Saving Oneself

Whenever I feel like crying, I turn on the Zero Dark Thirty trailer:

I want to make something absolutely clear. If you thought there was some working group coming to the rescue, I want you to know that you’re wrong. This is it. There’s nobody else hidden away on some other floor. There is just us. And we are failing. 

You may have spent much of your life unaware that nobody can save you but you. (Feel free to skip ahead to the next section if you were fully aware.) Perhaps you missed the message because Jesus’ promises of salvation drowned out all other voices. More likely, though, “failure” and “saving” were faraway thoughts when everything was going pretty well. And even when you were riding closer to valleys than peaks, minimal responsibility made Just getting through it the more common thought pattern than desperate pleas for a full-blown bailout.

But those innocent times are now gone; it’s probably pretty uncomfortable. One way to know you are in this dreaded place is a longing for tidy external solutions: Maybe this one person will … Maybe the trade will shift to … Maybe if I just get into this program … Go ahead and soothe yourself, sure, but don’t become tranquilized into forgetting that, no, sorry, it’s on you. Oh how you’ll want to forget. Oh how you’ll wish for simpler times. Oh how you’ll bargain that if you could be rescued this time you’ll never, never, never sin again.


I knew you knew I liked you

I knew you knew it

But I figured desperate guys never had a chance 

Real wisdom from The Faint, but how does one want without coming across as wanting? First, let’s address the bubbling concern that I’m advocating for some sort of Every man for himself philosophy. Actually, I’ll let Uncle Phil handle it since I don’t feel like writing:

Will: I’m getting soft. I’m a man. And a man should be able to stand on his own two feet and make his own way like you did. A man does it for himself. It’s hard road to travel, but after you travel it and you look back on what you accomplished, you can say I did that. I’m a man.

Uncle Phil: That’s the biggest load of bull I’ve heard since I left the farm. Nobody does anything without help. People open doors for me. And I’ve worked hard to open doors for you. It doesn’t make you any less of a man to walk through them. 

You still are saving yourself when you walk through doors that have been opened. Doing so requires a deep self-belief and confidence. With these forces at your back, I think you can manage to want without wanting. And, importantly, I think these forces are much easier to own when you have worthwhile skills. Good news: you have worthwhile skills.

Yes, it’s been a rough couple of trading years. Yes, you have all these new expenses. Yes, you may think you have no truly marketable skills in this modern economy. Yes, you have another kid on the way which is only going to add to this unbearable weight. Yes, you are getting older. I hear and feel your stress. I’m guessing you may well feel like you are failing in some respects. How could this happen to me? TO ME!?!??!

This is the moment when you must stand and feel your worth. You remain smart. You do still have an incredible ability to detect patterns, to recall information, to quickly seize opportunities. You are surrounded by loved ones. Your empathy, among other traits, allows you to connect with all sorts of people. You are a brutal competitor able to push yourself beyond the stopping point of most other people.

So you are giving yourself eight months to figure out trading. Don’t sleepwalk through these months assuming it’s going to end with you having to do something else with your life. You’ve been beaten into dramatically lowering your expectations. That’s fine. You can still kill it within those expectations. Get serious about killing it, however defined. Get selfish about what you need for Djokovic-level excellence:

I just told myself before the match, ‘You know, I’m going to try to switch off as much as I can from what is happening around us, and just be there, be present.’ I thought I could have played better. But at the same time, one thing that probably allowed me to come back and save match points and win this match was the mental stability in those moments. 

I guess that all of these things combined result in a courageous effort. There’s not a specific formula to find courage, at least from my perspective. You can go all out and just close your eyes and just hit the ball as hard as you can, you can call that courage. But I wouldn’t necessarily call it courage in some particular situations. You need to be constantly playing well throughout five hours if you want to win a match like this. I guess there is an endurance part. But I think there is always this self-belief. You have to keep reminding yourself that you’re there for a reason and that you are better than the other guy. 

Does it help you to linger on the cosmic unfairness when the market does the fucked-up stuff you know it will do? Should you so seamlessly prioritize other people’s feelings on days when you are trading? Are you taking notes and noticing potential edges? Can you make it more game-like and fun? What music are you listening to during the trade? What can you do to make your mind reliably positive? Or would a Get mad, you son of a bitch mindset be optimal? Should you increase trading time discipline? Reduce? What EV-negative behaviors are you repeating? What EV-positive are you not repeating enough? How can you better avoid death spirals? What about ADD-meds for focus? Meditation? Pull-ups? Would your performance improve working outside the house? Should you have weekly calls with other traders? What about sitting next to another trader? How can your friends help you? How can I help you? What have I not asked that I should have asked?


Look at all those other people scrambling to their jobs where skill is not enough. A dip in their parent companies’ earnings and I’m sorry but we have to cut 20% of staff. But it still often feels like security because until the share price drops, a paycheck is deposited every 14 days almost irrespective of actual output. Not you. You have a different type of security: if you are great, no politics or mass layoffs or Sorry, she’s been here longer can limit you. Obviously you know this. Maybe you are wishing for that other type of security right about now. Maybe you are right to. But not yet. You have eight months. The door is open.