For the vast majority of my adult life (let’s say, age 20 and beyond), I’ve worked for myself either as a freelancer, contractor, consultant, or business owner. I can count the number of W-2 (legal employee) jobs I’ve had on both hands and have more than one hand left over. This has meant that my life has seen a lot of ups and downs, feasts and famines, good times and lean times. I’m really very used to it, maybe because I grew up with parents who were also mostly self-employed in similar fashions.
But I’ve observed that most people aren’t cut out for this. They crave “security” above all else, and just want to know that the paycheck will arrive every 2 weeks or so whether they’ve done an outstanding job at work this period, a terrible job, or anything in between. Being self-employed, the hustle it takes, the searching for/dealing with clients, handling customers, shipping product, staying focused and meeting deadlines with nobody telling you to, surviving by your wits without any safety net… this is the world of the entrepreneur, the self-starter, the independent, and it’s a world that terrifies most people.
In my experience, one of the main reasons people don’t have it in them to go this route is that they are inclined to give up when things get difficult. This is even more true if they have an ever-present safety net such as family money, a trust fund, or a personal network that will always pick them up if they fall down, and put them right back on their feet again without skipping a beat. A friend of mine I had known for a good 10-15 years at the time, once said something to me I’ve never forgotten.
We were about the same age and met when we were in our mid 20s. We had some similar hobby and career interests, and I ended up getting him his first “real job” out of college, at a company I had gotten a contractor job at doing QA (Quality Assurance, AKA Hardware/Software Testing). I only worked there a matter of months more when I got offered freelance work as a video editor which was far more appealing to me, and off I went to start my career (and eventual business) in that field.
He stayed where he was, the company eventually got acquired by a competitor, and he eventually went off to do the same job for another, larger company (that every single one of you would know if I said their name). Every handful of years he’d move to another company, and still do the same job. It was stable, easy, asked very little of him, never challenged him, paid very well, and basically enabled life to be easy. Plus any time he had any financial stress whatsoever, he had family to swoop in and make sure he didn’t hurt. So basically he’s always been on easy street and has never wanted any more responsibility or difficulty. While I took the “hard road” and went out on my own, experiencing much difficulty and countless challenges along the way, including a bankruptcy.
We were talking one time about the differences in our lives. He was always mystified and even horrified at the details of my life… the usage of debt, the inability to take an annual vacation, the reality of basically working round-the-clock since everything hinged on my performance, the occasional windfalls of a new product launch or a big project (or occasional big trading win), and the painful realities of the sometimes multi-year lean periods of no income to speak of, but still taking risks to find “the next thing.”
You never cease to amaze me. You’re like the freaking Terminator. You just won’t quit, ever!
For those who have possibly been living under a rock for the past few decades… he was referencing a line from James Cameron’s 1984 directorial debut, The Terminator, where the heroine of the story is being warned about the unstoppable robot sent to kill her, and another character says:
That Terminator is out there, it can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop…EVER, until you are dead!
Now obviously I’m no Terminator (as far as you know… 😉 ), and if you’ve made it this far you may be wondering what on earth my point is. Well, dear trader (or trader-hopeful), I’m so glad you asked.
Making a living as an independent/retail trader, will always have some degree of “feast or famine”. I’m not talking about someone who works at a trading desk of a big bank or institution, I’m talking about us, the “little guys/gals” who are trading our 1 or 2 lots with our 4 to 5 figure accounts, just trying to see if we can manage to not lose for a change, and maybe eventually start to actually win consistently. There are ups, and downs, and they can big really big swings at times. Everyone has them, they’re unavoidable. So you’re going to need to have the conviction, the determination, the absolute refusal to quit, of a Terminator if you’re going to survive, let alone thrive. Otherwise it will be much too easy to give up, to throw away the years, maybe decades of effort, all the books purchased/read, the courses taken, the accounts blown up. All gone, all for nothing.
That being said, I’ll be the first to mention the years I sat out of the markets, not trading anything. Trading is a brutally difficult “game” (“A hard way to make an easy living” is a great quote I’ve seen) and taking breaks along the way – especially after a major incident like an account blowout, or even a huge win! – is definitely not a terrible idea. But if this is truly something you want, deep in the core of your being, then failure cannot be an option. You must not feel self pity, or remorse, or fear, and you absolutely must not stop … EVER, until you succeed!
So the real question is… will you be back?
Until next time, good trading!
Jonathan van Clute
Community Manager, Trading Research Group