Discipline = Freedom + Success for Traders
I wanted to share a unique lesson this week, one that is different from any of my other ones.
Recently I was at a meditation retreat with my teacher. As many of you know, I have been practicing meditation and buddhism every day for 15+ years now. For 14 of those 15 years, I’ve been working with one teacher.
Who I was 15 years ago is not even recognizable to the person I am today, and my teacher is the biggest reason behind that.
She guides, challenges and helps me grow in all aspects of my life. Her in-exhaustable wisdom, penetrating insight and poignant clarity continue to amaze me every time I am with her.
It is a relationship I am ever grateful for.
Back to the Retreat
During a private moment with the senior members, she was taking questions from the group, when one of the students asked a question about discipline.
I wanted to share her response because it speaks to the heart of what discipline, training and taking things to the next level is really about (in trading, and life).
I’ve changed a few words to make it more tailored towards trading, but the message is the same, and all the credit remains with her for this message below.
Without further adieu, here is her thoughts on discipline & training.
Discipline Is Not the Anti-thesis of Freedom
“I’ve often seen in people this idea, or framework of thinking, that force, rigidity, and intensity in one’s work is the antithesis of freedom & creativity, and it’s absolutely not.
One pattern that revolves around discipline is people floating around from one system to another, and another, and another, but what people end up doing is spinning their wheels and never going deep.
They’ll let go of one system because they think it is ‘under-performing‘ for that week or month, all according to our wants and needs to succeed ‘now’.
What we are really doing is playing out our conditioned scripts and never breaking through.
Breaking the Cycle
The only way to break out of this cycle is to harness the power of habit in a positive direction. That requires discipline, it requires a focused training.
There will be a level of force and unhappiness that comes with this sandwich. But for anything that requires us to succeed, we have to go deep, and that takes discipline & training. We have to develop this habit and power.
An Olympic athlete doesn’t always feel like getting up that day and training for hours on end each day.
I’m pretty sure Michael Jordan didn’t always feel like practicing or training hard. But he did it anyway, and that communicated something to his self-image.
To transcend our current limits, we have to go beyond what we feel like. We have to transform this feeling of constantly wanting to do what we feel like, and then making excuses in trading and why we aren’t performing the way we want to.
There is so much energy out there today about doing what you feel like, doing whatever you want.
Taking Things to the Next Level
But if the goal is to take your skills, awareness and mind to the next level…if your goal is to be something, do something, perform a skill at a higher level than you are now, then you need to start working on those hidden levels, in those areas of your sub-conscious and unconscious mind where we have some heavy conditioning in place.
So if you want to go beyond the level of success, performance and the mindset you have now, that takes training, that takes discipline, that takes force, even when we don’t feel like doing it.
Discipline = Freedom
I too have moments like that, where I ‘don’t feel like it‘. But what I remember in those moments is that discipline will give me freedom.
If I do the practice and train whether I feel like it or not, this very action repeated many times, will lead to an accumulation of skills, wisdom and knowledge that will allow me to transcend my current limits.
Part of what is happening for me in those moments is my nervous system is reaching its limit to participate, act and execute in a particular way.
In that state of duress, in that level of concentration, what is being challenged is our limits, and it is only there that we can learn to expand that.
We can’t expand our limits while ‘doing what we want‘, or ‘being a lazy trader‘, or spending < an hour in front of the charts and then being on vacation the rest of the time.
That is an illusion, and no-high level professional works like that in any field.
Discipline = Power
There is a huge power to doing things we don’t feel like, and that power is called discipline.
Perhaps though discipline isn’t the best word, because we can easily associate it with some form or punitive measure or experience. But the reality is, discipline is our potency.
If we cannot have it, if we cannot hit the mat every day, or keep playing the guitar when Jimi Hendrix isn’t coming out of our strings, if we don’t push up against those limits, against that inertia, then we won’t grow.
We’ll remain shallow, and we’ll just end up repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again. If that is your experience, then you know the variables and recipe behind said experience.
There is so much momentum to repeating our habits and cultural scripts. They have incredible momentum and energy behind them.
To establish another direction, to challenge and go against it, we will feel it, and that will not always be comfortable. Yet in those moments, there is a huge power available to us, to make discipline our habit.
Those Who Really Develop
If we look at the defining moment of someone who matures, develops and takes things to the next level vs. someone who doesn’t, it’s their capacity to stretch beyond what they don’t feel like doing.
It’s their ability to hold a discipline.
If discipline isn’t our strongest point, that’s ok, we can start with where we are. We can go to that limit, stretch the envelope a little bit each time in a controlled growth way. Discipline is a super power we have.
If you can tolerate insecurity, tolerate discomfort, and go against what you feel like doing, hold that discipline and train – there is no limit to how much you can grow, develop and succeed.
That is a great power we have, and for those who take this on, it is only a matter of time before you climb that mountain and have a successful trading mindset.
Netflix + Video Games
I certainly have moments where I exert beyond what I think is possible, and many times after that I need to rest my body and mind.
It’s usually in these times when we start to have those fantasies of laying on a beach for days on end, or just lying on the couch watching movies. I’ve done that.
Recently after some graduate school exams, someone told me after their finally done, that they just watch netflix and play video games for 3 days to decompress.
I heard that and thought ‘oh wow, that sounds like heaven‘. So I tried that, literally watching Breaking Bad from beginning to end, playing video games for long hours.
But after doing that, although there was some rest I caught up on, I can say the overall experience wasn’t truly satisfying. It was helpful to get that rest and down time in, and we need that in certain moments.
But the rest of it wasn’t really satisfying…not in the same way where I can experience the fruits of my discipline, work and what I’ve created.
Shifting the Fantasy
So I’ve shifted to a place now where when I experience those fantasies, that when they come up and I want a ‘vacation of freedom’, a ‘vacation from discipline’…I’ve learned that too much freedom can be just as much a poison as too much discipline, so that’s not the solution.
Hence I remind myself that it is an illusion, and that I don’t want the fruit of that. What I really want is the fruit of taking things to the next level.
Even if it’s painful, even if I don’t like it, I’ve found the fantasy to be limiting. I’ve found that discipline in training yields me a feeling of being regret-less about my time.
I don’t have those regrets of ‘oh, I wish I had done that,’ because I am doing ‘that’, and there is something really gratifying in that experience and knowing.
I am definitely not a master of it. It’s hard, and I have times just like you that I wrestle with it. But I can say that I love what discipline gives me, especially in my meditation and mindfulness practice.
Highly Successful People
When I talk to people of high caliber, people who have a unique perspective and are highly successful, this is totally the difference.
This isn’t someone just doing what they want to do, or feeling what they like all the time.
They definitely aren’t following the fantasy being marketed by people out there that you can just work one hour a day and have all the money and success you want.
They aren’t staying in the little house of their mind, of what their mind wants, or what feels comfortable.
They’ve put themselves in environments that challenge them, that demand from them, and stayed in those environments through discomfort, foraging their way through.
And for those that have had this experience, you’ll see they are of a high caliber and performing at a high level.
The fruits of their work, discipline and training are obvious when you meet and talk with them.
Ultimately, I think time is really precious, and we should question what our cultures teach us about how we should spend our time, and what it is really for.”
Wow is all I have to say to that.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found it insightful, poignant and informative about trading, success and discipline.
Please do share your comments and thoughts as I’m itching to hear your feedback.
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