Dr. Van Tharp’s Genius: Modeling and Transformation By, RJ Hixson

rj headhsot flowersAs we approach the closing of the Van Tharp Institute (VTI), we will focus the last few newsletters on Van and his contributions. This is the first in the series. We will continue to publish this newsletter until our last issue on November 15th.

Models, Genius, and Bliss

Van liked to call himself a modeler, to describe what he did as building useful models. He was a genius at that.

What does a modeler do? You might think of the activities of modeling as analyzing: all of contexts, beliefs, mental states, mental strategies, and behaviors associated with a task or outcome. After gathering that information from people who execute at an expert level, he would then synthesize it into optimal “map” for the concept, activity, or mental process.

So many areas captivated Van’s modeling interests – trading, wealth, motivation, reality, even God and the universe. What was the driving force behind his genius? What was his motivation and how did that propel his personal evolution so much that he helped many others begin their own journey of growth and transformation?

Van’s deep motivations were centered on the transformative power of awareness, psychology, spirituality – and helping other people. These passions were evident with the mission of VTI and they permeated his personal life as well. While the context of his business was trading, Van found great joy in the personal transformation of many kinds by people in his workshops, studiers of his Peak Performance Home Study course, and in the Super Trader program. Transformation became an inexhaustible source of power and creativity – what Van referred to as his bliss.

He credited Joseph Campbell for the pivotal shift in his life when he chose to “follow his bliss.” Campbell urged this after studying the hero’s journey in cultures across the globe. As a result of the rich fulfillment Van experienced by following his own bliss, he constantly urged others to find and follow their bliss as well.

Following their bliss, however, is a path few people actually pursue. Why? In large part, because doing so requires a strength, a trait that many people do not understand or lack.

The Core Concept

Many people think they are incapable of transforming themselves, let alone following their bliss. Others want to make changes but seem unable to do so. Van had a very strong belief that a singular core trait was required to initiate transformations which was responsibility – or “respondability” as he liked to say. Full responsibility for your well-being is foundational for improving your state – wherever you are.

Van frequently referenced Dr. David Hawkins’s map of consciousness described in his book Power vs Force to help traders figure out where they were on their journey of transformation. Hawkins’s map offered some great clues for why some people seem to stay stuck where they were.

As useful as Hawkins’s model was, Van came to believe that it lacked some elements after working with many people on their transformational journeys over many years. While researching systems thinking only a few years ago, Van ran across a more useful consciousness model from the organization Future Shapers. The pyramid diagram on the left below depicts the model –

1175 RJ Chart1

Consciousness States Source – http://futureshapers.com

To the right, Van added his levels of responsibility to help people understand that their level of responsibility directly correlated to their consciousness state.

See if you can relate the level of responsibility with an explanation for each state in the model –

  1. Victim State: At this stage, people are convinced that “Stuff happens to me.” Often, the entire world can seem to be against them. They blame external factors or others for their misfortunes. For traders, success seems elusive but they hope to find a Holy Grail system or a gifted advisor for any kind of limited achievement in the markets. (No/Little responsibility)
  2. Personal Power State: Here, people begin to understand that some actions are within their control and they are most often motivated to accumulate money, power or fame. While some may still look for external guidance, they recognize their personal role in their success. Traders with this motivation are most often driven by external monetary factors. (Focused responsibility)
  3. Awakened State: Individuals at this level realize that the world they experience is a projection of their own minds. They understand the illusion of reality and focus on creating value for others on a broader scale. Motivation for these traders shifts from success and power to fulfilling their life’s purpose leading to the possible byproducts of success and power. (Broad, powerful responsibility)
  4. Enlightened State: At the highest level, individuals grasp that everything is interconnected and divine. They transcend their sense of self and see unity in everything. Ego dissolves, and they become unchanging witnesses to the illusion of the world. At this level the “trader” as an identity may disappear but trading still goes on. (Total responsibility)

For traders to improve their performance in the markets, they nearly always need to improve in multiple areas. Van believed most strongly that traders needed to work on themselves (Self-work) by improving their state of consciousness which would help all of the other areas.

Trader Transformations

Almost everyone’s brain has been wired naturally to lose money trading. Research shows that more than 90% of the people who start trading lose money. Surprising? Think about it. The capital markets were a great game constructed by people and institutions at high domains (in Van’s game model, this would include government agencies and financial institutions), to engage and profit from market participants in the lower domains (think most retail traders). If someone adopted this model of a “matrix” market, then they would want to figure out how to transform themselves to operate effectively within that matrix. Van was very keen on modeling the key transformations for traders to operate better within the matrix and become consistently profitable. (Ultimately, they might transform enough to operate outside of the matrix, but that’s for another article.)

He developed a trader development model which followed this sequence –

  1. Transform Your Trading Game: Traders start by implementing best practices and realize that trading is about beliefs, not just markets.
  2. Deconstruct Your Matrix: Traders examine their underlying beliefs about trading and life. They begin a belief change process because they understand that they want their map to represent the territory much better than it has done to date.
  3. Raise Your Consciousness: Traders become more self-aware and embrace losses as simply part of the game of trading. They become able to experience happiness regardless of external outcomes and their trading results positively reflect this realization.
  4. Develop Your Inner Guidance: At this advanced stage, traders establish a strong relationship with their inner guidance. The relationship extends beyond intuition to a deep, peaceful knowing that transcends trading.

That high-level summary chunks up the process but chunking down reveals a number of individual transformations required all along the way. Van created the more comprehensive list of transformations (lessons) below as part of a total curriculum revision he was working on in 2021 and 2022. These transformations formed an outline for a course that he never completed. We thought we might share these with you today –

Van’s Final List of Key Trader Transformations

Lesson 1: Move from being a total victim of an unfriendly world looking for scapegoats to thinking “I can do this.”

Lesson 2: Overcome the need for excitement or distraction. (A number of victim level people become compulsive gamblers / traders.)

Lesson 3: Begin to realize that my results have a lot (everything really) to do with me.

Lesson 4: Move away from the authority model and any predictive mode. Adopt the science model for trading where your system directs your trades.

Lesson 5: Understand that trading profitably and consistently is all about R-multiples, expectancy, statistics, and probability.

Lesson 6: Learn that meeting your trading objectives is accomplished through your position sizing strategies.

Lesson 7: Really get that you only trade your beliefs.

Lesson 8: Develop a systems thinking mind where you understand that multiple interlinked systems impact the outcome of your results.

Lesson 9: Obtain infinite wealth (where your monthly passive income exceeds your monthly expenses).

Lesson 10: Awakening. It’s all made up so it’s all you. Here, your life’s purpose motivates you, not money or power.

Key Takeaway

Perhaps the key takeaway from Van’s life is his unwavering commitment to the benefits of self-development and personal transformation. Van’s journey was characterized by his own consistent, disciplined inner work and exploration of the spiritual. Many people prioritize daily physical exercise while Van dedicated himself to daily practices of inner reflection, meditation, and engaging in a profound dialogue with his inner guidance.

Aligning his passion for inner growth became the catalyst for his abundant creativity and valuable contributions to the world. Van’s life serves as a remarkable example of how a commitment to inner work and self-discovery can lead to a flourishing and meaningful life that made a positive impact on the world.

Closing + Some Self-work

As we bid farewell to the Van Tharp Institute, my sincere hope is that you’ll carry on the torch of Self-work to honor Van, but mostly for yourself and those around you. Growing your responsibility, awareness, and your commitment to following your bliss will improve your life and improve the world.

As Van liked to do, let’s end with some introspective questions –

  1. Where have you experienced bliss? How could you integrate more bliss in your life now?
  2. Where do you currently stand on your journey of self-improvement and where would you like to go?
  3. At which level of consciousness do you mostly live?
  4. How much responsibility do you actively embrace in your life?
  5. What limiting beliefs hinder your path to self-growth? How can you address and overcome these?
  6. Can you identify a single practice or habit that, if incorporated into your daily life, would propel your journey of self-discovery and personal transformation to new heights?

Answering these questions with honesty and courage will provide guidance for your own Self-work and transformation. We wish you much continued growth.

PS – On the workshop room computer, Van used to keep a small collection of videos. He would pick one on occasion in a workshop to make a point. In researching this article, I found a 2-minute video that I believe Van would have put in that collection because the message resonates with one he delivered regularly as well. Enjoy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMML1jkBePQ

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