August 2, 2011 – Fried Brains: Going through a Burnout

All quotes below are courtesy of Mr. Brett Steenbarger.  Every single time, I just feel like I need a trading counselor, I just google his name and read his articles, to make my day a little better.  Let me share each one of them:

1.) “Many a trader fears boredom, more than loss, thereby experiencing the two in sequence.” 

2.) “Either way, losing money has a purpose:  to make us better.  It does not have to be a threat to self-esteem:  it can be an opportunity to expand oneself.” 


Today, I mustered up the energy to ask myself ” Am I tired?” , “Do I think I’ve had enough?” “Am I burned out on my job?”  Whether you’re a trader or a non trader, let me start my post by asking 5 questions from a CareerBuilder site.  Click the link for the entire article.

  1. Are you burned out or just exhausted?
    “Take a real vacation to find out,” says Rena Lewis, senior vice president for Lee Hecht Harrison, a job search, consulting and career management firm.
    Burnout: If you dread returning to work, you may be burned out.
    Temporary Heat Wave: If you come back rested and recharged, you just needed a well-deserved break.
  2. Are you reacting to a passing moment or an entire movement?
    Burnout: Your company recently underwent a major restructuring, doubling your responsibilities, and there’s no end in sight.
    Temporary Heat Wave: You’re buried in work because it’s your ‘busy season.’ But you do see light at the end of the tunnel.
  3. Are the demands of your job weighing too heavily on you?
    Burnout: Your supervisor is too demanding and you just can’t keep your head above water. You know you’ll never get her to change.
    Temporary Heat Wave: You’re too demanding on yourself and it’s causing you undue stress, not only at work but most likely in other aspects of your life as well. Time to let a few things go, like the perfectly clean house or some volunteer responsibilities.
  4. Do you find it difficult to focus on your job?
    Burnout: You face your projects with total apathy and feel you have nothing left to give.
    Temporary Heat Wave: Your lack of focus is rooted in the nebulous mess you call a workspace. Get organized and get rejuvenated!
  5. Have you got the urge to find greener pastures?

Burnout: You’re feeling more and more detached at work and catch yourself fantasizing about walking out the door to find that ‘dream job’ and leaving these ‘little minds’ behind.
Temporary Heat Wave: You’re in a rut and ready to venture past the usual lunch crowd and meet some new peers.


I answered more burnouts rather than just a temporary heatwave.  I probably even answered the burnout 5/5 in this set.

Most people are in a rut, doing what they’re expected to rather than what they want to do. I am like most of these people.  I am in a rut.  I am writing this post today, thinking whether what I’m feeling is just normal, or whether it’s just something that I have to put up with, as part of the daily grind.

Unlike others who feel that being out of work is a frightening emergency, rather than an opportunity to rethink  life’s priorities, I’m at this stage in my life where I’m asking myself “What is important to me now, and do I want to stay on the same course?”


Just recently, I saw from HF Observer an advertisement, telling students to pursue their undergrad/graduate studies in the hedgefund feeder schools for generational wealth.  All I can say is that students never truly understand what sort of pressure and stress a trading job is, or whether it even matters at all.

I find myself echoing New Yorker columnists and economists that the very embodiment of Wall Street, up until today, is the creation of vast amounts of wealth without producing anything tangible.  Was it Michael Douglas who once said that he creates something out of nothing?  I find myself like that at times, and I can’t help but wonder whether I should stay on course.

“If you are no longer enjoying your trading; if you respond to losses but get little enjoyment from gains; if you stop caring about your work; or if you are just too overloaded to get the work done, consider the possibility of burnout. Renewing yourself early in the process can save a career.” – B. Steenbarger

Overwhelmed by obstacles and challenges, traders shut down. They stop learning, and they stop taking the actions needed to move their progress forward. 

I know that this profession is stressful.  I know that making money is never easy, or else everyone would be a millionaire.  What nerves me most in this job is the hours of wasted time.  Trading is such a time-robbing junk for me, when I could be just working from home, doing freelance publishing, meeting with social entrepreneurs, studying a language, learning about making videos, interviewing people, while automating my transactions or having a broker or a popup alert to enable me to be mobile and track my trading positions without having to even check the market screens all the time.  That’s what completely nerves me.  I hate having to sit on a cubicle.  My cubicle brain has been fried for so many years, I don’t know whether I want to trade my youth and my brains for money, which I can most probably earn through trading in a different setup + other perks such as studying or writing or travelling.

“I have seen skilled, successful traders go through lengthy losing periods,” says Steenbarger. If making money is the sole determining motivator behind why you trade, these normal and predictable drawdown periods will have a damaging effect on your sense of self-worth. In other words, you’ll start feeling like a loser, and that’s likely to turn mild setbacks into protracted trading slumps.

Burnout is not laziness, and it will not go away with willpower. Getting away from work stress and attending to good sleeping and eating patterns can help provide the energy for a comeback.

A common denominator in much burnout is a perceived loss of control over one’s situation. Setting reasonable work goals, managing time effectively and reasonably, and finding elements in the situation that can be controlled all can be very helpful. By keeping goals modest and building small success experiences, traders can regain optimism and energy.

5 Signs of Psychological Burnouts (c/o Brett Steenbarger):

1.)  Loss of Motivation – This is experienced as just not caring as much as they used to. It’s also expressed as avoidance of work tasks.

2) Cynicism – The trader in burnout feels that nothing will work out right; the market is out to get him. There is a palpable sense of hopelessness in later stages.

3) Exhaustion – This is experienced both physically and emotionally. Traders know they should work on their situation, but just can’t muster the energy.

4) Sleep Disruptions – The trader who is burning out may oversleep or display insomnia and chronic tiredness.

5) Substance Abuse – Traders in early burnout stage may try to self-medicate to feel better and to escape their situations. Food may also serve as a refuge.


I have no qualms with the Philippine markets.  As far as I’m concerned, Philippines is such an awfully strong market, and no matter how volatile the whipsaws in the US and Asian markets have been trading at, Philippines has just been an island of paradise, a safe haven for a traders’ psychological fuel tank that’s run empty.  I may not be in a position to quit my job.  I have a lot of unfinished business with them.  Still though, the simple cure for my burnout may not just be a simple vacation.  I don’t know.  Is it the rain or am I just a gloomy person?

Please help, if you’ve ever felt this way, and how you’ve overcome it.

Other Recommended Links To Read Related to Burnouts:

Time Out From Trading

– The Faceless Trader

About Abc

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3 Responses to August 2, 2011 – Fried Brains: Going through a Burnout

  1. genkumag says:

    I’m bored. I worry that I’m bored after only two years of trading. Also explains why I haven’t been posting on my blog past couple of months. It’s not like I’ve hit a wall in generating trading ideas. It’s more like it doesn’t excite me anymore. It’s a good thing that I’m teaching/coaching about trading at work. Somehow it feels different. Being around people and interacting with them instead of focusing on charting details day in day out has been a good refresher. Like trading, teaching gives me instant gratification. Hopefully, a happy, un-bored me gets me excited about chart reading again.


    • Hello JM, I thought I was the only one! I feel like I’m not normal. True— blogging about my trading journey, somehow helps me at least- find a soul in a world where numbers and charts really dont mean a thing. I mean, as much as I try to tell myself that I’m helping others invest their money, or I’m trading well and money will just follow—I just find it quite ironic that traders have to be cubicle brainiacs as well. Didn’t we all enter the world of trading primarily to release us from the bonds of 9-5 ? something tells me— either this is just a burnout–or more like a reflective piece to ask —maybe I should be doing something else (Radical thought) aside from trading.


  2. JL says:

    hi FT … been trading for quite a while now and these things do happen … my solution to that … more sexytime with the GF 😉 .. take time out … chill 😉 .. stop and smell the flowers 🙂

    funny .. i think i just used the word “radical” also a while ago 🙂


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