As you know I am a bit of a fan of people lifting really heavy things – the Worlds Strongest Man Competition is compulsory viewing in my house. Who doesn’t love a sport that has the worlds lowest participation rate but also the worlds highest injury rate? Over the weekend an Icelandic giant who has the immensely cool name of Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson who also played The Mountain in Game of Thrones managed to deadlift 501kg eclipsing the previous record of 500kg set by Englishman Eddie Hall in 2016. Lifting this much is truly an impressive feat of superhuman strength.
You can see Björnsson lift below –
However, those of you who know something about lifting will understand that this absolute strength. Granted it is just over 2.5 times his body weight which what is considered strong for a given size. Lifting is about relative strength and you would expect someone who is a professional lifter to be able to do that. Granted the power to weight curve for humans is not linear and it becomes hard to lift multiples of your body weight the bigger you get.
Intriguingly there are individuals who have ripped three times their own bodyweight off the ground and hoisted it above their heads. I have snipped a list from the internet below –
Source Lift Up (http://www.chidlovski.net/liftup/a_club_3xbwt.asp)
You will notice they are all smaller lifters – this is once again a function of the power to weight curve of humans – it is also an example of absolute versus relative. Picking up 501kg off the deck is a tremendously impressive display of absolute power but even more impressive is putting three times your bodyweight above your head. This is the nature of absolute versus relative and it is a phenomenon that afflicts trading as well.
In trading, it is all too easy to compare yourself to someone else without understanding the context of what they are trying to achieve or their actual background. This is particularly true in the age of social media when fake equity curves seem to be the default setting for many along with endless boasting about their fake results. However, this comparison occurs not only when people hear other individual traders talk about what they do but they also engage in comparison with professional managers. For example, when you hear that such and such manager banked $1B during the current crisis there is, without doubt, a hint of comparison in all of us. But then put this into context – this manager may have $10B under management so they have only generated a 10% return which in relative terms is not that much to crow about. And like amateur traders on Twitter you don’t hear about their disasters, only the wonderful PR of their wins that occur against the tide.
Each trader is in a unique situation, no two are the same. Therefore any return you generate is unique to you. Since it is idiosyncratic the only source of comparison is what you did in the past. In reality, this is the only context that matters not what some fund manager did or some hyperactive wanker on Twitter says they do.
As you can tell I am not a fan of using others as motivation and motivational speakers drive me to despair. People who crap on about using others for motivation miss the point that motivation is a short-lived hit to the nervous system. The function of continually comparing yourself to others is ultimately destructive because on any given day there is always someone better than you at something you do. If you are constantly comparing yourself to others then this will make for a depressing process as by this measure you will never be good enough. The only metric is your relative performance – was it better than last time, did you make fewer unforced errors at the end of the year have you walked away with more money than last year and most importantly did you learns something about yourself.