Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to Me: Reflecting Forward.

July 7, 2018

When I cracked open my laptop to begin writing this post, the “Opening Bell” rang inexplicably. My thinkorswim software is running in the background and I guess it felt the need to remind me that the stock market opened at 9:30am ET yesterday. Talk about serendipity…

My intention is to barf out on the page here a sense of new beginnings. So the opening bell that just rang for me couldn’t have been more perfect.

But before I look forward, I’d like to take a moment to reflect briefly about the past.

This week marks two milestones. One, it is my birthday. Another trip around the sun has been completed. Hurray! But much more significantly, this week marks the time, exactly 20 years ago, when I first walked onto a trading floor and began my attempt at making a career in the markets.

Now, I don’t want to spend too much time reflecting on the past for a couple of reasons:

  1. The Past is Past. I cannot change it.
  2. While there’s lots of accomplishments to be proud of, at the end of the day I’m still not where I want to be yet as a Trader. I’ve had numerous stretches of success, only to be inevitably interrupted by a loss of discipline or circumstance or both. I’m just not where I think I should be yet.

However, even though we can’t change the past, we can (we must!) learn from it.

When I reflect on the early success I had in my trading career, circa 1999-2005, I’ve often blamed my lack of continued success on the fact that “the market changed.” But that is complete horseshit. The hard truth that I’m only just beginning to understand is that I gave up. I quit. I quit on myself.

Sure, I’ve continued to trade throughout. I’ve been executing trades, building plans and strategies, tried out new products (futures, options, forex, etc…) continuously these 20 years. But something inside of me had given up. I’m still not even sure how or why?

But in the last year, I’ve definitely experienced a newfound commitment to trading excellence and perseverance. And I tweeted about a likely big reason right here:

See, what I’m slowly starting to discover about myself is that early in my trading career my only drive was “to be successful.” But that is a completely meaningless and bullshit goal. Sure, “successful” is a goal, but WHY?

Why do I want to be successful?

What will success do for me?

What good will success do for my family?

What good will success do for my soul?

How will my success better help others and my community?

How will success make me a better husband? A better father? A better son? A better uncle? A better brother?

How will success positively effect my health?

How will success positively effect my longevity on this Earth?

There’s got to be bigger meaning for wanting to be successful. We all know many fantastically successful and by all counts wealthy individuals who are downright miserable. Why? Probably a common answer would be because they pursued success simply for the sake of being “successful” but then found they didn’t have anyone to share that success with, or the very success they are pursuing is actually mentally and physically killing them and the people they love.

If that is your version of success, you can keep it. I’m not interested.

For me early in my career I just wanted to be successful. Seemed like a worthwhile goal. But it was a selfish one, designed to feed my ego. I wanted you to look at me and KNOW I was successful. I wanted the image of success to ooze out of me. I wanted to walk into a room and see everyone else whispering to their neighbor: “Look at that guy… he MADE it.” I wanted to be THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD.

Trouble is, as I mentioned above, that is a complete horseshit goal. If I learned anything meaningful over the past 20 years, it is this.

So today, as I quickly reflect on 20 years in this trading business, I am focusing my attention on the next 20 years and beyond. I’ve always lamented that I wish I had access to the right people, connections, and tools that are available to me today back when I started.

Well, yeah, that woulda been great. But who gives a shit about 20 years ago? I have it now. The future starts today.

Here’s what I have today that I didn’t have 20 years ago:

  • 20 years of trading experience.
  • A taste of success and a tangible vision of what is possible.
  • Access to mentors both in the physical realm as well as by proxy via StockTwits, Twitter, blogs, etc.
  • Considerably cheaper commissions.
  • Faster technology.
  • Fantastic tools like Trade Ideas Software and my thinkorswim and tastyworks trading platforms.
  • An entire ocean of freely available educational and insightful content from experts in the field of trading and investing via blogs and social media.
  • A four year old Son.
  • A greater appreciation of the world around me and my place in it.
  • A healthier lifestyle.
  • The ability to trade from anywhere. My home. Vacation. Coffeeshop. Wherever. Whenever.

All of these things above and more are why I’ll be successful far beyond all of my previously successful experiences and perhaps even beyond my own most optimistic visions. But the biggest reason I’ll be successful is because I’m now discovering my Why.

It’s about more than me and what my ego needs. It’s about providing for my wonderfully patient wife and my incredibly impatient son 🙂

It’s about being the best version of myself I can be, so that I can help best where help is needed most for my loved ones, my neighbors, my community, and my online social media universe.

It’s about being a living, breathing, case study of perseverance and persistence. Of setting out to accomplish something and doing it — gracefully.

It’s about more than money. It’s about respecting myself.

I’m more excited about my trading future than I’ve ever been. If you’re along for this ride, I hope you’ll find inspiration in my ongoing saga.

~ Sean McLaughlin, Colorado, 2018.