What does resilience feel like?

In 2020, I traded every single day of the year.  Not a single day off. That’s the first time I ever have done that, for any calendar year. 

That’s not like me. There’s always a part of me that gets a bit flighty and needs to get away from the screen for a prolonged period. Usually when there’s any kind of drawdown or adversity. I was fortunate to have a stellar year for my own standards and I avoided prolonged drawdown all year. I had a handful of deeper red days but each time I managed to claw back to the high watermark within a few days. This is vital, because what a stoic fund manager might consider a normal drawdown (percentage wise) is usually a number that brings my fragile bones into full blown crisis mode.

Those in my inner circle know my dialogue well when I am in crisis mode.

I’m going to retire from trading. I don’t know what I am doing anymore so I might as well leave with my dignity intact.

These stocks move differently now, the game has evolved past me. It’s all over. They always know when I have size and when to run it the other way. Inexplicable.

I just don’t even give a shit anymore. Trading is a treadmill and caring about these numbers going up and down is just stupid.

I now consider the pursuit of money to be a wholly evil endeavor. I don’t believe in capitalism anymore. I’m going to donate all my profits to charity and live as a monk.

You get the point. I’m sure they all roll their eyes at this point–“whatever Pete, you’re just going be back doing this tomorrow, you know it, I know it, we all know it.”

The first week of 2021 did not start off great for me. The weekend was weird. I wanted to do a thorough review of my 2020 and set some goals for the new year, review some of my trading, all that standard self-improvement crap. I ended up doing absolutely nothing. I sat on my chair like a dumpy lump of coal, watching college football games I couldn’t give two shits about, falling asleep like an old man. I didn’t cook, I didn’t do chores, I didn’t exercise, didn’t want to do anything. I just felt no enthusiasm for the new year. 

Monday came around. I had the familiar morning dreads… I don’t want to trade today, I should just go do something else today. I made a note of it in my journal in the pre-market. I was practically sleep walking, opting to look at NBA box scores rather than go through my morning preparation process. Sometimes this actually helps me set the tone for the day… I don’t feel like trading so why even hype myself up–at least then I’ll trade small size, reduce my holding period, and maybe “let the market come to me”. Well..

…that doesn’t happen. I punt off $60,000 in ten minutes. I shut off my screen in disgrace and go back to bed. I can’t sleep so I just lie there and my brain slowly descends into crisis mode again.

I’m not going to repeat what I made in 2020. It’s too much of a burden. Time to accept that reality.

I can’t even look at stocks right now, it’s too painful to see quotes.

Who does that? Seriously, who does that on the first day of the year like that? What a moron. 

Go ahead and take a long break. The whole world is going to make money off TSLA and bitcoin and all these 10-bagger micro caps, you’re going to be left behind. You’ll feel worse.

I can’t even trade smaller because it’s just going to make me feel like a huge asshole for being sized into the loser and having almost no skin if I win. SO STUPID. WHY BOTHER!?

Money doesn’t even matter. Nothing matters. Eat Arby’s.

Yeah I don’t recommend large losses. They suck ass.

What does resilience feel like?

You ever get on your twitter feed and see some 21 year old hot shot trader (usually being liked or RT’d by someone else, hell no am I ever following shit like that) tweet something like… “A set back is just a setup for a comeback!”? Does anyone else just want to punch their screen whenever they read shit like that? Is it just me?

I’m not wired like that. I don’t puff out my chest and fake it until I make it. I don’t flex to the whole world that I am mentally tough by spewing platitude porn about overcoming adversity. In fact, I’ll freely admit this to you right now–I’m fragile. I’m a snowflake. I fold faster than a lawnchair. Dread, crisis, doom–whatever you want to call it–it sticks with me until I somehow find the wits to scramble my way out of it. This idea that you’re not supposed to trade emotionally compromised is a fine idea but for me, it can’t work because I have these weird mental patterns that I cannot escape. I can’t just take a year long sabbatical until I “feel good” again.  I need to write the same story over and over again. I am Sisyphus and I am literally rolling the boulder back down so I can push it up again. 

I take the day off on Tuesday. My first day off in over a year. I still feel like total garbage. I still have to self-flagellate myself for what had happened on Monday. “Every day is a new day” — YEAH RIGHT, if fucking only it was. Again, I struggle to fall asleep. I have insomnia all week long.

I come back to my screen Wednesday. Same morning dread. Still in crisis mode. Still feeling that wincing pain when looking at stock quotes. Should I just not trade?

I came to a realization–No. I have to trade, don’t I? I just have to trade away out of this. For the millionth fucking time, I have to do this again.

How do I cope with this? Well, I get this one recurring thought: I often run through this dark and sad “proposition” of sorts that maybe if I get crushed again, it’s actually a good thing–like a boxer who’s finally taken one too many punches. I’ll finally quit forever and this miserable joke I call a trading career can finally end. I’ll go do something actually productive and interesting instead. And if I don’t? Well I get to keep going another day and maybe I made money and money is always fine, I guess. Win-win.

It’s 9:30. I start trading. Every feeling in my bones is screaming THIS SUCKS, I HATE IT. Somehow I make some money. I feel numb. I know I’m not out of the woods yet and I have to do this again the next day. I spend all evening doom-scrolling my twitter feed and watching True Detective season 1 clips on Youtube. Time is a flat circle. Maybe I should write something down about what I’m going through, no, nevermind–I don’t want to think about myself, it’s too scary. Lakers are on at 10, good excuse to stay up late and feel like shit tomorrow.

Thursday. I make a bit more. I’m close to the high watermark again. Now I feel pissed because my brain is running through the mental math of where my PnL could be if I didn’t allow that calamitous Monday to happen. Here I am settling for break-even while the whole world continues to crush these easy markets. Chippy/intense/combative/competitive-me is back though. Anger is a step above depression, so I consider this a win.

Friday happens. I am so afraid of losing or taking intraday drawdown. I’m at the brink of another meltdown and I just can’t, man. I trade in a very dodgy manner where I am practically pushing buttons in response to my own discomfort rather than any actual price or idea analysis. Somehow this works. I get back to break even and then later, slightly green on the week. I don’t even know how I did it. I can’t process anything. Deep inward reflection–no, not now please. I can’t wait for the weekend so I can turn off my brain and not review any of my mistakes so this can happen a few weeks or a month from now and I’ll do this all over again.

Now it’s the weekend. I am starting to feel normal again. Let me predict my own future here…. some future week from now, maybe next week, I am going to make $100,000 or more. I’m back baby! Never a doubt!

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