Holidays are many things to many people. They are a time of family, friends, rejoicing and sadness. A time for reflecting, and new beginnings. I grew up not loving the holidays, frankly I loathed them, they were almost always a time of disappointment and sadness. We didn't have much often times and there were many years when we got IOU's as presents. IOU's that were never made good on. It wasn't because my parents didn't want to make good on them, it was because they mostly just didn't have the means to make good. I also remember fondly spending time with my large extended family and that meant lots of love, lots of food and often lots of fighting. I always wondered why there seemed to be more fighting at these family gatherings then at any other family functions or celebrations. Watching the TV in Cincy where I am this Thanksgiving with my family and of course my amazing kids I finally figured it out. The local news had stories of arrests and family violence all over it and I have to assume much more then usual. Why? EXPECTATIONS...
We expect to have great loving times with our families and extended families this time of year. We expect to celebrate. We expect nice gifts, and we expect that good times will be had by all. And, when those expectations are not met often times people get angry, or sad, or hurt. And, when many of us have these feelings we want to do something with it, so often times people act out and lash out, either to themselves (the suicide rate during the Holidays is much higher then any other time of year) or to others, particularly those that they care about most, since the more you care the more you care and the stronger the feelings, thus the stronger the reactions.
People often (and I'm certainly one of them btw) react without thinking, and sometimes without thinking of the consequences. One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me in my life is that sometimes the best thing you can do when you feel the most is...NOTHING. I've had to practice that in a myriad of ways. I grew up a "hothead" and I didn't really pay attention to what might happen after my hothead reaction. Friends were lost, family felt hurt, and most of all, I suffered due to my own inability to comprehend that there are always consequences - always.
In poker they call it "tilting". In trading we call it "losing your shirt". In life we call it "losing", period and it could mean a whole host of things. Because life is indeed bigger then a poker game, or whether GOOGLE (GOOG) goes up or down, for you or against you. It's not profit vs loss, it's life and the results of your actions far extend that one hand, that one trade, or any 100 of either. Life effects your family, your friends, your kids, your clients, your employer or employees. Life actions are bigger then these.
Part of growing up, rites of passage to adulthood usually include invaluable, and often painful lessons. Through these lessons we try and hopefully eventually succeed at learning enough to not continue to make these mistakes. I've said many times before that the smart man/woman learns from his/her own mistakes, the wise man learns from others mistakes so that he/she never has to make them themselves.
I tell my clients that one of the best things I can offer (and feel I do) is that most of the mistakes they may make as traders I've already made for them. So I can teach them what I've done wrong so hopefully they don't have to go through it themselves. Sometimes, though, it doesn't matter what I've done wrong (or right), sometimes they need to go through it themselves anyway. Sometimes they learn from them and stop doing them, and other times they don't. It's said (I didn't coin it) that insanity is making the same mistake again and expecting a different result.
The same can be said, I've learned, about making the same good act, it works positively and leads often to the same or similar good result.
I've had a pretty amazing life. Sometimes it has seemed surreal. I'm one of the very lucky people, and very ridiculous people to have gone from rags to riches, and then nearly back to rags, and who has had my life story optioned, been able to live many of my dreams (there are quite a few left) and who is considered by most anyone who knows me as someone that people can rely on. I'm also known as a tad eccentric, kooky, prone to drama (hey, I'm a writer), and someone who has a hard head. Someone who has made some mistakes that I've learned from, and some that apparently I haven't...yet.
One of the great things about life is that it comes in bunches and every day truly can be a new beginning. Every holiday season can be a new chapter. I watch my kids grow up, I see them experience their ups and downs. Thankfully it's mainly ups, but I know that as they get older they will have to experience many joys and some hard lessons. There is only so much I can do to prevent the tough times in life. When my mother died last year around this time they saw me cry for the first time ever. Since I grew up where everything was just thrown out there, and all the kids knew basically everything and all of us on some level took the hardships on, I've tried to shelter them from almost all of my own struggles, and certainly know that they are kids and kids should get kid info. They don't need to know, nor should they, if I have a horrible day trading, they don't need to know if I'm feeling down cause some woman rejected me (it has happened often, suffice to say), or cause I'm worried about money (that happens often as well), or because I made a bad business deal, or dealt with a crazy situation, or person. But, they did need to know about their grandmother dying, and they certainly did need to attend the funeral. And, while I didn't plan it that way, they did need to see that daddy isn't unshakeable, nor superman (I'm most certainly not). Being a single dad is the greatest thing I've ever done in my life, and the hardest at times.
And, again, one of the best things I've learned, and the most profound, is that often the best thing to do is - nothing. Nothing. Life just needs to sometimes play itself out.
As a trader I teach and I've learned that every trade, every day and every year long term is a new beginning. Old trades are old trades and need to be left behind. There is no need to cry, as they say, over spilt milk. You can't do anything about a bad trade other then learn from it. Sometimes thats hard for a trader, its sometimes hard for me. I've bitched and moaned and gotten angry, felt horrible, frustrated, down on bad trades, or even good ones that turned out bad, and sometimes even ones that were good but I knew shoulda been better. Shoulda, woulda coulda = no truer words have ever been spoken for a trader, and a fisherman.
The way I grew up, you always react when someone attacks you. I grew up on the streets, so to speak and literally at times. Very raw and very real. I've had people attack me physically and on the internet. When you are a (very small) public figure (of sorts) people usually have strong feelings one way or another about you. I remember when my first infomercial came out, some people sent me hate mail and email, some were jealous, some people felt I inspired them. It's a mixed bag. As a dramatist and director of stage and film I've often told an actor that if you are going to F-up, F-up LARGE. Don't shy away from things, and I try not to. I had my life threatened many times years ago when I called the crash that happened and I bragged, perhaps foolishly at times in retrospect, that I and my clients were profiting from the downturn. It was marketing, but it did make some people angry because if you're losing money then more often then not you want to blame someone for it.
Growing up as a "victim" at times, a victim of circumstance, I try to live my life without being a victim. I tell my clients what I've heard "there are no victims, only volunteers". As a kid we have no choice in a lot of things, and we can't leave if our parents suck, or we get abused in other ways. As an adult we have choices and we can stay, or leave, or best - learn from the experience and move our lives forward.
I talk a lot about integrity and honesty and if there is one thing that I hope my kids learn from me, it's that their integrity has more meaning then most anything they will have as they move forward in thier lives. But integrity comes from within and it comes from stripping away the layers of muck that are often heaped upon us growing up, I think.
I'm rambling at this point I am sure, but I am waiting for my family to get ready for dinner and for us to go out as a family tonight. That makes me thankful. I have many good friends and lots of great family. Growing up I couldn't say that at times.
And, I'm thankful that I know that I can be charitable and have fresh beginnings each and every day as a trader, and in my life.
December is a great time of year for me in my life now. The holidays are filled with laughter and joy. My kids are very happy, and my family is mostly happy. My friends enjoy getting cards from us and we enjoy sharing.
I also enjoy sharing with my clients. Most of the time December provides amazing profit opportunities for us Traders. I've had some of my very best trades and times trading during Decemember and into January. It's also a great time to reflect, and to be charitable. I started the Trend Fund Foundation, a 501C-3 years ago becuase I believe that one of the best things you can do in life is give something to someone who has less then you. Anyone reading this blog, for the most part, has a lot more then a lot of people. If you're reading a blog written by a trader then chances are you have some money, even if its a few $1000. That's more then someone around you.
How the hell did I end up here in writing this, I can't tell ya. I try not to edit these blogs too much because if I do then they are all marketing and while I hope you all sign up for a service (hey, it is a business after all), I'm just as happy if you send me a nice email, or silently get something out of what I share.
The best email I've gotten all year and probably in a very long time I got a couple months ago from a former client who I'll call "Mike". Last year around this time Mike wrote me and said that he was contemplating suicide. He had lost his job, had very little money and felt ashamed that he couldn't support his family. He also felt that he couldn't go on in his life. I don't know about anyone else here, but I've felt that way several times in my life. I have strong dramatic feelings, so I tend to feel things, well strongly. Over the years people tell me I've "mellowed" and that's true. I am fairly level much of the time, though not all. It's better that way I've learned, at least for me. And, as a trader being level is definately a good thing. I remember the day Alan Greenspan did a .50 basis rate hike and the market spiked crazy higher in a milisecond and I was eating lunch and spit it out. I was short everything and anything, for well more then I should have. I broke my own rules, which I do at times, and when I do I usually regret it. I was way way way overly bearish. I lost a literal ton of money in a matter of minutes, and there was nothing I could do. I no longer have the noise on my computer when I trade in terms of ringing when my stocks go up or down, cause that day the noise was deafening. I tried to stop out of things but by the time I did it was near the top of the move and I couldn't do a dang thing to stop it. It was the antithesis of printing money, it was my money being sucked out of my account, like a vaccum. Whoosh!
Well, back to Mike. I told Mike that money wasn't everything, I shared some of myself and I told him he needed to get help from a professional. I'm a trader, not a therapist or mental health professional. I may have passed abnormal therapy and taken some courses, but I'm not qualified to help someone in that way. I wrote Mike a long reply and I tried to provide the only thing I could, which is my experience of the times I've been down the worst and thought the worst. My experience when I've thought that I couldn't deal with life, that it was way bigger then I could handle.
These days I've spoken to a lot of friends, family and clients who have and do feel the same way. Cliche as it is, life ain't easy sometimes. And, maintaining one's integrity when its darkest is always the hardest. People do lots of things they might not normally do when they are most desperate. But, there are certain things that are final and that you can't come back from. Obviously death is one of them.
Well, happy endings, Mike wrote me and shared his experience and thanked me for my "help". He's gotten a job, its not the job he wanted, nor is it as good as the one he lost, but he's supporting his family as best he can and he is feeling much better. He's gotten the help he seems to need, at least from what he was kind of enough to share with me.
Thing is, Decemember is a time when we experience a lot of things, good and bad. For me, it really is about new beginnings. New beginnings as a trader, as a business man, as an artist, as a friend and as family member, and father.
Thank you all for listening over the years, or just for today, and thanks for sharing some of yourself with me at times. The human condition isn't easy often, there is one choice we all make every day. Do I try to be helpful today, or do I try to be hurtful to my fellows, and to myself.
I will end it by saying that I have a good friend who once told me that resentment is like peeing down your own pants, you're the only one who feels it, and that pain is a part of life, misery is a personal choice.
Feel free to email me or send me your experiences and your thoughts as always. It'll all remain confidential unless you say otherwise.
And, thanks "Mike" for I know you are reading and I appreciate the gift you gave me, it keeps me doing what I do and trying to be of service while also trying to earn an honest buck.
Michael "Waxie" Parness