In high school economics class, there was some contest for playing the stock market. It was a virtual stock market, but the thrill for me was just the same. The students were ranked on their virtual portfolio, and the person that performed the best by the end of the semester gets absolutely nothing.
The contest was open some time before winter break and ended a little after break (yes, the semester ends after the new year in my high school). Before the break started I would say I was doing quite well–I was dead last. Having this stigma, I promised some guy who sat in front of me in class that I’d climb to the top by the end of break.
And I did. We started out with $100k fake money and with some aggressive shorting strategy I doubled my money and bought 2 shares of Berkshire Hathaway and called it quits. Buying 2 shares of Berkshire was mostly just me trolling since the only way to do that is to double the fake money (since they were worth $100k/share); as it turns out, they are now worth $200k/share so even my trolling strategy would have proved to be fruitful. I don’t know why I cared so much about playing the stock market (especially a fake one) back then, but it might have something to do with me losing in the Neopets stock market some time during my childhood that caused me to overcompensate.
Empirically, I was good. Thus, from the years 2007-2014, without having actually traded in the real market, I had this unrealistic internal thought: I am the shit at the stock market.
So, summer of 2014 I started trading again. The first week was excellent–I was up 20% (starting at 10k and finishing at 12k). The second week was not as good as I lost $9000 in one day.
“Why haven’t you killed yourself yet?” a friend asked me after I informed him of my losses.
It was devastating because it took me a long time to gather up that money, but I learned a lot from it. After all, it could be worse. A lot of people don’t even have an extra $10,000 to play with, let alone donate to the stock market. So perhaps framed that way, I am grateful (and perhaps unrealistically optimistic). Another thing I learned is what the hell is my relationship with money, anyway? I’m not starving. I’m not homeless. I still have more than enough to pay rent with. It’s just pieces of (digital) paper with no intrinsic value.
But the thing is, that’s life. If you don’t fuck up, you won’t learn. I largely attribute my massive loss to unrealistic thinking:
“Oh, the company does not actually have realized profits, so I can short this–it is ‘overbought.'” By the way, overbought is a retarded term since a share bought is a share sold.
“Oh, it’ll come down eventually.”
“Oh, I won’t get margin-called.”
“Oh, I don’t use the expression ‘oh’ that much.”
“Oh, if I just short these ‘overbought’ stocks, I will always be profitable.” That’s called dichotomous thinking, and the truth is pretty much always guaranteed to be much more grey and nuanced than that.
The market, in reality, can be irrational longer than I can be solvent. The realistic thing to do would have just been to cut my losses.
“Oh, the market is being retarded, time to get out before I lose a large portion of my money” would have been the correct line of thinking that day.
So while I had a history of doing great in the virtual stock market, a market that is virtual is by definition, not real. What was real was the measly $3000 sitting in my E*TRADE account by the end of the day. What was real was me donating $9000 to gamblers better than myself.
But even if you’re not a degenerate gambler, this extends to everything else in life. You won’t know what’s real until you go out and experience it. Although this story is of me fucking up, it also served as a very good foundation for improvements in my gambling. We could sit around all day and theorize this and that and be stuck in our ivory tower bullshit. We could have a victimized mindset where we are way too pessimistic than appropriate, or completely deluded and be way more optimistic than is appropriate (as was my case).
The only way to have the exact correct amount of enthusiasm is to motorboat your face into the teats of reality. The more nuanced shit you learn and experience, the more grounded in reality you become. The more grounded you become, the more content and happy you will be. Why? Because invariably your frustrations come from unrealistic expectations.
Do you ever wake up upset at the fact that you can’t time travel? If not, it’s because you’ve accepted it as reality, and it is OK that you never get to go back in time and fuck Hitler to death.
Do you ever get upset when someone doesn’t text you back? Do you ever get upset when you’re stuck in traffic? Do you ever get upset when something unfortunate happens? If yes, it is because you expect something that isn’t currently happening–you haven’t fully accepted reality. She’s either busy or not into you, accept it and move on. Traffic fucking happens–do you think it is realistic that you never get stuck in it, for the rest of your life? I know you don’t want bad shit to happen to you, but bad shit is going to happen to you.
Reality is what it is. If you can change it, make an effort to change it, but accept your reality as it is now because worry and dwelling are self-inflicted pain. If you can’t change it, accept it fully and let it be.
“You may not be happy, but you will be at peace.” Eckhart told me this.
On the flip side, just as you can have unrealistically good expectations, you could have unrealistically bad expectations as well.
“Nobody’s ever done this before, so I can’t do it.”
“Everyone tells me I can’t do it, so I can’t do it.”
“This is going to take literally, not figuratively, forever.”
“I can’t talk to her, she’ll slap me.”
“If I buy this self-help course, I won’t be able to finish it and I’ll have wasted a bunch of money.”
Now you have a victim mindset, and you feel this self-inflicted pressure and pain purely because you conjured it up. The only way to know if you can or cannot do something is if you do it. Just because someone has not done something before does not mean it is impossible–in fact, it does not even mean it is difficult. It could be fucking easy as fuck. Think about it, let’s say you were asking someone for advice on doing something and they tell you to do this and that. You ask, “Have you done it before?” They promptly respond, “Nah, never.” Would you take the advice seriously then? Of course not. So why would you advise yourself on something you have little or no experience in? That’s equally retarded.
So if you were to ask me whether the glass is half empty or half full, my response would be: “it’s both; you’ve been talking about this Goddamn glass for years, are you gonna drink it? ‘Cause if not I’m going to drink it.”
Just be real.