This is a Guest Post by Yvan Byeagee. He is one of my personal favorite teachers of trading psychology. His website is at TradingComposure.com.
A conversation with my younger self
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you tell that person?
I can see some of you give stock picks, or lottery numbers.
For me, none of that, believe it or not. Because I now understand that it’s possible to have all the wealth in the world and still be left miserable and unhappy.
If you read my story (http://amzn.to/2fCD0Zy ) ( ebook available for free for a limited time ), you’ll see that I’ve struggled a lot before I was able to make trading for a living a viable option for me. And in hindsight, the lessons I’ve learned along that path were far more valuable than the money ever was — and ever will be.
So, if I could go back in time, I would try to impart such knowledge on my younger self so as to accelerate my growth as an individual, first, and as a trader, second, but also to improve my capacity to be happy unconditionally.
Below, I’ve imagined a short conversation the current me and a younger me would probably have.
Older me: What you really want is make money, right?
Younger me: Right. I want to make a killing in the markets.
Older me: Ok, so I know you’ve worked hard and saved a lot of money. I know you have a trading system that you believe in. I know you’re motivated, driven, but I also know you’re unrealistic in your expectations and are impulsive.
Younger me: I want to be rich. You have to dream big and take risks if you want to go anywhere in life.
Older me: True, but dreaming without a process doesn’t equate to anything. It’s the adherence to a well-thought out process that makes success more predictable and achievable.
Younger me: I get it and I can totally do that.
Older me: Can you? That’s what they all say. It’s not that easy. Remember when you were trying to lose fat and gain muscle mass? You were heading to the gym 5 times a week while doing an intermitted fasting program. You were determined, weren’t you? For the first 2 weeks. What happened after that?
Younger me: I fell off the diet, for sure, but I kept going to the gym.
Older me: Ok, how long were you able to keep that habit to the gym?
Younger me: 2 months. But it’s not the point.
Older me: It’s precisely the point. You see, trading for a living requires that you maintain stability of mind day after day so that you can consistently take the best decisions that will bring you closer to your longer term goals. And most people aren’t able to maintain such stability of mind.
If you weren’t able to stick to your diet and your intention of hitting the gym daily, I can assure you that you won’t be able to stick to your plan in trading when the going gets tough.
Younger me: So what am I to do then?
Older me: I don’t mean to mess up your dreams. I truly believe in your capacity to do great things and, above all, to do things that make you happy in life. But, if you want to achieve anything worthwhile in the markets, you need to change your perspective on a couple of things.
First, you need to understand that you can only become freed in the realization that any attempt for something you want in the market is actually futile.
Younger me: Wait, what do you mean by that?
Older me: Market success is what you want most in life at the moment, right? Ok, great. But let’s observe a few things about the market.
Is the market static, or is it always changing and developing?
Younger me: Duh!
Older me: Ok, it’s always changing and it’s something that you clearly see and understand. But I want you to really, deeply, understand the implications of change.
Let’s start with a tree. When you think about it, it seems like it’s standing still, but it’s actually growing, developing and changing. Even though you might not see the change, the particles that make up the tree are in constant movement. And it’s not just the tree, everything is changing rocks, clouds, plastic, water, people, thoughts, emotions.
As Albert Einstein famously said, “There is no constant but change itself.” Yet, we have a habit of thinking of things as a non-changing, static, solid. And it’s a huge conundrum for us because if our minds are refusing to see change and accept it as a fact of existence, then we are continuously wishing, hoping, and expecting things to fit our idea of reality that is static and clearly outdated.
Younger me: Ok, what does that have to do with trading?
Older me: We’re getting there. You see, if we’re expecting things, then we are craving things to be a certain way we want them to fit our static/ unchanging views and ideas.
Again, change is always happening in the market. Uptrends, downtrends, winning trades, losing trades, the market reflects back at us this phenomenon we call change at such a rapid pace that it can be destabilizing for someone with a static mindset.
If you’re attached to the outcomes of your analysis and your trades; in other words, if you carry around a state of mind that resists and doesn’t evolve with the ever-changing nature of the markets, you will get disappointed. And that disappointment will fuel behaviors like revenge trading, hesitation, impulsivity, etc. It’s a never ending loop.
Younger me: I see your point.
Older me: I’m sure you do. You’re a fine young man. You can look at it this way: Imagine the market as rough seas. If you don’t learn to navigate in those conditions, you won’t make it alive.
When you trade, you need to understand the importance of letting go of that static mindset of yours. You must expect change as ever-present in the markets and never (EVER) allow your mind to be complacent and unguarded. In essence, you need a mindset that is as changing and flexible as the market.
As you relinquish your attachment to anything that is triggering you to make poor choices in the market, you are adopting a mindset that embraces change instead of one that fears it. And this will be beneficial to you not only in trading but in all other aspects of your life.
The truth of change is an objective one that you need to grasp because the markets will test your resolution time and time again, and if you stay rigid with your expectations, you won’t make it in the long run.
Younger me: Got it. Expecting that the market will conform to my wishes and desires just doesn’t make sense. I guess I can see where this way of thinking might get me into trouble.
Older me: We’re starting to make progress. But understanding is not enough, unfortunately. You must live your life according to what you’ve understood. Or else, it’s just superficial understanding. So, the understanding of change must be part of who you are and you must act it out. You must live it, breathe it.
Now, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to develop this kind of detachment. You’re a normal human being (and not a cold-blooded psychopath) so no matter how good you get at trading, the market will always find ways to make you angry, excited, fearful, and so on. But, the question is this: can you do what you have to do (follow your plan) despite your buttons getting pushed like that?
And this brings us to another thing I wanted to address: Your impulsivity. You are an impulsive mess, Yvan, and you’ve made some big mistakes in your personal life because of this. And in the near future, it’s going to cause you to lose a lot of money in the markets.
You’ve got to put a stop to this. And there’s a simple technique that can get you there: Meditation.
Younger me: Wait, meditation? Sorry, I’m not into that.
Older me: I know that this is far from being the center of your interest, but I guarantee you, it will help you tame that impulsivity of yours and you’ll reach a kind of peace, stability, and self-trust that you’ve never experienced before. It will radically change your approach to your life.
Younger me: Not my thing. Sounds a little bit like woo woo. but I appreciate the advice.
Older me: You’ll eventually come around.
Younger me: And what else can you tell me?
Older me: Let me reiterate what I said earlier: You need to develop the capacity to commit to your trading process now, not later. But the action of commitment, to commit, is only done right now. You see, we’re not in control of our future selves, so we need to set plans to help prepare our future self to be what we’d like him to be.
People who commit to something (marriage, diet, whatever) are only doing the action of committing right now/ at the moment. Because that is what they CAN control.
As you commit to your trading process, market success becomes less of an expectation and more a plan.
Younger me: I see your point. But planning or not, a loss is a loss and I tend to feel terrible when I lose money. I feel like a loser.
Older me: Ok, let’s roll with this thought. If you are a transient/ ever-changing thing as we talked about earlier, naturally maturing and growing, how can you be stamped with the label loser?
You see, every time we trade, there is a risk involved. So every time we trade, we’re accepting that inherent risk that we could get hurt in some way, and we’re deciding that the risk is worth taking.
When the loss happens, it’s hard and it’s understandable. But, when you lose, remember that you’ve just lost a bet THIS TIME.
That risk of losing was already there. It didn’t materialize out of the blue. You just got unlucky THIS TIME. Never forget this: Trading is a numbers game and you’ll rarely magically turn into an overnight success. You must do focus on your process and eventually something will show up.
Loses don’t have to follow you. You shouldn’t let them affect your mood. You need to learn from them with an open and curious mind, but then let them go as they say, turn the page.
Because if you don’t this will be the basis for your behavior in the markets. You don’t want that. You want your mind to retain the lessons, not the pain.
When you start to look a little bit deeper at things, you’ll start seeing yourself also as a transient/ ever changing thing just like the markets, and just like any other things in life, organic or inorganic. And with that comes freedom. Freedom from your mind’s tendency to stay stuck with a label I’m a loser, I’m no good, I’m depressed, etc.
Thanks for reading. Remember this: Your future self is watching you right now through your memories.
Any questions? I can be reached here: Trading Composure. Or here @yvanbyeajee
Get my book, Around The World, Day Trading The SPY/ Zero To Hero: 2 Books In 1 (http://amzn.to/2fCD0Zy) (Free for a limited time)