What Old Philosophy Can Teach You About Trading – The Great Goethe’s Wisdoms Applied To Tading

What Old Philosophy Can Teach You About Trading – The Great Goethe’s Wisdoms Applied To Tading

As I said in a previous blog post already, I am always astonished by how few people actually read books and/or feed their brain with other things than Netflix and the evening news/gossip (essentially the same btw).

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think that only reading scientific texts and never watching zombie heads go ba da boom is very healthy. It’s all about the mix, just like when it comes to nutrition.

I actually studied Philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University in Frankfurt and today I want to pay my respects to one of the greatest thinkers ever. Not only did Goethe, who lived around 1800, write timeless epic and lyric poetry like Faust or The Sorrows Of Young Werther, he was also finance minister at the German court and widely interested in everything life and humanity have to offer.

He is definitely my role model when it comes to combining a successful career, the joys of life (and the pleasures of the flesh), and the love and curiosity for knowledge and philosophical thoughts. To me, his life is the epitome of what a human can hope to achieve during their time on this planet and I can only urge you to read everything he ever produced, plus the various biographies about him out there. One of the most fascinating persons to ever have wandered this planet.

So, let’s take a look at some of the quotes this great mind has to offer to us. All of these can be applied to other areas of your life than trading, as well, of course. There is a lot to learn from these.


1. “Doubt can only be removed by action.”

When I started out playing Poker, I put much more emphasis on improving the psychological rather than the technical aspects of my game. Today I know, this was a mistake. Most psychological issues disappear with knowledge. Work on your competency, this will boost your confidence in your trading, and most of your issues will disappear. This is the plain and simple truth.


2. “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

This is obvious. I know a great share of people that actually know what they should be doing, but they just don’t do it. In other words, discipline is the difference between failure and success.


3. “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

The thing that matters most is you becoming profitable. The thing that matters least is you relaxing at the beach. I see people that haven’t made it yet going out every weekend partying, what are they celebrating?


4. “We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise, we harden.”

Have bold opinions but be even bolder when you have to change them. Never stop learning, never be ignorant. Every thought deserves a second thought. I spend at least 1 hour every day reading something that I DON’T understand, or something that I DON’T know yet about trading.


5. “Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.”

As long as you are in this game, there will never be a point where you “made it”. Success is a never-ending process. Become complacent and you will be taken down.


6. “Know thyself? If I knew myself, I’d run away.”

Great one, maybe my favorite one. Self-perception is dangerously underdeveloped in Western cultures and it seems especially in that part of the population which is trading. If people would be better at knowing their own mind, would they stop deceiving themselves and finally do what has to be done? Probably.


7. “People who think honestly and deeply have a hostile attitude towards the public.”

There is a lot of information out there on trading that is just plain bad, yet most people are blind followers instead of critical thinkers. Why? Because this is how we are raised. An idiot in a suit is an authority and what he says has got to be right. Be a contrarian if you want to make it. Be aggressive and hostile towards common wisdom. It doesn’t work.


8. “We are our own devils; we drive ourselves out of our Edens.”

This rings a lot of bells with me. Life could be so easy if I could keep my inner demons in check. But this is an ever-constant struggle, and will always be until I bite the dust (and there is no fucking Eden or a life after death, please..).


9. “Everything is hard before it is easy.”

This is why so many people are such horrible teachers. They simply forgot how it was when they were beginners. People are arrogant instead of humble. Even walking was hard when you were a baby. You had to learn it first and you ruined your pretty face more than once doing so. Always be humble, never forget where you are coming from, or you might just go back there.


10. “If you don’t feel it, you’ll never get it.”

If a strategy or concept doesn’t click with you, it’s likely you will never make money with it. Find something that makes sense to you, something that is built on principles that you think are reasonable. You have to feel it. This is the only way to keep moving forward at a reasonable pace. Get rid of dead weight.


11. “Talent develops in solitude, character develops in the stream of life.”

Becoming a better trader will only happen with you, alone, in front of your desk, working on your problems with focus and discipline. The strength (character) to stick to your trading plan will come with experience in the markets.

12. “Difficulties increase the nearer we get to the goal.”

Break-even traders are not to be envied. It’s a horrible place to be and the longer you are there, the more frustrated you will become, simply because working on the nuances is much harder than correcting huge flaws.

13. “We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.”

If you understand this quote, you will make it as a trader. You will! If you think you understood it, you probably didn’t. Think again.

14. “I love those who yearn for the impossible.”

I do, too, because I am one of them. We all yearn for the impossible, because succeeding in an industry that has a 99% failure rate is close to impossible. Yet, we all think we are going to make it. Of course, as soon as your belief dies, so does your chance at the gold pot. Never stop believing that the impossible is within your reach. It really is, if you do your fucking homework – which no-one ever does.

15. “We know accurately only when we know little; doubt grows with knowledge.”

You remember that time when you just started out trading and thought well this is easy! This is the privilege of the idiots, not knowing that they are idiots. Every great trader I know never forgets that there are hundreds of millions of pieces of information out there which are being used against him and he does NOT know about them. Doubt is the name of the game. Always question yourself, but never question your trade plan once you are in a trade.

16. “To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.”

Don’t we all know this feeling of immense urge when we want to close a trade but our trade plan says otherwise? Or the urge to open a trade? How often do we give in to that urge? More often than we want to admit, is the only correct answer. Set & forget is a much better approach than active managing for most traders from this perspective.

17. “At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.”

Yes, this is really true. “Luck” is simply opportunity+ability, NOTHING ELSE. And this quote really is from Goethe, not some muscled-up meathead shmuck doing motivational videos on Youtube with his 5$-webcam. If I see that quote attributed wrongly one more time I will punch a hole into my monitor.

18. “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

Especially there is nothing more frightful to your trading account.

19. “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”

And as soon as you trust yourself, you will also know how to trade. This does not mean be ignorant or falsely confident in your abilities. This means, work hard, and trust in your ability to come to your own conclusions. Trust in your ability to make informed decisions and judgements based on everything you worked so hard to understand. Trading is a journey, just like life, and you are responsible for where the journey goes. Choose yourself, trust yourself.

(That’s it for the trading quotes. Now a few general quotes about life that I think have a lot of value.)

20. “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

This applies to 99% of the population of this planet, unfortunately. Prisoners of their own mind, of society’s propaganda, of consumption, of their addictions, yet believing that they chose to live the way they live. Believing that the truth they have been implanted from childhood on is the one and only reality. This is so hard to watch. Critical thinking at negative levels. Most people these days in the Western world say they are atheists, however, they exchanged the religion of following an invisible old man in the sky with the religion of complacency and ignorance.

21. “We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.”

This one speaks for itself ;-).

22. “One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

People that don’t read and are neither interested in the arts or music have no place in my life. Don’t forget, you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

23. “One can stand anything except a succession of ordinary days.”

Yeah, I hate routine. However, routine is important to make it as a trader. But I don’t want to live a machine-like life. After all, that is one of the main reasons why I quit the 9-to-5 rat race. So I mix it up sometimes. I do crazy stuff like eating Pizza for breakfast or going jogging in the morning instead of in the evening. Trust me, these very, very little things make a huge difference in happiness and productivity levels. If I say to myself that every Monday at 10 am I am going to write an article from now on, I won’t even write one single word. No way. I hate schedules. Schedules are ordinary. Mix it up! And don’t let your life become a succession of routines, that is the worst.

Conor McGregor does not follow a fixed workout schedule. He gets up, then he gets moving. He knows, why. That’s how champions are made.

24. “Remember to live.”

…and don’t forget to work :-). It’s all about a healthy mix, this is what I always preach to everyone. Being a workaholic is shit. Being a lazy bum is shit, as well. Or to say it with the words of a “great” poet of our times: Work hard, play harder. Wooh! This is your life, you only got one shot. Don’t forget to enjoy the view among all the hustle.

I hope I could inspire some of you to read more by this great man called Goethe. Someone like him comes along maybe every century. I claim the spot for the 21st century, by the way.



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Comments ( 2 )

  • Mike

    #10 Took a couple months in the members Forum to get down the reversal system.. When that lightbulb went off, Man the magic started happening..Every since then i see candles totally different.. Cool article!!

    • Moritz

      Awesome Mike 🙂 great to hear you are making progress. Your active participation surely helps!

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