Apr 03

Burn Out – Make it Work!

It’s funny how a short break designed to refresh and recuperate can suddenly turn into 6 months of near-total trading abstinence.   I never planned it that way, but I figure it’s a bit like when your alarm for work doesn’t go off and you accidentally sleep in past lunchtime.  It’s not ideal, and definitely not what you planned, but most likely exactly what you needed.

Last year, I burnt out.  To be honest, I’d been having mini-burnouts pretty much every three months since trying to make my short-term forex work, but I just kept climbing back on the horse and trying again.  Persistence is the key to success, after all, so I kept on keeping on; tweaking things and testing, having another shot, until finally after two and a half years I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

The problem was, I got to the point I didn’t want to do anything anymore.  I had absolutely nothing more to give.  It felt like I had drained out every last bit of me and given it to the markets, and I was empty.

Whoops.  :)

It’s okay to “quit”.  Temporarily.

I haven’t quit trading.  I will always be a trader, but right now I am a trader on a sabbatical, using my time to purposefully enjoy things that aren’t trading.  Stefan Sagmeister gave a great TED talk about the power of time off, and my experience definitely corresponds to his.

The Best Bits About Not Trading.  (Temporarily).

  • Having the time to focus on things that give a guaranteed reward for effort.   Trading swings both ways – once you’re in the groove, it can almost seem effortless.  On the other hand, my recent experience has been you can work yourself to the bone and see very little in terms of results which is entirely frustrating and after an extended period fairly soul-destroying.  After hitting the wall with forex, I desperately wanted to do something where I would definitely see results and accomplish something where the results were comparable to the amount of effort I put in.  Naturally, I decided to get ripped.  ;)   3 months later, after 6 days a week of (relatively) full-on training I got exactly what I set out to achieve – I had built muscle, gained strength but most importantly I had proved to myself that I was still capable of grinding it out and accomplishing hard things, and would continue to do so into the future.
  • Human interaction.   I reckon this has been my favourite thing about my break from trading.  Oh my gosh, the joy of being able to leave the screen to talk with actual people!  The happiness you get sitting in a friends kitchen drinking coffee and laughing shouldn’t be a luxury, but short-term trading sure turned it into one.
  • A break from the emotional side of trading.   Trading unsuccessfully is probably one of the most difficult things a person can put themselves through.  The idea of being wrong hits our egos and most people can’t handle a run of ten losses, let alone a few years of unsuccessful trials. Not only does it make us question whether we are capable of success, it also gives a nasty double-punch by taking your money at the same time.  No-one can tolerate that for very long without feeling pretty battered and bruised, regardless of the (hopefully small) amount of money involved.  For me, the losses were insignificant but the idea that maybe I was fighting a losing battle was difficult.
  • The ability to reassess.   Having the last few months off has given me enough space from the markets to be able to clearly consider my role within them.   I can definitely say with all honesty that I am not done trading.  I can also say with 100% surety that I am done with very short timeframes.  I’ve been able to clearly look at who I am, and how my personality, talents and skills relate to the markets and the best way for me, as a private trader, to interact with them.   I’ve realised that for me, seeing real humans every day is paramount to my happiness, and that I really enjoy interacting with and helping people.  It stands to reason then that being a 5 minute trader stuck at home is probably not the best career choice for me…certainly took long enough for that penny to drop!
  • Being able to follow different tangents without feeling unfaithful.  Having my mental space relatively free of all things trading allowed me to fill it with other interesting things that had previously taken a backseat because I’d been single-mindedly trying to figure things out with short-term trading.   In the last 6 months I have been exercising like a fiend, started some formal study, done an exam for the first time in…I’m not even telling (!) and bought a new house – I’d forgotten how much I LOVE negotiating a deal – and, oh yeah, I’ve also packed up my family and relocated from Useless Loop to Port Hedland, settled my family, and dealt with my 10-year-old having a boyfriend.  (He’s no longer with us ;) ).  Yeah, I got some stuff done, and it was GREAT.

I suppose the moral to this story is that failing doesn’t have to mean failure.   It can actually be a temporary situation that is the seed your next success will sprout from.

Trade well!

***

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