Jared: Thanks for the opportunity. I’m Jared Tendler, mental game coach and author. My job is to help traders, investors, athletes, PGA Tour players, poker players and other professionals remove the emotions that negatively affect decision-making and performance. I have clients in 45 countries, including some of the top professionals in their field. I’m also the former head of sport psychology for the esport organization Team Liquid, where I was an integral part of recent championships across many of their teams.
I got into the field from my own experience as an aspiring professional golfer. In college, I was a 3-time All-American and won nine tournaments, but continually choked in major national events. I didn’t find answers from sport or golf psychology, and as is common with a lot of entrepreneurs, my career was born from believing there had to be a better way. I got a master’s degree in counseling psychology and spent 3200 hours of supervised practice to get licensed as a therapist, but never with the intent to be a therapist — instead, I wanted to understand how to better solve performance issues in golf. In 2005, I started working with golfers and quickly built up a roster that included players on the PGA, LPGA, and Korn Ferry Tour, as well as top ranked juniors.
My success there has since led to work with poker players, traders, pool players, sports betters, lawyers, and entrepreneurs.
QUESTION: Have you overcome any personal or professional challenges that enabled you to help others as a performance coach?
Jared: I failed to fulfill my dream of being a professional golfer because of my inability to handle the pressure. For me, the natural selection of competition weeded me out and that drove me to create a system that can teach/train people to fix their weaknesses. Back then, if I had what I have now, I’m not saying that I’d be on the PGA Tour, but I would have had a legit shot. Having the experience of being a high-level competitor gives me an important perspective as I work with traders. Even though I’m not a trader, I know what it takes to be successful and how to help people, who have not yet made it, get over the hump and achieve their goals. It’s incredibly fulfilling.
QUESTION: Great, thank you for that. Next, let’s take some questions from traders. Here’s the first: “I find myself continually jumping into trades that I know I shouldn’t. I know it’s irrational, but I keep doing it anyway. How can I stop?”
Jared: A lot of people feel that their mistakes are irrational or illogical, but the reality is that these things happen for predictable reasons that you might not yet understand. They actually make sense when you realize how much emotion is at play. Even though you might be aware at the moment of what you ought to do, you can’t stop yourself. That’s because your emotions are so intense, they are effectively paralyzing the part of the brain that’s responsible for higher level decision making and execution. The key is to determine what those emotions are — fear, anger, greed, or some kind of confidence issue, etc. Once you identify the emotions that are blinding you, you’ll have a chance at stopping those mistakes before they happen.
QUESTION: “I hate it when other traders are making money and I’m not. I see people making moves and posting about their massive returns on Twitter, but I feel like I am always 3 steps behind. What can I do to catch up?”
Jared: If you feel like you’re always trying to chase the market, take a closer look at what that’s about. Is it something technical, like a weakness in your strategy? Because there are lots of opportunities out there, and at any given moment there will be lots of traders making money and lots of traders losing money. Copying the trades that others are making isn’t a viable strategy.
From an emotional standpoint, is this actually based on a fear of missing out, or a fear of losing? Understanding what the fear is about will help you to correct it. In some cases, FOMO is actually a form of perfectionism, where you feel like making a mistake is unforgivable. Instead of trying to attain perfection, focus on how to make money reliably and focus on that strategy.
QUESTION: “I hear what you are saying about perfectionism, but isn’t it necessary to have high expectations in order to be successful?”
Jared: High expectations are an incredible source of motivation, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. But the problem with perfectionism is that you are expecting outcomes that you can’t guarantee, which can lead to a lot of self-criticism and negativity. That can eventually damage your confidence and even lead to burn out. This is a very common problem in trading, many high-level traders have encountered this. You need to realize that your psychological integrity is important, and give yourself some room to develop your skills and make progress gradually. Otherwise, it’s like you’re trying to climb a mountain without a rope. You need to give yourself enough room to handle set-backs.
QUESTION: “I’m just coming off a peak equity high and am now finding myself in a big draw down. This seems to happen every time — I hit a new high, and then I crash. How can I stop this pattern?”
Jared: You’re obviously capable of doing really well, but beware of overconfidence. As you achieve some success, your parameters might start to get a little looser and you take on more risk. At first, you might rationalize to yourself, “it’s ok if I lose a little bit here,” but when the losses start to accelerate, it feels like you’ve stepped in quicksand, frantically trying to get out – by overtrading, for example – you make the problem a lot worse.
At that point, you may be shocked at what’s happening and lose your confidence completely. In order to regain your execution, you need to find some stability. The simple answer to this problem is to spotlight your confidence and really learn to recognize how it is impacting your performance. Start small — go back to your bread and butter trades and rebuild your account balance and your confidence slowly. Progress your skills so that next time you reach that peak, you’ll be stronger and able to avoid those same mistakes. Then, work on reducing overconfidence to prevent the cycle from repeating.
QUESTION: “I work hard to keep my emotions under control, and I’ve even developed a meditation and mindfulness practice. I don’t feel like I’m emotionally volatile, yet I’m still struggling to make the right trades. What am I doing wrong?”
Jared: Meditation is a tool to help strengthen your mind, but it’s not intended to suppress your emotions. You may feel very stoic, like you’re in complete control, but your emotions are still at work under the surface. It can be a challenge to re-engage with that emotional undercurrent, especially if you’ve been trying hard to control it. Try implementing some tighter risk parameters in your trading for a bit, while monitoring your own thoughts and reactions. Notice any tools you may habitually engage in in order to suppress emotion. For example, some traders become hyperlogical about their mistakes and missed opportunities to convince themselves that everything is okay. Try to be honest with yourself about what’s happening under the surface.
QUESTION: “I feel like I’ve lost my focus lately. Is there anything I can do to get back on track?”
Jared: If you lose focus, it might be because you’re not clear on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. View the loss of focus as a signal to take a step back and review your objectives. If you find yourself really struggling with something – feeling annoyed, confused, etc. – writing can be a great tool to explore it further.
QUESTION: “If I do what you are suggesting, will I be able to solve my issues once and for all?”
Jared: My newest book, The Mental Game of Trading, is intended to help traders fundamentally correct some of their problems they experience with regard to psychology. If you are diligent and stay at this consistently, the answer is yes, you can solve these issues. When you are mired in the process of trying to control your emotions, it takes up too much of your mental and emotional resources. The real power of this system is to fundamentally correct these problems, which enables traders to free up their minds to evolve with the market and tap into new information to become a better trader.
QUESTION: Thank you for your time. How can our readers learn more, or get in touch with you directly?
Jared: Thanks again for the opportunity. You can contact me through my website: www.jaredtendler.com, and you can also download the first chapter of The Mental Game of Trading or get a free copy of my new eBook on intuition. Also, follow me on Twitter: @jaredtendler.
About the Author
Jared Tendler, MS, LMHC, is a leading expert in how your mental game impacts performance. His roster of clients spans 45 countries and includes esports athletes, financial traders, some of the top poker players in the world, a top ranked pool player, and several PGA Tour players.