Giving when it hurts

Episode 2 – Interview with Zentrader Jeff Pierce – From trading at a public library terminal to full-time trader
July 6, 2015
Weekly Perspectives
July 13, 2015
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It was roughly 3 months ago that I made a big shift in my trading.

I haven’t shared this publicly before but I hope this serves you wherever you are on your trading journey.

It all started after a particularly rough patch of trading.  I had just experienced a string of losses and was staring at a steep drawdown from my recent equity highs.

In fact just weeks prior I had had my best trading week of the year and now all that was gone.

The familiar patterns of loss, self worth, doubt, discomfort all bubbled up and permeated my thoughts.

As any trader who has been trading for any stretch of time has experienced, the only constant when it comes to the market is that they change.

Edges fade in and fade out.  What may have worked a month ago – a week ago – no longer works.

Part of the job description of being a successful trader is that we have to change with the markets.  Listen, learn, retool, adapt, evolve, and repeat.

This is the nature of the job but the constant pressure to adapt can become tedious, but does it have to be?

On my own personal journey, I have already been down this path countless times.

However this time it felt different.

Even though I knew that I’d eventually right the ship I felt unmotivated and uninspired. Life is never made unbearable

My heart wasn’t into it.

This is certainly different from how it was when I first started trading.

When I first started out, the novelty of trading was so powerful.

I can still recall jumping out of bed at 530am each morning (I was trading on the West coast at that time) so I could rush to my trading desk to see what had happened during the overnight session, manage my positions, and prepare for the trading day.

Eventually, as most experienced traders can relate, the novelty wears out.  Trading becomes routine, it becomes habit.  We become use to the ups and downs.  The highs become less high and the lows become less low.

And although the challenge of trading never disappears, trading becomes a means to an end.

The question is to what end?

The choice a trader makes at this intersection largely determines a trader’s longevity.

If you approach trading from a place of constant competition, or the desire to impress others, or the need to prove yourself, then I can tell you now that you are on an exhausting journey.

However if you’re able to approach you’re trading from a deeper perspective, you may find that you will be able to not only remain resilient in the face of adversity but gain strength from these challenges.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”  ― Viktor E. Frankl

The Challenge

“What is your deeper why that will make all the adversity, struggle, stress, and sacrifice worth it?”

Beyond the basic financial needs and well-being of myself and my family, I’ve always had a deep desire to make a meaningful contribution to those who have fewer opportunities.

For many years I’ve toyed with the idea of donating a percentage of my trading proceeds to a worthwhile charity.  However it never felt like the right time.

“If I can just earn an extra few more thousand dollars on this trade, achieve X% rate of return, have 3 winning months in a row, find the right charity, etc., then I will donate.”

The excuses were endless.

What I finally realized was that the excuses were coming from a place of scarcity.  And here’s what i know – scarcity begets scarcity.

If I really wanted to create meaning and purpose in my trading then there was nothing stopping me from me from starting now –  it was time for a change.

So 3 months ago I issued myself the following challenge.   Until the end of the year –

  • Every Monday I agree that I will donate 10% of that day’s trading proceeds to Kiva (an amazing non-profit organization helping alleviate poverty through Microfinance).
  • If I don’t trade that day or do not net any proceeds that day then I agree to donate $100.

That’s it.

Lessons learned

To date, I’m pleased to say that I’ve honoured my commitment.

Has it been easy to give money on down days or days where I’ve felt less than generous?sharing

No I’d be lying if I said it was.

But the biggest lesson I have learned so far is not to wait till you feel the need to be generous.  There is never a good time to give.  Sometimes you don’t need to have the feeling of generosity to be generous.  The act of generosity creates abundance.  And abundance is far more reaching that simply dollars and cents.

So that’s my journey, and if this is not your journey that’s fine but ask yourself one question – what do you stand for?

If you’re struggling with your trading and if it sometimes feels like the struggle isn’t worth it then it’s because you’ve become too “me” focused.

Understand that performance anxiety can also arise when we become too me focused – where every fault can be perceived as a problem or personal failure.

So get yourself out of the picture.

Here are some questions to ask yourself –

  • What is it that will sustain you through the ups and downs?  What is your legacy?
  • What do you want to leave behind from your trading?
  • What kind of positive impact do you want to have on the people around you?
  • What mission in life most inspires you?
  • What do you want to contribute to the world?
  • What change do you want to create?

Start now.



Giving when it hurts

by editor time to read: 4 min
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