Have you ever seen the show Man vs. Wild? If you haven’t and you love as I do being outdoors and taking risky adventures, you are missing a real treat.
A friend of mine turned me onto the show last year after the famous survivalist, Bear Grylls (yes, that’s really his name) shot one of last season’s episodes very close to where I live here in Southern Utah. After that I’ve been watching and loving reruns on the Discovery channel ever since.
Part of the appeal of the show is that Bear is dropped into some hellacious situation in various exotic locations around the world and he shows viewers what to do to survive various situations. While the show has gathered its fair share of criticism for being not very realistic (what do you expect from a tv show?) I personally have picked up a few worthwhile tips and, more importantly enjoy watching how Bear overcomes each obstacle. It is excellent entertainment after a long day at the trading desk!
“Follow the five F’s: family, friends, faith, fun, follow your dreams. Prioritize this and your life will thrive!” - Bear Grylls
In watching the show I have also come to understand and appreciate that basic survivalist techniques are actually quite similar to how many successful traders approach the market every day. Here are just 7 specific examples:
Preservation Is Always Priority #1: Resources are always limited and your top focus must be making sure you can survive the day. In the wild that means you look for food, water, the ability to make fire, and find/create shelter. In trading that means you manage your risk as top priority. Also, always no matter what leave yourself the ability to trade another day.
Be Creative: Every challenge you face has an equally creative solution. Often you must play around with the resources available to you to figure out what will get the job done. No situation is exactly the same and each will present a new challenge. Like in the wild, trading successfully also requires a fair amount of playful creativity to figure out and find what works best. No market or situation is exactly like the last one you’ve seen!
Expect Unforeseen Setbacks: Experiencing painful setbacks is routine. Understand that you will make mistakes and get knocked down. Just like in the wild, anyone who has been a trader in these volatile markets these past few years have already been hurt both in terms of capital and confidence and have had to learn this lesson. Keeping expectations firmly in check no matter what conditions or the environment is not to be underestimated!
Positive Attitude Is Everything: Every time you get knocked down, make a mistake, you’ve got to jump right back up, dust yourself off and work even harder. Only losers have negative attitudes. To trade well, you must maintain consistent optimism in yourself even under the most difficult and trying conditions when everything you do seems like a giant stupid mistake.
Fear Can Be A Useful Companion: Emotions can be a powerful alley at times. In the wild, fear will help you know when to back off and consider a different path. At the same time, you must understand there is no reward without risk. In trading, fear can also help you discover where there is opportunity. Many times, when we are most fearful, is exactly when we should be the most opportunistic in the markets.
Don’t Be Afraid To Change Your Plan: No matter how much you would like, you cannot control your environment. You must learn to go with the flow and recognize opportunities in the mayhem. Market conditions are quite similar. Plans are nice to have, but the reality is that you have to expect the unpredictable. As such, those who have flexibility to change their plans as conditions change will survive and thrive. As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Enjoy The Little Things: You have find enjoyment in your small victories. Sometimes a warm fire and shelter is all you need to be happy in the wild. In trading, sometimes not losing money in a bad trade or being held hostage by a losing position is a major victory. Sometimes it isn’t about how much you make in the market, but how much you have not lost that matters most.
That’s just some of the lessons of learning to become a survivalist both in the wild and in these markets.
For more inspiration from Bear himself, in addition to watching his show I would also recommend reading this excellent survival manual and more about him at Wikipedia. If you’re like me, you will become another huge fan of his work and his unique approach to living his own dream. And, you never know – if at any time you get stranded out in the wilderness somewhere, you will at least know what you need to do to survive!