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True Confession: I Haven’t Been Honest About What Really Matters

So I haven’t been honest. Not that I’ve lied – not exactly. More like omitting the truth. Well, that’s not exactly true, either. It’s more like this: I wouldn’t allow myself to see the truth. I’m not playing word games. I’m struggling to share what really matters, what’s important to me, instead of the noise…

So I haven’t been honest.

Not that I’ve lied – not exactly. More like omitting the truth.

Well, that’s not exactly true, either.

It’s more like this: I wouldn’t allow myself to see the truth. I’m not playing word games. I’m struggling to share what really matters, what’s important to me, instead of the noise I’ve been guilty of promulgating for so long.

For many years, I did videos, taught seminars, wrote articles and even hosted a radio show – all on the topic of stock trading. I was pretty good at it. I developed an expertise about a slew of trading rules, and I would frequently get comments that I had a knack for explaining difficult concepts in a simple way.

But gradually, something began to gnaw at me. I saw plenty of people desperate to make some more money to fund their lifestyles, or achieve some goal. But they were all grasping at something – a quick fix via a leveraged ETF, a perfect cup-and-handle chart pattern, the right thesis about what gold will do today.

Even as I write that, the sense of desperation jumps off the page. I couldn’t really articulate it at the time, but I had an underlying sense that absolutely none of that had anything to do with the real objectives people were trying to achieve in their lives. I was a somewhat well-known person within the stock-trading universe, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was contributing to a vicious circle of ego-based commotion, rather than giving people anything they needed to navigate changes in their personal situations and even changes in market conditions. (Although the purveyors of stock-trading systems will claim they address changes in market conditions, all they actually offer are short-term fixes, light years removed from an actual investment philosophy tied to any sort of financial plan.)

So while I was busy trying to craft messages on identifying single stocks with the moving-average proximities, or strong upside momentum, my friends and acquaintances outside the little bubble of Trading World didn’t really understand what I did – nor did they find it particularly relevant to their personal situations.

That became clear in 2011. I was part of the Speak It Forward mastermind coaching program offered by Kent Julian, a phenomenal speaking coach and marketing genius.

The participants met twice that year near Kent’s home outside Atlanta. Each person would stand in front of the group – about 10 or 12 people – and explain the message he or she was trying to craft into a speaking presentation. Some people had it nailed: Jeff McManus, through his humor and storytelling, actually managed to get me interested in gardening and landscaping!

But my message was still murky and muddled. And that’s because I was still immersed in a niche that felt a little bit dubious. At the time, I was writing a column about stock trading for, hosting a radio show about small-cap trading, and publishing a trading newsletter.

But deep down, I was starting to get a sense that my focus was merely pandering to the worst emotions surrounding money: Fear and greed.

So naturally, I got puzzled looks when I made an attempt at some talking points that I was hoping to craft into a speech. Of course, because I had doubts about the integrity of my own message, there was no way I could form a diamond out of some of mish-mashy lump of stock-trading coal.

The light bulb moment came after I sat down. During a break, a couple of my peers started asking about the mutual funds in their retirement accounts. Could I recommend investments? Did I know if their current investments were sound?

No!! I could only tell them if a double-bottom-with-handle pattern was flawed, or if they should sell shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters because there was heavy volume as it sliced its 10-week moving average.

In other words, I had zero useful information. Nothing that would help people with they really wanted to know: Were they on track to retire? Were their investments achieving the right purpose?

But, hey forget about that! Look at this nifty three-weeks-tight pattern.

Yeah, right.

When I returned home from that session, something kept bugging me. I knew I couldn’t tell an audience looking for real answers about their personal situations to “Just look for ascending bases! You’ll be fine!”

Throughout my work with Kent and my colleagues in the mastermind, I couldn’t formulate the right message – and it was through no fault of anyone else’s! Kent gave me some awesome tools to work with – but the building materials weren’t there. I didn’t have a philosophy that anybody could identify, that would actually create calm and clarity. Instead, it was creating the opposite – anxiety! Did I buy that stock too late? Did I sell as it sliced its moving average? Was that double-bottom pattern flawed?

To be honest, I feel anxious just writing those last few sentences.

And that’s the idea. It began to dawn on me that stock-trading systems are not sold to create calm; they are sold to stir up fear. Often, they pander people who haven’t saved enough in their working years, and now feel panic-stricken about making up for lost time. They also appeal to hobbyists who have a sense of competition about “beating” some benchmark – although often these so-called hobbyists are also anxious about not having enough in their retirement accounts, but mask the anxiety with a lot of big talk about moving averages, chart patterns and oscillators.

It’s not that different from weight-loss products, which are marketed to an entirely different demographic, but which also play on people’s fears.

But just as quick weight-loss products ignore overall wellness, and, in fact, can be detrimental to good health. Similarly, stock trading, even when it masquerades as “investing,” has nothing to do with financial fitness, and is generally counterproductive when it comes to achieving anything remotely close to calm and clarity.

So this blog is dedicated to what matters. It’s definitely not about this stock or that one. Truly, that doesn’t matter. Not one bit. What people hope to do with their lives – that’s what matters. So rather than worrying about quick fixes or sophisticated-sounding trading strategies (which are really not sophisticated at all), I’m learning about what makes people tick, what goals they hope to achieve, and finding out how I can help them get there.

I’m more excited about this journey than I ever was about trading. Because now that I realized that I haven’t been honest, I feel free to move on to a journey of true self-discovery.

Question for you: Do you get distracted by products and services that play on your fears?

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Better Money Decisions