Life Lessons: Don't Let Other People Tell You What Your Motivation Should Be

Posted by Craig Wesley on

I'm lucky to have studied with some brilliant people when my wife and I were both students at London Business School (LBS) studying for our Masters in Finance. I'm fairly confident that the most intelligent person that I'll ever know was from that program. He already had his MBA from MIT before attending LBS and is even going for his third degree in Artificial Intelligence at a university in Germany.

A few years ago, I started trading foreign exchange (FOREX). Fortunately, very early on, I was lucky enough to listen to a podcaster interviewing a trader who sells an online course and he was talking about how becoming a trader was like learning how to become a lawyer or even a doctor. That one doesn't became a lawyer or doctor overnight, but only after years of studying. So luckily, I never put in more than $300 in my trading account and so far I haven't lost that money.

When the "COVID-19 Era" started, I found nearly 100% of my income gone in a flash. That's because almost all our income was dependent on the travel industry. So, as you can guess, I started to get more serious about trading.

My brilliant acquaintance, after he graduated from LBS, got probably one of the most sought out jobs anyone can get, energy trader. He was so successful that after a few years, he quit and literally traveled the world for I believe the next three or so years before starting his studies in Germany. He didn't travel in luxury, but I don't think there are a lot of people who could afford to do what he did.

I decided to reach out to him via messenger to see if he could advise me on study materials, such as books, videos, websites, etc. During our conversation, he asked me why I wanted to trade. I told him to so that I could maintain our lifestyle of staying home, working and basically just surviving. Remember, the pandemic had basically rendered me unemployed with zero income and our business was never booming so we basically had less than $2k in saving.

The reason he asked me this is because, in his opinion, the only reason to trade is for "intellectual curiosity." As I already mentioned, this was coming from someone I regard as being maybe the most intelligent person I've ever met. So, obviously, it made me think for a moment.

Ultimately, despite how highly I regard him, without a doubt in my mind, I know that my friend is wrong. While intellectual curiosity has driven people like Einstein and many great minds in human history, there is probably no greater motivation than being poor.

Every day, there are people killing, cheating, stealing, or risking their own lives because of money. If there's one thing that COVID-19 has shown, then it's that essential workers aren't going to work and risking the health of themselves and their family out of intellectual curiosity, but because of basic survival. While I'm sure there are those who do it out of "intellectual curiosity," and maybe those are the most successful at whatever they do, I would argue that it's pretty rare and those are essentially outliers.

Oddly enough, I ended up enrolling in an online trading course from a former M.D. who quit to become a full-time trader. In a couple of interviews, he talks about the reason he became a doctor is because he hated being poor. Nonetheless, he received his MD from the University of Chicago and even was a professor at Emory University, despite knowing he wanted to be a professional trader since he was young. Quiet literally, his motivation to become a doctor was money, basically to not be poor, and he certainly achieved a certain level of success from that motivation.

Comedian Ronny Chieng does a whole bit about how the motivation for Asian parents to push their children into medicine has nothing to do with helping or saving people, but one hundred percent about the money and social status. While the world would be better if helping people was the only reason people became doctors, to say that money has nothing to do with it, especially in capitalists societies, would be fairly naive.

Life lesson, don't let anyone tell you what your motivation for your actions should be. Or, probably more accurately, don't let people tell you that there's only one reason for why you should do something. And above all, don't let people tell you that you can't be successful because you don't share their motivation.

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