Hedge Fund CIO: Here’s Why Trading Often Destroys People, Slowly Devouring Them From Within
By Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management
Losing money sucks. Lots of other things do too. Most of us hate being wrong. We go to extraordinary lengths to protect our egos. Which is absurd of course, but we are curious little creatures, taught as children to aim for 100% on each test, to win every ball game.
At some point in a trading career, we either learn to deal with the humiliation of making mistakes or we fail. And the way karma works, the harder we deny our errors the more public the ultimate humiliation.
Lots of investors target longer time horizons so that they make infrequent predictions, which means fewer possible mistakes to confront. Traders on the other hand, make lots of smaller bets, which guarantees frequent winners and losers. But for some odd reason, victories are less pleasurable than defeats are painful, so on balance, trading depletes us. Which is why it often destroys people, slowly devouring them from within.
Survivors develop ways to inoculate themselves from the pain, humiliation, defeats, losses. Some train their minds to reverse decisions in an instant. They can appear confused, confusing, contradicting themselves in the same sentence. Such people are masters at self-preservation.
The greatest traders and investors eventually build firms around themselves. Team efforts yield psychic benefits that help restore balance to the emotionally drained. Being surrounded by a group of fellow risk takers and business builders allows you to refocus your efforts when you feel you’re probably wrong. Uncertain. Or when you simply lack conviction.
And a team gives you leverage to press hard when you feel you’re right and the risk reward is compelling. Because after years of focused effort, introspection, you gain a good feel for when you’re likely right or wrong.
And you begin to see the same in others. Better yet, you can sometimes sense when others are wrong and stubbornly unwilling to yet admit it. Large groups of such people present the greatest trading opportunities. And as awful as it all sounds, the truth is, there is nobility in this struggle. Joy in the pursuit.