Learning to fly taught me so much more than, well learning to fly. See how I used this one important lesson in other areas of my life.
"Just fly the plane"
November 2010, just as my daughter was born, I received the news that one of our large main-contractors had gone bust. A huge blow for any self employed business man, especially on a day where responsibilities had just gone from a two to an eleven overnight.
My initial thought was to get a job, but what job? Afterall, I hadn't worked for anyone in almost eight years. Would I go back to surveying or commercial management, absolutely not......
I decided, off the cuff, to apply to American Airlines. I had only ever flown a small single engine plane, but to become a commercial airline pilot had been a school boy dream of mine, so why not do it now?! Two years training in Europe, months away from home training, weeks away from home when working.....just what every new father needs to do right? It goes without saying that dream didn't fly. Instead I concentrated on what I had in front of me, a solid business, a good team, a home, a new family and the ability to step up my financial trading which until now had been somewhat a hobby.
Any one who has dabbled in the FX or now Crypto trading markets, trading CFDs for spreads will know the saying, 90% of traders lose 90% of their money in 90 days. And so true it is. Why? that's for another blog, for now lets look at how flying helped me trade in a way that I had never experienced before.
In 2008, after a harrowing flight from the London to New York, as you do, I decided I should learn to fly.....just in case. For now it wouldn't be a 777 though, I made do with a single engine, twin seater light aircraft, operated from a grass runway, on a hill, surrounded by trees with the odd telegraph pole thrown in for good measure. If you were lucky you would even see the odd sheep on the runway as you came in to land. Anyway, I took to flying like a duck to water. I enjoyed every moment of it and the sense of achievement was vast. However, one situation sticks in my mind and to this day Ive based so many of my decisions and processes around this situations, especially when times have been stressful or panicked.
It was October 2008, around 3pm, the day of my flying test. My examiner for that day was not only an ex RAF pilot of 30 something years, but also the owner of the flying school and all the planes. All of my lessons had previously been with his son, even he was hugely experienced and a great pilot and instructor. I wasn't worried though, I had enough hours under my belt and I knew the airfield like the back of my hand. The test went well, no slip ups, no mistakes, no crashes or near misses so all in all so far so good. After 45 mins of flying, my examiner requested that we return to the airfield taking note that the wind had changed direction and typically I would be landing on one of the more difficult runways. All lining up well, my gauges checked, flaps lowered, altimeter adjusted....coming in to land, keeping the speed to a minimal, but enough to clear the trees at the start of the runway, my examiner flicks the engine and main power switches off and fold his arms. I now have no power, no dials. I instantly, as trained, put my hand towards the switch to restart the engine. He immediately covers the switch and says in a calm but firm voice, 'fly the plane'. No gauges, no speed indicator, a difficult runway, trees fast approaching, and again he says, 'just fly the plane and ignore everything else'.......
Well I'm here, some 14 years later, no air accident report to complete and a pass certificate in hand. When we finally landed, and the blood had recirculated to my hands and face, he told me that the biggest lesson in flying is to feel and be one with the plane. You don't need to look at the gauges, you don't need to reconfirm what you already know and feel, just be at one, and fly the plane.
To this day ive used this lesson in many areas other than flying. Trading being one. I hear students and so say experienced traders alike talking about this trend, this line, this moving average and this indicator, but no one says trade the graph. Know what you're trading, feel it, recognise it, get a feel of what the graph is telling you, anticipate its next move, and most importantly be decisive. To this day, its worked for me. Five figures into Seven in only a few months, 100% account returns in a record of 22 days with no losing trades.....what can I say, trade the graph.