The mental game of trading

brainI wrote a blog recently debunking the idea that golf is 90% mental, and I want to expand that to where I believe the mental game fits in to your performance as a trader. Whether you are a golfer or a trader, your job is to execute. Whether that’s hitting the right shot, or making the right decision at the right time. The only difference is that a golfer uses their body to execute their strategy and a trader uses their mind.

So the question every trader has to answer is simple: what do I need to learn, what are the skills I need to train, and how can I best prepare myself to consistently execute the right shot or the right decision? First and foremost you need trading skill. The mental game can really only help you to become a better trader once you have a strategy based on your knowledge reading charts, technical analysis, and other skills.

In my last blog I said that if golf was 90% mental, then the Dali Lama would be an amazing golfer, but he isn’t. The mind is only so powerful. I say this, so you now I’m not one of those ‘gurus’ blowing smoke up your ass claiming that a positive mental attitude is what you need to be a successful trader. Bullshit. You need to know what the hell you’re doing. Without a trading strategy based on a foundation of knowledge, there is no way to prove your results aren’t just dumb luck. Continue reading

Golf is 90% Mental?

dalai_lamaThere is a popular adage in golf, and in many other sports, that the game is “90% mental.” That what separates elite performers from the also-rans is having a strong determination, grit, confidence and other mental game qualities. When you witness elite performers under extreme pressure it can be easy to believe this assertion, and as a mental game coach, I should probably let you believe it. But answer me this:

If the mind was that important to the game, wouldn’t the Dalai Lama be an incredible golfer?

He’s actually quite bad. There’s no doubt the mental game is important, but it isn’t 90% of the game.

Besides if golf is 90% mental and 10% physical, how can we explain the following? Continue reading

The negatives of positive thinking

stock-footage-happy-smiley-face-icon-in-a-negative-majority-like-a-symbol-of-happiness-success-good-mood-andA lot of people believe that the primary job of a performance coach or sports psychologist is to help you think more positively. That the biggest single catalyst for achieving more or breaking out of a slump is to believe that you can, and that good things will happen to those that can trick themselves into thinking this way. I believe this is why some people have a critical view of self help material in general, because they don’t agree that attitude alone is enough to thrive.

As it turns out, research has proven that for some people a positive attitude is actually detrimental to performance. That’s correct. Contrary to what many in my field believe, some people hurt their performance by trying to be optimistic.

The problem with over reliance on positive thinking is that you are whitewashing over any genuine negatives that exist. People have a problem with negativity and acknowledging weaknesses, especially in America where self belief is everything. There is actually a real benefit to pessimism and understanding that negatives are real, the problem is that people treat negatives as permanent rather than something that can be improved, which is why they try and discount negativity all together.

If you have real weaknesses in your skillset, just being optimistic won’t solve them. It may help you focus, but if you are not addressing the negatives, optimism is, in fact, delusion.

“If you don’t address the negatives, optimism is, in fact, delusion” Continue reading

Understanding how emotion affects performance

Charles-Barkley-1aAre you a better golfer when you are angry? Do you make terrible trading decisions when you are bored? Are you more productive when you are happy, or sad? Why do you choke under pressure when other people thrive on it?

As a performance coach, my main job is usually to help people overcome emotional barriers that are preventing them from executing their skills to the best of their ability. In poker I help people overcome tilt, which is when anger overwhelms their decision-making. In golf I help people eliminate the ‘yips’, which stops them performing under pressure. In trading I help professionals avoid forcing bad trades, which happens when they become undisciplined. I also help elite athletes and professionals overcome all sorts of issues including fear of failure, low motivation and decreased focus.

These issues all sound varied and independent of each other. However, at their core, all mental game issues affect performance in the same way, and therefore can be fixed in the same way. It all comes down to how I view emotion and how it relates to performance. Many sports psychologists treat emotion like it is the enemy, something that should be numbed. The problem with this attitude is that while you may succeed in the short term suppressing negative emotions, you will also suppress the positive emotions that help you perform in the zone.

Until you embrace emotions, you will never perform at your peak.  Continue reading

Inchworm learning

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you can perform at a very high level, but other times you make mistakes a complete newbie would make? Why does this happen?

“Inchworm” is a concept with a strange name that helps make the process of improving over time easier to understand. Inchworm isn’t a revolutionary new idea; it’s just an observation of how you improve over time and something you likely never thought about previously. Understanding this concept more clearly will help you to:

  • Become more efficient in your approach to improving.
  • Make consistent improvement while avoiding common pitfalls.
  • Avoid fighting a reality you can’t change.
  • Know where a skill is in the learning process.
  • Handle the natural ups and downs of learning better.

There will be times when it feels like you have taken a huge step backward, not progressed at all, or have fallen back into old habits. The next time this happens, come back to this blog post. Continue reading