Greatness at a Glance By, RJ Hixson

rj headhsot flowersThis is our final Tharp’s Thoughts newsletter – a kind of end. Rather than being the destination, however, we have arrived at a midpoint. Before we consider your journey ahead, let’s make a quick assessment of where we are. 

What a long, wonderful, rich, and transformative journey we have had with Dr. Van Keith Tharp as a guide!

How best do we make a brief assessment of where we are and how far we have come?

How about in two ways that Van would probably appreciate: with a model and some takeaways. We will form some of Van’s primary beliefs into a simple – a very, very simple – model. It will be limited, inaccurate, and incomplete – all the more so because of the one to two-thousand-word limit for this piece – this is not a biography. To create it, I had to distill all of my projections of Van from the last eighteen years or so and interpret what might be most valuable for you, dear reader. I hope you find the exercise enjoyable and useful. For what it’s worth, I believe Van would approve. 

We Start With Beliefs

Van is perhaps most famous for saying, “You don’t trade the markets. You trade your beliefs about the markets.” Beliefs were the singular fundamental element in Van’s overall philosophy.

What are beliefs? Beliefs are thoughts to which you attach some meaning and frequently, some emotional feeling. All beliefs have context and therefore limits, but useful beliefs (within or across contexts) can be highly valuable. For people who were willing to jump another level down, Van loved that Alfred Korzybski discovered how language structures beliefs and actually structures all of reality. Today, however, we’ll walk right past that rabbit hole and head straight over to the model.

The model below categorizes belief types, and NLP refers to this as the Logical Levels of Beliefs.

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Let’s work from top to bottom.

Environmental and Behavioral Levels

Mapped with just a bit of minor details, this section would fill books. The books would probably be really interesting for many people, but they would not be very useful for understanding Van’s gifts to us. Just to provide a sense of some of Van’s environmental preferences and notable behaviors, however, here’s a short, selected list –

  • Van liked to geek out on technology and gadgets. He took a fancy to Origin gaming computers and configured maximalist gaming machines for his personal desktop. And, he loved Apple devices.
  • At home, Kala managed a very healthy diet for Van, but out of the house, he relished the local drive throughs. On his way to the office for our weekly staff meetings, he would often bring branded white paper bags with a burger, fries, and soda. He enjoyed eating them immensely while the rest of us provided our weekly updates. (Shhh. We did not tell on him to Kala.)
  • Van was more kinesthetically-oriented rather than visually-oriented. He cared more about comfort and how things felt to him rather than how he looked. In the pre YouTube/Zoom days, his unkempt appearance mattered little overall. When we started recording him on video, his “style” didn’t present so well on the other side of the screen. We benefited from Kala’s support and her tasteful sense of fashion. She was wonderful at helping him build an attractive wardrobe.
  • Van enjoyed the status of premium brands – but only for certain products and services, not for everything he owned. He savored: first class travel, Teslas, expensive sweaters and jackets, and an eclectic mix of various other items – but again, not everything. At one point, he paid tens of thousands of dollars for a fancy watch known by its two French surnames label. As much as he enjoyed luxury so close as his wrist, the piece kept time poorly, and within the year, he shifted back to more familiar watch names like Casio and Timex.
  • He loved to listen to big bands, swing music, and popular music from the 1950s. His song library filled an iPod.
  • Van loved the Green Bay Packers, but he never really liked watching them play live in the bone chilling cold at Lambeau. One of the highlights of his life was to watch them win the Super Boal in person with D.R. Barton.
  • He collected stamps, gold coins, crypto coins, books, art, and historical “robber baron” signatures. If you have ever attended a VTI workshop in North Carolina, you saw the walls lined with his art and framed signatures collection. Eventually, we were running out of wall space in the office for all of the frames.
  • Van and Kala’s three dogs – Ari, Tigger, and Pixie lit him up and fed his creative juices far more than his cats ever did.

Capability Level

Let’s focus more on Van’s cognitive capabilities which fueled VTI. Here are a few –

  • There are big-picture people who can expound on phenomenon in the markets, economies, and in the world. Then there are people who can stream together a cohesive narrative that incorporates the expanses of the physical universe and the internal spiritual universe. Van was the latter.
  • Modeling – Van began to understand the modeling process after he attended a workshop by Wyatt Woodsmall many years back. After that experience, he grew into an exceptional modeler. Indeed, the portfolio of VTI courses, books, and programs is a portfolio of models to help traders trade better and improve their lives. At one point in an in-person workshop not long before the COVID lockdowns, he started expounding on reality and discovered some new connections among his evolving beliefs. In front of the people in that workshop, he started modeling reality – extemporaneously – on one whiteboard easel sheet all in about 20 minutes. Some people’s brains were worn out just trying to take in everything from the workshop already, and then Van blew their minds about how reality worked. How could he tell? No one had a single question before we moved on to the next workshop topic. (Later that night, I came back and photographed that easel page which you can see below.)

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  • Writing – Van’s thousands of articles, dozens of courses, and multiple books are the testament to his writing capability.

Value Level

  • At his core, Van wanted to help people – relieve their pain, help them grow and thrive. He did this mostly through VTI, but he was also an example of love and generosity in his personal life. Love is a relatively high level on Dr. David Hawkins’ map of consciousness. Van operated at 500 and above – and he was striving for higher. He wanted to help everyone get up to at least to the 350 level of acceptance. At that level, Van believed traders could accept the losses that come from trading. By being able to easily accept losses, they would then be able to follow the rules of a trading system to achieve the positive expectancy of the system (make money).

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Source – based on Dr. David Hawkins’ Scale of Consciousness from his book Power Vs Force

  • Van valued wealth a great deal. Wealth, however, is distinct from riches—having lots of money. For Van, amassing great sums of money was neither wealth nor financial freedom. Many successful people achieve enormous net worths but do not lead lives of joy, freedom, or wealth. Instead, wealth is about enjoying the freedom of time and the financial means to create, grow, and pursue their passions.
  • Van was the most open person about his spiritual life you may ever find. He freely shared his journey out of atheism to believing in a higher power, to conversing daily with his Inner Guidance, Durga, to realizing we are all one. Someone recently remarked that Van was more authentic and vulnerable about his relationship with his Divine than any clergy member she had ever heard in church. As open as he was personally, he had concerns about how much to share with the public. For instance, Van and the VTI staff talked for 12-18 months about how much the Matrix book would reveal about his conversations with Durga. He was blasé about any personal attention surrounding that but was concerned about the possible impacts on VTI’s business. In the end, we decided to go for it, and he released the book including his Durga conversations. While some content in the book turned some people off, it inspired many more – some of who applied to the Super Trader Program after reading only that book.
  • Van’s openness and authenticity was paired with a fearlessness about others’ opinions. He really cared very little about what people thought of him. Sometimes, that fearlessness came across as lacking a social filter in what he said and sometimes what he did. A group of us, including Van and Kala, went to a restaurant one evening after a workshop. After eating, Van started to giggle and then couldn’t stop. He decided in the moment to enjoy some laughter yoga and went into loud belly-busting laughter. As he kept laughing for minutes, varying degrees of discomfort and anger appeared on the faces in our party and diners at other tables looked on in confusion. Van didn’t mind any of that in the least.

Identity Level

  •  Trading Coach – As this identity, Van came up with many, many useful models for traders. Indeed, VTI’s offerings are a portfolio of useful models.
  • Husband to Kala, his beloved wife. Van was very open about his love for Kala. A slightly cracking voice and eyes welling up were common occurrences when he described his relationship with and feelings for her.
  • Father to his son Robert and to his wife’s niece Nanthini – whom he loved like a daughter.
  • Explorer/Researcher – Van explored and researched his inner experiences extensively. He also loved travelling and was always planning his next trip. When we traveled abroad for workshops, he would walk the city for hours exploring. He almost always walked by himself but on one walk with him in Berlin, we found ourselves on a sidewalk with scantily clad women talking to men in cars that had pulled up and stopped. The experience was unusual and interesting for a few moments until Van offered, “Do you want me to talk to one of them for you?” (See mention above about Van’s lack of filter and fearlessness.) My facial expression made him laugh and luckily, he didn’t say anything as we continued walking.
  • Introvert – Van’s scores pegged him to the extreme edge of N (introverted) on the Myers Brigg’s test. After workshops, he much enjoyed some solitude to recharge his energy – except when Kala hosted a dinner at their house. He would chat with anyone who came and talked with him but felt just as comfortable to sit by himself. Van wasn’t anti-social, just introverted. At times over the years, he was totally comfortable being an introvert and at other times, he thought the identity did not serve him well. He experimented with methods to become more extroverted but wondered if the quality might be largely unalterable.

Spiritual Level

At this level, the Logical Levels model allows very few beliefs. These are most often largely non-conscious beliefs. As with a physical inverted triangle structure, shifts in beliefs at the bottom create bigger shifts in all of the levels above. Van did not start out exploring spirituality early on but found that psychological processes with a spiritual element were the only ones that seemed to have lasting effects. He had a belief that if someone pursues psychology far enough, they reach the limits of science and even possibilities. He had a desire to go beyond. Van’s spiritual beliefs evolved rapidly over the last fifteen years or so through a progression of practices and teachers. For many years he had been meditating and recommended meditation as a useful practice. In the mid-late 2000s, Van came across Oneness which had a big impact on him. For the last several years, he was practicing Sri Vidya with Stuart Mooney. Somewhere during his Oneness practices, Van came to believe we are one with each other and one with the Divine. That belief is almost unfathomably complex in its simplicity and expresses itself in seemingly infinite variations. Van so enjoyed exploring this area and sharing his many discoveries.

Key Takeaways

The model above does an injustice to Van’s complexity – but the model is meant as a representation – a re-presentation for a more limited purpose. For another limited purpose, let’s focus Van’s myriad useful ideas into a few overarching principles. The list looks something like this –

Responsibility – This is the single most fundamental aspect of becoming a creative or generative person, let alone a successful trader. Victims dwell on the lower levels of Hawkins’s scale of consciousness. They accept no responsibility but blame others or circumstances. Accepting increasing amounts of responsibility allows people to rise through the levels.

Awareness – This is as simple as looking at yourself to notice what’s going on inside of you – as an observer. Van designed his Peak Performance 101 workshop marble bag game to “push people’s buttons” and it was highly successful in doing that – even to Van when he played it. His refrain for the players during the game was “Notice your thoughts and feelings.” Thoughts, feelings, and emotions tend to have strong influences if not outright control over us if we are unaware. Knowing that you can become aware and manage your thoughts and feelings is one of the most empowering, vital steps towards transformation.

Transformation – Van defined the mission of VTI as “transformation through the trading metaphor.” He meant this as the transformation of the Self using trading results as the measure of change. Most of the people who found VTI over the years were unprofitable traders. Van offered them a plan, a path towards trading profitably – not an easy or quick path as so many advertisers promise – but an effective one for people willing to put in the effort. Transformations along the path to trading profitability almost always involved acquiring little more market knowledge and much more Self-knowledge.

Ultimately, responsibility, awareness, and transformation flower into freedom – freedom in multiple forms. Yes, traders may find “freedom” from the losing trader identity but there’s so much more: freedom from the lower levels of consciousness, from the unconscious influences of charged beliefs, from beliefs about scarcity. There’s also freedom to reach higher levels of consciousness, to achieve financial freedom, to pursue your bliss, to help others to thrive and flourish.

Not The End

No, this is not the end of your journey. Merely, we have reached the point where you will continue without one particular fellow traveler. However, Van’s great guidance will continue to benefit you as you continue to move ahead now.

Travel well, friends.

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