Sunday, June 14, 2009

Five Life Lessons From Writing a Blog

Over the years, what started as a niche blog and a personal writing project has blossomed into what I strongly suspect is the single largest repository of writing on trader and market psychology on the Web. With over 7000 tweets and nearly 2500 blog posts, TraderFeed has become an invaluable personal resource for me as well, as each posting is a connection to the perspectives of a global readership of active traders.

To be sure, growth has its challenges, not least of which is keeping up with a burgeoning email inbox. But it has taught several life lessons as well, which I share below:

1) Never Be Afraid to Start Small - When I first wrote the blog (see chart above), a few hundred readers per day was a very busy day. Traffic stayed that way for a few months. But it wasn't the blog's popularity (or lack of it) that spurred the project; it was my intrinsic interest in giving voice and form to applied ideas in psychology. It is the same way in trading: you can start small and build something significant if you have the intrinsic interest in what you're doing that can get you through the inevitable setbacks and frustrations;

2) Success is a Team Sport - From early on, I tried to identify quality bloggers and highlight their work with links on my site. I never demanded or expected links back in return. I have never respected those who look for link exchanges: if you are concerned about the education of your readership and you identify a worthy resource, then you link to it. Only insecure authors who are so concerned about keeping readers on their sites will view links to authors as threats. If you embrace quality people and quality work, they will embrace you. It is similar in trading: when you share ideas with the right people, your generosity is returned many-fold.

3) Promote Ideas, Not People - The best self-promotion is offering quality work every day. You don't need to hold contests, boast about great market calls, or make exaggerated claims to build recognition. Readers know when they're offered value and they will reward that over time. It is the same in life: it's those extra, quality efforts that stand out and bring you opportunity. Be the best that you can be and others will seek you out for the right reasons. Trade well, build a track record, and others will come to you.

4) Stick to Your Niche - I recognized early on with blogging that mine would be a niche blog, emphasizing trader and market psychology. I might occasionally offer perspectives from what I've picked up regarding economics, investing, etc., but it's what I know best--the fruits of my work with traders--that represents my strengths. It's impossible to be all things to all people, and it's not necessary. As in trading, figure out what you do best and what you love and you'll be most likely to show an upward growth curve.

5) Maintain Integrity - I can't tell you how many people have offered me special incentives to hawk their products and services via the blog. The common thread to these offers is that they've been under the table, so that it would look as though I were endorsing the product/service for its own merits only. In avoiding the worst of commercialism and speaking my mind even when it runs against industry grain, I've maintained the credibility that a psychologist needs to be effective. The people I see who maintain long-term success in the trading world have a similar integrity: that helps them form alliances with other talent.

Traffic figures on a blog are nice, but ultimately it's not about that. It's about being the kind of person you would admire and doing the kind of work that you would value. When you live up to who you really are, it's amazing how opportunities find their way to your doorstep. The readers of this blog have provided me with many valued interactions and opportunities, and for that I am grateful.