Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cultivating Your “Edge”

by Janet M. Shlaes, Ph.D.

Your “edge” empowers you to generate high probability outcomes in every life domain; it provides the requisite strategic advantage to leverage your strengths, skills and desires. Who wouldn’t want that?
Having spent a great deal of my professional life in the financial industry, first as a trader and then as a recruiter and trainer and coach for electronic traders, the concept of the “edge” or strategic advantage is a familiar one that maps across many industries. The “edge” provided traders with the means to fully utilize their strengths in order to consistently produce positive outcomes. This doesn’t mean the traders never experienced losses. Losses are part of all life domains, including the trading world. What optimally cultivating the “edge” in the trading world provided was a net profit over time; the length of time depended on the trader’s intention, financial commitment, trading approach and financial/emotional capacity.

Those of you outside of the trading world can utilize the seven essential “edge” qualities from the trading world to cultivate strategic advantages in most life arenas. These interconnected qualities, when combined, serve to leverage your unique skills and motivators in your chosen arena. Seven requisite qualities for cultivating your “edge” and resultant strategic advantage include:
1.      Information: Successful traders, particularly High Frequency Traders, know that being on top of critical information consistently provides them with a strategic advantage. They are willing to devote substantial financial resources in order to obtain critical information for acquiring a strategic advantage.

2.      Mastery: Mastery of the critical elements of your desired arena is essential for gaining and maintaining your “edge.” It’s not enough to have information, you need to fully understand the specific hierarchy and relevance of critical information. Specifically, what are the elements in your field that are necessary and sufficient for success? How do these elements fit together? Which elements are critical leverage points? Which elements are necessary but not sufficient? Is there room for creativity or do these elements need to be combined in a specific manner?

3.      Self-Awareness: Self-awareness is essential for mastery and includes many factors that, although may often seem non-rational, significantly impact your actions and your results. For example, what is your ability to tolerate risk? What do you do when faced with real and/or potential loss – do you act proactively, reactively or freeze? What are the potential consequences for your characteristic approach to risk? How do you handle conflict – do you characteristically confront or avoid?

4.      Speed: In a world of warp-speed change, it’s essential to act quickly, proactively and defensively. In the trading world the ultimate goal is to increase the outcome of profitable trades and decrease your risk and losses on trades that have turned against you. Many traders freeze when faced with new information, losses, perceived additional risk and even gains; it’s not unusual to limit profits and expand losses when faced with risk, fear and a lack of mastery of critical elements and self-awareness.

5.      Creativity: Creativity requires both expansion and contraction, essentially the capacity to simultaneously think inside and outside of the box. Sometimes you need to limit your options/choices in order to maximize your creativity. Creativity calls for the ability to honor and bring the best of the past into the present and generate new approaches for the future. Think of this as taking the optimal existing critical elements and putting them together creatively to generate multiple leverage points.

6.      Discipline:  Disciple entails generating a strategy and sticking to it, recognizing when critical elements have shifted and your original plan is now irrelevant and being so well versed in your original and alternative strategies that you can shift into action in spite of any discomfort or fear that is generated via change. Anxiety, fear and discomfort are normal elements of working with risk and change. Discipline allows you to utilize these elements strategically to move you forward, rather than be sabotaged by them.

7.    Neutrality: Many think that neutrality is about not caring, however, without caring about what you are doing and being a force to bring your desired outcome into the world, you would not be able to generate the requisite motivation and energy for strategizing and taking action. True neutrality is about not being attached to your outcomes, learning from mistakes and setbacks and utilizing these lessons strategically to increase your “edge” in future endeavors.

Learning to cultivate your “edge” via the seven requisite qualities detailed above requires an investment of your intellectual, physical and emotional energy, as well as your commitment to excellence. What one action will you take today to cultivate your “edge?”


Check out the links below for additional posts to help you “Cultivate Your ‘Edge’.”

Are Your SMART Goals Smart Enough?

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