Trading Lessons From a Winter Olympian

You may be aware of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Although it’s not my favorite collection of events, it always fascinates me what makes elite performers tick. So I was reading about an athlete who won gold four years ago and was immediately stuck by the parallel to trading. The heartache of missing out on her dream of going to the Olympics previously, drove her on in every part of her life to make sure that the next time she made it. During training, everything was revolved around the key question of “is this going to help me get to the Olympics?”


Whether you’re fighting for a place at a Winter Olympics or trying to get to the stage of consistently earning a living by performing in the markets, one thing that’s certain is that desire is simply not enough. Clearly this particular athlete had originally had a strong desire to represent her country at the games (and I don’t think there are many traders who aren’t that bothered about achieving consistent profitability), but missing out is what gave her the determination to get there. And as much as desire and determination can give you the fuel to learn and train, there’s usually an extra step that top performers take too.


If you’ve ever listened to top traders, there’s usually something they do that most others wouldn’t bother with. Whether it’s trawling through trades manually in attempting to better understand their performance, diligently preparing a top-down view on the broad market or meditating in order to help them control themselves when the going gets tough, top traders generally go above and beyond what most others do. This really underscores their attitude in general. Trading is their business, their profession and they will succeed. For the athlete, watching her diet with precision, getting enough rest, doing extra training sessions etc. etc. are the types of things that will have culminated in getting to that one potentially life-changing day.


Everything so far has been about giving yourself the opportunity and the stage to perform. Once you get there you have to be able to convert that opportunity. Back in the day, I used to shoot a fair bit of pool and I was pretty good. But I remember going on a terrible streak where I just could not finish the black (or 8 ball). Now this was a pretty infuriating way to lose games – where you clear up and then miss your chance to win on the final ball. You see your opponent slowly potting their balls and it can be pretty tough to get another opportunity whilst they’re doing it given the number of their balls that are now in your way. Then someone said to me that I was suffering from “black eye”. I’d never heard of this before but the guy assured me it was pretty common. Simply put, it’s when a player can’t pot the black due to nerves. Now I wasn’t aware of this, but as soon as I started loosening up on the black, I started winning again.


In the same kind of way, competing for a medal at the Winter Olympics or taking a setup that you’ve been waiting ages for is all about managing fear and expectation. This particular athlete talked about this “moment of truth” in an important way. To her, it seems like in the moment the outcome no longer mattered as much as the performance itself. In fact, she had purposely avoided knowing how others had performed. This athlete had surrendered and in doing so she trusted herself implicitly. And it’s in this way that you’re much more likely to be able to let all your training and preparation shine through in your level of performance.

Sources of inspiration don’t always come from the places we usually expect. So why don’t you broaden your horizons and see what you might learn.

Trade well.

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