What is a Super Trader? by Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.

What is a Super Trader? The answer really gets to the heart of what the Van Tharp Institute is all about. Our mission is “transformation through a trading metaphor.” And if you believe that you create your entire experience, or at least the meaning you give to that experience, then you must personally transform to become a Super Trader at some level.

Before I answer the question, I want to talk about the roles with which I like to identify.

First, I am a modeler. This means that I find people who excel. I find out what they do in common and then teach that to other people. There are probably at least five different NLP methods for how to model. Each will lead to a different model for success. How do you even know which one to use? My primary selection criterion is usefulness and my definition of that is that usefulness brings the most value to each person and to the world as a whole. If it just brings you value and it hurts everyone else, then it’s probably not that useful and there may be something missing from one’s meaning of value. For example, if your definition of value was “I want to have all of the money in the world,” then that would probably hurt about 7 billion other people.

Though modeling I find the common tasks necessary to do what I’m modeling (i.e., the tasks of trading) and then I need to find the beliefs, mental states, and mental strategies that support doing those tasks at a superior level. Doing this for traders leads to what I’d call the fundamentals of trading success and includes a set of useful beliefs that I call Tharp Think. You can find many of the Tharp Think beliefs in my book Trading Beyond the Matrix.

My second major role is that of a coach. A coach finds talented people, teaches them the fundamentals, and then makes sure that they are following those fundamentals. For example, the Green Bay Packers (a professional American football team) just fired their defensive coordinator. The previous one had been considered a defensive genius but with time, his defenses became predictable, his players lacked fire, and the net result was that the Packers went from having one of the top defenses in the league to having one of the worst. In 2017, the team had one of the worst pass defenses in the league. The Packers had been blaming the poor performance on personnel so they refused to resign their top cornerbacks but those people would sign with other teams and earn Pro-Bowl status the year after they left the Packers. Obviously, something was wrong. The new defensive coordinator will run the same basic defenses but he will make sure that other teams cannot predict what he will do, that his players are highly motivated, performing at their best, and that they are used in such a way that they can perform at their best. That’s actually a pretty good metaphor for what a coach does.

Finally, my third major role is what I call a transformational artist. My definition of that is I have to get people to understand that their map of the world controls their experience and their outcomes and that their map will never represent reality – it just represents reality for the individual.The more useful the map is; the more varied the map is; and the more flexible the map is, the more likely a person will be to perform at a super level or a genius level. So the secret of trading success is about changing yourself and your level of awareness of how you create your own experience. To help you get there, I have to be able to teach you to 1) look inside and become aware of how you are producing your results and 2) to get you to understand that your map of the world is all made up and then projected onto the world. Thus, by becoming more aware of your map and making it more useful, you will change everything about your experience – which will in turn produce super results.

My highest value in life used to be to help others transform, however, after working a long time in the field I realized that I could only help others transform to the extent that I had transformed myself. As a result, my fourth major role is to transform myself and continue to evolve so that I can take others with me on the journey. And my journey of transformations has continued to accelerate to the point of my life becoming magical:

I have an incredible Internal Guidance (See Chapter 10 of Trading Beyond the Matrix);
I am fairly quiet inside which means that I’m aware of what’s going on and I can listen to my Internal Guidance;
One of the first signs of an awake person is that they don’t focus on problems, they focus on solutions and I seldom have what I used to call problems.
And finally, my life is rather magical meaning that I pretty much create what I want in my life by just putting my awareness on it.

Most important, however, is that I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to helping others get the same thing. And if that happens for you as a trader, then, in my opinion, you are a Super Trader.

Core Ideas:

One of the key Tharp Think principles is that you cannot trade the market – you can only trade your beliefs about the market. In fact, the markets are a nominalization – a process that we have turned into a noun to the point that we consider it real. But it’s not a noun, it’s just a process. As a result, you have to understand your beliefs about the market and whether or not they are useful. In addition, you have to realize that your beliefs are made up; that no belief is 100% useful but just useful within a small or wide context; and that every word that you use in a belief has a rather unique meaning for you.

As an example, one belief that is useful on this planet is that if you jump off of a twenty story building you will probably make a mess on the pavement below. I give this example because some of you might say, “No, that’s a fact, not a belief.” But there are actually some exceptions to that “fact” or truth even though they are rare and those people who survived probably broke a lot of bones in the process. My point is that there is a context in which that belief is useful — living on a planet that’s big enough to have a fairly substantial amount of gravity.

That belief would not be useful on a smaller body in space like the moon and it certainly would not apply at all to someone on a space station. If you jump off something in space that is say 500 feet tall, you might go up rather than down.

Remember also that most words that you use in a belief probably have a somewhat unique meaning to you. Most men might have the belief “I am tough.” But if twenty men have that belief, then each of them probably has a slightly or very different meaning for the word “tough.” For some, tough might mean resilient. For others, it might mean that they are strong and somewhat rigid. For others it might mean that they fight a lot and usually win. So just the meaning of the word “tough” can change whether or not the belief is useful and the context in which it is useful. Understanding all of this is simply a matter of awareness.

With those fundamentals in mind, let’s take a look at what Super Trader might mean.

Someone recently told me that I don’t produce Super Traders. I said that the term Super Trader means different things to different people and the person said: “no, it’s the commonly accepted definition of things.” His response demonstrated that he gave Super Trader a meaning that he interpreted was commonly held and that he didn’t realize everyone gives their own meaning to terms.

Let’s look at some ideas that different people have about being a Super Trader and how they are not necessarily accurate or useful. My examples may provide you with a major shift in your awareness.

First, a Super Trader might be someone who found a huge edge in the market at one point and did everything to capitalize on it. For example, what if you were one of the first people ever to computerize a trend following system? Let’s say you were early enough in the markets that your trend following algorithms were programmed in assembly language. What if you also fully understood the meaning of the principle: “Cut your losses short and let your profits run?” And what if you also understood market’s money position sizing strategies? Think about it. You are the only person doing all of that and you are trading commodities at the start of an era with huge trends in commodities. You also raised $5,000 and you throw that whole amount at your system. Let’s say the system lost three times and each time, it took a lot of work to raise another $5,000. But on the fourth time, the trade won and you turned $5,000 into millions of dollars. Let’s go on to say that eventually you were so successful that your account dominated the brokerage company you traded through.

Does that sound like anyone you know about? It’s an example of what most people would consider to be a Super Trader. That only happened, however, because 1) he understood certain key principles of success, 2) he had a huge edge that most people didn’t have, and 3) he was willing to take big risks (relative to his capital) to jumpstart the system.

In the Peak Performance 101 workshop, we play a trading game that has several objectives: to press your emotional buttons, to make you aware of the impact of objectives, to help you understand the power of position sizing strategies and big R-multiples; and to help you become aware of some of your issues. The SQN® of the trading system for the game is pretty terrible and people say, “I’d never trade like this in real life.” They might even say the game is stupid but the game offers players a huge edge – one that would bankrupt any casino. To win the game in the workshop, people have to find that edge and exploit it.

Such edges occur in the markets all the time. Right now there is a huge edge in cryptoassets. Blockchain, the technology behind cryptoassets is revolutionary and it’s leading a revolution that will eventually shake up the very core of the institutions of power in the world. We are doing everything we can to help people in our Super Trader program become aware of this edge and to be able to capitalize on it before Big Money takes it over.

Edges, however, only have a limited time frame. Being a computerized trend follower who understands market’s money position sizing strategies and who understands key rules of trading success is no longer a big edge. It still exists but it’s not a super edge. Cryptoassets, however, offer a super edge right now and will continue to until they are widely adopted. Think about it, if you really understand how to capitalize on an investment that could easily go up 100 fold per year (i.e., turn $1 into $100) for the next five years, would that make you a Super Trader? Perhaps or perhaps not.

Let’s take another example of what someone might believe a Super Trader looks like. During the late 1990s, day trading became a big fad. The first day trading books sold hundreds of thousands of copies. There were professional day trading organizations. Each person in the organization acted as their own broker and basically became a market maker for the stock in which they elected to specialize. These professional day traders often could only trade one stock because they had to know it inside out. They could only trade about $25,000 on margin (which was quite large then) because if they traded more, they’d impact the stock price too much and they’d lose their edge. Let’s say such a person made 100% per month on their account, but they could only trade about $25,000 so at the end of the month they’d have to take everything out but about $25,000. Now they are making 100% per month or as much as $300,000 per year. But does that make them a Super Trader? They have a $300,000 income ceiling. Does that make them a Super Trader? Was their edge a function of the trading rules at the time (which regularly change) and of the market type? What if rule changes toward the end of 1999 took away their edge and they subsequently lost all of their money?

These people had the advantage of trading during a huge bull volatile market during the late 1990s. Certain market types are very easy to make money in and bull volatile is one of them. One of our core teachings is that it’s easy to design a system that works in any one market type, but it’s insane to expect that system to work in all market types. For these day traders, the market type changed but many of them did not change what they were doing. Understanding yourself, your system, and market type is one of the cornerstones of success. But is someone who is able to make a lot of money during a particular market type a Super Trader?

I once had someone tell me that his currency trading system for the US Dollar had an SQN® 100 score of over 15. Once he realized what that meant, he changed his position sizing strategy and pretty quickly turned $20,000 into more than a million dollars. He thanked me profusely for the insights I had given him in the Definitive Guide to Position Sizing Strategies book, however, is he a Super Trader? I’m sure that the SQN score of that system was a function of the market type and that his window of opportunity was very narrow. Further, if he kept trading the system when the market type changed, he probably would have lost everything he had gained.

I could give numerous examples of famous traders who found a huge edge in the markets in a limited window time frame and made a killing.

John Templeton shorted the dotcoms in 1999.
Few people understood the situation that big money had gotten themselves into and started shorting subprime mortgages. Some of these people lost their shirts on the shorts because big money resisted the real valuation of the instruments they had created for some time and the early shorts couldn’t take the pressure. Others who followed the same strategy in 2008 made a killing.
The list could go on and on.

But are these people Super Traders? What if this edge only lasts for six months? What if they lose all of their money after the edge is over? Are they a Super Trader then?

What if being a Super Trader is seeing an edge, understanding the core principles of trading success, being psychologically clear enough to take advantage of that edge, and most importantly, being able to do it over and over again? Would that be a Super Trader?

Let’s look at another example of what I might consider a Super Trader. What if you needed $5,000 per month to live on? What if you could make $10,000 a month trading two hours a day and the rest of your time you could spend doing whatever you like – perhaps you spend your time having fun or helping others lift themselves up in life. Is that a Super Trader? You only make $120,000 per year trading!

I worked with someone around 1997 and connected him to his internal guidance in a two-day consulting session. (One of my goals in the Super Trader program is to make such a connection for everyone.) He started to follow his Internal Guidance and I would say he became enlightened. Furthermore, his internal guidance taught him how to trade. In 11 years, he grew his retirement plan from about a million dollars to the size of a small hedge fund. His Internal Guidance told him to stop trading around the end of 2007. Is he a Super Trader?

What if you are hugely successful trader at a professional firm? Let’s say you’ve risen through the ranks to become the CEO of one of the ten largest investment banks in the world. Is that person a Super Trader? Suddenly you have everything that money can buy and you realize that it doesn’t bring you happiness and you become depressed.

Now, what if that same person enrolls in our program and transforms himself so that he is constantly happy for no reason. Is that person now a Super Trader? Let’s say that person decides not to trade anymore but just to pursue what brings him joy. Does that make him “not” a Super Trader?

How about another example? Let’s take a person who manages a billion dollars in funds and who consistently outperforms the market by 1-2% each year. This out performance makes him an outstanding money manager. He is unhappy, however, working for a big institution so he joins our Super Trader program to improve himself and starts trading on his own. Pretty soon he becomes happy for no reason. He has enough passive income that he no longer needs to work. Does that make him a Super Trader? What if he realizes that the paradigm we teach in Peak 101 to increase your efficiency as a trader is now a way that he can manufacture R. He goes back to managing a big portfolio but he’s now transformed his consciousness and he is continually happy. He was a good trader before but now he is happy for no reason and he understands how to manufacture R. Is he now a Super Trader?

Okay, how about people who are making a six -figure salary in their careers but they are unhappy. Perhaps they are in sales or the medical field – they make a lot of money, but they are unhappy. Perhaps they don’t even understand they are unhappy, they just know they want a change, something better. They think that if they were just free of their job and could make a living trading, they’d be happy or have freedom. When these people join the Super Trader program, they start to transform themselves and many find themselves happy for no reason. They notice they become happy as a doctor or happy as a salesman. Their goal was to trade and be happy but now they are happy as a doctor or salesman and see little reason to pursue a career change. Are these people Super Traders? They’ve certainly traded an unhappy life for a happy one.

How about someone who goes through our Super Trader program and also spends six months in India meditating? They come back and develop a day trading process in just a few hours in the morning session for one or two stocks by which they can make enough money to live on comfortably. The person is unable to talk about how they trade because there is no thought; it’s just automatic. Now that person doesn’t work on making millions of dollars in the market but instead, they decide to teach monks and nuns how to trade from a high level of consciousness. Is such a person Super Trader?

One of the reasons I’ve taken you through these examples as an exercise is to demonstrate that the word Super Trader is a nominalization. It refers to a verb (an ongoing process) that we have turned it into a noun as if it were a thing. When you invent something that doesn’t really exist and you treat an ongoing process is as a thing, then the word or term for the nominalization can have many, many meanings. When you realize that point, then your awareness has gone up and you are on your way to transformation.

When you realize that it’s you who are making it all up, then you can ask yourself, “Is my map of the world useful?” If it’s not useful, then you can ask, “How can I make it richer? How can I make it more useful?” This process simply extends the exercise we’ve just gone through. Just by realizing that you make it all up and that you can create something much more useful, you can increase your level of awareness and create a state of genius where you can transform your reality.

As you can probably tell from this article, I’m passionate about this program. I have seen such amazing results from the people who go through it. That’s why I’ve opened up a few payment options that could help you join. These discounts are available to anyone who has already taken a Peak Performance 101 workshops in the last two years. If you have not taken a Peak 101 yet (an entry requirement for admission), the July event is the last chance you have to apply and get last years pricing on the Super Trader Program. Be sure to read the material above this article for the details. To read about the Super Trader Program, click here.

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