Mind Your Own Business

Yeah – that’s right; I’m talkin’ to YOU!

But I’m not saying what you think I’m saying. Rather than chastising you for poking your nose into areas of other’s lives that don’t concern you, I’m talking about running your own business.

I am a firm believer in the concept of the modern ‘entrepreneur revolution’, as written about by author and entrepreneur Daniel Priestley. As our technology advances exponentially, we are finding that machines and computers are taking more and more of our traditional ‘jobs’ and thus decimating the jobs market. This is inevitably leading to a World where people are having to become increasingly reliant on adding value to others through creative, esoteric and essentially human pursuits. Thanks to ‘Moore’s Law’, this trend shows no signs of abating any time soon – or, ever.

So, it’s time to adapt.

When I come across people who fight against change, too comfortable in what they know, and as a result slowing dying as their mental fortitude atrophies in the stark lack of adversity, I try to explain to them that change is the only thing that’s guaranteed in life and as such it is both senseless and futile to fight against it. Yet, so many do. So many are too comfortable in what they know, and have never been shown the intrinsic value in the realisation that life happens for us, rather than too us.

Anyone with their eyes open and head out of the sand can see that we are in a massive time of flux. Think about this; up until around 50-100 years ago, the rate of change in the World was relatively slow. It was unlikely that any one person would see any dramatic, global change in a single lifetime, and so our ancestors natural habitat was one of relative consistency (another point to consider is that people didn’t live as long back then, so were even less likely to experience any dramatic levels of socioeconomic change). That is no longer so. We have reached a pivotal point in the bellcurve of our technological advancement as a race, and as such we are now experiencing massive levels of change, not just within a single human lifetime, but within the space of a few years.

This effect – the quickening of the rate of socioeconomic change in the World – is compounding, and therefore ever expanding and becoming more and more pervasive in our everyday lives.

All the more reason to accept the argument that one of the smartest things you can do in life is to accept, and embrace change – move in flow with it, and expand your skills, abilities and consciousness along with the ever expanding seas of change.

So, back on to managing your own business.

Now, although I’m a huge advocate of setting up and owning (owning, not operating – there’s a massive difference) your own business, what I’m talking about here is not strictly limited to owning your own company. I mean to mind the business of your life! You see, even if you are happiest and most fulfilled in employment and therefore have no desire to own your own business, you still need to run your own business.

That business is managing and investing your money to create passive income streams.

Even the lowest paid workers are able to do this; the trouble is that hardly anyone knows how. The reason? Our education system is severely lacking, and antiquated in it’s content and methods. Our current education system was designed back in the industrial age, and is set up perfectly for training an obedient population of worker bees to go out and work in offices and factories across the land. This is an old model that no longer fits, nor is fit for purpose; the landscape has already changed significantly, and yet our model for how we educate the next generation of leaders is distinctly lacking.

Remember the entrepreneur revolution? All those jobs being done more reliably, more efficiently and with less error by computers and machines. The ever expanding sea of change is upon us, and it’s imperative for us to act in order to not be swept away in the tide.

One simple argument for managing your own business, regardless of your situation, is that there will be no state pension when my children retire – nor when I retire for that matter. In order for my generation, and all those that follow, to be comfortable in retirement we need to learn to manage our money, and to start right now.

Young people today need to adopt an upgraded perception of the World in order to realise the successes the dream of; education starts now. There are so many holes in the national curriculum that you have your work cut out for you when you leave the traditional education system. In the last year and a half alone I have listened to 17 solid days of audio books, and not a single one of them fiction. That investment of time in my own education has changed my life irrevocably, and will continue to do so, compounding as I learn more and more, adding knowledge and action onto knowledge and action; and so success is born.

If you don’t learn to look after yourself, no one else is going to do it for you, and odds are you’re going to allow yourself to get fucked by the system. Whether you like it or not, this life is a game – and you’re fucking playing it until you die. Now, you have two choices (and you always have a choice) – are you going to learn the rules of the game and play it to the best of your ability, embracing opportunity and opening doors for yourself along the way? Or are you going to fight it, kicking and screaming as it bends you over and degrades you into submission and misery?

I know which is my choice; I’d rather die fighting, having played all out despite the odds, than to arrive at my grave a slave to a life I surrendered myself to decades ago because I was too afraid or ignorant to take a chance on myself.

It’s your life, and your responsibility.

Make it count – learn the rules, and play the game.

Advertisements

Entitlement – Good or Bad?

Entitlement is a tricky subject these days, and it’s a word that often comes with negative connotations and pre-conceptions. Should a sense of entitlement be encouraged in children? What is the difference between someone with an attitude of entitlement, and someone without?

On the face of it, I would guess that most of you would associate the nurturing of entitlement in people negatively. We tend to think of entitled people as those who feel, act and live as if the World owes them something – as if they are born into this place automatically entitled to all the privileges life has to offer, without putting in any of the effort required to earn those privileges.

That, however, is a drastic oversimplification of the subject.

You see, entitlement can absolutely be a positive attribute in any person, but it relies on that sense of entitlement being nurtured in the correct way in order for it to be a positive attribute. You see, whereas believing you are entitled to privileges such as material possessions, a certain number of holidays a year or the undivided attention of your peer group with no consideration to earning those things or the effect such a sense of entitlement can have on those around you, it is imperative to success that everyone demonstrates a level of entitlement towards their lives.

If you don’t believe you are entitled to be successful in your career, will you be? If you don’t believe you are entitled to answers when you pose legitimate and thoughtful questions, will you actively seek out the answers your heart desires? Honestly, you probably won’t, and that results in a catastrophic dumbing down of society as a whole.

Too much these days do I see people who are all too willing to just accept the status quo as being the only version of reality available to them, instead of adopting an attitude of entitlement with regards to their intrinsic ability to shape their reality as they see fit. In order to achieve anything in life, we must first move to a space internally where we believe in our own capability, and in our inherent right to live the best life possible. But that takes work.

This is very different to the feeling of entitlement that disposes a person to believe that everything they want in life should be handed to them on a plate, and instead fosters a strong sense of self-belief that provides unwavering motivation and determination which propels us towards the achievement of our dreams and goals.

This is the main difference between the children of poor and middle class people, and wealthy people. Regardless of innate ability, the main determining factor of success in children is what social class they are born into. This may be hard to swallow for a lot of people, but extensive studies have shown this to be more true than most of us would like to believe.

The reason? Entitlement, or, practical intelligence.

One study followed children and parents of different socioeconomic backgrounds in an attempt to ascertain what the main factors were that determined success, and found that although children from poor families were better at being more independent, children from wealthier families were actively taught entitlement – they are encouraged to speak up if they are unhappy, and so develop a powerful ability to shape their environment to suit their needs. Now, there’s nothing to say that this has to be done at the expense of anyone else (as is associated with the word ‘entitlement’ in the usual sense), and in doing so empowers children from wealthier families to speak up and fight for the things they want to achieve in life. This is why these children tend to thrive – they customise their environment to suit their needs, and to set themselves up for success.

Although children from poorer backgrounds tend to be more independent, they often receive less praise and attention, and this is critical in developing a mindset of success. They learn fortitude and mental strength that empowers them to deal with and accept their hardships for what they are, but never empowers them to stand up and expect better. It breeds the ‘it is what it is’ attitude, and this only serves to suffocate and stifle in the long term. As Malcolm Gladwell so eloquently puts it in his book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success‘:

“In today’s World, a sense of entitlement makes you more suited to success than a sense of constraint.”

Where wealthier parents have more resources and time at their disposal to help foster their children’s passions by joining them at multiple after-school clubs, introducing them to new activities and experiences that force them to push the bounds of their perceived limitations, and other such activities such as public speaking and mixing with powerful and influential people which require their children to face their fears and develop a resistance to intimidation, the converse is strikingly different. Children from poorer backgrounds are faced with an environment where their parents are absent due to the hard work and time it’s often necessary for them to put in to make ends meet, and so were too busy to help cultivate the skills in their children afforded to those from wealthier backgrounds.

This observation is supported by Terman’s study of his ‘Termites’ – a group of children who were identified as intellectual ‘outliers’ at an early age, and who were observed as they developed into maturity. Terman’s final observations of this group of supposedly ‘gifted’ children are revealing indeed – although all of the children in the group were identified as gifted, their intellectual capacity was not the defining factor of success.

Indeed, Terman and others believed that having identified the a group of children with outstanding intellectual abilities, the expectation was that they would all, for the most part, excel in being high achievers – however, this was not the case. In fact, the results across the group of ‘Termites’ was mixed. So what was the determining factor? Class.

Even across a group of intellectually gifted children, it was found that those who came from wealthier backgrounds were much more likely to be successful in their lives and achieve great things, whereas those from poorer backgrounds achieved somewhat mediocre results, with some ending up in the clutches of addiction and squaller. It seems the defining factor was the way their parents showed up in their lives, and where the children from wealthier backgrounds had the resources and encouragement to develop a mindset of success, the children from poorer backgrounds were lacking in such qualities of mind despite being more independent.

As controversial as this conclusion may be, it’s hard to argue with the results of the various studies examining the subject. It’s something we should all take very seriously if we have our children’s best interests at heart, as I think it’s pretty safe to say that we all want the best for our kids, and we want them to have the level of success in their lives that they deserve – and every child deserves to be successful.

Really, it’s all down to mindset, and as parents and teachers we play such a profoundly important role in the development of our children’s thought processes. I honestly believe that 80% of everything is psychology, and only 20% the mechanics, and this holds true on the subject of success as it does in all walks of life.

The environment we build and perpetuate for our children has a massive effect on how they think about themselves and their World, and it’s potently important that we take such studies with more than just a pinch of salt. There is quite obviously a great divide between those who end up successful in life, and those who do not, and the only way we can hope to bridge that gap is by looking honestly at the facts, making a concerted effort to understand the things that make the difference in our lives, and the lives of our children.

In conclusion, it isn’t as easy as adopting the mindset that entitlement is a negative quality, and there’s a strong argument for fostering entitlement in our children – but in the right ways. Teach them to question authority, but balance that with a lust for learning through an inquisitive mind and a deep level of respect for their fellow human beings. Teach them to speak up when they are not happy with something, but balance that with an understanding that life isn’t always fair, and the trials and tribulations we face throughout our lives are a necessary and important part of the path to success in anything we do.

In understanding the social and environmental constraints we put on ourselves and those around us, we can provide the best of both Worlds for ourselves and our children – the strength and independence demonstrated by those from poorer backgrounds, and the success mindset able to stand up to their fears and challenge the status quo that ultimately allows us to evolve and grow as a race. Both are so important, and helping our children to develop with both in balance is one of the most valuable gifts we can give them as teachers, mentors and leaders.

Trading: The Basics

Trading the financial markets is, in my opinion, one of the best of several ways to turn the tables of wealth in your favour. That said, the scary fact is that 90% of retail traders lose money and fail at trading the markets. Why is this? Put simply, it’s because they are not trading – they’re gambling. Most people who jump into the markets have no idea what they’re doing, don’t bother to do any research or learn the skills required to be profitable consistently, and then wonder why they lose money hand over fist.

I know this, because that’s exactly the mistake I made when I first started trading.

I learned about what seemed to be a simple strategy using GUPPY Multiple Moving Averages crossing each other in a specific way and jumped straight into the markets with no idea what support and resistance even meant, and no concept of risk management. This was a big mistake, and although I closed many profitable trades using this method, my loses far exceeded my profits, and it wasn’t long before I had wiped out my account equity through risky emotional trading.

As I had no concept of risk management strategies, I used a ridiculous amount of leverage trading CFD’s and I engaged in dangerous ‘revenge’ trading after losing half of my account equity on a position that turned against me. This wouldn’t have been so bad if I had been using a strict trading plan to remove the emotion, but as it was I ended up moving my stop loss further and further away from my entry in the desperate hope the position would turn around and move back in my favour. I kept moving my stop loss until I was risking several times the value of the position, and it eventually took me out with over a 120% loss. To make matters even worse, the market then turned around and began moving back in my favour – you can imagine my complete and utter devastation.

This led to a bout of emotional revenge trading which saw me wipe out the rest of my account value, to the point where I didn’t even have enough left to open a new position.

I was beside myself, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure emotionally.

A lot of people make exactly the same mistake, and a lot of them make these mistakes using money borrowed from credit cards, friends or family – money that isn’t theirs, and which they certainly can’t afford to lose.

So, although I love trading, and have now come out the other side after immersing myself in learning and practice, I am acutely aware of the dangers and risks involved and it is for this reason that I want to help others avoid the same mistakes I made so they can get to a position of being consistently profitable much more quickly than I did, and with less heartache.

Trading – The Basics

Risk Management

Risk management is THE most important part of any trading plan; without it, it is extremely unlikely you will ever be consistently profitable. If you go on-line you’ll find tonnes of information about trading with people showing you 1000% gains per trade and other completely unrealistic nonsense. Be very careful what you believe and buy into when viewing material on-line, and if you see anyone pushing trading systems or indicators that purport to realise massive quick gains then avoid them at all costs.

Trading is NOT a get rich quick scheme – it takes time, practice and discipline to master, and the amount you are able to make/lose per trade is directly proportional to the value of your account equity.

You should always know exactly what price you are looking to enter a trade, and exactly what price level you are getting out of a trade – whether that’s being stopped out by your pre-determined stop loss because your prediction was wrong and the market moved against you, or being taken out at a pre-determined ‘take profit’ level.

There are three basic rules I work to when managing my risk in trading:

  1. Never risk more than 1% of your account equity per trade
  2. Always use a stop loss, and never move it once in the trade unless doing so is part of your pre-determined trading plan (for example, letting profits run and using a trailing stop loss behind significant candles or price structure)
  3. Do not enter a trade unless you have good reason to believe you can achieve at least a 1:1 risk/reward ratio on lower timeframe trades (5 minute charts), or a 1:3 risk/reward ratio on swing day trades on the higher timeframes (1 hour, 4 hour, and daily charts)

Analysis

Analysing the markets is so important before jumping into any positions – if you haven’t analysed the markets intelligently before opening a position, then your gambling and risking losing a serious amount of money based on a whim. There are two type of analysis when it comes to financial markets – technical analysis, and fundamental analysis.

Technical Analysis is the analysis is price action on the charts. It’s look at support and resistance zones created by historical price data, and the information conveyed through each individual candle stick. There are many technical analysis indicators out there, and certainly too many to go through here, but I would recommend ignoring most of them until you’ve mastered the basics and are working profitably consistently.

The technical indictors I use on a regular basis are as follows:

  1. Moving Averages – these are basically dynamic support and resistance zones that are based on information derived from a set period of historical price data. I use the 20, 50 and 200 period simple moving average, and the 8 period exponential moving average (I use different combinations of these depending on what strategy I’m using, but the 200SMA is one a use consistently across all markets as it’s one of the key indicators used by the large financial institutions)
  2. RSI – this is the relative strength index and put simply indicates buying or selling strength in a given market. Some people use this to trade trending channels, but I only use this as a rough reference and it doesn’t form a key part of my strategy – it’s more of an added confluence that would help confirm justification of a position along with other more potent reasons
  3. ATR – this is the Average True Range and is again based on a pre-defined period of historical price action. The ATR gives an indication of the level of volatility in a given market, and I use this to determine appropriate prices levels for my positions stop loses by keeping them wide of normal market volatility levels which can vary throughout the day
  4. Support & Resistance – this is probably the primary indicator I use when it comes to technical analysis, and are basically important prices levels determined by and derived from historical price data. They are basically levels where a given market has consistently struggled to break through, and so offer some indication of good levels to get in and out of trades. If I’m in a trade and it’s approaching a key daily or weekly support/resistance level, then I’ll be tightening my stops and closely managing the trade as there’s an increase probability of it turning around and moving against me when price action reaches these levels. Support and resistance is a great way to determine management levels for your trades and should never be ignored. Support is a price level where price action moves down to and then bounces upwards from, and resistance is a price level where price action moves up to and then bounces back down from
  5. Candle Sticks – candles tell us a lot about the sentiment in a given market by showing rejection from certain price levels and the shape of a fully formed candle can often be used a entry or exit signals for trades. There are many different names for different types of candle and candle stick formations, but the key ones I use on a consistent basis are the Pin Bar and Engulfing Candle

Fundamental analysis is a little more complex, and a little more involved if you’ve not done it before, and basically involves digging into the fundamental information about a stock or commodity to ascertain if there is a strong possibility of that stock going up or down in price. This often involves staying on top of financial and business news, and reading company reports and financial data. This is important and should not be ignored.

Most people will tend to favour one method of analysis over another, and that’s fine, but I would certainly recommend learning both as different strategies will require different skill sets and information sets. For example, when buying physical stock shares in companies my predominant method of analysis is through looking at fundamentals, but when day trading through CFD’s or Spread Bets I tend to favour technical analysis.

If I’m investing in company stock long term, then I want to be sure the company has strong financial data, low levels of debt in relation to it’s revenue, and healthy rising profits.

Your Trading Plan

Finally, it is of paramount importance that you have a written trading plan that you have back tested on the markets you wish to trade. Having a written plan helps to take the emotions out of trading, and gives you a strict set of rules to work to when opening, managing or closing positions in the markets.

A trading plan is just a set of rules that you stick to every time you enter into a trade, and that is based on the results of your back testing analysis through historical data. Always backtest your strategies using historical price data so you can form a meaningful and consistently profitable set of rules to work to when trading. I have several strategies that I’ve learned and devised that I’ve back tested over years of price data, and this is what gives me the confidence that overall my strategies are profitable. This is so important, as there will always be losing trades, and that’s fine so long as your using good risk management to cut your loses early and run your profits, and if you have faith in your plan being profitable over the long term because you’ve tested it on historical data.

Back testing might seem arduous and a lot of work, and although it can be a time consuming process, it’s well worth the time investment to ensure you’re operating a trading plan that is consistently profitable over a long period of time (years).

A trading plan is essential for removing the emotion from your trading – if you let your emotions tag along for the ride you WILL lose money. A good plan makes all your trading decisions for you, so you can’t get caught up in emotional trading when price action moves against you. Devise a good plan, and have the discipline to stick to it and you will be profitable over the long term.

Getting to grips with the basics I’ve outlined here will put you in a much stronger position than 90% of people who trade the financial markets, and although it takes time to learn and practice before refining your ability and techniques, mastering these basic concepts will start you on the path to consistently profitable trading.

If you’re interested in learning more, or in some private tuition on the basics of trading and understanding the markets, then get in touch with me at littlegreyjk@gmail.com for more information.

 

Pain or Pleasure?

There are two prime movers in life that provide motivation to change where we are, and improve our position towards avoiding one, and moving towards the other; enter pain and pleasure. But, which is the more powerful motivating force in our lives?

“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.”

– Tony Robbins

Ultimately, it comes down to these two things, and these two things alone. What are the sources of pain in our lives? These are the things we are motivated to move away from. Anything that causes us pain, will be a motivator for some sort of change in our lives as the only way to move away from a present source of pain is for it to be not so present anymore. If we change who are, who we associate with and how we behave then are able to facilitate changes in ourselves, and thus our lives, which reduces the amount of pain we feel.

Equally as important and motivating (especially for the male species it seems) is the desire to move towards experiences and behaviours that give us pleasure. Any experience that increases happiness, fulfilment or love in life is going to act as a powerful force pulling us towards more of the same. Who doesn’t want more pleasure in their lives, right?

But here’s the thing; are the two really equal in their power over us? Surprisingly, no.

“People will do more to avoid pain than they will do to gain pleasure”

– Tony Robbins

It seems pain is a much more powerful agent for change than gaining pleasure – something Tony has noticed after working with millions of people over the course of his career in coaching people to ultimate personal success. Increase someone’s level of pain they feel around something they’re not happy with in their life and they’re considerably more likely to make the changes necessary, and more importantly to embed those changes as a new way of live, than they are if they were to attempt to motivate themselves with the promise of pleasure as a reward for changing.

There are a few reasons for this, and it makes sense when you think about it. Firstly, if you’re in a position where you are feeling deep pain it’s like being in an oven turned up to maximum heat. You will do anything to stop the pain because it’s very real in the here and now. The alternative you’re trying to move towards might not even be pleasure, but just a more benign state that is more bearable than the searing heat of your current situation. In a state of pain, the here and now is far from comfortable, and this is a huge motivating factor.

Conversely, if the level of pain is more bearable, and you are attempting to motivate change by focusing on the pleasure of achievement, of reaching your goals, then your here and now is a lot more comfortable. Sure, it would be great to lose that weight, or to get a better job that you enjoy more, but that seems like a lot of work compared with the relative comfort of your present position. When the current level of pain is tepid, the motivation to get off your arse and do what needs to be done can wane quickly, like water through a sieve. Comfort is a dangerous animal, and we should all take great care to not spend too much time there – when we’re comfortable, we aren’t capable of achieving our greatest potential for personal and professional growth.

“In this World you’re either growing or you’re dying, so get in motion and grow”

– Lou Holtz

In the words of T. Harv Eker; you have to grow you comfort zone to grow your money zone. This is true in all walks of life; you don’t grow a muscle without first stressing it through exercise, and pushing it to the limits of it’s capability. You don’t improve your VO2 Max or marathon time without stressing your cardiovascular system and pushing it to it’s limits on a regular basis. Stress is the prime mover for growth, whether it’s physical stress to strengthen the body, or psychological stress to strengthen the fortitude of the mind. Just take a look around you, look deeply at the World and you will see this law of nature all around you as you start to notice the mechanics of life.

This is why so many people talk about wanting to change – and they really do want to change – but never actually do. It’s because they’re too comfortable where they are, and although they aren’t happy with their situation, they aren’t in enough pain to get the motivation required to take action and make the changes they need in their lives. A typical example is someone who complains constantly about their work life; they hate their job, their boss is an arsehole and the office politics are unbearable. Yet, those same people are still in the same situation after years of suffering because they are too comfortable. They might hate their jobs, but they make excuses like; I have a family to feed, I have a mortgage, I have obligations and commitments, and that’s why I am stuck where I am.

Bullshit. You’re stuck where you are because ever day you wake up and make a conscious choice to stay in a life you despise. Take some responsibility, own your life and your decisions, because no one is holding a gun to your head. You and you alone are the sole person who has made all the choices in your life, and if you haven’t then you have let others make your choices for you – which is still you making a choice to abdicate from making your own choices.

I’ve been that person, so I speak from first hand experience.

So, if you are not happy with some aspect of your life you need to make the experience more painful. Take that pain dial and turn it up to 11! Trying to coax yourself to change by dangling the carrot of pleasure is unlikely to have the motivational power required to make the significant changes in life that can really move the needle in your level of happiness and fulfilment. Instead, step into the pain of where you are and amplify it. A great exercise you can practice to do this is to meditate on the things that you’re not happy with in your life, and imagine traveling through time into your future – 5 years, then 10 years, then 20 years…. and see yourself and your life as it will be if you don’t make the changes you need to make in your life. What have you lost? What opportunities did you miss? What does it feel like to deal with that level of pain and despondency for all those years? How bitter have you become as a result of your resentment and low self-esteem? As you move years into your hypothetical future amplifying those feels and seeing all the negative effects not changing has had on you, your loved ones and your life as a whole, a determination builds up in you like no other. When the pain is so great from being fully aware and present in how your lack of action will manifest in your life years from now, you will also find an overwhelming motivation to get in motion and start doing things differently. From that state, go back to the present and commit fully to making the changes you need to make in your life – the pain from your current path now being so great that staying there is unbearable, and moving away from it is a must. See how those changes play out in your life, and feel all the rewards, happiness and fulfilment they will bring you over the coming weeks, months and years. The more present you can be throughout this exercise, the more potent the experience will be.

This is such a powerful method for combining the power of both pain and pleasure as agents for change. It’s an experience I have personally been through, and I can tell you it was a like a roundhouse kick to the face in waking me up and getting me making the changes I needed to make in my life.

Amazing things happen when you stand up and take ownership of your choices in life – doors open that you never knew existed and everything starts to come together. Is it easy? Fuck no. Remember what this blog is about? You NEED discomfort to grow! You need pain because it is a powerful prime mover. We are all going to feel both pleasure and pain in our lives no matter what decisions we make, because we can’t get it right all the time. That being the case, we need to learn how to make the pain and pleasure we experience work to serve us and build our character.

Pain and pleasure are both wonderful teachers, and they each teach very different subjects. The lessons taught by painful experiences cannot be taught by pleasurable experiences, and vice versa. We need both to grow, and to live in harmony and balance. That can be a hard thing to accept, especially with some of the decadence and brutality we see in the World, but in accepting this we allow ourselves to take back control of our lives and our destiny.

Life doesn’t happen to you, life happens for you.

Understanding The Stock Market & Trading

The Stock Market and financial trading is probably one of the most misunderstood mechanisms on the planet. Anyone you ask will have an opinion about it, but very few actually understand what it is or how it all works.

This is a real shame, because the stock market and the various trading instruments that exist today have lowered the barrier of entry to this field monumentally in recent years, and the stock market is now accessible to pretty much everyone.

There are lots of misconceptions about the stock market, and the people who use it as a trading tool, and so it’s important that we understand the basics to be able to dispel the myths and sort the good advice from the bullshit.

So, what is the stock market?

Well, the stock market is basically a place where people trade emotions. I say that, because although the nuts and bolts of the stock market are the stocks, commodities and currency markets on one side, and the myriad of investors, retail traders and financial institutions on the other, the values of those stocks are largely based upon people’s collective emotions at any given moment. This is what you’re seeing when you seeing price action moving on the candle charts; it’s a visual representation of the mean average of the presiding emotional sentiment in the market at any given time.

So the components of the stock market are simply:

  1. Company Stocks/Shares (Apple, Facebook, Google etc.)
  2. Commodities (Gold, Silver, Platinum, Oil etc.)
  3. Currencies (FOREX – Foreign Exchange)
  4. Indices (these are collections of companies and so their value is the mean average of the value of all the companies within the index – an example would be the FTSE100, which is comprised of 100 of the top blue chip companies in the UK at any given point in time)
  5. ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds – these are funds that are a marketable security tracking an index, a commodity, bonds or a basket of assets like an index fund)
  6. Investors (companies and individuals of various sophistications buying and selling stocks and shares on the market)
  7. Financial Institutions (banks, funds, brokers, and traders buying and selling on the stock market)
  8. Retail Traders (everyone else trading stocks and shares on the market)

Looks a little complicated doesn’t it? Well, it’s really not.

In order to simplify, look at it this way – it is the same as buying and selling food at a street market where prices fluctuate over time, only in the stock market this happens at a much faster rate.

For those who take the time and make the effort to understand the mechanics of it, there is the potential for rich rewards where every day your money works for you, rather than you working for money. Financial freedom is attainable for each and every one of us, all we have to do is take the time, and make the effort, to learn the rules of the game.

It doesn’t matter if the stock market is in the middle of a strong bullish rally, or a crashing bearish descent – when you know the rules, you can make money either way.

Ever since I started learning about trading the stock market and investing I was confused as to why more people didn’t know about it, and why more people weren’t doing it. It seems to me like this is something that they should be teaching our kids in school, as it stands to return significantly more handsomely than any bank on your pot of savings – if you know what you’re doing.

And it’s really not that hard; the rules are simple – it’s having the discipline to stick to them rigidly that is the challenge for most.

I should tell you now that 90% of people who try to learn how to trade end up failing and wiping out their accounts, and this is somewhat responsible for why it has a bad name. I cannot stress enough that there is no such things as a risky trade or a risky investment – only risky traders and risky investors. Those people who don’t have the education, the cohesive plan or the experience in the markets to have the first clue about what their doing, and who are basically gambling their money on the stock market. This is why 90% of traders fail – it’s a lack of knowledge and understanding of the rules of the game.

Trading Instruments

There are various different instruments that are available to retail traders these days, all with slightly different mechanisms but all based around the same set of skills. If you can trade the stock market, then your skills should be transferable across spread betting, trading CFD’s and investing in physical stocks and shares.

The main different instruments are:

  1. CFD’s (Contracts for Difference) – these pretty much do what they say on the tin, and is the main instrument I am trading at the moment due to the versatility of the social trading platforms available. When you trade on platforms that operate on a contract for difference basis you do not own any of the underlying asset, and so do not benefit from any dividend payments. All you are doing when you open a position is taking out a contract with your chosen broker agreeing that if the price of the asset increases or decreases from a fixed entry price then either you pay your broker a set amount per pip of price movement (if the price moves against direction of your position – up or down), or your broker pays you. When you close the position, you close the contract and either ending up taking profits (if you guessed the direction of the market correctly) or closing out for a loss if you guessed incorrectly. One of the big advantages to trading instruments likes CFD’s and Spread Betting is that you can use leverage to increase your asset holding without needing to invest or tie up the total value of the asset invested. However, be warned, whereas this drastically increases your ability to make significant profits, it also drastically increases the likelihood of having a catastrophic loss that wipes out your account – proper risk management should be observed at all times when trading
  2. Spread Betting – this works in exactly the same way as CFD’s, and you’re trading the same stocks and commodities on the same charts, only the profits you make trading through this instrument are completely tax free. This is because it’s called Spread ‘Betting’ and so because it’s classed as ‘gambling’, any profits are not currently subject to UK tax. This makes it an excellent instrument for generating a residual or passive income. Both Spread Betting and CFD trading allows for very easy entry and exit from trades, powerful leverage if used correctly and guaranteed stop losses and take profits for protecting your trading equity. They both also allow for you to enter positions to profit when the markets are both falling (bearish) and rising (bullish), by either going short (selling) or long (buying)
  3. Investing in actual Stocks and Shares – this is where you actually own the underlying asset, whether that’s a share in a company or some sort of ETF. This process is subject to higher broker fees when buying and selling, and so is better suited for longer term swing trades or long term investments. This method only allows you to profit when the asset increases in value or through the repeat dividend payments – if you own shares in companies that pay dividends then you will generate a regular passive income that can be used to reinvest in more shares and add to the compounding of your wealth. The more shares you own, the more dividend you get paid, and so the compounded growth is never ending and grow like a snowball rolling down the Alps

Fundamental or Technical?

There are two different techniques when it comes to trading – fundamental analysis, and technical analysis.

Fundamental Analysis is where you look at the financial and economic data for a given asset and make your trading and investment decisions based on the results of what you find in that data. This could be company financial reports, earnings reports, or economic data such as inflation rates or political announcements. This would be the best method for discerning quality assets for long term investments, as it’s important to be able to have confidence in an investment over time by confirming that the asset in which you’re investing your hard earned money is financially sound.

Technical Analysis is where you look at the price action data on the charts. There are several different types of charts and many different methods of technical analysis, but you only need to master a few to be a successful trader – even mastering one method will return profitable results if you stick to the trading plan without deviation. This looks at historical price data on charts relating to different time frames from 1 minute up to weeks and months of price data per candle, and provides insightful information about likely areas, or zones, where the markets are likely to react from and change direction. This is where technical analysis provides numerous trading opportunities – in recognising patterns, and in understanding how the mechanics of the markets are structured.

Ultimately, you’ll probably end up favouring one over the other and this will govern how you build and execute your trading plan.

Trading Psychology

“Success is 20% mechanics, 80% psychology”

– Tony Robbins

Trading psychology is without a doubt the hardest part of trading to master. Never mind all the charts, terminology and financial data – mastering your mind, your discipline and your emotions trumps them all.

The effect a losing trade can have on our psychology can be profound, and for most is what leads to emotional trading that generates massive losses and even wipes out people’s entire trading accounts. Emotional trading is a big NO, and this is the single most important reason for having and using a detailed trading plan. Having a written plan that details exactly what your methods are, and specifies your researched and back tested criteria for entering and exiting trade positions, will remove the need to make any decisions when you have money on the line. It’s when you have money riding on an open position that your primal croc brain starts to fuck with you and allowing this to take over your thinking when trading is the beginning of the end for most traders.

You have to learn to be your own trading coach and mentor – or go out and find someone who can fulfil that role for you. The best resource I’ve come across so far that really helped me gain control of my psychology when trading and which has helped me to remove all emotional trading from my trades was the following book by Brett N. Steenbarger:

This book gave me all the tools I needed to understand the inner workings of my own psychology when it came to trading, and indeed gave me skills which transferred over into others areas of my life such as sport and business. A really excellent book, and highly recommend – in fact, it’s a must if you’re thinking of embarking on the journey of learning to become a financial trader. Without it, the risk of your emotions taking control and devastating your trading account is all too real.

The stock market, by it’s very nature, goes up and down in cycles. As I hope I’ve shown in this short blog, there are the vehicles available today that allow everyone with access to a computer, smart phone or tablet and an internet connection to trade on the financial markets. Most platforms come with free virtual trading accounts that allow you to trade the markets in the first instance with fake money. This provides the opportunity for gaining valuable experience in the stock market, watching and learning how it moves, and means you can try out new techniques, systems or adjustments to your trading plan without putting any of your hard earned capital at risk. Once you see that you are consistently generating profits over a period of several months, you can then begin trading with real equity with some degree of confidence that you know what you’re doing and have a trading system that is profitable when followed with discipline.

Everyone has the ability to be financially free by taking the time to learn this skill, and doing so is going to not only put your future in your hands, but also has the potential to return significantly on capital invested – more so than any bank or other financial institution is going to give you that’s for sure.

From Beginner to Trader

I will be running a ‘From Beginner to Trader’ course around the Oswestry/Welshpool area very soon for anyone who is interested in learning about how to trade the stock market using the instruments I’ve described in this blog. The course will take a complete beginner who knows nothing about the stock market and trading through learning the skills needed to become a profitable trader. Course material will be provided in a live training environment, and you will come away from the training session with:

  1. A solid understanding of the mechanics of how the stock market and it’s various instruments work and move
  2. A solid understand of both fundamental and technical analysis, and strategies for utilising both methods in your trading
  3. A tool box full of tried and tested technical indicators for providing high probability entry and exit points for your trades
  4. A trading plan for intra-day trading on the 5-minute time frame
  5. A trading plan for swing-day trading on the higher time frames (4 hour, daily, weekly)
  6. A trading plan for pattern trading according to price action and technical indicators, as well as a thorough understanding of what key support and resistance levels are and how to define them on your charts
  7. How to buy and sell assets tax free – both through leveraged instruments and through physical stocks and shares
  8. A road map for finding quality shares for longer term investment
  9. An understanding of the emerging crypto-currency markets and how to maximise trading profits trading these alternative currencies
  10. A risk management strategy that will stop you blowing your account and that will keep your trading equity protected by minimising your losses and maximising your profits
  11. An understanding of the importance of psychology in trading, and techniques for mastering your emotions when engaged in live trades

Financial freedom is the ultimate goal – to every day have the choice of what you do, where you do it, and who you do it with. No constraints, no limits, no worries.

The beautiful thing about that? That the more people there are in the World who have that level of freedom and choice in their lives, the more people there will be in the World who have the desire and capability to help everyone else up to that level.

I’d love to see you on my ‘From Beginner to Trader’ trading course as I know it will change the way you think about money, and it has the potential to change your life if you implement the lessons you will learn in the course. Please register your interest by completing the contact form below, and I’ll send you an e-mail with all the details including how to register:

Financial Wealth: What, How & Why

On the back of Tony Robbins releasing his latest book Unshakeable: Your Guide to Financial Freedom, I want to talk a bit about how my philosophy on financial wealth has evolved over the last couple of years and my current view on why building personal wealth is so important.

We’re all aware (or at least should be) that there are many definitions of what wealth means to a person. There are many extremely wealthy people in the World who have very limited resources – for example, people who are blessed with the unwavering love of a family and support network yet barely scrape enough money together to pay the household bills each month. These people are emotionally wealthy, whilst being financially poor.

Accepting this, today’s focus is going to be around describing what financial wealth is, how it is generated and why it is important to build personal wealth in the first place.

First, some background.

Over the last 10 years I have managed to do a complete 360 on what money and financial wealth means to me, and how I leverage it in my life. When I was in my early 20’s I was playing in a rock band and living for the many and varied social experiences that provided for me. I was also hanging around with people who called themselves socialists, and who generally had a very dim view on money and the effect it has on people – in their eyes, and mine at the time, money was the source of all evil.

My view today couldn’t be more different and I wrote a full post describing my current view on money explaining how it is one of the most ingenious systems we have devised, with it having the power to harness the resources and will of an entire global species – it is the ultimate tool for progress and provides and incredible amount of leverage to get things done. What let’s it down is the people behind it – not the system itself. You can read more of my thoughts on the subject HERE.

Money often gets a bad name because of the unethical and dishonest intentions driving it. After all, it’s like any other tool – if it’s put in the wrong hands it can be extremely destructive. With a system or tool that possesses the insane amount of leverage that money commands, the downside has the potential to be as powerful as the upside. This is why, as we all know, it is so important to ensure the powerful systems we design are used correctly, and with the best of intentions. A bullet in a gun can either be used to kill food to feed your starving family, or it can be used to murder them – same tool, same level power/consequence, completely different outcome as a result of the different intentions driving it.

I hope you can see how ridiculous it is to blame money – or any other tool for that matter – for our short comings. It’s about time we take responsibility for ourselves, so we can harness the full potential power of the systems we’ve designed to effect massive evolution on our planet before it’s too late.

So, what is financial wealth?

Simply put, healthy financial wealth is when you stop working for money and start making your money work for you. Most of us are stuck in jobs that leave us feeling overworked, under-appreciated and under-paid. We have locked ourselves into this limiting pattern where we have convinced ourselves that our only options for increasing our personal wealth is to work harder, more often and for longer. Is it any wonder most people just accept their situation for what it is and make do? It doesn’t make sense to do more of what you hate to realise a relatively insignificant rise in personal income whilst in turn leaving you with less free personal time to enjoy the additional income. Besides, even earning hundreds of thousands per year through employed income would mean paying significant sums of money over to the tax man and you would still have to put most of that away to be able to have any hope of saving enough for retirement.

Financial wealth is a change in mindset from exchanging your time for money, to making your money generate income you can live off so you can focus your time and energy on leading a fulfilling life. The key to financial wealth is working less, not more!

Remember what ‘job’ stands for – ‘Just Over Broke’

Now I’m not saying you should go out and quit your job tomorrow, and neither am I suggesting that this path is any easier to walk than the job route, but the journey is rich with fulfilling experiences and can be extremely rewarding when you know what the rules are and how to play the game. For most people who don’t have rich parents or a nest egg of savings they can call on, a job will be necessary to fund the first few years of the wealth building process but it should only be seen as one of the many stepping stones to the attainment of financial freedom and as such, only temporary.

How can the average person achieve financial wealth?

Financial wealth, and ultimately freedom, is something that is an inalienable human right and that can be achieved by anyone in the western world who makes the effort to take the steps required of them. This involves learning the rules of the game, increasing your financial literacy and intelligence, and putting what you’ve learned into action.

Remember, knowledge is only potential power – real power is in putting that knowledge into action in your life.

In the beginning, I recommend reading a lot of books, watching a lot of on-line content and talking to knowledgable people who are already executing their plan to realise their own financial freedom (or even better, those who have already got there). I didn’t say it would be easy, and I certainly didn’t say it wasn’t going to take hard work and dedication – suck it up; if you want the life you’re dreaming of then you’re going to have to damn well work for it. This, and this reason alone, is why most people will never achieve financial freedom – they are lazy, comfortable and apathetic. These are the people who focus on wealth for the wrong reasons and who have no purpose behind their actions, as we shall discuss in more detail in the ‘why’ section that follows.

Building wealth starts with saving some money; remember, money is a tool with the power of leverage and as you will see, utilising as much leverage as your personal risk/reward plan allows is key to expediting the process of wealth building. The best way to save money is to open a separate account where it can be stored safely without getting mixed up with your personal family finances. It really doesn’t matter how much you save per week or month, just that you save something. Everyone can save something – even if that’s 50p a week in a jar on your bedroom windowsill. If you never start – even with saving relatively small amounts – you’re guaranteed to fail. By starting with even the smallest contribution to your fund, you are growing your financial freedom fund every day/week/month/year and as it starts to grow in value, so does the power of leverage you are able to command.

Once you have a pot of money – whether it’s a few hundred or a few thousand – you need to start thinking about shifting your focus on how you can start making that pot of money generate income for you. There are many ways to do this, and my top five are listed below:

  1. Investing in the stock market – Tony Robbins recommends a well balanced portfolio of index funds to keep fees and costs to a minimum and to achieve market based returns
  2. Investing in commodities like Gold and Silver – commodities like gold and silver should be, in my opinion, part of any sensible investors portfolio for the simple reason that as the stock market goes down, commodity prices rise and vice versa providing a level of security against such bearish markets
  3. Investing in property for capital gains – there are two property investment strategies, and this is one of them; it should be noted that there is no guarantee that property prices will continue to rise, though overall they do tend to follow a similar sort of pattern to the stock market – although it does regularly crash, the floor it hits is usually higher than the floor it hit during the previous bearish period and it usually returns to strength hitting new all time highs. This being the case, and as with stock market holdings, investors should be prepared to hold their investment interests for long periods in order to realise the best returns. Be warned though that profits from gains will be subject to CGT and this should be accounted for when calculating your potential returns
  4. Investment in property for cash flow – this is my preferred property investment strategy and is not concerned with repaying the principal loan of a given property resulting in an increased cash flow from rent due to utilising the leverage of interest only mortgage repayments. The amount of leverage it is possible to utilise in these types of property investments can be insane when structured correctly, and can be a very lucrative source of increased personal cash flow. Buy to let mortgages are assessed on the ability of the property in question to generate roughly 1.25x the monthly mortgage repayment, and so in theory there is no limit to how many properties you can structure under this arrangement within reason and assuming you manage your portfolio effectively. A small portfolio of 10 or so rental properties realising a couple of hundred pounds in additional cashflow each month is going to get you to a point whereby your living expenses are covered by your passive income relatively quickly and is not subject to the same volatility as the stock market or ‘flipping’ properties – in fact, in difficult financial times, rental demand tends to increase and so rental property investments are extremely good at weathering the storm of a financial crisis… so long as the bank doesn’t pull the rug out from underneath you
  5. Start a business – this one by far is going to take the most amount of time and effort and so should not be considered lightly. On average 400,000 businesses are incorporated each year in the UK alone, and of these 20% will no longer be around after 1 year. 50% will have failed within the first 3 years. Again, the reason behind this shocking level of failure is that the people starting these businesses often don’t do what is required to really set themselves up for success. They don’t embark on the journey of learning the new skills required to set themselves up for success, and thus the pitfalls of business eventually catch them out along the way and force the closure of their baby. Owning your own business can be an excellent investment if you put the effort into it, as you are investing in something in which you have a legal insiders view that you have significant control over – there is no such thing as a risky investment, just risky uneducated investors. Whether you build your business to provide regular income, to solve a need (such as a property management business to manage your investment property portfolio) or to eventually sell for billions it can be a fantastic way to build long term wealth

Anyone can incorporate their own business, save a few quid a week towards their wealth building fund and invest their money in accessible ways that will begin the process of making their money work for them rather than the other way around. All it takes is the desire for something better, and the willingness to learn.

But, why?

Ah, the million dollar question.

I’m sure most of you are expecting the following answer at this point; you should focus on building personal wealth so you can be comfortable in life, provide for your family, have a life rich with experiences of all shapes and sizes and not have to waste your time going to work every day for a boss you despise.

Well, yes but that answer only focuses on the effect increased personal financial wealth will have on you and your immediate family. Although these are excellent reasons which should not be discounted, and that I’m sure highly motivating, I have a much better one.

We all have an obligation to build personal financial wealth to the point where we all have financial freedom not because of what that freedom means for us but because of what that freedom means for what we are then able to give back to the World around us.

Money is a tool which provides a powerful leverage over the World we live in. We have a duty to ensure that there are more good people wielding that kind of leverage than bad people in the World, and that we use the leverage we hold power over to consciously go out and make a difference in people’s lives. I have met so many millionaires over the last few months and there are two things that consistently amaze me – how much of a difference they are personally making to the underprivileged and under resourced people in the World, and how little we hear about it in the media.

If it bleeds, it leads. Rich people building schools and wells in Africa who bypass the system of charity organisations because they want to make sure 100% of their money goes to the cause as opposed to being swallowed up by the operating costs of some not-for-profit doesn’t sell newspapers or hook people into news shows. It’s a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless. These people are not interested in fame or fortune – they are interested in, and solely focused on using their power of leverage to change the World for the better.

This is why YOU have a duty to become financially free and to build your own personal wealth. The Governments of the World are part of the problem, on average only 8-10% of the money you donate to charity actually makes it’s way to the front line, and most people are too lazy and comfortable in their sheltered existence to give a shit. If you truly want to see a better World then you have an obligation to get up off your arse and start being the change you want to see – if you want to see a World filled with people who are financially free, living their dreams and furthering the evolution of the human species, then step up – change starts at home. Lead by example, show others the limits they’ve previously imposed on themselves are a choice, and light the way by using the leverage you empower yourself with to help build a World where everyone is afforded a basic standard of living.

If that’s not something worth building wealth for, then I don’t know what is. The personal benefits are just a pleasant side effect.

Thank you for reading, and I hope my words have helped you think about wealth and money in a slightly different way. This can be a particularly emotive topic for some people, and I would like to encourage active discussion in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if this has changed how you think about money in your life I’d love to hear how.

If you would like to discuss any of the subjects in today’s post in more depth, or discuss strategies you can implement in your life to set yourself up for success, please feel free to drop me an e-mail at littlegreyjk@gmail.com – I am in the process of launching a coaching service around business, health and personal development and would love to hear from you.

Have a fantastic day!

You’re Either Growing Or You’re Dying

You’re either growing or dying – there really is no middle ground.

Whilst it may seem like we’re neither growing nor dying due to a lack of noticeable motion towards one or the other, that sense of static is nothing more than the illusion of stillness resulting from a temporary equilibrium in your movement between each polar opposite. To say it another way, you are dying equally as much as you are growing, and the result is the illusion of stillness. Maybe if you were able to measure your movement towards growth and death at a smaller scale, you would see that you’re not still at all, but always moving towards one or the other.

Unless we make a conscious effort to make progress towards our growth, the default of death and decay takes over. It’s so important to pump life into our actions – passion and purpose – because without this life force injection, everything slows down and stops. When you stop, you die. You’re heart STOPS beating. Your nervous system STOPS transmitting or receiving. Your brain STOPS thinking. The more life you can put into each action, the movement you will conjure and the more alive you will be able to be. Movement is life, and movement thought of in a different way is simply perpetual change.

Change is the only thing that’s guaranteed in life, and change is what keeps us alive.

I’ve never understood people who are afraid of change, and who find themselves unwilling to move with the motion of life’s natural flow. It is what gives us energy, it defines the very nature of our existence. Change should be embraced, because change is overflowing with potential power waiting to be harnessed. When things change, you make a choice to either focus on the loss or the new opportunity – with every change comes fresh new opportunities. Are you going to wallow in an non-resourceful state as a result of the way you have chosen to view a given situation, or are you going to take off the blinkers by accepting the situation for what it is and opening your mind to new opportunities?

The wings of change can be a lot of different things, but one thing is guaranteed – they will always be there to drive motion into our lives. Accept that, learn to move with them, and you will find it much easier to jump into life’s flow. Flow is an amazing state – one I have personally experienced in both my career as a musician and as a martial artist. It is a state of being completely at one with the Universe, with no thought, yet acutely aware of, and connected to, everything. It is a sense of knowing deeper than any other I have ever experienced. It is a feeling of connection, gratitude and acceptance so deep and powerful that it’s a million times more potent an experience than any drug on the market. There is nothing like it.

If you’re interested in the subject of flow and want to learn more, I highly recommend the following book by Steven Kotler where he delves deep into the subject of flow states and how super athletes have been tapping into these states of decades to push the limits of human potential (click the picture below for more information):

The principal of being either in a state of growth or a state of dying is applicable to all aspects of life. It is as true for the muscles in our bodies, as it is for business and for our mental fortitude.

If we lift weights and exercise, then we are building muscle by facilitating muscle growth through movement and by making the muscles we want to grow do work. However, if we stop lifting weights or exercising then we will see our muscle mass decrease as our muscles atrophy as a direct result of a lack of sufficient levels of exercise or movement. Now, as described earlier, it may be that our muscle mass and relative strength stay at a consistent level but this does not mean it’s neither growing nor dying. All this means is that you are doing sufficient levels of work through movement and exercise to facilitate the same level of growth as the level of atrophy – the result being neutral overall. The muscle is still atrophying, and it is still growing; you just don’t see the physical effects of either because one is balanced out by the other.

This principal can also be applied to business. A business is either growing, or it is dying. Now, a business can be growing in different areas at different times, and this doesn’t mean that in order for a business to be successful it has to be growing all aspects of it’s operations all the time, at the same time. For example, you may focus on increasing – or growing – your turnover during the first two quarters, and then switch your growth focus to systems and processes so they can be developed to support the new turnover level. You may then chose to shift your growth focus to your team, or asset base. Even though the growth focus shifts to different areas of the business during different parts of it’s life cycle, the nett effect is the same – the business is growing in one way or another.

It is important to ensure that you cycle your growth focus in your business as described above, especially if you don’t have the physical resources to grow every aspect of the business at once. If you leave one area of the business behind whilst you grow others – for example, growing your turnover without growing the systems and processes to support it – you will be setting yourself up for a mighty crash. Trust me – I know from experience by having had to take this hard road in my business.

Think of your business like the building in which it resides; if you simply carry on with your day to day business and make no effort to undertake general repairs and maintenance to the building, over the years it will deteriorate and, if no work is undertaken to remedy the effect of time, will crumble back into the Earth. However, if you carry out the periodic maintenance, repairs and improvements as required, not only will you continue to occupy a premises that meets the needs of your daily business activities, but that will also have continued to grow in value as time moves on. The point? Whether it’s HR or customer service, make sure you’re undertaking maintenance, repairs and improvements to all aspects of your business perpetually. If you’re not, someone else is, and it won’t be long before they overtake you.

This principal is also true of your cognition and mental fortitude, and can be thought of in much the same way as the analogy with the muscle. If you don’t feed your mind, it will wither and die.

“Education isn’t something you can finish.”

– Isaac Asimov

Failing to feed your mind by learning new skills, seeing new sights, and engaging in new experiences is a surefire way to result in atrophy of the mind. The more you learn, and the more effort you put into understanding the World around you, the more motion you give to your thoughts and creativity and it is this force of motion that breeds life. Want to feel more alive? Get more motion into your thoughts! Think about more things, and think about them in different ways and alternate perspectives – do it as often as possible. Nurture your natural thought processes to promote growth of the mind, and to increase it’s capacity for learning and understanding. The more we learn, the more we understand. The more we understand, the less we realise we know and the more we want to learn! A beautiful feedback loop, and a powerful one at that. The more you use your mind, the sharper a tool it will become and the more potential power you will realise that can then be used to really move the dial in your life and the World at large.

You’re either growing or you’re dying – which one are you?

Learning How To Learn

“The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.”

– Brian Herbert

I am a firm believer that in this day and age, with the information highway quite literally at our fingertips, ignorance is a choice. No longer do we have the excuse of lack of resources by which to feed our minds, with the dawn of an intrinsically and globally connected human race. Got a question? Ask Google. You don’t even have to go to the library anymore – all you have to do is pull out your relatively tiny personal computer (your iPhone or android), tap the touch screen and within seconds the answer to your question appears on screen. In fact, thousands, if not millions of different answers or different versions of the answer appear on the screen! We are literally spoilt for choice.

It is for this reason that my mind is still baffled when I come across people who answer ‘I don’t know’ to a question without following it up with a Google search and discovery of the answer. How can these people be satisfied living in their ignorance? What on Earth possesses people to make the conscious choice to live in the darkness of ignorance when they have such limitless educational resources available to them? I’m still searching for the answer… maybe ignorance really is bliss. Regardless, mastery doesn’t come without a deep knowledge of a given subject, and mastery is what I’m all about. Learning, and constant never ending improvement is so important to me because of the unfathomably positive effect it has had on my life over the last few years, and continues to have to this day. There are few things more empowering than listening to an audio book on the way to work that teaches you something that you can implement in your life the second you arrive at work and start your day; instant added value, and I love adding value.

Learning is easy for some, and not so easy for others. One type of learning, say practical experience, is natural to one person, yet completely unnatural to someone who could be considered an academic.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing that it is stupid.”

– Albert Einstein

The above quote from dear Albert is so true, and does an excellent job of highlighting the main issue with the educational institutions we have built to educate the generations that follow in our footsteps. All said and done, we’ve done a pretty shit job of catering for the widely diverse range of characters, skill sets and natural abilities and tendencies of our young. It’s a one size fits all approach to education, and it’s destroying the hearts and minds of young people the World over. They are told that if they fail in this ‘one size fits all’ system, then they will fail in life.

What a crock of shit.

My father left school with but two O-levels, and heaps of tenacity, drive and passion for electronics. He has built several businesses during his lifetime, including his most recent, The Studio People. Was it his two O-levels that facilitated such achievements? Doubtful. Was it his persistent drive, passion and tenacity? Absolutely. Perhaps we should shift the developmental focus of the next generation of thinkers and World leaders then to teaching those things that made my Dad successful, and indeed the same characteristics and attributes that resulted in the success of all the great entrepreneurs over the last few decades; Richard BransonElon Musk and Anthony Robbins to name but a few. It wasn’t GCSE’s or A-levels that got them to where they are today, it was their fiery passion fuelled tenacity, and as these men have demonstrated, it is these attributes that give them the power to go out and change the World as we know it.

Understanding why we need to perpetually educate ourselves and others, and understanding what to learn is one thing, but how to learn is something I haven’t seen covered a great deal and was something I struggled with in my earlier years of life. I never thought I was that bright, but I always seemed to have this uncanny ability to pick things up very quickly once my interest had been piqued. I often found myself frustrated though when I’d try to get into learning something new and would be left feeling like I was studying something that was written in a foreign language. I’d study a paper or read an exercise and one or two things would kind of make sense to me, but in the context of the whole, the information was nothing more than gibberish.

This experience left me feeling like I was of less than average intelligence, despite my ability to learn quickly and often discouraged me. Good job I’m a particularly tenacious individual, and that I don’t like to lose.

Self-knowledge and learning in general has been a massive part of my life over the last 3-4 years, and it’s opened doors for me in my life like you wouldn’t believe. I managed to figure out how I learn, and what the process and mechanism entails for me. I am very mechanical in my approach to things, and so I like to breaks things down into easily digestible pieces. I also love a challenge, so have no problem throwing myself in at the deep end of a completely new subject and seeing how I fare. The difference for me now is that I know it will be a challenge, and I’m expecting it. I have realised and accepted over the last few years that when I first start digging into a subject, I understand fuck all; but more importantly, I know that this is the first step to me understanding a bit, then a little and then a lot. Each of these steps in so important in the attainment of mastery in any skill or subject, and for me it was just a case of accepting that this is how I learn.

So, when I delving into something new, I know I have to find it stimulating and interesting. It has to challenge me, and it has to add some value to my life. I also know, and more importantly accept, that I won’t understand very much when I first start the learning process, and that even if I do understand the wealth of information I’m digesting, it is highly unlikely that I will retain a high percentage of it at first. These things that I once used to find demoralising and frustrating, have become part of the process of learning for me, and my acceptance of them as important parts of the puzzle to get me to where I want to be has been liberating and helps to keep me motivated and driven.

It might take several books, articles and conversations with experts before I start to grasp some of the basic concepts, but I trust in the fact that over time, so long as I stick at it and keep digesting information in my chosen field, that clarity and understanding will come. I’ve observed this process in my learning over many years now, and it is this self-observation that gives me the faith and confidence that, even though I feel like I’m getting nowhere to start with, I am building the foundations of knowledge in the subject before I can start to build the structure above of knowledge and understanding. As with building a house and looking upon the work from afar, you see nothing whilst the foundations are being dug and laid. It is only when the walls start to go up that you start to notice the progress and start to see the structure coming together before your eyes.

Don’t be afraid of laying the foundations, and don’t put yourself down because you’re ‘not getting it’. You won’t, at first, and that is the first and most important step to learning new skills and subjects. Knowing and accepting this is the best way to clear your mind so it is free from negativity and thus able to focus fully on the task at hand; being a better version of you through the attainment of knowledge.

Don’t be afraid of learning in different ways too; my MMA instructor once said to me that people learn in three different ways, and each of those ways will teach you things the others cannot. They are to be told/shown, to do, and to teach. You must learn a subject or skill through each of these mediums in order to achieve true mastery and a complete knowledge in any given interest. The teaching part usually comes last, because you need to be able to explain and demonstrate a skill yourself before you can possibly consider teaching it, yet you go into teaching prior to achieving mastery, because it is only through completing this third and final stage that you are taught the final lessons by way of seeing your existing knowledge in a new light, from a different angle/perspective. I’ve learned things about throwing basic kicks from teaching white belts that I could never have learned from being shown or actually performing them myself, though this is an element of the journey of growth and self-improvement that is often neglected by practitioners, and because they fail to embrace this ever such important part of the learning process, they never achieve true mastery. So, if you are a student of anything in life, remember that the very act of your teacher teaching is providing a lesson for them too – they are learning about the subject from a different perspective now, opening their minds to a deeper understanding of their subject/skill and putting them one step closer to mastery.

Everyone I know or have studied who has mastered something in their lives has taught others and realises this to be a key element of their own process of learning and self-discovery. This should serve to highlight the importance of ‘paying it back’ in life, and servitude to others, helping others be better versions of themselves, is the third and final step in the process of helping yourself. Everything is cyclical, everything is connected – service to others is so important. We owe it to ourselves to facilitate our attainment of mastery in our lives, we owe it to others to learn through their experiences what we were unable to learn through our own, and we owe it to the World and the generations that follow to ensure we have an army of masters in their respective fields to push the human race forward so that we, as a race, are perpetually committed to doing things better than we have previously done them. We have an obligation to ourselves and to our children to leave the World a better place than we found it – learning and teaching help us to bridge that gap.

Remember, we’re all geniuses; we just need to do the work to figure out what sort, and once found to pursue it with passion and tenacity. Together, we are changing the World – what part are you playing?

“We have a moral obligation to leave this World a better place than the World that we’ve found.”

– Tim McIlrath