Monday, March 23, 2020

The Most Powerful Psychological Strategy For Uncertain Times

There is a great deal going on right now that we cannot control:  the spread of the virus, the uncertainty of health, the uncertainty of markets.  This is the first time ever where traders calling me are spending more time discussing their personal challenges and the challenges of their families than discussing markets.

Here is the strategy I'm finding most effective for staying emotionally grounded and constructively focused:  Reaching out and helping others.

The underlying principle is this:  We cannot feel helpless if we're actively helping.  The antidote to uncertainty is to take on projects with certain rewards.

I recently went shopping at a department store and was surprised to find more of the things I needed on the shelves than I expected.  I asked the checkout clerk if I could quickly run to my car and get extra bags and she said of course.  She seemed quite upbeat and happy, which was nice to see.  When I came home to unpack my bags, I discovered to my surprise that she had slipped into my bag an extra four-pack of toilet paper.  It was a little thing, but it meant a lot--and I expressed my appreciation.

Similarly, I've noticed how traders are making more use of teamwork than ever before, particularly now that many are trading from home.  They are using the teams not just to share ideas through the day, but to actively help each other review performance, set goals, and stay on track with those goals.  It reminds me of the Navy SEALs and their ethic of leaving no one behind.  It's tough to feel sorry for ourselves when we're reaching out to others.  Who can you make sure isn't left behind:  in your circle of friends, in your family, in your neighborhood? 

In my own work, I've opened my calendar to early morning and evening calls, as well as calls on weekends.  I have resumed doing talks (online!) for trading communities and trading firms.  Social distance does not have to mean social isolation!  Some of the best helping I've been doing is simply letting people know what is working in this new environment:  what is working in trading and what is working in people's personal lives.  There's a lot to be said for just staying constructively focused!  

It's a psychological reality:  In giving, we become wealthy.  Who can you reach out to and create a buddy system to reach that next level of trading success?  Who might benefit from your ideas and what you're doing that is proving successful?  Stay safe, stay well, but stay engaged.  Challenges can overwhelm us, or they can bring out the best in us--

Further Reading: