From “F*** it!” to Funded

The urge to say “F*** it” and gamble can be very, very tempting in some situations. And this isn’t something that just happens in poker, or trading, I see it in virtually every performance environment.

The urge comes on strong as a way to quickly escape previous losses, mistakes, or bad breaks by taking on extreme risk. You go “all-in”, max size a position, or try to hit an improbable shot through the trees. You go for broke thinking, “F*** it! Let’s go!”

As a trader, maybe you are trying to pass a combine to get a funded account, or you are in a prolonged drawdown with losses continuing to mount. 

As a poker player, you might call an “all in” on the river hoping to get lucky so you can finally get a big score to immediately get out of the downswing you are in. 

As a golfer, you could be having a frustrating round where you keep missing short putts and getting some back breaks, and then after a poor tee shot you try to get to the green by hitting a shot through a narrow opening in the trees.

In all these situations, and many others, when things are already bad it seems like it can’t get worse. You’re not going to feel more pain than you already do, and so it feels a little bit like you have a free roll where there’s only upside to your gamble. If you pull it off, or more accurately get lucky, your heroics build some momentum in your favor and/or help recover your losses. And if you don’t pull it off? Well, it’s already bad enough so…”F*** it.”

The problem is that this is short-sighted. Even if you pulled it off, you’re going to be in this spot again, and then what? You’re going to say “F*** it” and try to recreate another miracle. Which I get is cool as hell, some of my most memorable golf shots are the perfect shots that I hit to get out of trouble. It’s euphoric and that intense feeling can seduce you into trying to produce it again at an inopportune time.

Plus, what in my experience is even more of a problem, pulling off the miracle reinforces the idea that you can escape like this again. You get a boost in confidence, which is actually overconfidence. The truth? You got lucky. The odds were stacked against you, and that goes against the recipe for long-term success where you press your advantage/edge. 

Overconfidence spills over. You’re less vigilant about the work needed to keep yourself out of such spots to begin with. So you don’t learn anything new. You’re not trying to prevent this scenario from reoccurring, which means you will be in the same position again in the future — falling prey to the “F*** Its” once again. That’s why it’s such a common and repetitive problem.

The reality is that losses, mistakes, and bad breaks will happen. Again and again. This is simply what it means to compete – whether as a trader, poker player or golfer. You will regularly be in situations that test your ability to follow your strategy.

I know how hard it is to walk away with a loss, to fold in a big spot, or chip out. Rather than focusing on the “chance” of recovery, think about tomorrow. What’s the value of the capital and confidence you preserve for tomorrow? When you’re strong enough to be able to take a loss and show up stronger the next day, you’ve got something to build on. The F*** Its may be fun and make for a good story when they pay off, but that’s not why you’re here, right?

 

The “F*** Its” Seek Confidence

While these high risk decisions may come out of frustration, anger, or loss of hope, the real cause is usually a weakness in confidence. The weakness can be from a technical standpoint, a mental standpoint, or both. 

Some of you want to believe you have mythical abilities that allow you to quickly make huge sums of money, or pull off miracle shots because of how it makes you feel about yourself or what you think it says about your skill as a trader, poker player, or golfer. 

Some of you can’t handle losing or being in a bad spot. You want to escape it immediately. T What you’re implying, however, is that you aren’t strong enough to handle losing, or the inevitable ups and downs. 

If you are not strong enough to handle losing, trying to gamble only makes that worse. Even when you are successful, deep down you know you got lucky. So the confidence you gain is really like grabbing a handful of sand – impossible to hang onto. 

On the other hand, making a choice that’s hard but is the correct decision, like folding when you should fold, strengthens confidence in the right way, even at a time when you are struggling. Making the correct decision is a positive outcome simply because you were in full control of vs. seeking a positive result that you don’t have full control of. We all know how much is beyond our control, especially in the short term. One positive small step leads to another, and as you stack them up over time you begin to change your reaction to these situations rather than being stuck in an endless cycle.

For those of you familiar with my work, you may remember my advice to suck less. In these moments, that perspective can remove the weight of trying to be at your best and gets you focused on taking the next step to be a little bit better. It allows you to take a longer-term view so when you’re struggling you can see it’s less about today and more about building for a better tomorrow – this is how you move your inchworm forward.

Recently a member of The Mental Game of Trading LIVE shared a great story of how this advice can build confidence and skill in the right way:

Hi fellow traders,

I’d like to share my progress with you all and hope that it motivates you to continue improving and not giving up. I’ve been trading in the negative for about a year now and I started a funded trading combing at TopStep last August and had to reset multiple times.

 

Jared’s advice has gotten me through my last TopStep combine. I took it to heart about passing the combine correctly by sticking to my strategy, not gambling or hoping for a big winning trade that would make me pass my combine and also give me a giant confidence boost. I passed it last week and I did it by going from -$1200 to +$3000.

 

I wanted to reset the account to start at $0 but I told myself I need to handle this appropriately and work through my problems. Again, thank you Jared, your advice and your system has helped a lot and I’m looking forward to solving my other problems with your help. ~Andrew Telleria

Seeing this kind of story is super gratifying. Many traders, poker players, and golfers just want to win but don’t always think about what comes next. When you build skill and confidence in the right way, you build something sustainable and don’t have to worry about your luck eventually running out.

 

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Written by Jared Tendler

May 6, 2024

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