Self-Sabotage: You Do It And It’s Destroying You

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Self-Sabotage: You Do It And It’s Destroying You


Continuing with our series about psychological pitfalls in trading and life (read my previous article: You are responsible for everything that happens to you), today we are going to talk about one of my favorite topics: values, self-perception, and self-sabotage. This is a very delicate topic because many of you will feel personally attacked when your values are attacked. After all, our values are what makes up our identity, how we perceive ourselves. You, too, will maybe get angry at me, it is not unlikely. But I urge you to stay open-minded and keep an objective attitude. Here we go.

Most people don’t even know what their values are. For them, life is one hell of a confusing trip. They are probably hovering in between “I want to be rich and famous because everyone on TV is rich and famous” and “shit, I am never going to be rich and famous!”, so they feel pain all of the time. This is called cognitive dissonance, a rupture between what you are and what you want to be, and you don’t know how to close the gap/probably do not even know that there is a gap and where the pain is coming from. You are just unhappy with everything, all the time. This is how the majority of people go through life, really, because their values are not something they carefully chose but were imposed upon them by society, their parents, the media, and so on. Their mental well-being will always be a playball of external factors like “how popular am I?” and thus, they are miserable if they can’t have that awesome pair of shoes or that awesome-looking watch those funky people with chiseled abs on TV are wearing. This may come as a surprise to you, but living with those values is a nightmare, even if most don’t realize it.

Anyway, let’s assume you are self-reflected enough and have read enough books in your life to be able to choose your own values, that still doesn’t mean you won’t be confused as hell. When I was young I quickly realized there was an incredible shallowness to all the mainstream bling and was looking for something to do with my life far, far away from all the brainwashed zombies that were visiting my high school. I dived deep into several subcultures ranging from the Heavy Metal scene to philosophy to professional video gaming to martial arts to writing to drawing to self-taught web design, and ultimately, gambling. And 10 years later, I am still a gambler. I was looking for an independent lifestyle – location independent, people independent. And I did not want to kiss anyone’s butt in order to make a living. I made it, and I am still growing each and every day. But it was one hell of a trip and I wish I hadn’t had all those conflicting values inside of me when I started out playing Poker because I could have made progress much faster. But such is life.

See, being a gambler means a lot but it certainly does not mean being lazy. There are all these stories out there of prodigies like Stu Ungar, Bobby Fischer, Chip Reese, and so on. They went from $10 to $10.000.000 without ever studying the game. And if they ever went broke, they would end up ahead anyway because they borrowed money from another ridiculous gambler and then run their accounts back up and blow it all on hookers and cocaine and so on, rubbing the cash on their t… Awesome.

You know, it might even be true that these people never had to work hard – they just had a natural gift. But they were also obsessed with what they were doing, they had ZERO conflicting values stopping them. I will get to this point in a bit. The other thing is that yes, of course, we only hear the stories of the prodigies because they are the stories that sell the tickets. No one wants to hear about a guy like me that worked hard for years, 18 hours straight every day until it finally paid off and I am now seeing the interest on my investments. That’s just boring. We want to hear the borderline rollercoaster stories, the top 1%. And then we think we have to be like that, too. I said this before, but when you look at the social media, that is the top 5% of people’s lives. The rest is as shitty and normal as yours. But you think their life is party hard all the time and then you freak out because yours is so standard.

This creates a false sense of reality and if we measure OUR success with the snapshots of lives of other people, we will always be unhappy. You need to have realistic values for measuring your success. Change your perspective. For me, success means showing up in the morning to start working. When I fall into bed at night, happy and tired, that is success to me. And I am now happier than ever. But it was not always like that.

When I first turned my $50 into $10.000 in Poker, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t proud. I felt like a failure because it had taken me a year. My heroes did it in a couple of months or weeks even. What was wrong with me? And when I turned those $10.000 into $50.000 I still felt like a failure because there was always someone with a bigger bankroll. See, comparing yourself to other people and their achievements will make you miserable. Measuring your success in money (especially as a gambler) will make you miserable. And, most importantly, setting monetary goals will make you even more miserable. Because what if you reach that goal? Emptiness, total emptiness. Goals and values should be defined as processes. My number 1 goal in life is to work hard and never stop. See, I reach that goal every day and I feel fucking great every day. What can possibly happen to me? Ambition is priceless.

Your values can make or break you. They control your life. A priest following the true values of the Catholic church will never be rich. A gangster following the cliché of being a street thug will never read a book in his life. A gambler like me will never have a normal job. It is against our very nature. The values we choose for ourselves steer our actions, everything we do. How we perceive ourselves is our ultimate destiny. As an extreme example, take a look at an Indian person born into a lowly caste. They will never leave that caste in their life. Why? Because, as they were taught by their parents and society, if you are born into a certain caste, it is because of the actions in your previous life, and thus this life you are going to stay where you are and suffer for your sins (which, unfortunately, you can’t really remember doing). In this case, you perceive yourself as a religious person, as a person born into a lowly caste, and all your values are based on living a quiet, religious life. This is your destiny. It would never appear to you to say “I CALL BULLSHIT ON THIS!”, I can make my own destiny. Well, too bad for you. Now, this is an extreme example, but the same happens in other cultures, where people born into certain social layers simply can’t escape their destiny of high school, university, job, wife, kids, retirement, death, or other pre-made blueprints for life.


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Now I had a huge clusterfuck of values before I broke down my whole identity to rebuild it and rise like Phoenix from the ashes. Coming from a middle-class family, having money was important. But having too much money was something we just “didn’t do” in our family. Working hard was a value, but working hard as a gambler – not so much. Being sporty – not a value at all. Then I dove into certain subcultures. Heavy Metal, drinking all day long and playing the guitar, becoming a rock star, that was cool. Working hard was not so cool. First conflicting set of values there, my parents wanted me to work hard in school. I didn’t want to, I criticized the educational system back then and I still do today, it is a shitshow and I was forced to be a part of it for 13 years. I started MMA, but because I had the value from my family that being sporty was kind of a thing for idiots that don’t read books, I was never able to push myself to the limits. Also, being competitive wasn’t something my parents would endorse at all. Then Poker came around. I wanted to be cool, play for millions, be a world class gambler. But I didn’t want to work hard for it because that wasn’t cool in my value set. Also, having a lot of money AS A GAMBLER went against my family values of being an honest, hardworking, middle-class guy. Taking risks was not a great trait in my family, either. Always playing it safe, following the blueprint, that was the greater good. And so on, you can see where I’m going with this. Growing up, I soaked up a lot of different values, and they were now all conflicting with my real-life goals.

Imagine a young guy, he has two conflicting values: he values security and excitement! Now there are two girls, both like him, and he likes both of them. One is wild and freaky, the other one is more like his mom. They both can give him what he needs, so he can’t decide which one to choose and eventually loses both. This is what will happen to you in life if you can’t figure out what conflicting values are stuck in your brain, sabotaging you from achieving anything at all.

This is especially true for trading where conflicting values will destroy you so fast you won’t even know what happened to you. If being rich is a problem for your values, but your life goal is to become rich through trading, do you know what is going to happen? Yes, you will end up broke and broken. Now look at the “obsessed” guys, someone like a Conor McGregor in MMA or a Bobby Fischer in Chess. Do you know why these people seem so obsessed? Because they have zero conflicting values and they set their goals right. There is NOTHING stopping them. NOTHING. Their whole life is focused – without any exception – on one thing, their chosen craft. They are dedicated to their art. Their values, their goals, their brains, their bodies, their souls, everything is going in the same direction. They seem crazy and obsessed to “normal” people, while actually they really reached enlightenment, Nirvana. They are the normal ones. Their one purpose in life is to fucking smash the competition at whatever they are doing. Bang-Boom-Boing. Zero self-doubts.

I always had a lot of interests and resulting from that, a lot of values, a lot of conflicts, and so on. What would my parents think of me if I became a professional gambler? What would my peers think of me? Would my friends hate me for who being successful? Can I be a lazy metalhead and at the same time a rich trader? And what about those corporation slaves in suits that feel so good about themselves? I hate them so much, If I work hard, will I be like them? And so on.

I had a few conflicts I was aware of and a lot of conflicts I was not aware of. To truly get rid of them I had to dissolve my personality. This is painful, like pouring acid over a part of your body and watching it dissolve. Everything you stood for so far, everything you thought was right, is going to hell when you choose new values. It is hard, and you are going to hate yourself. But then it will get better. And better. And eventually, you will come out stronger, and most importantly, with maximum focus.

Because conflicting values can also lead you to pursue different objectives in life – you will never get good at something if you don’t focus on a few things for decade after decade. That can be crafts and sports but also relationships. Values and a resulting self-perception that go hand in hand with your goals, that will lead you to true success. No more self-sabotage. No more busting your account after a winning streak because subconsciously, your values are telling you that having money is bad. No more fear of success because actually reaching that success would attack the very values you stand for. No more tears and pain. Only you, and your purpose, and your way to fulfilling that purpose. Everything else will follow, the money, the fame, whatever you want, they are just byproducts of you finding your personal enlightenment and aligning yourself as a person with what you want to achieve.

And don’t say you don’t have conflicting values. Everyone does. If you think you don’t, then you are in deep trouble, my friend, and there is a long way ahead of you.

What my values, goals, and self-perception now are, you might ask? Let me give you a few examples.

  • Be a hard-working man. It is really as easy as that. Whereas before I had monetary goals, now my goals are process-oriented and based on good values. Hard-working is a good value.
  • Be a critical thinker. Question everyone and everything, and make up your own mind.
  • Be honest.
  • Be active. Again, notice that my goal is not “get a six-pack this summer”. My measure of success is being active, showing up. Go to the gym, do your shit. Results will follow. Reaching a goal will fill you with emptiness and then you will stop doing what you were doing so well. If your goal is a process, it can be active your whole life.

And so on, you get the point. Do I still have conflicting values? No, not really. I know exactly what I am doing, and why I am doing it. I don’t worry anymore that I might miss something by giving up certain activities which I sacrifice for becoming a great trader. I also don’t care what other people say, think, or do. It does not affect me. I do my thing. If I become the best gambler in the world, so be it,  but it is not on my list of goals. Doing the best job I possibly can, that is on my goals list. That is my purpose in life.

Now that is a bitter pill to swallow if you truly understood what I wrote in this article. You will have to work out the conflict with yourself before you can become a truly great trader, that is a simple truth. And these conflicts are different for everyone.

P.S.: Do read a book once in a while. Feed your brain some thoughts. And find someone that is smarter than you, then start picking his brain until you become as smart as him. Then look for the next smarter guy/girl. For most of us, this is hard to do in real life, so read. Read, read, read, read. Most people read books they already understand. This is useless, boring, a waste of time, and stroking your ego. Read something you DON’T understand, maybe a book about biology. Your brain will create new connections and that will help you with all the other endeavors you are involved in. Just a side note :).



Mean reversion trading is often referred to as counter-trend or reversal trading which all, more or less, describe the same
Inspired by this brilliant StockTwits podcast with Peter L. Brandt, we want to talk about a concept that turns potentially profitable
Moving Averages are, without a doubt, the most popular trading strategies and they can be used by any trader. They
Becoming a good trader while having a 9-5 job is very challenging. I have been there myself and it wasn't until
Wherever you look, you see brokers advertising huge possible gains through high leverage, trading gurus claiming to double their accounts
This article is a guest post by Matt Zimberg who is the President of Optimus Futures, LLC which is a

Comments ( 30 )

  • Ezekiel

    I have to say i am 17 years old and i perfectly can relate to this it sounds like the future me who went against all odds in other to become who he truly wants to be, and Moritz you really are a mentor this just gave me a new idea on how to start living and getting rid of all this limiting factors and conflicting values that society,family,friends and the social media portray,thank you Moritz for this eye opening article

    • Abraham

      You are so so lucky to being reading this kind of readings, deep self psychology, the one that frees you mind from the society trap, the one that I truly believe takes your life to another level. I mean, I’m 24 you are 17! Lucky bstrd! <3

      • Moritz

        The trap is real 😉 Thanks for dropping a comment Abraham, appreciate it!

      • Claudio

        You guys are both very lucky! I’m 34 and reading only now. 😀

  • Breno Moura

    Simplesmente fantástico este texto, irei utilizar em tudo que for fazer daqui por diante, muito bom!

  • Timur

    That is great advice “set your goals on process not on final results”, thanks a lot Moritz!

    • Moritz

      Thank you Timur!

  • Sally

    This is so true. Conflicting values cause havoc. You can work hard and acheive absolutely nothing if you have conflicting goals as all the energy you put in one side will be cancelled out by the negative effect of the other and visa versa. It’s like having the accelator and breaks pushed at the same time.

    • Moritz

      Exactly, good analogy!

  • Sally

    Just to add to my last comment, a few years ago I took Van Tharp’s peak peformance courses and as part of the course I had to spend a lot of time working of what my values are. As an artist and a trader and now a trainee bodyworker/therpist, this was something I resisted like crazy. Learned the hard way on that one…

  • Leroy

    Well first of all,thanks for sharing your journey,proves you are mortal.It gives me a bit more hope that i will get there,where ever there is ,with the right mind set,more patients and the right training.

    • Moritz

      Thank you for leaving a comment, Leroy. We are all mortal, and everyone fucks up big time at least once in their trading career, it’s part of the game :). Don’t give up.

  • Jolo

    This is fvcking GOLD!

    Btw I’m from the Philippines. I’m a struggling trader and a corporate slave, hoping to get out of the rat race via trading.
    Good thing I came across this article which has a LOT of sense in it. Now, I’ll have to assess my values & choose between conflicting ones. NO MORE SELF-SABOTAGE.


    • Moritz

      Great, Jolo! No more self-sabotage, yes. You owe it to yourself.

  • MB

    I love the articel,I have a question that may assist me in implementing what you just wrote,it makes so much sense and I want to use it right away.

    First ,whats the process for changing the values and beliefs,like what do I do to check what I believe in because most of them are subtle

    Secondly,once I have decided on the values I would like to assume and have them working with me,how do I test if I have completely accepted them as part of who I am ?

    • Moritz

      Hey MB,

      I suggest you try to start with Simon Sinek’s books and that will be a good basis for further developments, never stop reading and self-reflecting 🙂 Jordan Peterson’s would then be the next step, for example. Take it slow.


  • Dave

    Hi Moritz,
    Love your outlook on life. A book I found helpful on de-energizing harmful belief systems is “Trading in the Zone” by Mark Douglas. Also just happened to buy Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life.” He also has tons of videos on youtube. Watching your recent videos and reading your articles has convinced me to sign up for the stock Trading Course. Well done.


    • Moritz

      Trading in the zone is a classic, yes. Probably the only book one needs on trading psychology if I had to pick one. Jordan Peterson is a bit weird, but he got good stuff in between definitely! Thanks for dropping a comment Dave 🙂


  • Michael

    Interesting and cathartic, it was akin to looking back over my life; born in 1947 in London just after WW2, there was nto much help around, both parents not educated, thus has low esteem and values, which they tried to impose on the children, constantly being told, you are useless, a waste of space only good for sweeping the streets. Leaving school at 14 my conflicts were between my parents values and my desire to do better and prove to myself I could rise the limitations being imposed. Well, years later with a Ceng, BSc, and a whole string of other designations I moved on, but, still my parents did not understand what was driving me and why continue; my answer was and has remained, “Because I can”.

    By the time I was 30 I had achieved monetary and obects goals, then stopped and asked myself this question “Is this all there is?”, time to get off this one upmanship merry go round, “Who cares what people think of me” why should I care if somebody has the lates gadget or more money than me?

    I want to enjoy what I am doing for the sake of doing it, so, later in life took early retirement and now enjoy the challenges of Trading.

    Thanks fo the reminder and trip down memory lane.

    • Moritz

      Thank you for sharing your story, truly interesting. We should share more stories over beer sometime! 😉

  • Yakov Fin

    Thank you Mortz.,
    Yes, this is the journey, the life, not the destination.

  • Dominic ZV

    One of the best write ups I’ve read related to values and personal development. Surely of great help to trading psychology. But then applies very much to personal life. Thank you so much for writing and sharing these.

  • Mah SK

    Moritz, a great piece of article from a young adult. A reflection of deep thought. Thanks for the sharing.

  • Sarah

    Bloody brilliant!

  • Shilyan

    It is something I been struggling since my college days. For last year I am trying to reach clarity mindset & values I believe in, still long way to go. I highly appreciate your writing as its clear & simple for layman. This is best piece I read in these days. Big thank you Moritz

  • Gavin

    Excellent article. I recommend James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. He is all about process over outcome and he has some good techniques to make active change in your life

  • Bob

    Great article Moritz!

    Happy New Year to you and Rolf!

  • Mike

    Wish I read this 20 years ago…thank you Moritz

  • Steve Ebhota

    Great word of encouragement. Please kindly continue to send me messages because I need it I am still new in trading learning

  • Prakash

    After a longtime, I found a interesting article and almost finished my readings cant stop it. Its so true.

    Really appreciate your thoughts and ideas. This shit are real , focus and attention is much needed for self development. Otherwise you die with regrets and hollowness. The earlier you know and the sooner you practice its good for everyone.

    Thanks for sharing your valuable exp. and much appreciated.

    From India,
    Prakash J

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