Mar
13
2008

  The Perfect ADD Career

I'll just post my discovery for the benefit of ADD people everywhere, I finally found a job that matches my skills and limitations. I'd been thinking for years about what kind of job to do other than corporate accounting, which suits me well enough but if it's "exciting" then it's probably because you're not doing a very good job. When the accounting department is run well then things are dull.

I ruled out any job where I have to provide a service to customers or clients. I tried that while at Arthur Andersen and I resented them when a client had some request that would require me to work overtime to answer. Theoretically I would care more if I had an equity stake, but the fact is that I'm not particularly motivated by money. It's all about the lifestyle for me--which is why I quit a fairly well-paying job at Arthur Andersen to move to Florida to try out for Team Rollerblade. But that's another story.

So I thought of manufacturing, maybe I could just make a product and sell it wholesale. No customer handholding, they place an order and I fill it. But there's nothing I particularly enjoy making, certainly nothing that would bring a high enough price I'd rather make and sell it than just not make it and goof off for free. And if it was something I could invent then hire workers to make it I'd have to manage employees and that's also a nuisance I'd rather avoid. Running a business is out since there's just so many things to take care of and I get overwhelmed easily.

After ruling out both service and manufacturing jobs I was at a loss. Until the little lightbulb in my head came up with TRADING! No customers, no product. No deadlines, no employees. Reasonable hours even if you work full-time, from 9:30am - 4:00pm. Plenty of time to close up shop and get a good patio table for happy hour. I came up with this idea in May 2007, and have stuck with it all this time. If you know me, you know that if I stick with anything more than eight weeks it's unusual. When I didn't know anything about trading one of the first things I read is that each trader needs to develop a strategy and stick with it in good times and bad. So I decided that my strategy would be to make 10% profit every day, and quit work once I did that. I'd start with $100. By the end of the year I'd have something like $142 million, I don't remember but I worked it out at the time. It didn't seem quite right, but how hard could it be to make $10? And if it's a percentage gain, why wouldn't it be scalable? Anyway, I was very excited and set out to be a trader.

I ordered a bunch of books and started reading them. Spent most of the summer on that part, just learning. Here's where the ADD pros & cons comes up; I learned that good traders

  • have an innate sense of the tape. One of the benefits of ADD is that your brain absorbs so much minutiae that you just "know" things intuitively without knowing quite how you know it. I've got that--I have very good intuition and I've learned to trust it and accept it as a skill. More of a talent, really since I don't know how it happens. But trusting it is the hard part and I've learned to do it.
  • must come up with their own strategy. This is because there are plenty of winning strategies, but they only really work for the person who invented them. It has to do with trusting the system--if you've done enough research to discover a system then you know how it works and why and can trust it. If you just buy someone else's system you won't have a familiarity with the data that was used to create the rules and the lack of complete understanding disallows complete trust and that can lead a trader to second-guess the system and make bad trades. From what I've tried so far, it's kind of monotonous to backtest strategies and to study charts looking for patterns. But I love it. That's an ADD thing, too. Hyperfocus. ADD people can have extraordinary attention when it comes to simple repetitive tasks. I first learned I was good at this when I took a psychology study in college. I had to hit one key if a shape on the right was rotated versus the one on the left, and another key if it was both a mirror image and rotated. It seemed to go on and on, but I did like they told me and chose as fast as I could while still being accurate. Apparently I finished in a normal amount of time. When it was over they asked me how I thought I did, and I said I was pretty sure I missed one since I reacted just a little too quickly and hit the wrong key although I knew immediately it was a mistake. They laughed and said they'd check the results. They were SHOCKED when they returned and said I was right, I missed one. I shrugged and said I did my best, I knew I went a little too fast on that one. But they said, "No, you don't understand. Most people miss several hundred. The next best participant missed fifty-something." So I thought that was odd but it's not like I can make a career out of correctly identifying if shapes are mirror images or not. Later I had a temp job where I had to add stacks of checks with an adding machine and attach the tape with the total to the stack. I was great at that--I blew through whole stacks without any mistakes, I liked how neat the tapes looked without any corrections. I'd add anything from 200 to 600 checks at a time. I found out later that the other women could barely get past 50 without making an error. Now years later when I was diagnosed, I found out this is special to people with ADD and I've found a practical application for the skill since I can look at charts and test strategies and repeat and repeat and repeat without really getting bored with it, I just get into a zone.
  • must stick with their strategy even when it's not making sense. This appeals both to the tendency for ADDers to love systems. Special lists, beeping devices, index card systems, you name it. All necessary to help us do what other people take for granted. Before I got meds I actually would forget things while I showered and had to come up with a strategy to make sure I washed and shampooed and rinsed in the right order and I still sometimes would do things twice since I forgot if I did it just a few seconds earlier. Seriously, it was getting bad and that's when I went to a doctor to find out what was going on and found out it was ADD. But back to the systems, it's a matter of trusting the system more than yourself. And that's par for the course for the ADD crowd, we wouldn't need a system if we could manage without it so of course we trust it more than ourselves. Plus it's reinforced by the trusting your intuition thing. That involves trusting that you know what's going on even when you don't understand why something is the way it is or even understand how you know it. You just know it and that's that and it just wastes time to try to figure out how you got to the conclusion.
  • must not make emotional decisions about money. I'm not sure that this is particular to those with ADD, although anecdotally it seems to me that those of us who are this way are fairly happy-go-lucky about money. Easy come, easy go. Maybe it's a psychological defensive mechanism so we don't feel bad when we can't succeed in traditional jobs as we watch our peers pass us by. Or maybe it's because our sense of time isn't as linear as most people's. There is now, and there is the future. No systematic progression from one to the other. Things are now, or they are in the future. At some point, some of those things previously in the "future" will pop into the "now" and we'll deal with them at that point. So as I see it, if you have money "now" then it's not particularly relevant if there is money in the "future" or not since you aren't going to spend it now anyway. You use "now" money to buy things "now" and you can't really buy things in the future because when you buy them you always do it "now". I don't know if this will make sense to anyone else, but it does make it easier to be dispassionate about temporary gains and losses and just stick with the strategy.

and that's mostly it. Your hours depend on your strategy. My strategy doesn't require me to work all day every day. Except sometimes during crucial transition points. But even then, I set my trade triggers and can be anywhere and just get a text message that my trigger went off and I purchased or sold shares. I don't day-trade or invest in anything that would require hair-trigger order placement to make money. So trade triggers are great, they might be a few cents off the ideal but for me that's unimportant. For others, it could be the difference between profit and loss. I set a bunch of stuff up before I went on vacation, and could relax without checking the market. Because I trust my system.

If anyone reads this and has a perspective about ADD and trading please leave a comment, I'm interested to know if I've come up with a great career for many ADDers or if it's just particular to me and I'm generalizing too much.