Three Lessons From Van Tharp I Still Benefit From—and How You Can Too! By, D.R. Barton, Jr.

Barton TT1I owe so much of who I am today to my original market mentor, Van Tharp. His influence on me (and thousands of others) is undeniable. And as I look back over the past 25+ years, I see so many subtle (and a few not-so-subtle) marks that he has left on us and the investing and trading community.

What I’d like to do today is share the three most meaningful and useful ways that Van encouraged and mentored me. Then I’ll give some very actionable ways that you can use the lessons, too.

When I first met Van, I had no idea he would have much impact at all on my life. He walked into the conference training room at the Crabtree Embassy Suites in Raleigh, NC, USA and I was pretty surprised. It was the mid-1990s and the first time I had seen him outside of a picture. He was an unassuming guy. And he was soft-spoken to the point of me having to strain at times to hear him. Yet during that first day, I spent with Van, his other-worldly serenity melded together with a confidence of delivery and absolute mastery of material such that I was inspired, on the spot, to make a complete career change. Funny thing: it was a Photo Reading Seminar that Van was running, and not something directly market-related.

Now for a quick rundown of connections that happened. I’m telling you these for two reasons. One reason is that many of you have known and trained with, or under, these folks for years. And second, this is the first lesson I want to pass on…

Within 18 months of that first meeting, I attended a Peak Performance course followed by a day of personal consulting with Van. Before that weekend was over, Van had asked me to work on a project with him – a project that gave way to Mr. Ken Long’s first and very excellent Tortoise Monthly Rebalancing course. (I have to respectfully call him Dr. Ken Long now, but this was well before Ken’s Ph.D. credentials were hanging on the wall!)

Within another year, I had helped Van write his second McGraw-Hill book and started a new seminar series with Van and another partner. An excellent floor trader out of Chicago called up and asked if we needed any trainers, and a 10-year relationship of modeling and teaching the trading strategies of Brad Martin began. During our first trading seminar in Chicago, we had traders fly in from Japan, the UK and one very special attendee from Singapore, just to take this course (Zoom, you came along two decades too late!).

Another amazing friendship was born, and John Martin from Singapore joined our orbit. John was one of the savviest and kindest people I’ve ever met. He helped Van out with some much-needed business consulting and helped us both make a difficult business transition from another project.

Why in the world am I throwing all of these Van Tharp events from my life out to you?

Because investing and trading is a lonely game. And one of the toughest things that all active investors and traders face is finding and keeping quality people in our orbit.

Within the first couple of years that I connected with Van, I had met and set up business and personal relationships with Brad Martin, Ken Long, John Martin and Christopher Castroviejo, who become a lifelong friend an invited me to start a new hedge fund with him. Christopher is still doing great market analysis and enjoying life in Florida.

My first Challenge to You: As the Van Tharp Institute enters its last season of taking in new students, find your own group or groups of people to interact with—folks you can talk with about investing and trading and systems and markets. These are your tribe, or pack.

I have a few really cool projects I’m working on (a bit more on that below) and I’d love to have you keep in touch with me! Anyone who has suffered through 700+ articles and countless seminars and newsletters with me over any part of the last 24 years can click one or two more links or to stay connected. Try my Twitter (or X.com) address @DRBartonJr. or my email:  dr “at” drbartonjr.com.

So that’s the first lesson that Van taught me and that I still use today. Keep interesting and talented people in your business and personal orbit.

The second thing that Van was amazing with, right up until the last time I spoke with him, was his insatiable appetite for learning. It showed up in his desire to keep teaching and training others, of course. But if you cornered me or anyone else and asked us if Van ever went into “coast mode”, the answer is absolutely not!

Early in my seminar training time with VTI, Brad Martin and I were teaching one of Brad’s swing trading strategies. Van showed up to the course, which was live and being held near Van’s house. He watched a trading simulation of the system and asked why we didn’t just find those same initial set-up conditions and hold for a longer period of time. But instead of accepting the answers we gave at face value, he stuck around for the whole course and played the simulation game and ended up writing about the additional number of R multiples (risk multiples of profit) that he could make doing it our way.

I went on multiple trips with Van, both to teach and to attend others’ courses. I loved our trips to various parts of California, Florida, Nevada and other areas to teach and learn.

And during his last months with us on this mortal coil, we talked about what he was reading and learning and where he got his amazing energy to continue to study and write lesson plans. I was in awe. And I learned that learning, while not merely an end in itself, is a wonderful motivator and sustainer even when we’re not on top of our game.

My second challenge: Let me give you one set of training and learning that I can unequivocally recommend, and that is from a person I’ve known for over 20 years. Dr. Ken Long provides the highest level of systematic training and tools that I know. I’ve personally paid for training and software from Ken multiple times over the years and I’ve used many of his concepts month-in and month-out with my students, friends and colleagues. Ken has his core courses starting this month. Don’t be surprised if you catch me sitting in on several of them.

I’m looking forward to doing some new training on a set of tools with a long-time friend who’s doing some great new things. Dr. Richard Smith has been an amazing thinker and pioneer on risk management for investors and traders, and he’s an incredible developer of tools and software to help measure and optimize risk and diversification. I’m going to tell you a bunch more about him and our new projects together at a later date but for now check out some of the things he’s working on at www.drrichardsmith.com

My last challenge for today is also my favorite thing about Van. He was always kind and generous and had such a gentle spirit. Kala and Van wouldn’t think of having me stay in a hotel when I came to town to teach a seminar, or to visit. And I know many of you Super Traders who have enjoyed their hospitality during social events and trainings as well.

My third challenge: Think of someone – right now – who needs to hear from you. Whoever pops to mind, call them or text them. Let them know you’re thinking about them. We can all be kind and generous with our time, and we’ll have a bit of Van shining through when we do.

God bless you and great trading,

D. R. Barton, Jr.

Twitter (X): @DRBartonJr

dr “at” drbartonjr.com

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