A lesson from my childhood holidays.

”In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.”      Orson Welles. 

I recently watched a four hour recording of a recent trading seminar hosted by Rob Booker in Orlando, where two of the guest speakers, Matt LaCoco and Shonn Campbell discussed the theory that you won’t ever turn the corner to become a successful trader until your back is up against the wall and you have nowhere else to go. That, it is much better to start out with $1000 than $100,000 because you will almost certainly lose the $100,000 if you start out with that sort of easy cushion. This goes along with what Mark Douglas writes about in ,”Trading in the Zone,” about successful traders often have to lose everything and often more than once, before something switches on in their brain and changes something in them.

Now I don’t know about you, but the idea that you must have to have your back up against the wall and be down on your luck before something clicks in your brain, can seem so daunting that  it can be shoved to the back of the mind and a decision made that there must be another way. We can then coast along in our nice easy existence, with dreams and hope, rather than grit and determination.

When I was a child my parents used to take the family to the English coast for a couple of weeks each year for our annual summer holiday. On arriving at our holiday destination after the usual unpacking of bags I would promptly head off to the amusement arcades to play the one armed bandits and penny push falls machines. Now most years I would almost certainly have lost all my holiday savings in the first two or three days and would have to spend the rest of the two weeks hoping in desperation for my parents to treat me to ice-creams and treats, as I would then take up the more normal holiday pursuits of swimming, kite flying, shell collecting, inspecting rock pools and throwing pebbles into the sea. Now one year when I was about 14, I’d lost my savings as normal and was up early before any shops or amusements were open and was looking into the joke shop window at the assorted range of stink bomb’s, itching powders and imitation dog poohs and the like, when one of the amusement arcades opened up its shutter doors. I wandered in and found that as the machines started up, the extra judder caused some coins to fall out of the penny falls machines which I promptly picked  up. Not enough for an ice-cream or a joke dog pooh but enough to give me a chance of winning more. Well this year something seemed to happen to me and after my spell of financial adversity I suddenly became ultra selective in the machines I decided to play. Both the tops and bottoms of the push falls needed to be well packed and have a good pile of coins starting to overhang ready to fall. I would carefully time my coin drop so I wouldn’t waste a single coin dropping on top of, rather than behind another. If I lost two or three coins I would walk away from the machine. I would watch other losers from a discreet distance and pounce on their machine after they had left, first checking its condition before considering a play. Some machines just didn’t feel like the coins were being pushed right, so I would walk away. I would leave the arcades and go for a walk treating myself to burgers, doughnuts, ice-creams and hot-dogs if nothing seemed to be setting up. I still had moments where I could lose my new found discipline, so I started making rules to prevent me from losing everything and I would repeat them over in my mind as I walked to the arcades at the start of each session. I had three sessions a day to play divided by dinner and lunch when I would go back to the holiday apartment and I decided I would only take a portion of my newly made winnings out with me per session, so if I lost the plot I wouldn’t be losing everything. I didn’t have a key to the apartment so I would have calmed down before I could get access to more money at the times my parents had agreed to meet me back. Suddenly there were occasions when my luck seemed to be just right. I’d put one coin in a machine at the start of a session and the mother-load would drop so I would walk out down to the beach with my winnings to calm my excitement down. I actually ended the holiday taking more money home than I went with and having amassed  a number of holiday souvenirs to boot. This minor success story has been at the back of my mind for nearly 40 years as I have struggled to make any sort of success of my life and just now I’m starting to feel the relevance of it the most.

When you read about other peoples success stories one of the most popular themes is the rags to riches story. It is almost like the person in the story needs to make a point about the significance of coming from nothing. And what about all the great sports stories of hungry boxers coming from the mean streets or Brazilian footballers learning as a child by kicking a tennis ball barefoot in the street. What about heroic battles like Rorke’s Drift or WWII Oosterbrook where soldiers had their backs up against the wall and pushed through in the face of adversity, did something change in the minds of the people fighting these battles? During wars the pace of scientific and technological development surges almost exponentially.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s ”David and Goliath,” he discusses ,”The advantages of disadvantages and the disadvantages of advantages,” and ”The theory of desirable difficulty.” An excellent read if you haven’t. All this stuff and I’m sorry that my thoughts can’t be put down in writing as well as I would wish, lead me to think that the key to success is something that is already within us and needs some sort of backs against the wall catalyst to spark it into action.

That’s my Sunday afternoon thoughts for you. I’ve just spent my last £300 on a lifetime membership of Rob Bookers tfl365 and have absolutely nothing left other than the £825 in my Oanda account. I live in a rented apartment with a well worn carpet and old appliances, have a 10 year plus Rover and still have an old CRT tv,although I’ve stopped paying the tv licence fee and the cable fees so I can’t watch it, most of my clothes are well worn, work is trying to squeeze every ounce out of me and I’m approaching 54 with no pension. Things might have to get worse, but I feel good and say bring it on, because I feel my trading is showing some sparks of improvement that has taken four years to achieve.

Cheers I’m outta here.

11 responses

  1. Thanks for your well written post. Keep it up 🙂

  2. Cheers Jon. It’s nice to get your comments.

  3. hey there. its DD. This is a brutally honest post and I want to defend you. This story shows that you have it in you to be patient and to ultimately succeed – especially since you remember it so well. You have been on the journey to profitability in trading for long enough (not too long to make any judgements) to see your dedication. To me, the fact that you spent (important to you) money on the lifelong subscription to Booker’s podcasts shows that your in it for life. That being said, I’m confident that you will succeed. It’s not easy Simon. But you havent quit and you will do it. I believe it and so should you.

  4. Thanks dd. It’s good to get comments especially from someone as dedicated to success as yourself. I’m not contributing to the forum much as you probably know because I’m using Allen’s method in my own way, but I am still watching and reading the posts, especially yours. Cheers.

  5. Nice blog. However allow me to give you some advice: cancel the £300 subscription, reduce your trading a/c to £500, and put the £625 into a “rainy day fund”. Then stop subscribing to internet rubbish, build a proper trade plan, and trade it methodically. Also reduce your trade size (easy to do on Oanda) and slowly compound your account. The profits will take care of themselves.

    1. Thanks for your advice FXGuy. You sound like you’re already a successful trader and I wish you all the best, however I’ve been a follower of Rob Booker for a few years now and find all his stuff highly motivational and of interest to me. Of course that’s not to say he’s everyones cup of tea, but he is mine. As for the account management stuff yes your idea sounds good, but as I wrote an article a few months back about how I wish to do it my way, I’ll stick with my own plan for now. As for the plan, I’m working on it now with the help of Rob Booker. Cheers and thanks again for your comment.

  6. Check out this article below by James Clear.

    How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Toward Your Goals
    by James Clear | Read this article on JamesClear.com

    We all have goals and dreams, but it can be difficult to stick with them.

    Each week, I hear from people who say things like, “I start with good intentions, but I can’t seem to maintain my consistency for a long period of time.”

    Or, they will say, “I struggle with mental endurance. I get started but I can’t seem to follow through and stay focused for very long.”

    Don’t worry. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else.

    For example, I’ll start one project, work on it for a little bit, then lose focus and try something else. And then I’ll lose focus on my new goal and try something else. And on and on. When everything is said and done, I’ve stopped and started so many times that I never really made much progress.

    Maybe you have felt this way too.

    This problem reminds me of a lesson I learned while working out one day…

    The Myth of Passion and Motivation

    On this particular day in the gym, there was a coach visiting who had worked with thousands of athletes over his long career, including some nationally-ranked athletes and Olympians.

    I had just finished my workout when I asked him, “What’s the difference between the best athletes and everyone else. What do the really successful people do that most people don’t?”

    He briefly mentioned the things that you might expect. Genetics. Luck. Talent.

    But then he said something I wasn’t expecting.

    “At some point,” he said, “it comes down to who can handle the boredom of training every day and doing the same lifts over and over and over again.”

    That piece of advice surprised me because it’s a different way of thinking about work ethic.

    Most of the time people talk about getting motivated and “amped up” to work on their goals. Whether it’s business or sports or art, you will commonly hear people say things like, “it all comes down to having enough passion.”

    As a result, I think many people get depressed when they lose focus or motivation because they think that successful people have some unstoppable passion and willpower that they seem to be missing. But that’s exactly the opposite of what this coach was saying.

    Instead, he was saying that really successful people feel the same boredom and the same lack of motivation that everyone else feels. They don’t have some magic pill that makes them feel ready and inspired every day. But the difference is that the people who stick with their goals don’t let their emotions determine their actions. Top performers still find a way to show up, to work through the boredom, and to embrace the daily practice that is required to achieve their goals.

    According to him, it’s this ability to do the work when it’s not easy that separates the top performers from everyone else. That’s the difference between professionals and amateurs.

    Working When Work Isn’t Easy

    Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated.

    When I was an athlete, I loved going to practice the week after a big win. Who wouldn’t? Your coach is happy, your teammates are pumped up, and you feel like you can beat anyone. As an entrepreneur, I love working when customers are rolling in and things are going well. Getting results has a way of propelling you forward.

    But what about when you’re bored? What about when the work isn’t easy? What about when it feels like nobody is paying attention or you’re not getting the results you want?

    Are you willing to work through 10 years of silence?

    It’s the ability to work when work isn’t easy that makes the difference.

    It’s Not the Event, It’s the Process

    All too often, we think our goals are all about the result. We see success as an event that can be achieved and completed.

    Here are some common examples…

    Many people see health as an event: “If I just lose 20 pounds, then I’ll be in shape.”
    Many people see entrepreneurship as an event: “If we could get our business featured in the New York Times, then we’d be set.”
    Many people see art as an event: “If I could just get my work featured in a bigger gallery, then I’d have the credibility I need.”
    Those are just a few of the many ways that we categorize success as a single event.

    But if you look at the people who are consistently achieving their goals, you start to realize that it’s not the events or the results that make them different. It’s their commitment to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice, not the individual event.

    What’s funny, of course, is that this focus on the process is what will allow you to enjoy the results anyway…

    If you want to be a great writer, then having a best-selling book is wonderful. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of writing.

    If you want the world to know about your business, then it would be great to be featured in Forbes magazine. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of marketing.

    If you want to be in the best shape of your life, then losing 20 pounds might be necessary. But the only way to reach that result is to fall in love with the process of eating healthy and exercising consistently.

    If you want to become significantly better at anything, you have to fall in love with the process of doing it. You have to fall in love with building the identity of someone who does the work, rather than merely dreaming about the results that you want.

    In other words…

    Fall in love with boredom. Fall in love with repetition and practice. Fall in love with the process of what you do and let the results take care of themselves.

  7. Thanks dd. I’m missing James Clear as he’s on sabbatical and can’t ever remember reading that. Or I may have read it, but now it is meaning so much more. Cheers.

  8. Simon! Are you still around? This is an awesome post. Can you email me shonn@shonncampbell.com? I have a question for you.



  9. I see you don’t monetize your blog, don’t waste your traffic, you can earn extra bucks
    every month because you’ve got hi quality content. If you want to know how to make extra bucks, search for: Ercannou’s essential adsense alternative

    1. Sorry the whole point of my blog is to earn money from my trading alone, not from selling information, writing articles, trading education or anything that could jeopardise my neutral reputation. There it goes, but thanks for your kind comments.

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