“When I saw that screen light up that day in the Merrill Lynch offices, I lost any residual doubt that Bloomberg could make it. We had picked just the right project. It was big enough to be useful, small enough to be possible. Start with a small piece, fulfill one goal at a time, on time. Do it with all things in life. Sit down and learn to read one-syllable words. If you try to read Chaucer in elementary school, you’ll never accomplish anything. You can’t jump to the end game right away, in computers, politics, love, or any other aspect of life.”
~ Mike Bloomberg, “Bloomberg by Bloomberg”
Some people find the multi-billionaire mayor of New York City to be an obnoxiously arrogant guy. But I found his short autobiography — actually more the story of the firm than the man — to be refreshing and inspiring.
Having read the book some time ago, the above quote popped up again just recently. It comes in the context of Bloomberg and his team scrambling to get the data terminal business off the ground.
There were all kinds of problems at first — as is normally the case with startups. Many of them were comical, though they felt like life or death at the time (and quite possibly could have been).
The “screen lighting up” moment in the Merrill offices refers to a super-crude version of the Bloomie machine that so many Wall Street pros know and love today. Not even a 1.0 version, but more like a zero point zero version.
Getting that working prototype to fire up for a client — after some last minute bug tweaks practically done in a taxicab — gave Bloomberg a clear vision of the future. In the still early stages of the journey, his deepest instincts were confirmed.
As Bloomberg observes, the project they had undertaken was just the right size: “Big enough to be useful, small enough to be possible.”
For traders who want to upgrade and improve — be it expanding a roster of trading methodologies, getting into money management, or simply achieving consistent profitability — Mayor Mike’s advice is invaluable.
- “Pick the right project:” Make sure your trading plan is logical and sustainable. Aim high, but stay within the realm of the possible. Expand your roster of knowledge and personal capabilities, so as to naturally expand what counts as possible.
- “Start with a small piece:” Think of your trading process like an engine. Instead of horsepower, though, this engine produces profits. Now think about the various components of the engine. Take those components apart, and examine each of them individually. Ponder on the individual component level, one piece at a time, the things you can do to make the whole engine improve.
- “Fulfill one goal at a time, on time:” This goes back to the theory of constraints. What can you do right now to most effectively improve your process? What area of concentrated effort will have the most tangible impact on results? Set incremental improvement goals — again oriented to “small pieces” — and knock them down systematically, like targets at a shooting range.
- “Do it with all things in life:” As poker pro Tommy Angelo says, “The surest way to get better at poker is to get better at everything and let poker rise with the tide.” This also works in trading.
- “One syllable words:” Start from where you are. Don’t stress how long the journey is, as long as you can see a path from here to there. The journey itself is a huge part of the fulfillment. In trading, a deceptively simple methodology can take a long time to master. But the mastery is well worth it. If you start simple and create a foundation, you will then have something powerful to build on for many years to come.