Writing More // Social Aspect of Trading

I have been doing some reflection on why I don’t write more. I think about what this blog could have become if I committed to writing daily or weekly to it and I honestly think it would have been one of the most greatest trading blogs (maybe ever?!). Instead, as it exists–it’s the one good story (the FNMA loss story), a bunch of interesting niche subjects, and a few blurbs that paint me as a massive emotional monkey (which I won’t deny).

The FNMA story was a huge hit for me. It’s still by far my most widely read blog post. It got published in a magazine. Since then… blogging has been spotty. Now that story is 5 years old and there is much more awareness about day trading in the online cultural zeitgeist. Trading memes (stonks!) have exploded in the last 2 years. Millionaire sports bloggers will live stream 7 figure gains and losses and nobody will bat an eye. Every few months or so there’s a new story on Bloomberg about this guy from WallstreetBets exploiting another glitch on Robin Hood. The same post on FNMA had it been published now would not get the same traction as it did before. I probably blew it. I will likely never achieve my potential as a blogger/writer–it’s gone just like that.

Reasons why I don’t write more:

  1. I’m a perfectionist. I had a vision for this blog early on that it would include great illustrations and graphs, concise explanations of complex trading topics (beyond your typical market psychology pseudo-babble and platitude porn), and stories with real heartfelt emotion that could connect to every trader. I held myself to high standards–that I had to repeat the same great FNMA post over and over and over again. I would save a draft, edit it for a few hours, and at the last minute before publishing it, reject it entirely. Later I would just reject entire ideas out of hand without even writing a single word. I would just assume nobody cared what I had to say anymore, or that they would laugh at its lack of relevance or importance. Self-sabotage is a bitch.
  2. I worry about what other people think about me. There have been many moments where I wanted to just spill something out for the sake of spilling it out–a tough loss, a tough missed trade, someone I’m mad at, anything. And I’d write and write and write and then after the emotional lows kind of wear off… uh what the hell am I thinking? if I publish this, everyone is going to know what a total headcase I am. Your image as a professional trader will be utterly destroyed and you’ll never regain anyone’s respect ever again. Ah shit, delete it all.
  3. I’m a private person. I have second thoughts about revealing too much. But I also believe that sharing in vivid detail, even to the point of over sharing, is critical to writing in a way that connects to others. Many traders have reached out to me say “dude, I totally felt the same way in my trading experiences as well.” Some I have met in real life to a share a beer with. How much to share, how much to reveal, it’s a tougher balance now then when I was just an idiot 20-something who lived in a fake wall bedroom with 2 roommates.
  4. My love and hate relationship with trading. Sometimes, I just absolutely hate trading… and I have learned that, in reality, it’s just an extension of the self-loathing I feel about myself. Losses. Drawdowns. Undisciplined trades. Missing out large moves. All common events that happen to every trader… and I have found a way to personalize each and every time that it has happened. That it is a signal of how I’m not good enough. That everyone else is better. And that these are hard, uncomfortable, undeniable facts. And that the best way to cope with these facts is to completely withdraw all thoughts and reflections about trading and markets–go do something else, anything else, watch Netflix, watch football, take long naps, eat lots of junk food. Just be a lazy piece of shit with no ambition. 9:30am on Monday is absolute dread and 4:00pm on a Friday is the great escape. I have lost count of how many times I have fallen into this mental rut. Needless to say, it makes writing about trading much more difficult.

Anyway, that’s why I don’t write as much as I should. The next paragraph should be this *thing*–perhaps a renewed pledge to write more–some grand *thing* to tell all my readers that I have turned a new leaf and it’s a new me, but that would just be a lie. I’ll take it a day at a time and we’ll see where it goes.

The social aspect of trading
I wanted to write about the social aspect of trading. This might be something I have to break down into multiple posts until I figure out the grander theme of what I want to express. By the way, this is another reason why I have struggled to write–the constant nagging voice telling me to tie every story I write about into this bigger picture message. I blame my 10th grade English teacher Ms. Kim for making me do all those laborious essay re-writes. Sometimes I don’t have that bigger message yet, I just need to stream of conscious and put it out there.  Let’s just move on.

I’m a lone wolf at heart. I had quite a bit of social anxiety in my childhood. I often think about my experiences in eighth grade when I had no friends to hang out with at lunch time. I had to find ways to kill time without being seen as being totally alone and thus vulnerable. My go-to trick was to line up in the snacks and drinks line over and over again. I’d find the longest line, start at the back, then when I was close to the front…oops I just checked my wallet and realized I don’t have any money to pay for anything! How silly of me! Then I would go to the bathroom. Then I would go back to the court yard and find the longest line again. It’s likely that no one ever paid attention to me at all anyway. Or maybe one keen-eyed student saw my pattern, notified his group of friends, and they made a recurring joke of me in their snobby little circle–and I’ll never know. . It’s all so silly when I look back on it. I was a mostly normal, unremarkable child but whatever mechanism in my brain that existed to socially connect with others was kind of broken. I felt completely fine on my own and even a little stand-offish whenever I had to deal with groups or cliques where I was the outsider.


Flash forward to mid 2018. I went back to my old prop desk to have a beer with a friend and just shoot the shit about trading and the markets. We would reminiscence on the struggles both of us endured on the way to becoming successful traders. This is the social aspect of trading I enjoy–connecting to someone I know over shared experiences and the common growing pains of this incredibly difficult industry. He then invited over some of the junior traders to form a larger free-for-all group conversation. This is the social aspect of trading I do NOT enjoy.

Somewhere along the line, the conversation devolved into trading size. Everyone wanted to talk about size.  How they can push each other to be bigger in every single position. Oh you have 10,000 shares? Ok for that reason, I have to buy up to 20,000 because I can’t stand the thought of a pussy like you being bigger than me! HaHa holy shit I am so big in this position HaHa! HaHa It’s NoT mY mOnEy!!!

Ugh.

One trader (an actual good trader most of the time, to be fair to him) ended up explaining to me about he how was down beyond his intraday risk limit and that his “ingenious” trade idea to make it back on the day was to sell a gigantic amount of expiring out-of-the-money TSLA weekly options and collect the premiums. He rationalized to me that he just needed to be green so badly and that he knew he was exploiting a known weakness in the firm’s risk management of options positioning (nobody was allowed to have such a large naked short position). He’s literally one ill-fated Elon Musk tweet away from blowing up the firm. He said he felt absolutely sick with his risk and that he could barely process his thoughts while sitting there waiting for his options to expire–and that weirdly, he LOVED this feeling!

I felt disgusted. I found myself experiencing a familiar feeling. This ugly feeling in the pit of my stomach that hearkened back memories of my childhood.

I don’t belong here.
I don’t fit in here.
I don’t *like* anyone here.

My discomfort was palpable. These kids are just only talking about how much size they could push like it’s end all, be all purpose of living life. Not to mention the very audacity of it all! Did they even make money consistently? Do they even have an edge, or care? I know full well the low success rate of prop trading. My own training class had 12 traders and only 2 of us experienced any sustained success–and a prop manager would say that’s pretty good! These knuckleheads, likely unprofitable to this point, are clearly skipping steps. You need to actually make money before you discuss the practice of “making more”. I’d rather bore myself to death around a dozen trading nerd-bots spouting Steve Burns market psychology platitude porn than continue to listen to these hyper-macho posturing shitheads yuk it up any longer.

But I also had this devil’s advocate voice to my initial reaction. Maybe I’m of touch. Maybe I lost it. Maybe I’m the old guy now. Maybe the market has worn me down to a shell of my former self and these are the young, hungry upstarts who are going to make the profits that I lack the will and resolve to take. I don’t know. Maybe the “size is everything” mindset hack is what I have always needed but was too scared to embrace. It’s a nightmarish thought. 

I congratulated my friend on his recent successes and wished all the young traders good luck while making sure to maintain a warm smile to none the wiser, and then I exited stage left. Once I knew I was alone, I let out a huge sigh of relief. Thank God I got out of there. 

Then on the subway ride home, I had another thought. You better trade more size  now because if the day ever comes where these assholes make more money than you, YOU WILL NOT LIKE IT.

I’m not sure if that makes me a hypocrite or some other bad label. “Something something” about the duality of man.

Like I said, I am just writing and figuring out the message later. Adios.

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