channeling momentum, mojo, reading the universal mosaic
Below I explore the idea of “the Mo” - or being in tune with the universe, in a useful way that allows you to take larger risks and do better work - but only in short bursts.
Famous fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller has stated that the most fundamental job of a trader is knowing whether or not he has a “hot hand”. When you have a hot hand, you size up. When you are cold, you size down. It’s human nature to do the opposite - so there’s edge - sure. But what is a hot hand? Is it just a winning streak or is it something more?
Paul Tudor Jones has alluded to such things, even going so far as to say - when he’s made money he often has no idea how he did it. Things “flowed”. When you watch his famous “Trader” Documentary (which he routinely tries to censor from the internet). He’s like a man possessed, shouting at his screen, running around with rubber dinosaur dolls. Putting on a pair of Bruce Willis shoes he bought at a charity auction to bless the price action.
George Soros, according to his son, Druckenmiller (his main PM), and Victor Niederhoffer (his quant trader) would get in foul moods and unload large parts of his portfolio on a whim. Shortly before a crash - and oftentimes after he’d just pitched the same exact portfolio to reporters.
Later - a trading psychologist studied him, formally to explore these ideas and he largely agreed with her findings - that his moods indeed were useful market barometers. He clarified in his writing that such “attuned” states usually come from endless months of deep immersion, when his nervous system is - in fact - a mirror of the market. And that such work is draining, he didn’t like it much at all and that it nearly killed him.
Many famous musicians, ranging from Hendrix, to Paul McCartney, Alanis Morisette and many others express the idea of “letting the universe flow through them”. With famous tunes like Yesterday arriving in dreams, or randomly bubbling up. Many of these musicians get burned out from letting the universe “flow through” - losing their minds in drugs, or suicide.
Nikola Tesla had similarly strange discovery processes, often sitting in a dark room and letting visionary discoveries simply appear.
The book Impro: Improvisation and Theater talks at length about the idea of Masks. Masks - for centuries - have served as a way for actors to channel outside forces into their acting. Actors (or religious supplicants) would don masks and suddenly be entirely different characters - with seemingly alien body language, and vocal tones.
The modern equivalent of masks would be method acting a la Heath Ledger’s Joker, and many of Christian Bale’s characters. Often the characters develop a mind of their own - making the actors viscerally unpleasant to deal with, often leaving lasting scars on their psyches (but winning Oscars in the process).
All of this is to say - to some extent - when you’re really immersed in a particular topic - whether it be art, science, trading, writing, or acting - it’s almost like you stretch yourself out enough that a portal opens from within you. And suddenly, things flow out of that portal.
Things you could never have come up with when you were in a normal, mundane everyday state.
Almost the same way that language flows from a chatbot, or how images flow from a dream.
It’s like some sort of base reality is trying to get out - and it needs two initial conditions to do so.
First having reached a requisite level of engagement to “turn off” your ego.
Second- a requisite level of expertise to “hold space” for the entire ritual.
Soros couldn’t lose himself in the dance of markets if he wasn’t fully submerged for years in advance, and Hendrix couldn’t lose himself in chords without having first played 5 hour jam sets for months on end.
But once you check the two boxes - something happens. You become a shell, and the universe starts flowing through you. I call this “Having the Mo”.
Momentum. Mojo. Flowing from the Mosaic.
Markets are interesting because they provide real, quantitative feedback to traders about whether they have “The Mo” or not. But other fields are equally binary. The Tesla coil sparks (or it doesn’t). The guitar solo gets a standing ovation. The chorus gets stuck in the entire country’s head and ends up getting played in diners for decades. Joker GIFs are all over social media to this day.
The Mo isn’t just a bunch of people tripping at a concert and being “like, totally in tune with” the songs being played because they’re high. Real world consequences, scientific discoveries, and vast fortunes arise from “the Mo”.
I write all this to put a frame around a larger idea.
Sam Altman said - somewhat memorably in an interview, that having seen the progress at OpenAI - he thinks consciousness is a fundamental building block of the universe.
And we can see now, rather definitively, that if you throw enough compute at compression algorithms to calculate the next character in a sequence - that seemingly magical things result.
Of course, this is not actual magic but rather an aspect of the universe emerging organically.
Certain logic blocks follow others, almost like musical chords.
Part of consciousness is being able to discern that consciousness itself is emerging. There are seemingly universal, cross cultural recognition of artworks that come off as truly timeless. And I believe that’s why everyone is so taken with AI. The Chatbots are not really producing economic value today, but there’s a spark of that Universal Mosaic that underpins all creative output. And it’s manifesting in unpredictable artistic ways like Midjourney, or being really good at writing poetry as opposed to the original 1980s style scifi visions of Robots acting as maids in our homes. Art, not automation.
But tying this back to Stan Druckenmiller, and pragmatism - anyone can see a thread of genius. But it takes real discernment to know how and when to tug on a thread. And thus we return to the question, “What is a hot hand? How do I know how to bet on myself or hold back?”
And I believe the answer is learning to recognize a sense of awe emerging from work. That transcends your petty concerns, your hunger, your fatigue. Much as you are lost in a dream, the world around you melts or becomes grayscale. The thing you’re doing is vibrant - but at the same time, almost unconscious. And when you do it - the next action is obvious. And it works.
It keeps flowing through you. It unravels from you. Until you yourself are unraveled. Like a ball of yarn spinning endlessly until it’s a ball no more. You lose your shape. You can recognize “The Mo” in hindsight because it tends to take a lot out of you.
And the things you do, while you had “The Mo” were often outrageous. Accounting for often bizarre and/or tragic personal and family lives of artists, and other high performing individuals.
The Mo isn’t just having a good idea, or a stretch of “deep work” ala some optimization Bro podcast. It’s a feeling that - at a structural level - you’ve aligned yourself with the causal underpinnings of the universe. And in your particular domain of expertise, you’re suddenly a portal for that expertise to flow.
When you see a guy who just 10x-ed his net worth in 8 months, got a divorce, and has 3 inch toe-nails. You can say, in hindsight and with some degree of precision, “Ah - he had the Mo”.
When you see Elon impregnating direct reports, buying Town Squares and intervening in wars while planning intergalactic colonies - you can similarly note the presence of Mo. For better, or for worse.
I believe that great investors love art and music so much not because they’re obsessed with status, but because they recognize that great Art flows from the Universal Tapestry (or Mosaic). The source of all Mo.
And much as artists are stereotypically tortured, so are any adherents or users of the Mo. It is why Soros hired Druckenmiller originally - saying he’d have had a heart attack if he’d continued. I think Druckenmiller understands this which is why he, in his words, does not take risks like he used to. It would destroy him. It’s why Elon describes making a company as “eating glass and staring into the abyss”
The Mo, is thus - a rather limited affair. When you have it you have to press. Because you can’t have it for long. Eventually it will have you.
Thus - when you boil it down, any pursuit worth its salt has three phases. Building the fortitude and skills to harness the Mo. Channeling it for as long as you can - hopefully making something that lasts. And finally closing the portal before something terrible climbs through.
And thus to return to the initial question, it is not what is a hot hand. But why is the hand hot?
The hand is hot for it hath brushed the infernal. Beware, followers of the Mo. There is much to gain and all to lose.