The Great Wall of China, A Christmas Carol, and trading.

Glen Larson

President, Genesis –

This month’s newsletter discusses the Great Wall of China, A Christmas Carol, and how they relate to our careers, our daily lives and our trading. Many of you know of the Great Wall of China and how it was built in the third century BC. It was originally built by Ch’in Shih Huang-ti, the first emperor of a unified China during the Qin (Ch’in) Dynasty. This Great Wall is known to be at least 5,500 miles long (3,889.5 miles of actual wall) and has over 10,000 watchtowers. It has become a monument in stone that has survived a millennia. Over the Holidays I was thinking about the Great Wall of China and watching, A Christmas Carol. I couldn’t help but have a light bulb moment when I struck me how the two were related in our lives as traders.

New Year’s Wish

I want first, to express my gratitude for each and every one of you. We really do appreciate you as clients and for partnering with Genesis. I really think we have some of the best clients in the world. It’s always fun going to trade seminars or trade shows and meeting you and later, being welcomed as friends.

I’ve always had a question about the story of Aladdin and the Genie. When Aladdin was told that the Genie could only grant three wishes and no more, (taking out the wishing for more wishes) I always wondered, “Why didn’t Aladdin ask for more genies?” My wish for you is, “May you all have unlimited genies and unlimited wishes that come true for you this coming year.”

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was built in the third century BC by China so they could protect themselves against the marauding Mongolians. Before the Wall was built, one of the largest cities in China had a population of 500,000 people; quite the thriving metropolis. Regardless, as a thriving metropolis, peace was hard to come by in that era. During this period, the Qin Dynasty was continually battling the nomadic Mongolian tribes. These tribes were a formidable fighting force due to their riding and archery skills. The Chinese suffered many defeats at the hands of the Mongolians.

A main area of conflict involved an area near the Yellow River. This area is known as, “the mother place” of all China because the head of the Yellow River, its basin – specifically, the Wei valley – was considered the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilizations. This area was claimed by both the Chinese and Mongolians and as was constantly in dispute by these two societies.

The Yellow River basin was an extremely prosperous region, favorable for farming. However, year in and year out, many of the Yellow River farmers were suffering the same bloody incursions at the hands of the Mongolian marauders. The farmers would spend their spring and summer growing the crops but the Mongolians needed supplies to survive the cold winters. After the fall harvest the Mongolians would raid the farms and plunder the harvest, leaving the Chinese farmers destitute. The Mongolian raids threatened the very stability and the power of the Qin Dynasty. Initially, the Chinese leaders attempted to arrange payments and treaties with the nomadic leaders. In order to attain peace they attempted to bribe them with gifts, pay royalties and offered fine silks. Unfortunately, these payments and tributes were not accepted by all of the nomadic tribes. The nomadic leaders also began to demand the daughters of the Chinese noble leaders as wives. The Chinese began to call these marriages, “peaceful and friendly relations.” However the financial and emotional burden became too heavy for the state and the leaders of the Empire.

The Chinese considered the nomadic Mongolians barbarians who had nothing to offer their advanced culture. Since they wanted to separate themselves of all things alien, the decision was made to create and construct the great China Wall. This Great Wall accomplished two things; it would unite the Chinese people and also protect them from the barbarians. At this point in time China was considered to be self-sufficient. They didn’t need the rest of the world. China had acquired the art of printing, the use of coal, water clocks, bronze casting, astronomical instruments, the naval compass, drugs, spices and more. They were an advanced society, compared to the rest of the world.

For several thousand years, this great Chinese wall provided the farmers and silk routes protection from the marauders’ nomadic raids. This wall served a useful purpose and achieved its initial function of protecting, up to a time, in history.

At the same time, another wall was constructed and the Dynasty decided that to protect their civilization they should control what informational contamination would be allowed in from the outside world. They controlled all publications, all communications and all ideas to make certain they conformed to the Dynasty leader’s perceptions and beliefs. They altered academic and religious beliefs that did not correspond to the Emperor’s, while various concepts and philosophies were forbidden.

After centuries had passed, these two walls began to hinder the growth of China while the barbarians and the rest of the world started gaining inspiration, knowledge and know-how. Other civilizations advanced far beyond China. As a result, China, for a long time, was left behind and was perceived primitive in comparison to the rest of the world. The Great Wall of China became a detriment to the growth and development of the Chinese country.

Our Great Walls of China

I want you to think about your past and consider how many of you may have constructed similar walls that, at the time, were built with positive purpose and to provide protection. Just as the Great Wall of China provided a benefit for the Chinese when it was initially constructed, many of our successes came because of walls and beliefs that provided us protection and helped us succeed in life, trading and careers.

Many of you may not appear to be an Emperor or King in the eyes of your family or the rest of the world; I know I’m not. You are, however, an absolute monarch over the ideas that enter your walls. You are also the absolute Emperor or leader, deciding whether or not to keep up your great wall or barrier. You decide if you want to go beyond these walls or stay in your comfort zone.

That’s what I want all of us to stop and think about at this time of the year. I really love this time year, between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a time when my wife and I can sit back and look at what we want to accomplish the coming year. It’s also a time when I like to reflect upon the goals, ideas and improvements that I want to pursue for our company.

At this time, I would like you to challenge yourself. Ask yourselves what unseen walls you’ve built. Although they, like the Great Wall of China provided an initial benefit, may be restricting your growth and expansion. How long has it been since you’ve exposed yourself to new ideas, concepts and philosophies that might be different?

During these current economic conditions and in the world of business, change is coming more rapidly. Are you keeping pace with the changes in economic, social, scientific and other developments? Do you read a new book once a month? Do you feel as though you’ve mastered every fundamental principle you need to know … and your trading?

Take time at the end of the year to look at any walls you may have been ignoring because they were initially beneficial.

A Christmas Carol Analysis

An easy way to perform this year-end self-assessment is to do a Christmas Carol analysis. This is a famous story that is shown every Christmas and tells the tale of a bitter old man that is visited by three spirits. He was visited by the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present and the ghost of Christmas future, in succession. The purpose of these ghostly visits was to make Ebenezer Scrooge realize the price he has paid in the past, the price he was paying in the present and what his payment would be in the future. He had to look at what he had done, was doing and where it was going to take him.

In this analogy of the great China walls we’ve constructed during our lives, I want you to step back and analyze your own, current situation. This is what is sometimes referred to as, “the Christmas Carol experience.”

To perform the Christmas Carol Experience, sit down in the comfortable chair, relax and think back on your past. Think of your present conditions, current beliefs and current walls. Now, put yourself five years into the future and try to feel exactly what you will be experiencing if you continue with your current barriers and current beliefs.

Where will you be? Picture the hurt, the pain or the feelings of the achievement in all those 5 years. Experience the reality of where you will be in five years if you continue with your current beliefs and walls. If it’s painful, feel that emotion and the cost of continuing down that path.

Once you’ve done this for five years then, step forward to 10 years out. Again, experience the feelings of hurt, pain or pleasure if you continue your current path. Now go 20 years in the future to see and feel the emotions of that path. I think you’ll notice that your life will be very similar to what it is now, if there are no big, miraculous changes in your beliefs, walls or actions.

So the question I want you ask yourself during this time of the New Year, is:

If you don’t like what you see why wait to change it?

Try something different, tear down your walls and challenge your beliefs. Why not give it a shot? You have nothing to lose.

An example of a person, who pushed himself, was the late Henry Ford. His parents were Irish immigrants. He had to struggle as he was growing up. At age 16 he left for Detroit and found work as a mechanic’s apprentice. His big break came when he was offered work as an engineer in the Edison Illuminating Company. He climbed the ladder to become a chief engineer.

He again, decided to go beyond his personal walls and barriers. He became obsessed with building a simple, affordable car at a time when automobiles were considered an expensive luxury. He toiled in his back garage, tinkering with his new idea. People told him he should not waste his time, rather, focus on his job; being a simple engineer for Edison. They wanted him to go back to his comfort zone. Ford ignored them and continued his work. In fact, he focused so intently on his new idea of the car that when he finished, he discovered they had made it too wide to fit through the doors of his garage. To get it out, he hacked his way through the shed walls late one night. That’s definitely breaking down one’s barriers and walls.

I need to warn you about doing something different, breaking down your walls and challenging your beliefs. Some people will love you for your attempt to change while some people definitely will not. Some will be threatened by your changes and begin to criticize you for it. I’ve been told many times that people will be uncomfortable with what I’m doing. I’ve heard that quite frequently. But, the comfort of others is not my concern nor should it be yours.

So what about you? What are you going to do today, this week, this year to go beyond your comfort zone and break down the walls that you’ve constructed? Remember, at first, this Great Wall offered protection and helped China live peacefully, serving a great purpose up to a point. The walls you have created, to help you get to where you are right now, probably have served a great purpose. In many ways your walls may have helped you succeed in your life’s journeys up to this point.

Like the Great Wall of China, look to see if your walls are no longer beneficial but hindering what you can achieve. Now is the time to consider moving beyond your walls. Get outside of your comfort zone or your limiting beliefs.

I’d like to share a thought by Juan Williams from a commencement speech he gave at Whitman College:

“Go beyond what makes you comfortable. Open yourself to ideas, events, relationships that make you uncomfortable. Travel places, where you know no one. Learn another language. Create art, even though you’re not an artist. Argue with people. Fall down. Get up. Read books, all sorts of books.”

I want to challenge you to do something uncomfortable, challenge your limiting beliefs, and ask, “are these beliefs true?” You can and should, no longer limit yourself with your Great Wall. It is now time for you to move on and progress. The magic happens outside your comfort zone.

Again, may you have unlimited genies and accomplish all that you desire this coming year.

Good trading,

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Comments (3)

  1. dennis innocente
    December 30th, 2011 at 21:12 | #1

    Thank you Glen Larson for that Sharing you thoughts on the great wall and comfort zone. I really needed to hear that. I have been rather complacent and sometimes I just feel stuck – not pushing ahead as I should. You really hit home with your examples and you have given me something to think about, some motivation and a sense that I can make changes for improving myself. I know what I should be doing, but I keep making excuses. I don’t now how you do it but this is not the first time you have encouraged me. Wen I read what you write, you seem to be speaking directly to me – helps me put things in perspective. Well, Thank you again Sir. Dennis Innocente

  2. William Crocker
    January 1st, 2012 at 16:15 | #2

    Good morning Glen,
    It is always a pleasure for me to read an article that links seemingly unrelated ideas as you have done. I like to think that way myself. Gets me into trouble sometimes. On the other hand I do get glimpses of what lays beyond my comfort zone. That is always good. And of course I am not terribly comfortable some of the time. Still it is important to let the ideas come in so they can be evaluated. It works in the long run and I think 2012 will be interesting and productive.
    I wish you and all the members of your team a fine 2012. Thank you for your support of me, your customer.

  3. Brian
    January 3rd, 2012 at 04:45 | #3

    This is a great analogy and message for all of us. Thank you for sharing.
    I cannot say that my first year of trading has been a huge success. But I decided a year ago to break down one of my walls, and now I have a different understanding of the markets. I work to learn something new every day because 10 years from now I do not want to be in the same “wall” that keeps me where I am now.
    As I started this quest, I ran across a quote that I use to keep me moving forward.

    Joel Baker – “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the (your) world.”

    I try to look past my Great Wall and envision a different future.

    All the best for a great 2012!

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