Don’t Be Afraid To Go With Your Strength

In 1973, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, at the height of his band’s success, jumped up in the middle of an interview at the Hollywood Hyatt, walked out onto the balcony, spread his arms wide as he surveyed the Sunset Strip, and said to nobody in particular, “I am a golden god.”

I was a golden god once.  Not the type that threw televisions out of hotel windows or had a gaggle of groupies fighting to get me into the sack, but the type that ruled that soccer pitch. With a flowing mane of auburn hair and a wicked left foot, I once scored a goal in under eight seconds from kick-off and put up thirty-two goals in a single season.

Robert Plant – If only he was good at soccer.

I loved the game.  I loved everything about it.  On Friday nights I would wear my uniform to bed in order to be ready first thing in the morning for my Saturday game. I couldn’t wait for Tuesday and Thursday nights when I would practice “give and go” drills for hours on end with my teammates as the tule fog rolled across the grass at our local community field.

It was one of the things that I was truly good at and even in an age before pro soccer became popular in the US (okay, let’s say more popular than badminton), I had dreams of grandeur.   I could see the Europeanized version of my name on the scoreboards of stadiums all across the Continent….

Brian Pele’ Beckenbauer Lund

Then came football.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was sitting at the beach with my friends just enjoying the summer sun when I remarked that “Chris Stevens was going to go out for football.”  I said it with a sarcastic disdain because what type of “rockhead” would go out for football?

Sure I liked to watch the NFL on Sundays, but I had never played a serious down in my life.

And weighing perhaps 125lbs soaking wet and holding a brick, the idea of putting on a helmet, pads, and then running full speed into some guy that had been playing Pop Warner since he could stand held little appeal to me.

I was sure my comment would be met with riotous laughter by my friends as none of them had ever played the game either.  Imagine my shock when my friend Brad said, “so am I.” Then my other friend Ty said, “me too.”

I looked over in stunned amazement at my final friend Eric Phillips.  Eric the punk rock rebel who did everything he could to go against the status quo.  Surely he would not be participating in this clichéd endeavor of adolescent machiso….right?

“I am going out for the team too,” he said.  At that moment, somewhere in a Northern English cemetery Sid Vicious rolled over in his grave, shot up, and then puked all over himself.

Sid Vicious – The Anti-Robert Plant.

I should have stopped at that moment and made up my mind that I was not going to do something that I not only didn’t like, but was not in my area of strength.  Unfortunately, at the high school I went to, there was football….and then there was everything else.

Our football program once held the record for most consecutive wins West of the Mississippi.  We played a championship final game in front of twenty thousand fans at Anaheim Stadium and beat the other team 55-0.  USA Today ranked us number six in the nation.  Football was in our school’s history, its blood, it’s DNA.  We were like a high school version of Penn State without the anal rape.

There was no way that the skinny insecure teenager that I was could have gone against the “crowd,” no matter how good I was at soccer.  I didn’t have the courage.  The self-confidence.  The will to go my own way, to stay with my strength no matter what the popular thing to do was.  And so began the four longest, and at times painful, years of my life.

What’s funny is that along the way certain people dropped off the team, including my friend Eric.  The party line was that they were “quitters” who weren’t “man enough” to handle playing football.  True, I am sure that was the case with some, but there were also a lot of guys who were pretty good and looked like they would have been starters that quit as well.

The reality is that I think most of then just realized that they didn’t like football and didn’t care what anybody else thought.  They weren’t going to waste their time being miserable when they could be doing something else they really had a passion for.  I envied those guys.  I thought those guys were the real deal.  I wished I were those guys.

In the markets there are a lot of people and forces that will tell you what you should and shouldn’t trade.  Talking heads on TV, anonymous traders on the streams, and even good-looking bloggers; everybody has advice.

“You have to trade $AAPL.  All real traders trade $AAPL”

“Forex is where it’s at.  Only losers trade equities anymore.”

“The liquidity is in futures, that’s where you want to be.”

….and so on.

If I suggest to you that you stay away from low-priced stocks, that is based on over two decades of trading and interacting with traders.  But it’s just a suggestion.  If you have an affinity for those types of stocks and they work for you, then stick with them.

Don’t like trading $AAPL?  Then don’t.  If forex doesn’t work for you, then pass on it.  If out of the money long dated options are where your strength lies, then trade the hell out of them.

Going against the crowd just for the sake of going against the crowd is a fool’s game. But having the guts to trade what the majority avoid or avoid what majority trade because it works for you is one of the signs of a great trader.

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