brad Pitt after I yelled ‘Salt sucked!’ at Angelina?”

“…..It’s just uh…nah,…. not getting it.”

“You had the grilled Chilean sea bass with mango salsa…..!”

“OHHHHH….That place!”

It’s my belief that one of the criteria for truly calling yourself a trader is not related to what your job is or even if you make money in the markets, but your ability to always have an answer to the question; “What was your position when…….?”

And I don’t just mean during macro events like when the market dropped 23% in one day back in October of 87′.  That doesn’t count because it was on every mainstream TV newscast as well as the front page of newspapers across the world.  Even my mother knew her portfolio got crushed that day (I told her not to fade Paul Tudor Jones).

No, I am talking about when you say to someone “flash crash,” and they instantaneously reply, “short 500 shares of $AAPL, covered one point from the low tick of the day.”

Or say, “short sale ban on financials?”  And faster than a HFT algo comes the response, “long out of the money $ICE calls.  Fucking suweeetttt…..!!!”

Traders are, in the very best “Bill Murray in Stripes” sense, “mutants…and there is something very, very wrong with us,” that these positions are forever tattooed on our cerebral cortex.

Wife’s birthday……”uh, give me a minute.”

First time you got really drunk…….”must have been that one summer…..?”

First time you had sex……..”yeah probably around June of my senior year!”

First time you had sex without actually being drunk………”uh, that’s a tough one.”

Day Buffett announced he took a stake in $GS…….”Long S&P index options, and day traded the shit out of $SKF.”

I can tell you exactly what position I had on October 17th, 1996.  I was long 1000 shares of $OO (Oakley Sunglasses).  I can also tell you what time I woke up that morning, what I had for breakfast, what I did most of the day, and what time I went to bed that night.  That day is burned into my brain because it was the day that $RAYS (formerly Sunglass Hut) decided they were closing a number of their stores.  This would cut into Oakley’s sales, and the stock dropped 25% while my account lost 50% of its value.  And here is where it gets weird.

For over 15 years I didn’t tell that story to anybody; not because I was ashamed or embarrassed about it, but because nobody couldn’t relate to it.  My friends and family aren’t traders, and although they could understand it in an “oh, you lost money” type of way, they just wouldn’t get it in a “yes I’ve read all the Market Wizards books three times” type of way.

But then a magical moment happened.

I was out at the Trader’s Expo in Vegas last October and was having a drink after the day was through.  I struck up a conversation with the gentleman seated next to me at the bar, who happened to be in town attending the expo as well.  As the drinks went down and the night went on, we began to trade “war stories” about our trading over the years, and I brought up my $OO trade.

Suddenly time stood still.  His gaze met mine and as if a thousand drops of glycerin were placed in them, his eyes began to water. The lights in the casino dimmed and one lone spotlight shown down on us.  His lips began to tremble and his voice began to quake as he uttered the cathartic words….

“I was long $OO on that day too……”

In this moment I had found a soul-mate. Someone who without speaking a word knew my long suppressed pain.  Someone I wanted to take into my arms, rub with baby oil, and cradle in my arms in the most heterosexual way possible.  A trader.

The other criteria for calling yourself a trader is when you become completely and pathologically fluent in symbol-speak. When you inner dialogue, even away from the markets, automatically begins to use the three or four letter, capitalized, abbreviated language of the markets.

This weekend I went shopping with the family at $TGT and $COST and I couldn’t believe they had better prices on flat screens than $BBY.  After that we had lunch at $MCD and then went back home where right away the kids started fighting over the $AAPL iPad.  I just said “screw it” and started watching Breaking Bad on $NFLX.

You think I am kidding right?  Well let me tell you how this trait manifested itself not too long ago.

After being together for 16 years my wife and I finally have our “mall” strategy down pat. She hates the stores I like, and I hate the stores she likes, so after years of getting her to first bring her cell phone, then actually turn it on, and finally taking it off of “silent” mode, we are now able to split up and then call each other when ready to meet.

We headed to our respective stores and after a while I decide to check out the Nike store on the other side of the mall.  So I send her a text to let her know she can find me there when she is done with her shopping. Almost 30 minutes goes by as I am engrossed in all the cool workout shoes and clothes that I will never buy or use, and then finally I wander out into the mall atrium area…..and there she is….steaming mad.

“What’s the problem,”  I say.

“Well to start with, I tried to call you three times and you didn’t answer.”  (Turns out it was me who had the phone on “silent” mode by mistake this time. D’oh).

“Yeah, but you knew where I was because I texted you,” I said.

“Really?” she annoyingly replied.  “Cause I have no idea what this is supposed to mean……”

With that she turned her phone screen towards me to show the message that I had sent her.

It read, “I am heading down to the $NKE store.”

I looked up at her, and although the husband in me gave a sheepish look, the trader in me was grinning from ear to ear.

  • Anton Shabunin

    Please clarify.
    On October 17th, 1996 the stock dropped only 14.4%. It dropped 23.8% on December 5th. Here is chart from quotes-plus https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7189aab46fe30fb9b7b698a5fb15091b28a117821c8a51a66a2c01c39018f1d3.png

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  • saurabh

    Sorry to bring up $oo, did you bet 200% of your portfolio on that? As a newbie i am trying to figure out how much should be bet per trade Max. Thanks

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  • Devlin McGregor

    Great post. I think you nailed this one. The hard work, highs/lows, wins/losses, exact positions, tickers, and all the mundane waiting in between are etched into my brain in a way that would make Dustin Hoffman/Rain Man jealous. I’d never thought about it before but it’s a similar effect to listening to my favorite bands in high school or writing a paper I thought was really good in college – it takes me back to the exact moment and I can picture every detail. It’s certainly one of the many reasons the market is so addicting win or lose. Really enjoy your blog.

    • Thanks man, appreciate the support.

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  • This blog will likely be one of my favorites

    • Thanks Yosafat, appreciate it.

  • Great piece Brian. As for which phrase shall remain tattooed in my dome … definitely “musical pablum”

  • yes. all of this. my life has been tickers for 15 years, I can count every large positions and most of the small ones and pinpoint the day, week and month they went right or wrong

    totally, sick post

  • Chris

    Great story. Actually a bit jealous I haven’t pulled one like that on my girlfriend (not yet anyway). No seriously, it got me grinning too.

  • THEMIKEYMCD

    I will never forget my last would-be shining moment… I had as a table of 20 people at dinner watching as my oldest brother throw out company names for me to reply with the correct ticker symbols. I was on a roll! I must have went 20 for 20 before my wife asked ‘can we talk about something else.’ The rest of the conversation focused on American Idol if I remember correctly.

    Great post.

    • Brian Lund

      That’s a crack up….!

  • Ben

    I really enjoy your blog… very informative 🙂 How do you get to blog so frequently and trade? Nice job!

    • Brian Lund

      Blog at night, trade at day….lather, rinse, repeat.

      Thanks for reading Ben.

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  • Scott

    Wow,love the post.I I like to go the mall also, usually with one my kids instead of my wife,although they probably don’t like to go with me.My trip usually starts with going to the aapl store,check everthings good there still humming along.Next sbux,Damn, pretty busy ,I wish I bought at 26 when I started tracking it.Now my son wants to go to the candy store ,not now we’ll go later ,daddys busy,Oh look a Kors store ,I didn’t know there was one in here,I have to go talk to someone in there and find out what it’s all about. I already got the gist from my wife,but now I’ll ask a sales woman.10 mins later I’m done,it’s sort of like a high end fosl, Damn again,should of excercised those 10 calls when they $36,probably wouldn’t have though it was a trade ,Daddy can I get some candy,soon we”re almost done ,most of the other stores are desolete,I can’t believe their still in business.I actually found a book store,a greeting card store,and get this fye record store,I was actually stunned seeing a fye store,do these businesses know it’s the 21st century,Of course these stores were buried way in back.Now I know why I’ve Never seen them before,Daddy I’m tired can we leave now ok I’m tired also.

    How many times have Googled or typed in your web browser a stock symbol instead of the company name?

  • John

    I had an interview yesterday at The Cheesecake Factory and in it I referred to the restaurant as $CAKE. It just popped into my head, like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man.

    • Brian Lund

      Your in the “club” John…lol

  • Chrishar

    Brilliant again, BC… just brilliant.

    I found myself laughing out loud and nodding in agreement, all while flashing a huge grin on my face through the entire post. Yup. Mission accomplished. 🙂

    • Brian Lund

      Thanks so much, that’s why I write.

  • Bruce

    What mall $SPG? Thats too funny. Now if you can just train your brain to bring home flowers and ask, Have you lost weight? then you have it made.

  • Love it! And I hope that story is real. 😉

    By the way:
    With my kids generation I’m pretty sure it will be the day they discover that Justin Bieber is in fact a zombie cyborg, sent to this planet by an evil alien race in order to hypnotize us through musical pablum, before starting the invasion where they will rightly lay us to waste.

    How are your kids ever going to remember that? 😉

    • Brian Lund

      All real my friend.

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Brian C. Lund

Brian C. Lund

Great father. Good friend. Decent trader/writer. Lacking husband. Solid drummer. Sometimes funny. Often A-hole. Terrible poker player. Too smart. Punk rock. Work in an ice cream shop.

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