Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lidsky, Eyes Wide Open

At the age of 13 Isaac Lidsky learned that he was beginning to go blind; by the age of 25 he had lost his sight entirely. His initial reaction was, naturally, to be fearful since his future seemed dark, both literally and figuratively. In Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can’t See Clearly (TarcherPerigree/Penguin Random House, 2017), expanding on his popular TED talk, he recounts how he embraced his blindness and “gained a life richer in understanding, connection, and success.”

Lidsky, now 37 years old, has had a life that many would envy—if, that is, they could skip the “being blind” part. He was a child actor, starring as “Weasel” on NBC’s sitcom Saved by the Bell: The New Class. He graduated from Harvard at the age of 19 with a degree in mathematics and computer science and proceeded to found an internet advertising technology company. When it was finally thriving, he left to attend Harvard Law School. After three years as a U.S. Justice Department attorney, he became a Supreme Court law clerk, working for Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He then put aside his legal career to acquire a struggling construction company, growing it tenfold in five years.

Eyes Wide Open is an intellectually sophisticated, uplifting book that I highly recommend. Yes, it includes advice that you’ve undoubtedly heard before, but the context makes that advice all the more compelling.

For this post I’m going to share two short excerpts that traders might find especially applicable to their endeavors. First, the paralyzing effect of fear.

“Fear narrows your focus and tunnels your vision. … When you confront the unknown, you face the greatest need to look outside yourself, to see beyond your mental database, to broaden your perspective and to think most critically. But fear produces the opposite effect. It beats a retreat deep inside your mind, shrinking and distorting your views. It drowns your capacity for critical thought with a flood of disruptive emotions. … Similarly, fear often emerges when you face a compelling opportunity to take action, to evolve, to make progress, to overcome, to transcend. But fear can be paralyzing. Its inertia is massive. Like its sibling denial and its cousin pride, fear clings to the status quo. Fear thrives in the fictitious minutiae of the mental images it inspires. It immerses you in those images, lulls you into inaction, and invites you to passively watch its prophecies fulfill themselves.”

Second, the devastating message of your inner critic and the response of the strong man.

You will never be good enough, he says. Don’t bother trying. … What remains to be done is vast compared to that which you have achieved. You require far more resources than those already marshaled. … Success is an island fortress, hazy and remote. The critic is obsessed with that fortress, the outcome, the destination, the final product. … You are on a fool’s errand, he says. This is hopeless.”

By contrast, “The strong man values effort, struggle, momentum, growth. He finds none of these things in perfection and thus has no use for it, in concept or in application. … For the strong man, the ‘best’ is a fallacy. He assesses the quality of the effort expended, not the results obtained. … What next? he asks. It is his mantra. Just keep moving.

You’ll be amazed what you can achieve. Lidsky threw out the first pitch at a Marlins-Cubs baseball game to promote Hope for Vision—and it was a strike. All it took for a blind man to learn to throw a regulation pitch was three or four hours of practice.

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