Sunday, December 07, 2014

Five Life Lessons From the Trading Trenches

I find it helpful to step back every so often and reflect on the lessons that life and markets teach us.  Here are a few that have stood out recently:

1)  Nothing is quite so unfulfilling as engaging in battles of wits with the half prepared - There will always be those who don't like you, who are threatened by you, who don't share your values, etc.  Some of them don't offer constructive feedback, but do spew ad hominem insults and accusations.  You know that menu choice in Twitter labeled "block"?  It helps to have one of those in your head.  Engaging naysayers only amplifies negativity.  Never let anyone distract you from the beauty of the world and what is possible in life.

2)  If you're not routinely alienating and attracting people, you're not sufficiently visible - Speak your mind, voice your beliefs, act on your convictions.  Life will present you with a bell-shaped curve of many who are indifferent and a relatively few who can't stand you and those few who are deeply attracted to you.  The tails of the negative distribution make for funny stories to tell at the next craft beer outing; the positive tail consists of those who will become your closest friends and colleagues.  Life is all about being visible enough to generate a large positive tail of soul mates. 

3)  We repeat the same mistakes until we learn the right life lessons - Freud called it the "repetition compulsion".  We repeat patterns until we figure out a way to write a new ending to our life's script.  But the only way to change our patterns is to first become aware of them.  Few people have dozens of problems.  Most have one or two issues that repeat themselves in dozens of contexts.  To the extent we unwittingly enact patterns, we live life unconsciously, without free will.  We can't trade the patterns of markets if we're busy acting out our own.

4)  The greatest changes make us more of who we already are - We are who we are.  We are born with certain talents and capacities.  These lead us to seek certain experiences and those help build our skills.  When we align ourselves with our interests, strengths, and values, we operate in a zone and good things happen.  When we try to become someone we are not, we swim against our own psychological current.  If you're not in the zone on a reasonably regular basis, you are probably not in a setting, not in activities, and not with the people that bring out the best in you.

5)  Put the "I" in "Love" and then we "Live" - Love transforms.  It is very difficult to be filled with doubt, fear, frustration, anger, or resentment when we connect with those we love.  There are all sorts of psychological exercises to reduce negative emotions.  Next time you're feeling down or upset, don't try to quell the bad feelings.  Try to amplify the loving ones.  Recently when I was feeling pressured by a growing workload and a confusing market, I started to take a power nap and was quickly joined by Mali, who curled up by my side and placed her face against mine.  I got a lot of work done--and really enjoyed it--after the shared nap.

That's the beauty of being involved with markets.  In the daily ups and downs of prices, we inevitably deal with life's ups and downs and learn a great deal about ourselves.      

Further Reading:  Rules for Life and Trading