A great little read (PDF) from Dickson Watts.
Watts list of ‘Essential Qualities of the Speculator’ show the timeless value of his insight:
1. Self-Reliance. A man must think for himself, must follow his own convictions. George MacDonald says: “A man cannot have another man’s ideas any more than he can another man’s soul or another man’s body.” Self-trust is the foundation of successful effort.
2. Judgment. That equipoise, that nice adjustment of the faculties one to the other, which is called good judgment, is an essential to the speculator.
3. Courage. That is, confidence to act on the decisions of the mind. In speculation there is value in Mirabeau’s dictum: “Be bold, still be bold; always be bold.”
4. Prudence. The power of measuring the danger, together with a certain alertness and watchfulness, is very important. There should be a balance of these two, Prudence and Courage; Prudence in contemplation, Courage in execution. Lord Bacon says: “In meditation all dangers should be seen; in execution one, unless very formidable.” Connected with these qualities, properly an outgrowth of them, is a third, viz: promptness. The mind convinced, the act should follow. In the words of Macbeth; “Henceforth the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand.” Think, act, promptly.
5. Pliability. The ability to change an opinion, the power of revision. “He who observes,” says Emerson, “and observes again, is always formidable.”
The qualifications named are necessary to the makeup of a speculator, but they must be in well-balanced combination. A deficiency or an overplus of one quality will destroy the effectiveness of all. The possession of such faculties, in a proper adjustment is, of course, uncommon. In speculation, as in life, few succeed, many fail.
It’s hard to find much on Watts, but I added more here.