Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Devon Principle

You've probably gathered by now that our children serve as the inspiration for several of my posts. Daughter Devon attuned me to the Ewwww! Factor, and son Macrae was our companion on the Cross-Cultural Journey. Yesterday's lesson from Devon, however, might have provided the best insight of all.

A couple of nights ago, Devon walked into my study in tears. She felt she was falling behind in her schoolwork and not doing as well as she should. Worst of all, she found herself procrastinating over the work, even though she knew it needed to be done. At one point, she referred to herself as "lazy". I reassured her that I'd help her get things done, but the degree of her self-doubt left an impression on me.

Yesterday, out of the blue, Devon received a notice inviting her to a casting call for a movie to be filmed in Chicago. She's done some modeling (see above), but this was the first acting invitation she had gotten. She practically pranced into my study and exclaimed, "Let's do it!" Within minutes, she had chosen the photo to submit and had written a cover letter to go with it.

When I read the cover letter, I was stunned. It was perfect. Far and away the best thing she had ever written. I could not have prepared a better letter myself--and I have a fair amount of writing experience!

Later, I talked with Devon about what had happened. She somewhat shyly admitted that she was *very* proud of her letter. What I pointed out, however, was that she was no longer a "lazy" person who procrastinated and did mediocre work when she pursued something that was meaningful to her. As a student in a math class, she struggles to get work done; the work doesn't speak to her. But acting and modeling? She's never missed a class or assignment.

Reflecting on our talk, I came up with what I'm calling the Devon Principle. Here it is:

Everything we do in life--our work, recreation, relationships--is a mirror. It reflects an image of ourselves back to us. If we're doing the wrong things in life, the mirror reflects a distorted image. Over time, we begin to mistake that image for reality. We really do think of ourselves as lazy or incompetent.

When we do the work we're meant to do, however, the mirror reflects the best of who we are. Over time, we internalize that image and the pride and confidence that go with it.

People who are successful--in life and in markets--find positive mirrors. They have found markets and ways of trading that reflect back to them unique skills and talents. They enjoy relationships that reflect love, caring, and respect and, as a result, they feel those things for themselves. "You are what you eat," is an old saying. The Devon Principle says that we're always eating life experience. We're always internalizing what our activities reflect to us. And we will always live up to the image of that reflection.

So I say to you what I said to Devon: There is some sphere of life in which you already are the person you want to be. The key is to find those activities and relationships and organize your time around them. Find the trading where you're at your best and make that your specialty. Or maybe trading isn't where you're at your best; perhaps a far better mirror awaits you.

The Devon Principle points out that how you feel about yourself is not simply the result of something inside you. It is a function of the relationship you have with your activities: what you actually are doing in your life.

Do the right things, and you will be the hero of your own life story.

Thanks, Dev, for teaching Dad that lesson.


Anonymous said...

Sorry....but....."Reflects an image of ourselves back to us", should read....."Reflects an image of ourselves to us". Check the dictionary definition for "reflect".....The use of reflect and back in the same sentence is REDUNDANT. Nevertheless, your articles are very helpful. Thank you

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Well, you got me again! Now I'm worried how this will reflect back on me... :-)

Seriously, though, thanks much. One of the advantages and disadvantages of my blog writing is that it's done on the fly as ideas emerge. I like the spontaneity, but there *is* a loss of polish in the writing. I suspect I'll be more attentive to that mistake in the future!! Thanks--


yinTrader said...

Hi Brett

Talents come in all forms and to have a daughter who is good at modelling or any creative arts must make you a proud father.

Devon is an unusual name, reminding me of Devonshire or Denshire, to clear by burning the turf and spreading the ashes.

I would like to share a quote from my poem : Offsprings (A-musing 69)

Look in the mirror, the face
Time to form another
I am my mother's glass
Living as posterity her daughter

This fair child will sum my breed
Casting her mould
To breed a copy of me
To warm my blood when I turn cold...

Just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Devon will be shooting for the stars, I am sure.

Happy for you and your family.

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

That's beautiful, Yin; thanks so much--


Anonymous said...

Yes, Yes and Yes!

One of my big takeaways from your book, and now this article, is the high correlation between the flow state and achievement. While reading your book, I literally said to Les, "I know how Brett gets _so_ much done, he's mastered putting himself into a flow state."

Thank-you for a key insight,


Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Hi HC,

Thanks much; I think what you say is pretty much true. I'd reframe it a bit to say that I'm very good at avoiding non-flow activities. I'm sort of a psychological trend follower, if that makes sense...


ivanhoff said...

Great post as always. I noticed that your posts are getting better and better and by better I mean more clear and useful.
When I was reading this article, I was wondering if is possible to learn to love something. You imply that everyone is born to do something and by doing it, he or she could achieve the most in professional and personal perspective. What if at eh beginning, you don't like something, because you don't fully understand it or the initial results are discouraging. What could possible teach you to like something?

Brett Steenbarger, Ph.D. said...

Hi Ivanhoff,

Good point; by playing with different ways of doing things, we can sometimes find our niche. A person might want to be a doctor, but will not like being a surgeon, then will love being a family physician.


Gustavo's Trades said...

Always inspirational. I have translated your posting to Portuguese, and once again got inspired. :)


Bob said...

Hmm. I wonder if he included "Back" in the Portuguese translation... (just kidding)

Great post!

Thomas said...

As always a very insightful post that can help one in all lifes journey's, not just markets. You are extremely empathetic and insightful. Working in the field of psychology was truly what you were "meant" to do. I'm giving this post to my 18 yr. old daughter. Thank you again.

Christine Negroni said...


Market Monkey said...

Completely off-topic, but I disagree with "Anonymous 6:33 AM"...I disagree with the pompous tone used but also with "back" being redundant.

It's used to underline the fact that we receive the image (because it could be reflected somewhere else).

Another example would be when someone says, "I do like..."- The 'do' might be mistakenly thought of as being unnecessary- because positive affirmations usually don't need the auxiliary (do)- but it adds weight to/clears up doubt about the fact that "I like..."

P.S I like that Brett still left it in anyway, despite the criticism! :)