Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Review "Lone Survivor"

I recently read the book "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Lattrell (at right in photo). It details the career of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. The book specifically focuses on his training and his subsequent survival of an attack in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wing. He survived the largest fatality on a SEAL force ever. The attack killed 19 out of 20 men. Marcus survived a gun shot wound to the leg, a broken wrist, a broken nose, 3 broken vertebrae and was eventually protected by local villagers who sent an emissary to the closest military base allowing a rescue team to locate the wounded SEAL. He spent 7 days in the mountains after the attack.

Of course while reading the book I came across several analogies to trading. I was most interested in his training in the rigorous Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) class. Marcus was raised on a ranch in east Texas. He and his twin brother Morgan began training to be SEALs at the age of 15. They trained with a neighbor named Billy Shelton who ran an informal training program for locals kids interested in various special forces. Billy is a Green Beret with service in Vietnam. In addition to an intense physical program, Billy imparted this wisdom on Marcus and his brother (in the words of Marcus Luttrell):

"Listen Marcus, " Bill told me, always listen, and always jump all over anything your instructor tells you. Get out in front. Fast. Then make sure you stay there."

In trading I view out instructors as anyone in the room. It can be the principals of the firm, a veteran trader, or even just a trader who is seeing things well. If someone with experience offers you some advice or a suggestion take it and run with it. Billy's advice helped Marcus often throughout his training, including this occasion:

"Well that morning Instructor Reno pulled himself up to his full height of about 15 feet, in my eyes, and told us he wanted to talk to us briefly, and we better pay attention. 'Better yet, take notes.'

I was into my zipper bag instantly, getting hold of a dry notebook and a couple of pencils...

I looked around the room and few others were doing the same as I was, but not everyone, by no means everyone. ....'Drop! All of you!' he bellowed. An there was an unbelievable commotion as chairs were scraped back and we all hit the floor in straight-arm position. 'Push em out!" he snapped. And we made 20 then were left in the rest position...

Months later I reminded him of that day. 'Of course I knew,' he said. 'It was your first test. I had the names of guys who paid attention written down before you'd done your first twenty. "

Later on in training, at the beginning of hell week, the BUD/S class was addressed by Rear Admiral Joe Maguire, a legendary Navy man. Maguire offered the class this advice:

"First of all, I do not want you to give in to the pressure of the moment, Whenever you're hurting bad, just hang in there. Finish the day. Then, if you're still feeling bad, think about it long and hard before you decide to quit. Second, take it one day at a time. One evolution at a time.

Don't let your thoughts run away with you, don't start planning to bail out because you're worried about the future and how much you can take. Don't look ahead to the pain. Just get through the day, and there's a wonderful career ahead of you."

This rings true to trading. I've written several analogies with golf and basketball about focusing on the next trade/shot. As the BUD/S class went on and guys dropped Marcus observed that many guys were dropping after completing exercises that they had done before. They were looking ahead to a week full and giving up after completing a drill. It was nothing they had not done before. Worry about the next trade, not the next week/month/year.

Footage of "Hell Week:"

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