Mastering Yourself is part of this Playbook that never ends. This is where we talk about self-mastery, about understanding how your mind works, and about how you can stop your emotions from taking the reins of your decision making.
Because at the end of the day, once we learn how this game works, all that’s left is mentally executing. And that challenge never ends. I don’t learn a lot of new things about tape reading anymore; I learn something new about myself and my mind every single day.
I’m going to assume that you’re bought into the importance of this.
If not—if you’re thinking that learning how to manage your emotions and thoughts is irrelevant to your trading—then stop reading. Go accomplish the first two Laws and come back to me in a year. We’ll talk about how your PnL and your life is doing.
So how the hell does one master his or her mind?
I can’t solve this for you in these pages, but I can give you a place to start and a framework to work within.
It starts out with accepting what you’ve signed on to as a trader and the mental challenges you’re going to face:
This might seem obvious, and yet every day I see someone get rocked when they come face-to-face with these realities. It’s quite important that you sit back and imagine your life with these challenges, and accept them, now. Imagine how you’re going to encounter them now, not when they happen.
That will prime your mind for what’s to come.
The second step is to develop a process of self-inquiry. Continuous improvement comes from continuously asking yourself the questions you probably want to avoid:
These are the types of questions most of us roll our eyes when we see. We make up a million excuses about why now isn’t the time, why we don’t need to think about this stuff, why we’re different.
They’re all ways to avoid what’s in our own heads.
Let me be clear: there is no way you can make it in this game if you don’t ask yourself hard questions. The market is like the most hostile jungle known to man. It will exploit even the smallest of your blindspots and weaknesses.
That’s the beauty of the game we play as traders. It demands the best of us. It pushes us to evolve to a far greater degree than the average job. If you aren’t ready for that, save yourself the misery and the money and walk away. It’s just not worth it.
The third step is to start forming habits. Your habits take about three weeks to form but they will serve you for the rest of your life. If you can pick up a few good ones a year, you’ll end up lightyears beyond where you otherwise would have been.
Here are the ones that have served people in our community particularly well:
You can use trade journaling software or just sit down and write. But when you constantly bring your attention to your actions, why you took them, and how you felt when you did, you will automatically create a greater degree of self-awareness. And that’s the first step in controlling your behavior.
We’re all sick of hearing about it, and it’s been culturally appropriated to no end, but the research definitively shows that meditation works. It doesn’t have to be anything else beyond a simple few moments for you to get your head right. Here’s a good book if you don’t know where to start.
Endorphins are your best friend. They’ll help you keep your mind right and they will protect you from bored trading. Sitting on your ass midday? Instead of clicking buttons, go to the gym. Got crushed? Go to the gym. Everything is better after a workout.
Make it a habit. Your brain needs a pressure release valve from the market or it will break. Your friends and family will give you much needed perspective when the walls are closing in on you, or when you think you’re better than the world for having added another zero to your account. One of the reasons many of our most dedicated members stay in the Steamroom is for the social support it provides them.
About 1% of the population can sleep for less than 6 hours and function at a high level. Most traders like to tell themselves they’re in that 1%, but they’re not. Traders make 1000’s of decisions every day; your brain needs all the help you can get. Another REM cycle is worth more than an extra two hours of staring at charts.
Trading can wreak havoc on our personal lives. You’d be amazed at how much fighting and distress can be avoided—and how much growth can result—by having conversations with your partner about your trading. What does it feel like when you lose money? What should they do when you’ve had a bad day? What do you need to get back to center? And while you’re at it, maybe explain why this is about more than just making money.
Because it is.