When new traders move into the arena of trading they face several functional difficulties such as how do markets work, what are the subtle difference between markets and most importantly how does one design and implement a system that is some way logic and effective.
If someone manages to navigate this maze and become in some way successful at this game then they face another issue, one of identity. In the Western world our work defines us – the most common introductory question one is asked is – what do you do? This question whilst seemingly innocuous is actually very powerful within our society since it conveys what your background is, your education, life experience, who you might associate with and often where you might live. Even the way our names are arranged was originally a reflection of our occupation. Hereditary surnames where uncommon in the Western world until around 13th or 14th century – they were called bynames and they either reflected where you were from or your occupation. This is an obvious means of distinguishing between members of a growing population and these names are still with us today. It takes very little imagination to understand the etymology of names such as Mason, Smith or Baker.
It is not too much of a stretch to say that work defines us and contributes immensely to our sense of self worth. The devastating effects on unemployment are testament to how much of purpose we derive from the notion of work. Without a sense of work or collective striving – which is largely what working in a group is we struggle with a lack of belonging. When you become a trader this traditional sense of work is lost to you as is some part of your old identity. Traders therefore have to establish a new sense of authenticity about themselves based around what they now do – not what they used to do. This also has to somehow be communicated to others, although I have often found this to be less successful than I would have hoped. Family members will often simply not understand what you do or what you are hoping to do with your life since our roles are very non traditional.
Intimately linked to this notion of work as a mechanism of generating a sense of self worth is the allied idea of a work ethic. Various religious traditions have the notion of a work ethic. You are rewarded for the amount of effort you put into something, the notion being the harder you work the more you earn. In trading this is not true, in fact there is a lot of evidence to the contrary, the more you try and trade the less you often make. It is quite possible as a trader to work at a constant level but to see you payoff swing wildly throughout the year. It is not uncommon to work at the same rate throughout the year and to have made little or no money for 11 months and then make it all in the last month of the year. This unfortunately is part of the game – if you have a methodology that is statistically sound what you do in a simplistic sense has little to do with what you earn. This is extremely difficult for many, particularly those who are weeded to both a notion of a work ethic and a regular pay cheque.
However, there is an upside in this. You can create whatever role for yourself that you want but this is difficult since many derive their sense of self from the reflection they see in others. If you can move beyond this then you can define your life as being whatever you want it to be. And like me when travelling internationally you can on immigration forms write your occupation as Rodeo Clown and no one is any the wiser.