It is all too easy to forget that trading (not to mention life) is a physical experience. (See Descartes’ Error “I feel, therefore I Am” by Damasio) The path of least resistance is believing that risk decisions are mainly, if not exclusively, cognitive (thinking) events.

My just-ended golf weekend in Amelia Island reminded me how true this is. On certain chip shots I thought about things like ball placement and whether I wanted a full-swing or not. On others I “thought about” what felt right. I looked at the distance to the hole and just focused on the physical experience. Ditto for putting. Which do you suppose led to better shots?

If you said “thinking shots”, you are wrong with one exception.

I tried a whole new way to hit a sand shot and it required that I consciously execute each step. I couldn’t do it by feel because I had none. And true to the intent of this letter, the response of the much better golfers I was playing with was “great, now you have the FEEL of it.

Trading is like this. At first you have to intellectualize a risk situation. But the best results come when you arrive at the place where on top of that cognitive activity you can effectively layer an awareness and integration of the physical experience – the data that exists in your body not your head.

This is what is meant by the term “art and science”. Trading by definition cannot be a science as it is only the sum total of all human risk decisions but its numerical nature allows it to pass as a reasonable facsimile. The idea of financial engineering btw is kind of an over-statement. There is no engineering of markets. Anyway, as for the art part, the thing that is missing from almost all trading advice is how to research and interpret data that isn’t presented in statistical form. Or put another way, how to leverage the qualitative along with the quantitative.

The vast majority of experts will still tell you not to try.

The irony of that is your brain is going to interpret market data via pattern matching regardless if you want to use that input or not. Most importantly, the holistic system communicates the result of the pattern match through the physical feeling-sensory-dimension of our existence. The reason the conventional wisdom is so wrong is that it never learned to distinguish between the feeling of an impulse and the feeling of an intuition or what comes to feel like instinct. That however isn’t a good enough reason to stick with the old earth is flat/intellect is all approach.

The way we see it, the brain will always win in the end so why not get started as soon as possible on working in concert with a brain and a body that work together to assess and address uncertain situations – price movement or sand traps. The job might be as hard as learning to shoot a 90 but did you really think other traders or money managers were going to let you take their money without a fight?

Bring all your faculties to the game!