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Reminiscences, and the value of volunteering

Fellow Trader, please indulge me the first few paragraphs about history and my own life – I assure you there is a point and a relevance to traders.

The RAF Bomber Command Legend Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC passed away the day after I graduated from the RAF College Cranwell in 1992. (His RAF Career is a fascinating Boys-Own read in itself.) A few weeks later I was part of his memorial service at Lincoln Cathedral and escorted his wife, Sue Ryder (who also built her own charity). In attendance was a veritable smorgasbord of the great and the good from society. And me, a young 19 year old Pilot Officer.

Years later when I was looking at volunteering and learning about how Charities worked (with the aim of building my own charitable hedge fund) I was struggling to decide which Charity/Cause to work with. There are a lot of worthy causes out there all clamouring for your time and money. One morning I opened the paper and there was a double page spread on Leonard Cheshire, his RAF career, and how post-war he dedicated his life to helping those in need, and created and built the country’s largest charity supporting mental and physical disability. It made my decision easy and I spent many happy years volunteering at their Battersea home. Mental and physical disability in adults is not a ‘sexy’ cause for people and resources, yet I was always amazed at the courage, compassion and fortitude of the clients and staff of the Leonard Cheshire facilities.

If you’re ever looking for a cause to support then I can heartily recommend their work.

So of what relevance is all that to traders? Well at the time I was an active intra-day trader and was spending 10-15 hours a day, every day, working on becoming a world-class trader. It’s very easy to go down that route and focus on trading to the detriment of everything else, and I realised that was happening to me.

As mentioned above I wanted to learn how charities really worked and wanted to do some volunteering. So I used to give up every Wednesday afternoon and go and volunteer at their centre in Battersea.

As traders, especially private traders we sometimes forget that we are in a particularly privileged position – we have autonomy, we can come and go as we please, we dress how we like and we have no real commute. We can work the hours we want, and we answer to no-one. And yet I hear many traders grumbling and complaining about their lot. I used to be the same. Until I started volunteering.

Often I would turn up at the centre feeling a bit grumpy and miserable that my early morning trades for that day (or week) had not been profitable and I was being a grouch. However once I got to the centre I realised that my trading challenges were not really of any consequence whatsoever – I had no reason to be grumpy. Here I was surrounded by people who had real challenges of mental and physical disability to deal with every-day, and yet they always met me with a smile and were always pleased to see me. I would catch myself saying to myself “Ahh Paul you big sh*t, you have no reason to be grumpy, so what that you lost 25 pips on your EURJPY trade this morning, it means nothing, take a look around and see that you’re blessed, snap out of yourself and get with the program!”

The users of the centre didn’t know a thing about financial markets – and they didn’t care that EURUSD was rising strongly ( for the younger readers that’s what used to happen years ago pre-GFC, Euro strength and dollar weakness). They simply appreciated the mere fact that I would give my time to them and work with them on helping solve their every-day challenges. Never underestimate the power of the smallest acts of kindness.

Strangely enough despite not intending it too, my time volunteering at Leonard Cheshire Disability (as they’re now known) helped my trading. I was very quickly able to put my losing trades into perspective for what they were, just a business expense that said nothing about me as a person. Compared to what others had to deal with I had no excuse for self-pity or moaning about the outcome of my trades. I was still in a very fortunate position.

(Furthermore when I’m feeling smug and self-satisfied with myself I can compare myself to Leonard. He survived 101 combat missions with Bomber Command, led the 617 Dambusters Squadron, won the Victoria Cross, flew on the Atomic bomb raid on Japan, then single-handedly built a global charity that did good for thousands of people across the world. So my meagre accomplishments are of no real significance. I have a long, long way to go!)

So if you find yourself a little jaded, or alternatively, find yourself completely immersed in your trading, to the detriment of all else, then I would heartily recommend making some time to go and volunteer at a cause or charity that means a great deal to yourself. It doesn’t really matter what it is or what you do, just get out there and help others less fortunate. I think you’ll find you’ll grow as a person and as a trader and you’ll be richer for the experience.

Trade well



What I found interesting was his comments on how he dealt with fear – which was to be the first one into the attack before his brain had a chance to persuade him not to do it! I think Fear Based Traders can connect with that trading hack. He also talked about courage, Leadership and the his experience of being on the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb raid. All fascinating insight from a challenging time in human history.

*** Update ***

Please indulge me stroking my ego – I found the reference/testimonial that the service manager of the Centre I volunteered at wrote for me. (It will also help any nay-sayers from doubting my actions. Or from people thinking that Traders are too hard-nosed money-grabbing bast*rds to get involved in freely giving their time and support to others less fortunate.)

My name is William J Gallagher and I am the manager of a Day Service

in Battersea for disabled people. We provide services for over 100

disabled people who live within the Wandsworth Borough. Leonard

Cheshire is the largest charity in this country providing services for

disabled people. We also provide services throughout the world. Paul

Wallace has been a volunteer here for several years now and we have been

hugely blessed to have had the skills of this young man in his

professional capacity as coach and mentor.

One of the common threads amongst disabled people is what they lose in

their lives is their confidence and self-worth and in environments

such as this our whole focus on provision of service must be through

empowering disabled people to take back control of their own lives.

This is where Paul’s professional skills where invaluable in enabling

people with disabilities the opportunity through his coaching to find

their voice.

I remember one particular case where Paul offered his support; it was

to a mother who’s son was physically abusing her and through Paul’s

coaching and support she not only found the confidence to challenge

her son but she also spoke publicly as an example of how to survive

physical abuse.

There is no way that we could have achieved so much with our users and

indeed our staff as very often Paul would support staff in areas of

their life that required reflection and alteration.

In providing services for disabled people it is crucial to have an

holistic approach that it is not just about the physical disability

but the overall empowerment of people. Paul is exceptional in his

understanding and empathy for people but more importantly he has

single handily enabled many of our service users the confidence to

believe that they own their own lives and the decisions that go along

with it.

Yours truly,

William J Gallagher

(Service Manager)

April 2016

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