There are many reasons why traders have a hard time being (and staying) profitable. I’ve explored many of those reasons in depth on this blog. But as of yet, I haven’t talked about our default mode of measuring and comparing ourselves (and our lives) to others.
So let’s talk about that…
Comparison –it’s so easy to slip into that mode. That’s what we seem to do best.
We see pictures of what our friends are doing on Facebook and we think that our life isn’t exciting enough.
We see someone else who has a nice job and we automatically think that we are not doing that great in our own career.
We see someone with a nice physique, and we feel bad about ours.
We see people brag about how they made a killing in the market, and we feel dissatisfied with our own results; we start to doubt our trading method.
We read about how people are traveling the world, learning languages, going to exotic resorts and SPAs and restaurants, and we wonder why we are not.
I’m guilty of that myself. But not long ago, I’ve realized how comparing myself to others was negatively correlated to my levels of:
Clarity of mind
And positively correlated with my levels of:
I’m guessing you’ve felt that as well?
You see, we spend too much of our time comparing our reality to an ideal, a fantasy, but inherently, it is a comparison that makes no sense.
Our obsession with comparison stems from our dualistic outlook on life. We perceive things and then we categorize them; we label, judge, compartmentalize… and the moment we do that, we create separation — i.e., this is good; this is bad.
But that separation doesn’t really exist out there– it is a construct of our minds. It exists only in there. The world is just as it is. Things just happen and they don’t have an essence or meaning. They have the meaning we attribute to them. And that meaning is shaped by the content of our minds –our acquired beliefs, and inherent inclinations and preferences.
“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”
That ability to categorize things and to compare is useful (it exists for a reason), but it’s also good to acknowledge that it is a by-product of our minds and that this separation doesn’t really exist out there.
It is also useful to see how we often misuse this ability.
For instance, in trading, it is based on this comparative project of ours that we often have a hard time being (and staying) profitable. Because that is the typical way we measure our performance — Trader X is doing good, I’m not, therefore there must be a problem with me or my system.
It is good to question ourselves and our results every now and then, but my point is that doing it by way of this toxic habit of comparing ourselves to an impossible ideal is not only damaging to our self-image but also to our bottom line results.
We don’t all trade the same strategy; have the same capital at our disposal; trade the same markets. We don’t possess the same level of experience, emotional makeup, or even the same kind of ability to learn, yet we keep comparing ourselves to others even though there are little to no points of resemblance.
But okay. Let’s presume that we’re all alike right to how the very atoms of our bodies are organized. How would the comparison be useful? How is comparison your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20 even fair?
It’s not. It’s unproductive because if you compare yourself to how someone else is today, instead of who you were yesterday, you will always be losing.
In trading or in life outside of trading, you will never reach a point where you are better than others in every single possible way. It’s just not possible. So instead of playing a game that virtually guarantees that you’ll lose (and where you’ll spend your time feeling miserable because you’ll never be good enough), why not play another game? The game of comparing yourself to yourself.
This is the only comparison that makes sense. Because you can never be another person; you can only be a better version of yourself.
- Enjoy the journey.
- Learn about yourself as you keep trading.
- Keep going in the midst of failures and disappointments.
… in doing so, there will come a point where you will get better — compared to yourself.
If you are doing better than what you were doing yesterday, then you are doing great, regardless of your results. Instead of trying to be as good as (or better than) Tom or Jim, focus your energy on being the very best version of yourself.
It’s a better strategy. Trust me.
In this field, there’ll always be people who have more money than you; who are more hard-working, have more talent, skills, and luck than you. Always remember that you are never competing against those people anyways. If you want to see your biggest competition, take a look in the mirror.
So, next time you catch yourself using someone else as a benchmark for your trading performance or self-worth, stop and remind yourself how ineffective this strategy really is.
Instead, redirect your energy and attention to your own goals, what is realistically possible, and what is required to achieve them. And do it compassionately.