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  • Writer's pictureHang Zhao

Coaching is like trading

Coaching is like trading, take responsibility, embrace the unknown, move beyond the past, power of choosing, show up fully, rigor and compassion, new possibilities

Those of you who know me and my husband, Lan, know that we share similar values but have totally different personalities and career aspirations. Lan enjoys researching the world economy and analyzes the markets. On the other hand, I love coaching, personal transformation and leadership development. More often than not, interesting conversations emerge between us when investment meets coaching. The more we talk, the more I’ve come to realize how similar coaching is to trading. You may be scratching your head, thinking I’ve gone too far about this -- keep reading for some parallels I’ve noticed between the two.

Take responsibility

In our daily life, when things don’t go the way we want, we tend to criticize others, blame circumstances or find excuses for ourselves. However, the marketplace creates a concealed container where we have to take full responsibility all the time. When investing, we don’t have demanding bosses, lazy coworkers or hard-to-please partners to accuse. All we have is ourselves. We make investment decisions and the market gives us results: good, bad, ugly. What we ought to do if we are committed to playing is be responsible about the result, learn from it and go back again.

Similarly, responsibility is a core concept in coaching. Without being responsible for our own behavior and related outcomes, we lose the power of choosing. Such loss leads to people-pleasing, acting self-righteously, feeling stuck or even losing hope. In a world without responsibility, everything is wrong: we are wrong, other people are wrong, and the world is wrong. It is dark and suffocating. Fortunately, such gloominess and victimhood become an illusion once we start to take ownership of our decisions. We don’t need to be perfect and we are bound to make many mistakes in our lives, but being responsible for what has happened and what we choose to do next sets us free to play the game of life and the game of investment in a powerful way.

Embrace the unknown

The market is the best place to test humanity as every decision has a real consequence. We can always analyze the market, follow the trend or even test out our buying or selling decisions in the paper trade market, but unless we put real money in the live market we will never be fully committed. The same goes for real life. It is easy to talk about our dreams and ideas, but without real action to back it up we will forever be waiting for the perfect moment for things to happen. Coaching supports our transformation from spectators to players in a powerful way. It is natural to be afraid since things are at stake and we don’t know what is about to happen. However, by acknowledging and normalizing our fear, we are more empowered to embrace the unknown and take actions aligned with our commitment. Fear, therefore, loses its grip on us.

When playing in the market, the more we practice, the better we are at decision making, but it doesn’t mean that we will always win. Even the most successful investors have their losing quarters. Nobody can be 100% sure about the results. Life is similar to the market; it’s full of mixed signals, unresolved puzzles and hidden information. Even when we think we have nailed it, we might, subsequently, fall flat on our faces. Coaching not only supports us to show up boldly when facing the unknown, but to show up fully: to play with rigor and compassion. We need both to keep playing and be ourselves.

Move beyond the past

One of the mistakes that people make in the market is holding on to their falling stocks. It is painful to lose money, but it can be even more painful to cut losses. We tell ourselves that maybe it will bounce back tomorrow. And tomorrow becomes the day after tomorrow which becomes one month and one year. In life, we also make bad decisions. It is not a matter of if but when. When we make a bad decision, instead of learning from it and correcting our course, we tend to just deal with it and make it work. It might be a career that is not in line with our values, a relationship that drains our energy or simply something we regret saying. We feel too obligated, too invested, and too proud to admit our error and make changes. However, none of these feelings is true unless we hold them as the truth. Coaching allows us to view things from a different perspective. That perspective might be foreign, unfamiliar and even uncomfortable, but it is a perspective that frees us up from the past so we can move towards the new possibilities. Like cutting losses, separating from our past might be momentarily painful, but it creates countless new potentials for our future.

Taking responsibilities, embracing the unknown and moving beyond the past may sound challenging. It sure is not an easy way to live. However, when we choose to do so, life will be so much richer and more colorful, and we will be more alive and at ease.

What do you choose?

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