Tomorrow Americans have a chance to give thanks, to each other, to the country, to the opportunities this miracle of a nation affords us.
Gratitude is not just nice. It is a key to sanity, to clear thinking, and to moving from thoughts of scarcity to abundance. Before you can have what you want, you have to want what you already have.
This is especially true for those of us whose business is risk. Gratitude is a way to stand on solid ground while you reach for that brass ring.
At the first level, scarcity thinking often leads to trading scared and investing with “scared money.” Scared money is any money you cannot afford to lose.
That isn’t a mathematical calculation. It’s an emotional calculation. Just because the bills are paid and you’re saving money every month doesn’t mean that $10,000 or $25,000 (or millions) you’ve put aside is “risk capital.” If your self-worth is tied to your net worth, if you’re secretly hoping to get that girl, drive that car, live in that zip code, or move in that social circle with the profits you make in the markets, then the risk of losing at trading is far beyond the numbers.
If you need to be right, to be smart and skillful and impressive, then you’ll take a $100 loss and turn it into $1000 in less time than it takes to brew coffee, just to avoid admitting you were wrong about the market’s direction at that moment.
However, if you come at it with the mindset of, “Right or wrong, I’m okay. Win or lose, I’m okay,” you multiply your chance of success.
If you come at it with, “Thank you for the chance to earn an income this way. Thank you for letting me be born in a place of opportunity. Thank you for the education that allows me to understand price charts and economics. Thank you for friends and mentors and a fast, stable internet connection,” you’ve got a good chance of success.
Because being able to say thanks means that you know you are more than your trading record, you are greater than your account balance. You can’t control what the market does or the world does. You can only control your own mind.
Scarcity actually makes you stupid(er)
The Atlantic had a recent article titled “How Poverty Taxes the Brain,” about how the feeling of being poor, the worry about having “more month at the end of the money,” lowers people’s IQ an average of 13 points. That’s the same as the effect of chronic alcoholism.
Feeling poor makes you think constantly about the lack of money, leaving less mental bandwidth for thinking about other things, except as just more causes of stress. Everything seems hard to do, even impossible. And you feel as though you have to do all those hard things alone and without allies or support. Ever felt that way?
The researchers who wrote the article and the book it’s based on, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much, found that people who felt they didn’t have enough money also tended to have more problems as parents and were less likely to take their prescribed medications. They had more marital and relationship problems. They had worse health. They drank more.
Understand, they didn’t study people in abject poverty. They studied people in all socio-economic levels around the world and the results were consistent: worrying about lack of money makes you less able to notice other things. It uses up your mental bandwidth. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have. It’s how much you think you should have and therefore, how much you think you lack. Just ask a former millionaire what’s on his mind.
People who lived in an attitude of scarcity also failed at simple tests of financial decision-making, like is it better to put off a $1000 repair on your car or find the money somehow rather than risk losing your vehicle? They had trouble saving. They had trouble resisting sales and “No payments for the first 6 months!” easy credit offers.
Is it any wonder, then, that you trade best when you aren’t worried about the outcome, when you’re able to tune into the market and follow a plan with discipline and joy?
It’s hard to hear what the market is telling you, if it’s being drowned out by the voices of fear and worry about money. These are the voices you hear when you live in scarcity, or as I sometimes call it, “Scare City.”
If scarcity is the disease, gratitude is the cure.
365 Thank-you notes
John Kralik was a lawyer who practiced on Wall Street for some of his career. In 2008, he was living in a tiny apartment that froze in winter and overheated in summer. He was facing a second divorce, $400,000 that clients hadn’t paid, and kids who kept their distance. He was 40 pounds overweight and just before Christmas, his girlfriend dumped him. Then came 2009.
He decided to start writing a thank-you note a day to people who had done him some good turn, whether a close friend (he still had some) or a Starbucks barista who remembered his name. In that year when so many lives fell into chaos, he rebuilt his. And it all started with gratitude.
The truth is, it always starts with gratitude. John wrote a book about it, called A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life.
It’s an ancient idea. Every culture has had a Thanksgiving celebration of some kind. Of course, it’s something we ought to do every day, but setting aside a day to say thank you is a good way to reset our priorities and ask ourselves the questions that matter.
But when life finds you in “Scare City”—a place of helplessness, self-pity, and desperation, it can be hard to even think of people to say thank you to. You don’t know where to start.
Start small, start simple, start obvious. Are you reading this on a computer? Thank the people who made the computer. Thank Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and the engineers who wrote Windows and iOS. Thank the brilliant people who created WordPress (I do every morning.) Thank the coal miners who provide the electricity and the solar engineers who will soon (I hope) take over. Thank whoever made your coffee, ground your coffee, shipped your coffee, grew and picked your coffee. And thank the commodity traders who kept the price reasonable for your coffee, toast, OJ, and oatmeal, both for you and the people who brought it to you.
So much hard work and creativity and generosity has gone into your day already! So many people to thank.
By the way, if you have any cranberries this holiday, thank the farmers who wet-pick the berries as they float in their massive bogs, seen in the photo above.
And as a thank-you to all of you, MrTopStep is happy to give you The Science of Getting Rich, the brilliant success classic by Wallace D. Wattles on how to train the mind to get rich and leave the Scare City mindset behind once and for all. If you haven’t read it, get ready to have your life changed. And if you really want to thank us, leave a comment, share this article, and pay it forward. Happy Thanksgiving.
photo by: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism