Saturday, January 21, 2017

Living Life as an Origin, Not as a Pawn

In his book Personal Causation, Richard De Charms outlined the difference between people who experience themselves as origins versus pawns.  Origins are those that can initiate chosen action; they have impact on the world.  Pawns are those to whom things happen.  They are relatively powerless and passive.  A similar distinction in psychology is internal versus external locus of control:  the degree to which we perceive life outcomes as within or outside of our control.

All of us experience bad things in life.  Some of us experience really bad things.  We either move on as survivors or victims.  Survivors live their lives as origins; victims as pawns.  Survivors wrest control of their futures; victims experience life as outside their control.

The more someone has actually been victimized, the more important it is to not live life as a victim.  I've worked with those who have been raped, sexually assaulted, and physically abused.  They move on successfully as survivors, not as victims.  They overcome by refusing to remain victims.  They find their voices and forge meaningful paths of action.  I once worked with a medical student who had been horribly abused.  She lived every day refusing to succumb to painful memories and instead dedicating herself to healing.  What a beautiful transformation:  her ability to survive was an inspiration to many others.

I can honestly say that I've never met a successful, productive person who fundamentally experienced themselves as a victim.  Successful, productive people originate; victims suffer.  The medical student became a survivor by using her suffering to originate healthy outcomes for others.  The trader who endlessly complains of unfair, rigged, and manipulated markets is a psychological victim.  Such traders cannot originate success as long as they experience themselves as pawns.

The problem with political correctness (see recent perspectives here and here) is not a matter of left- or right-wing politics.  The problem with political correctness is that it enshrines psychological victimhood.  Survivors do battle; they don't seek "safe space" refuge from every perceived "microaggression".  Political correctness, at its worst, is virtue signaling via victimhood:  an attempt to establish one's status--and especially to diminish the status of others--by embracing pawn status.  The goal is not to find one's individual, authentic voice, but to extinguish the voices of others--the precise opposite of diversity.

At companies I've worked for, I've heard quite a few managers criticize political correctness.  Ironically, many of these managers work for businesses in which questioning management decisions is taken as a sign of disloyalty and lack of teamwork ethic.  Quite a few employees have been referred to me over the years because they spoke out.  My job, apparently, was to help those employees build their "positive psychology" and become better "team players".  Political correctness shuts down criticism, whether it originates from one side of the political spectrum or another.  We cannot be origins if we are punished for our voices.  Per Voltaire (and Snog's Ballad), we are ruled by those we can't criticize, whether the punishers are governments, corporate overlords, or politically correct thought police.

No one will respect you as a trader for the number of times you lose money, or the ways you lose money.  They respect you for getting up after getting knocked down, learning from experience, finding your strengths, and growing and persevering.  If you re-read the Market Wizards texts, you'll appreciate how often successful traders experience harrowing losses.  They are in the texts because they moved forward as survivors and originators who transcended defeat, not as victims.  

Life is far too short to be lived in pawnhood.  What in your life--and in your trading--are you originating?

Further Reading:  Trading as Training in Mental Toughness