How I failed dealing with tragedy and it spilled into trading.

No matter what we accomplish, who we know, how much money or power we have, how great things are right now, we are not immune to tragedy.  It is bitter sweet.  Tragedy has a way of bounding us together, a type of closeness that can’t be achieved in another way.   It is through this darkness that we can appreciate the light.  It forces us to grow up.  To take a stand, to tell someone we love them, to hug them extra hard, to kiss them a second longer, to smile a bit wider, to let our eyes brighten up like the sun.

Of course there is little comfort in any of that when you going through it.

When I first heard of the Connecticut shooting I was in the car, listening to the radio.  Scott Van Pelt of ESPN radio was talking about how meaningless sports were in a time like this.  He was conflicted because it is his job to allow people to escape reality through him talking about sports.  I don’t have that answer for anyone.

One of the things that makes trading different than other professions is that it introduces you to yourself.  What you are thinking or feeling will influence how you see the chart, how you react to an outcome, and how you evaluate risk.

It is my goal with all of my writing to help people understand they are not alone.  Despite what it might seem, I am an intensely private person.  I am only comfortable writing and speaking because I know when I was going through some tough times I didn’t always have someone to talk to.  Or probably I didn’t want to talk to anyone.  It takes a strong person to talk with someone and I have not always been strong and still fight that.  Life really does not come with instructions.

If you read the post, the worst thing that can happen to a trader, I wrote that post around the same time I was dealing with a tragedy.  I didn’t explain the back story because at the time I didn’t want questions.

A young member of my family tried to kill themselves.  I was devastated.  Did they not know that I loved them?  Did they not know I was there to talk?  What could I have done differently?  I should have been there more. I failed them.

I found out on Friday or Saturday and I couldn’t wait to get back to trading on Monday.  It hurt me because I couldn’t stop the pain of someone I loved and how could a child feel so much pain?  I wanted so dearly to cover up my failure as a person with my success as a trader.  I had a decent trading day on Monday. I did not feel better about myself.  They didn’t want to see me, I did not know what to do.

Come Tuesday, I was past my limit down.  Once again, the most important rule a trader can have is to not lose more than their limit.  If you break that you shouldn’t be a trader.  It is a total disrespect for trading.  I recently changed firms and my limits for the day were not enforced.  Even if I wasn’t acting in my best interest, my clearing firm would have stopped me.  I was able to continue trading.  I was down almost twice as much as my daily limit.  I battled back to about break even and quit.  I come in on Wednesday and am at my limit down before the open.  I keep trading. I finally stop down a few hundred over my limit.

I didn’t care about money.  How was money important when there was a family member hurting?  When I lost it did not compare to the pain I was feeling in my personal life.  I go past my limit down on Thursday.  By Thursday night I told someone.  I felt better, I thought I was better.  I came in Friday and lost like $50 on the first trade and went home. Come Monday, I lose past my limit down again.  I talk to my mentor.  I finally break down and start crying.  He knew something was up with me.  When you spend that much time with someone they always know and my results were not like me.  I tell him everything.  He tells me to stop trading.  I stop trading.

I talk to a friend who has experience with this.  We talk about everything, he tells me I am irrational.  For the first time in a week, I am able to remove myself from the microscope of the situation and see it at least from a few feet back.  I finally get to talk with the family member.  They are getting help and getting better.

I deposit money into my trading account.  I took my medicine.  I moved on.

There is no easy way to get passed a tragedy.  The only thing I can really do is explain what I went through from a trading standpoint and hopefully some or all of it can help.  I broke my rule on trading environment equilibrium, not respecting my down limits, and not having the strength to see that I was hurting and needed help.

It is easy to trick yourself into thinking you have to handle everything on your own, it took me stepping back to realize what I already knew.  Yes the tragedy did happen but I didn’t have to respond with destructive behavior.  I used trading a therapy when trading is a job.

Remember, there is always someone to talk to.  There is always someone who can help you.  There is always someone who is going through or has gone through something similar.

As Scott Van Pelt was wrestling with what to do, I too had the same druthers.  It feels very hollow to talk about trading within the context of tragedy but I also know that is something that all traders will go through one day.

If you haven’t read them yet, check out Darren Miller of Attitrade post on Love as well as @fearlicious post on Adolescent America.

It is sometimes hard to forget how awesome and giving people are, this is a good post to remind all of us.

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2 Responses to How I failed dealing with tragedy and it spilled into trading.

  1. […] profile being maintained, as I think I am the dumbest trader out there, other than Eli. He is at least smart enough to get help from an outstanding mentor when he is […]

  2. […] have already talked about the worst thing that can happen to a trader.  No emotion can be a warning sign too.  Emotions should not last forever but they should […]

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