Originally appeared Oct 2010
There are two things that very few traders talk about but I know they think about. I am fortunate to have spent a lot of time with other traders. In talking, you realize fears and trepidations are similar, as human beings and traders. The more time we spend talking the more likely we will talk about depression and purpose. They can linger in your mind and cloud your vision.
I am going to leave depression for another time, not because it is less important but because I cannot add anything to the conversation. Please, please seek help if you need it.
Whether you think there is an afterlife or not, some motivation is tied to your legacy or purpose. I come from a family of construction workers. Their legacy is based on something physical. I know my father is proud of the buildings he has built and maintained. I am proud of the buildings I have built and maintained while working for him. It took hard work, sacrifice, pain, and some situations were riskier than others.
Traders do not have buildings, they have trading accounts. Buildings can be destroyed or tore down and trading accounts can go to zero. But I would rather see a picture of a building than an old account statement. I feel satisfied after a hard day of work. At the end of day you can see the progress of the building being built. At the end of the trading day, no matter how hard you work, you may not see your trading account grow. In construction the progress is steady. In trading, the building can be finished in 1 day or 1 year or never.
Today’s society does not look at success the same as the past. We do not give successful people their credit as if money is the credit. May be it is. I was never a professional athlete, I was not willing to give up enough on a daily basis. I was already five surgeries deep, I had a few concussions, my back would cramp so bad I was forced to take injections in order to lift my arms above my shoulders, and I was not good enough. Had I been one, I would probably feel some winners guilt. Winners guilt does not come from within, it comes from being aware of how the outside “might” see us. Traders, business owners, and athlete all work hard. Like my father (he is also a business owner) we worked hard, we sacrifice, endure pain, and we take risks. Society does not see it the same way. They see it as an overnight success. The difference between success and failure is the successful people are/were willing to sacrifice something that the unsuccessful weren’t. It takes a long time to become an overnight success, be proud of it.
The fact that traders, business owners, or athletes may make more in, a short period of time, does not mean it is any less satisfying. A futures trader has a very important role in our economy. I am not disillusioned enough to think trading has as much of an individual impact as a teacher, a nurse, or a soldier. But that does not mean we do not impact the lives of everyone who has a retirement account, buys gas, owns a home, or eats food. Traders stabilize prices, if it weren’t for traders you would pay $1 for a piece of corn and the next day pay $2. The purpose of the futures market is to establish the price today, to be delivered at another time in the future. Said again, tomorrows price today. Imagine the effects to our economy if when buying a plane ticket 3 months in advance and you show up at the gate it is $300 more.
Not every trader or transaction is ethical. Not every trader can or does make a donation to a charity. Maybe their only additional contribution to society is that they employ a bartender. But those traders are not looking at their purpose. Don’t let what you think others may or may not be thinking or feeling about you effect how you feel about yourself. Every person must be able to look themselves in the mirror, but being a trader does not make it harder for me, in many ways it makes it easier.
What is your purpose?
Also check out Joshua Brown’s article “The Why“.
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