Denise Shull (@DeniseKShull) is a performance architect, ReThink Group founder, and author of Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading, and Risk, considered the Rosetta Stone of trading psychology.
“The worst decision you make is always from acting out some feeling you usually don’t know you have.” -Denise Shull
What We Discuss with Denise Shull:
- Why understanding what we feel and why we feel it is a source of power for creating change and spurring transformation.
- Why the avoidance mechanisms high performers often use to escape the influence of emotion on actions is counterproductive.
- How feeling negative emotions can help us decode hidden information inside those emotions to help us perform at our best.
- What we can do to recognize what we’re feeling — especially if we’ve regulated ourselves to feel nothing in the face of difficult decisions.
- How a thesaurus can be used to keep us from making mistaken decisions.
- And much more…
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Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading, and Risk author and performance architect Denise Shull created The ReThink Group to address the challenges of slumps, repetitive mistakes, and confidence crises in portfolio managers, professional athletes, Olympians, pro poker players, and traders.
In this episode, she’ll explain how she leverages neuroscience, emotion research, and modern psychoanalysis to create a mental model and strategies for solving otherwise unsolvable mental blocks. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
While we often drive home the importance of understanding body language in order to decode someone’s true intentions, motivations, and emotions, performance architect and Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading, and Risk author Denise Shull prefers to remove it from the equation entirely when working with clients. So while she’ll meet with them in person every so often, the majority of her time is spent with them on the phone.
“If someone’s talking about their feelings and I’m really trying to listen to the nuance in what they’re saying, it’s easier to do it if we’re not looking at each other,” Denise says. “Being on a phone is a bit like being on a couch in a psychoanalyst’s office; the reason that exists is so they’re not looking at you…they can more free associate.”
Denise is a pioneer in her field largely because she was in the right place at the right time. While pursuing her master’s degree in neuropsychology at University of Chicago, she played volleyball with floor traders who kept telling her she would make a good trader. This was in 1994, and these were some of the first traders to use the Internet in their industry; they invited Denise to learn the essentials, and within three months she was trading on her own.
One of the higher ups at their firm pulled Denise aside and told her, “I’ve got to tell you, you have the best instincts I’ve ever seen, and I didn’t think a woman could trade!”
“Am I supposed to feel good about that, or not good about that?” she wondered.
Trading desk manager became Denise’s day job, but she enrolled in a PhD program in modern psychoanalysis “as a hobby” — which allowed her to see a connection between the way work being done to help schizophrenics could also be applied to help the way she and her fellow traders made decisions.
“[Neuroscientist] Antonio Damasio…and a handful of colleagues of his had shown that you really can’t make a decision without emotion,” says Denise. “And I was like, ‘Well, darn. I’ve been reading all this trading psychology for the last eight years that’s been telling me I have to be disciplined, follow my rules, take the emotion out of it — oh, but yeah, I’m supposed to use my intuition every once in a while.’ If you really did that, you couldn’t make a decision. That’s a problem.”
With her unique cross-discipline background, solving this problem — not just for traders, but other stressed-out high performers like portfolio managers, professional athletes, Olympians, and pro poker players — has been Denise’s focus ever since.
“10 years ago, it was assumed in neuroscience that you had to have emotion to make a decision,” says Denise. “There are still people that don’t know that’s true, but if you’re on the cutting edge of neuroeconomics or affective science, you know that feelings and emotions are germane to performance, judgment, decision making, and perception.”
Decision Making: It’s Not Just In Your Head
People tend to think of decision making as a purely intellectual action. But according to Denise, senses, feelings, and emotions — points on a spectrum of intensity — are the clue to everything: motivation, achievement, breaking through, better risk decisions, and more focused, error-free athletic performance.
“If you think about it, they are all physical, bodily experiences,” says Denise. “A sense if something’s right or wrong — you experience that below your neck, not in your head.”
Thinking of something particularly distressing can make us feel sick. Intuition or confidence in the soundness of a choice made can literally be experienced physically as “a gut feeling.”
“An emotion is just a more intense, more severe form of a physical, bodily experience,” Denise says. “It’s just the information that both your body is giving you about its state and it’s giving you as a reaction to what it’s seeing.”
Getting high performers to even realize they’re feeling something — especially the ones who have been taught to regulate or stifle their emotions for the sake of making “rational” choices — is the first hurdle. Once bounded, it’s easier to recognize a wider spectrum of feelings as they occur, understand why these feelings occur, label and put into words what these feelings indicate, and then choose what feelings best direct the next course of action.
“I don’t care about regulating,” says Denise. “In fact, generally I think regulating sends the wrong message.”
How to Find Your Feelings
How do we begin the process of finding our own feelings — especially if we’ve been trying to ignore them for so long?
Denise says a good practice exercise is to spend five minutes trying to describe what we’re feeling in its most extreme form.
“Let’s say I feel really bad about losing this job, losing this girlfriend, whatever it is,” says Denise. “I’m going to try to see how much I can feel that. How many different places in my body I can feel it. What it actually feels like. Lean into that physical experience.”
People are often surprised to find that this doesn’t make them evaporate, blow up, or shrivel up and die on the spot. They come out the other side, realize it’s not as bad as they were expecting, and life goes on (as we talked about in episode 10, our deep dive on how to manage suffering).
“That you can feel sad, afraid, angry, and just experience it is usually a revelation to people,” says Denise. “Step one.”
What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You
Once we get over how our bodies respond to these feelings, we can start to decode what the feelings are trying to tell us. Sometimes we make hasty decisions because we’re so eager to chase the feelings away, but this is really just throwing away a valuable resource that could help us make better decisions if only we would let it: information.
“Somewhere in there is really useful information — there’s useful information in all of it — it’s just a question of which information is about your here and now and whatever you’re facing and extracting that, and which is about your history and knowing that and then having a path to work with over time to make the here and now easier,” says Denise.
“Everyone’s so afraid of that [first step], and really, at their core, all feelings — but particularly negative feelings — are meant to help us. There’s information and value in every one of them.”
Research shows that putting a name to what we’re feeling — whether it’s fear, uncertainty, doubt, concern, panic, or any among a host of feelings — makes us less likely to mistakenly act on the feeling.
“I literally have my clients look up words for the type of feeling — the category — in the thesaurus,” says Denise. “One they get that word, something in the body clicks, and [they] feel better. Empowered better.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about why the bad decisions we make are often the result of acting on unacknowledged emotions, how fear of future regret is a particular motivator of bad decisions on Wall Street, why we develop resistance and defense mechanisms early on that serve us poorly later in life, what we can do to identify and shed these mechanisms, how we can decode the information we learn from shedding them, why accentuating the positive isn’t always (or even usually) the right answer to solving our problems, and lots more.
THANKS, DENISE SHULL!
If you enjoyed this session with Denise Shull, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading, and Risk by Denise Shull
- The ReThink Group
- The ReThink Group at Facebook
- Denise Shull at Instagram
- Denise Shull at Twitter
- Just How Authentic is Maggie Siff as Dr. Wendy Rhoades in BILLIONS? Answer: VERY by Denise Shull, The ReThink Group
- The Neurobiology of Freud’s Repetition Compulsion
- The Quest to Understand Consciousness by Antonio Damasio, TED2011
- TJHS Episode 10: Deep Dive | Why We Suffer and How to Manage It
- The London Whale by Patricia Hurtado, Bloomberg
Transcript for Denise Shull | How To Turn Bad Emotions Into Good Decisions (Episode 19)
Denise Shull: [00:00:00] The research actually shows that if you can come up with the right word for the feeling like is it fear, uncertainty, doubt, concern, panic, on that spectrum, you will be less likely to mistakenly act on the feeling.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:18] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo and today we're talking with Denise Shull. She's the author of Market Mind Games and frankly this book is the Rosetta Stone of trading psychology. She also was the inspiration for Wendy, the character Wendy, the performance psychologist that is in the office on the show Billions and I thought that was a fascinating character. I was surprised and happily so to find that there was a real life Wendy and here she is. Denise leverages neuroscience, emotion research and modern psychoanalysis and has created mental models and strategies for solving otherwise unsolvable mental blocks, which is you can see why that might be useful in a Hedge Fund or other high performance environment. And of course she now addresses these challenges of slumps, repetitive mistakes and confidence crises in traders, portfolio managers, Olympians, pro poker players and professional athletes are all on the roster and today we'll discover why understanding what we feel and why we feel it.
[00:01:18] Two things that are harder than they sound is the source of power to create change and transform. And we'll explore how high performers often use avoidance mechanisms to escape our feelings and instead bare down on other achievements and why this is actually counterproductive. We'll also uncover how feeling negative emotions can help us decode hidden information inside those feelings and emotions to help us perform at our best. As usual, there's a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of all the key takeaways here from Denise Shull. That link is in the show notes at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast. Now here's Denise. Denise, thanks for coming on the show.
Denise Shull: [00:01:57] Thanks for having me, Jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:59] So you're a performance architect, which on the one hand it sounds really cool. On the other hand, it sounds kind of space age and I'm not sure what the heck it means. Do you want to tell us what that is?
Denise Shull: [00:02:09] Space age is funny. Pretentious might be the term other people have used, but basically the reason we use that term for my title is because I look at each individual and their totality of their emotional patterns and then figure out how we work with them. So I don't come in with, you know, my five step or 10-step program. It's about really creating IE architecting each person's situation or how I'm going to help each person. So that's why we feel like performance architect is a bit more descriptive than performance coach.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:50] Okay. Well I can see that and I understand that it's more all encompassing. And when I've seen Billions and Jason's a huge fan of Billions and the role that Maggie Siff has, Wendy plays as a fictionalized version of what you do, but how close is it? I mean, do you have an office or do you work in a conference room with people at these firms and they roll in and they're just having these breakdowns and they're screwing up their work. How close to reality is that?
Denise Shull: [00:03:13] Yeah, it's surprisingly close. Now when the whole show got started, I didn't work with them until they were like two or three episodes into it. So some of that stuff she did at the very beginning, like pound your chest and remember how much money you made was not so much me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:32] That was some Tony Robbins stuff right there. They were like, “Ah, all right, I went to date with destiny and let's implement this.” And then they found you, finally.
Denise Shull: [00:03:40] Yeah, I sort of thought that too. But, and you know what, if a full confession, I probably have actually used that kind of thing subsequently and said, not to sound too much like Wendy, but you know, I do really want you to think about that silver medal you won or that bonus you got last year and really feel it. So maybe I learned something from this show. But beyond that, there's one particular Hedge Fund where I work with everyone in the firm. I'm not onsite full time, but I'm onsite once a month and I sometimes think this is amazing. This is exactly like the show. Nice. I have my own office in New York. I do a lot of work on the phone. I've got clients all over the world. So in that sense it's probably different than Wendy. You know, television is not likely to show someone on the phone doing this kind of work. It's less exciting. And there's actual research that shows it can be more effective. I've always found it to be more effective. I would prefer to be on the phone with someone as opposed to sitting in a room looking them in the eye because if someone's talking about their feelings and I'm really trying to listen to the nuance in what they're saying, it's easier to do if we're not looking at each other
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:52] Really? Okay. Let's dive into that a little bit. So you're listening a lot to their vocal tonality and maybe those pauses, but if you're looking at them, you get what it does. It's distracting somehow.
Denise Shull: [00:05:04] Yeah. Yeah. You get distracted by, you know, the look on their face, what they're wearing. I mean, you know what they look like. It's just easier for me to do the kind of work I do if I'm just listening to them. I like to meet people in person and I have lots of clients that even New York City clients that we do most of the work on the phone and then get together once a month or once every quarter. And in those situations, touching base in person does provide a more nuance, more robust view of them. But that's the point at which I already know what emotional patterns they tend to go through. So on a day to day basis, it's actually easier for me to help people if I'm just listening.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:51] Got you. Okay. That makes sense. For me, it seems like it seems a little counter intuitive. “Oh, I'd want to see their body language and the way that their eyes are moving. And what are they avoiding and are they quiet because they're looking at their Blackberry or are they quiet because we've touched on something that has an element of shame attached to it?” But now I'm just maybe reading into it/ I've watched too many psychologists on TV and now I have no concept of how this is actually done, which is also very possible.
Denise Shull: [00:06:18] Well, you know, in a bit being on the phone is a bit like being on a couch in a psychoanalyst office.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:24] Yep. I could see that.
Denise Shull: [00:06:25] Where the person on the couch in a psychoanalyst office, I mean the reason that exists is so that they're not looking at you and so that they can more free associate, by, you know, just being looking at the ceiling. But I just did it because like I had a client when I first started in Hong Kong, my public clients in Hong Kong and Australia and London and so it's like, okay, okay. Usually we'll do FaceTime or Skype. Usually what happens is people who can meet with me in person insist on it at first, and then I tell them that that's great, but you know, over time it probably works better and that after one or two meetings they’ll be like, “Okay, it's fine. We can do the phone.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:07] Yeah, I can see that. Especially look, if I was a trader at a Hedge Fund and you said, “Just jump on the phone and tell me all your secrets.” I might say, “Actually, let's go ahead and have a coffee quickly first so I can make sure this isn't going to bite me in the butt.” Because I used to work on Wall Street as well and finance and as an attorney of course but it's not exactly an environment with a lot of warm fuzzy feelings and trust being thrown around without being earned. It's really kind of the opposite in a lot of ways. And I would imagine that some of the clients that you work with, one probably think that what you do is either BS or stupid or doesn't matter for them until they really need it. And they probably come to you when they're either going to fail and, or get fired and have no choice or when somebody they also trust really recommends you.
Denise Shull: [00:07:55] Yeah, I mean, I can think of a guy just recently who, Oh, it's a different fund where we've worked with him for a year and we started out and we prefer to start out with some sort of education for the whole team. So they get some baseline at this different idea of emotions. And he told me, “Oh my gosh, the first time you were here, I thought this was insane.” He goes, “Now I think it's the best thing we're doing.” The truth is I wouldn't be here if people didn't actually ultimately have that reaction. And I think that's only because I was interested in and have tried to educate a more accurate view of feelings and emotions. And what happened for all these years now is people related to it and said things to the effect of, “Oh my gosh, I thought it was just me.” Or, you know, “Your description is so much more accurate to my experience, but I didn't want to tell anybody.” So it was that kind of reaction that propelled me to actually build this business. It really didn't start out like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:58] So you leverage neuroscience, emotion research, modern psychoanalysis, and you've created these mental models and strategies for solving what people use to consider unsolvable mental blocks. And as a former trader and trading desk manager, I'm wondering how did you then go, “All right, I'm trading, Oh, let's start to apply neuro economics and psychology to my work at this trading desk.” It seems like a very random connection unless you'd been watching Billions in the first place, which is based on your work. So how did this even happen?
Denise Shull: [00:09:30] Well, it happened in reverse. I was at the University of Chicago getting my Master’s Degree in what's now called Neuropsychoanalysis but back then it was bio-psychology. And I played volleyball with some CBOE floor traders at the --where does that -- the East Bank Club in Chicago. And they kept telling me I would be a good trader. And I kept like, “Yeah, right guys. I'm going down there waving my arms with all of you guys who are half foot taller than me. I don't think so.” But as I was figuring out which PhD program I wanted to be in and writing my master's thesis, they went upstairs, it was called, so it's 94 and there's some of the first people trading on computer networks and they were like, “Come, keep track of our trades and we'll teach you to trade.” And you know, so I did. And they did. And within about three months I was trading my own account and it was an actually no longer being their admin. And then one of the guys that ran the firm, which was called interestingly Electronic Trading Group. Like, “Oh, we can trade by electricity.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:30] Yeah, yeah. It's like we use this thing called the internet. It's really going to be the future.
Denise Shull: [00:10:35] Well it was packed. I mean it was 94 so it was really pre, you know, pre-widespread internet. Anyway, he says to me, “Denise, you know, I got to tell you, you have the best instincts I've ever seen and I didn't think a woman can trade.” I’m like -- Am I supposed to feel good about that or not good about that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:51] No, I'm just saying we should hire more broads around here, Denise. Well done.
Denise Shull: [00:10:57] You know, there is research now that shows that women are a big asset to an investment team, or any of that. So I just ditched the PhD is really what happened and traded for a few years than someone in New York wanted me to run started trading desk and wanted me to run it. So I did that and enrolled in a PhD program in Modern Psychoanalysis but I didn't know was any different than Floridian, but it is. At nighttime, it was kind of like my hobby.
[00:11:25] So it started to be interesting when I learned how these people worked with people with really challenging problems like dissociative personality, meaning, you know, people are sometimes not in the same world. And I started thinking to myself, you know, if this could help schizophrenics, for example, it could probably help these trading friends of mine. I just had that in the back of my mind when that Institute asked to publish my master's thesis. So it's now 2003, I'd written it in 94, 95. I'm like, it's ancient history, neuroscience-wise, but how about we update it? So when I updated it, Antonio Damasio, who's now at USC and a handful of colleagues of his had shown that you really can't make a decision without emotion. And I was like, “Well, darn, I've been reading all this trading psychology for the last eight years. It's been telling me I have to be disciplined, follow my rles, take the emotion out of it.
[00:12:20] Oh, but yeah, I'm supposed to use my intuition every once in a while.” Like if you really did that, you couldn't make a decision. That's a problem. I just happened to be telling someone that I traded with it and he's like, “You got to write about this. You got to talk about this. Someone's got to know.” I was like, “Yeah, right. Who’s going to publish an article by me?” And he so happened to know someone who was an editor of a magazine and she published an article and then she went to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and she asked me to come speak. So I had this neuroscience and neuroscience of emotion and neuroscience of the unconscious before I became a trader. The bottom line is it came back around. So it ended up feeling, I mean, now all these years later, it feels to me like it was all meant to be
[00:13:03] because really, who has a Master's Degree in neuroscience and psychoanalysis and is run a trading desk. Like really? And that whole expensive master's degree that I paid for, it seemed like it was just, you know, fun but expensive lark. But it ultimately came back together. And so then after there started to be interest in this, and how does emotion really work in a risk decision? Me, I'm really an academic at heart actually. So I took the opportunity to go to all these academic conferences and started learning about how people were in -- that 10 years ago, it was assumed in neuroscience that you had to have emotion to make a decision. Like there are still people that don't know that it's true. But if you're on the cutting edge of neuroeconomics or affect of science, which is, affect is sort of a fancy word for feelings and emotions, you know that feelings and emotions are germane to, you know, performance, judgment, decision making, perception. So that's how neuroscience first, trading second, then someone basically wanted to know my opinion and I had this particular interest in how emotion really works. And one thing led to another.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:14] You mentioned emotion and how they really worked. So senses, feelings, emotions you've set in your work are points on a spectrum of intensity and are the clue to everything. What does that mean?
Denise Shull: [00:14:28] So the spectrum of intensity, if you think about it, they are all physical, bodily experiences. You have a sense of something's right or wrong. You experience that below your neck, not in your head. A feeling, you know some even say a feeling of being sick. You know, you experience that, you know in your body. A feeling of what we might call intuition or pattern recognition or the feeling that something's just right like confidence. You experience that below your neck. People don't think about that. They think it's a head intellectual event. And then an emotion is just a more intense, more severe form of a physical, bodily experience. So it's just the information that both your body is giving you about its state and that it's giving you as a reaction to what it's experiencing or what it's seeing. So I find it's helpful for people to realize that their sense of something, they are feeling about it, let's just say competence or some level of concern or doubt or some intense physical experience and that we might call fear or panic is all just on a spectrum of a physical sensation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:55] Okay. And so understanding what we feel slash why we feel it sounds powerful. If we're talking about things that are on a spectrum and our body that we can kind of, I mean are you teaching people to regulate their feelings or are you teaching them to just be more aware of them? I guess that's the starting point here because it seems like on the show of course, which is slightly different, Wendy's trying to get people to feel a certain way, feel more powerful, but really it sounds like in market mind games and in your work, you start with understanding what you're actually feeling in the first place and why we're feeling it in the first place.
Denise Shull: [00:16:30] Yeah. The first thing I want people to do is even recognize if they’re feeling anything. Fair number of people don't recognize their feeling anything and then get better at recognizing a wider spectrum of feelings. Then understand why they're feeling what they're feeling. Get good at labeling it, putting into words and then choosing which feeling they want to take an action from. And to your question, I don't care about regulating. In fact, generally I think regulating sends the wrong message.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:09] This episode is sponsored in part by ZipRecruiter. Now, ZipRecruiter knows there’s a smarter way to hire people, and I know that I'm not really patient when it comes to hiring and everyone knows that impatience creates bad hires. Now, ZipRecruiter learns what you're looking for, identifies people with the right experience and invites them to apply for your jobs. You're not just posting randomly on job sites. In fact, 80% of employers who post a job on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate through the site in a day, which is pretty impressive. So just know the right candidates are out there and ZipRecruiter's how you find them. Right now, our listeners can try ZipRecruiter for free. That's right, free. Just go to ziprecruiter.com/Jordan, that's ziprecruiter.com/Jordan. ZipRecruiter, the smartest way to hire, certainly the fastest. This episode is also sponsored by Varidesk. Traditional static offices, stodgy thing of the past, cubicles – yuck.
[00:18:03] Employees wanted active workspace. Just ask people bouncing around on ball chairs somewhere in Google, right? Silicon Valley. Varidesk is comfortable. It's a high quality product. What is it you ask? Well, I'm glad that you did. They've got a Pro Desk 60 Electric standing desk. It's essentially an active office space. Look, it's a high quality standing desk, commercial-grade materials, stable at any height, fully assembled in under five minutes. You can't really beat that. Plus, all Varidesk products are made to last, designed to be both simple to set up, like I said, under five minutes and you can move it around. It's not going to fall apart when you try to move it. You know what I'm talking about -- other standing desks. And you can try Varidesk products including the new Pro Desk 60 Electric risk-free for 30 days with free shipping and free returns if you're not satisfied. Learn more at varidesk.com/forbes, that's V A R I D E S K.com/forbes. How do we even start to understand what we feel and why we feel it? What's the first step with your clients? What's something that people can try at home who are listening and thinking, “Oh, okay. I tend to, I think a lot of high-performers we push our feelings away. Oh, I'm a little bit uneasy about this. Well, suck it up, you know, get to get after it.” You know, it doesn't matter what you feel, feel it later, that kind of thing. And you're saying maybe that's not the best way to do it.
Denise Shull: [00:19:23] Yeah. Yeah. I think it's exactly the opposite actually. So as a practice exercise, what people can try to do is say, “Okay, you know what? For the next five minutes I'm going to try to see what I feel, in its most extreme form.” Like let's say I feel really bad about whatever, you know, losing his job, losing his girlfriend, whatever it is. I'm going to try if I could see how much I can feel that, how many different places in my body I can feel it, what it actually feels like --like lean into that physical experience. People do that and they usually find that, “Oh my gosh, number one I didn't like evaporate or blow up or shrivel up and die. Like I looked through it and Oh my gosh, it wasn't that bad.” That in itself, that process, that revelation that you can feel, you know, sad, afraid, angry and just experience it, is usually a revelation to people. Step one.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:26] Yeah, it sounds terrible. I don’t want to be that.
Denise Shull: [00:20:30] It's not, it's not. And somewhere in there is really useful information to you. Well, there's useful information in all of it. It's just a question of which information is about your here and now in whatever you're facing and extracting that out and which is about your history and knowing that and then having a path to work with that over time to make the here and now easier. But everyone's so afraid of that and really at their core, all feelings, but particularly negative feelings are meant to help us. Like there's information there and value in every one of them and they won't eat you alive, which is what everyone seems to think.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:13] It seems like sitting with the feelings to begin with is a skill. Sitting there because I would imagine you sense and feel a lot of resistance from the people that you're working with because if looking back at how I was on Wall Street in my late twenties, you're probably dealing with people and they're maybe in their thirties by that point by the time they're hiring coaches to work with them, I think in your 20s you're more or less expendable. But in your thirties, guys and gals who are on the trading floor or at a Wall Street firm or an investment bank in their thirties are not exactly the type of people that say, “You know what? I just really need to sit with my feelings for awhile.”
Denise Shull: [00:21:50] Yeah, but they should be because they'll make more money. If they learned that skill.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:52] Now you're speaking the language though. Yeah, exactly.
Denise Shull: [00:21:55] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's always like, what should we do? What should we do? What should we do? Well, let's first figure out what you're feeling it and why you are feeling it, because the why might be yesterday's trade. At which point has nothing to do with today's trade. The why might be that, let's say you're a long short equity and you do fundamental research and you're feeling nervous about a name and you think you should get bigger because the market's falling and you know you should be buying more of this, but there's something nagging at you. Well, let's see. You had a conversation with the CFO last week and he sounded like he was hemming and hawing and not telling the truth. And somewhere your psyche's telling you, “Hey, there's something not quite right here”, but you, in the midst of the anxiety, are just wanting to act, so you know, let's say you're jumping into a falling market and buying more all the way. You got this little thing on your shoulder going, “You know, you shouldn't be worried about that”, but you're not because you want to set all that aside. And really what the action does is take away the static of the feeling. People take action so much of the time simply because it gets rid of the feeling. It makes them feel better. Yes. And then they go, “Excuse me, but damn, why did I do that again?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:06] Oh, interesting. So you're saying that action often is a cover up for a feeling. So instead of sitting with a difficult feeling, we might say, “Oh, I've got to get moving.” That's very familiar to me.
Denise Shull: [00:23:20] Absolutely everyone does that. All that. I mean and you know, in 2018 there's so much advice to take action. Like don't talk about it, do something. No, actually talk about it until you understand what you're feeling and why. And then you can choose what to do. But that requires the skill of being able to tolerate that uncomfortable feeling while you're talking about it. And oh by the way, the research actually shows that if you can come up with the right word for the feeling, like is it fear, uncertainty, doubt, concern, panic on that spectrum, you will be less likely to mistakenly act on the feeling. So I literally have my clients look up words for this, like the type of feeling the category in the thesaurus and say, okay, like I had someone come up with, “Well it's trepidation, I feel trepidation.” And then once they got that word like something in the body clicks and you feel better, i.e. like empowered better. “Okay. Now I know how nervous I feel and I have a better sense of my situation analysis, pull that apart and figure out what I want to do about that. Is it telling me to go get more information? Is it telling me to wait? They're telling me to walk away?” Until you know what the feeling is and then you start to say, what's causing me to have that feeling? What's the catalyst? You don't really know what the best action is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:49] Oh that's so interesting. I'll tell you, one of the things that I discovered recently going through a rough sort of corporate split that was unexpected was I got back to work right away. So I took action and I went, “Wow, this is kind of the magic pill for me. Just get my head back down, push through a bunch of work.” And it sounds like what you're saying is, well, okay, maybe that worked sort of, but what maybe I should've done was sit there and go, “Okay, what am I feeling and why am I feeling this?” And maybe let those terrible feelings sink in, find the right words to identify those feelings, even if I have to bust out a thesaurus and then maybe reevaluate my course of action after that instead of just going, “Oh, I don't want to feel this. Let me just get back to work.”
Denise Shull: [00:25:34] Exactly. Now having said that, I will give credence to people have their coping mechanisms. So I'm never trying to just disrupt anyone's coping mechanism or make it particularly harder on them. I am though trying to get people to do the, what am I feeling and why? And to the extent that people can learn to tolerate waiting to take action until after that step, the better off they're going to be. Really.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:04] Why don't you want to, was it interfere with someone's coping mechanism? Because it sounds like for me, for example, I'm a workaholic just like everybody else on Wall Street, so that's a coping mechanism that a lot of people that you work with also have. In fact, I think that's a requirement for working on Wall Street, to essentially be a workaholic. And so whenever I do have difficult feelings, I dive into my work and thankfully I love it or I'd be a miserable wretch of a person but they also realize and talking with close friends of mine, they'll say things like, “Hey, I know that you have to start your podcast over. You should evaluate whether or not this is something want to do as a business or if it's just a hobby for you. There's all these difficult conversations. And I'm like, “No, I've got to work really hard on this and do this.”
[00:26:49] And that works really well for me. And it does make me feel better. But I've had close discussions with business partners and people who work with me now here on the Jordan Harbinger Show and they say things like, “Hey, you're working really hard in, this project's turning out really well, whatever project it is. But I got to tell you, this is not super high ROI for the company. I'm glad it's making you feel better, but can we redirect the canon of energy that you're, you know, shooting at something else?” And I kind ofresist that because I go, “No, I like doing this and it's making me feel better and I don't have to think about all this other crap that's going on in my life.” But so you don't, but you say you don't want to interrupt someone's coping mechanism. Why not? It seems like almost like that's the point. Or am I just talking at odds here?
Denise Shull: [00:27:35] It's a balance. It's a balance. I mean there are a lot of coaches in the world who would come in and say, “Okay Jordan, you've got to do this, this, this, this, and this.” And you'd do it for awhile. And then you'd stop. And then you have like a reverberation or you know, some sort of slingshot reaction to having done it. [00:27:54][inaudible] that didn't work, you know, and maybe lose whatever part. So again, back to the performance architect, I try to be very sensitive to what's the next step the person can tolerate. Like how much could you tolerate not acting, I don't know because I don't know you. And you know, maybe what other tricks could we come up with for you to work on? What am I feeling and why. In bite-sized pieces such that it's able to stick, such that it starts to create a new emotional experience for you that you can then leverage in the future.
[00:28:29] And you know, you just don't know with any one person what their frankly defense mechanisms are too. And defense mechanisms meaning to not know what they're feeling. Like I have one Hedge Fund manager who he walks my walk and talks my talk to his team and he can't know one of his feelings to save his life at this point. Like his view of where he's at, and his entire team's view of where he's at. It's completely different. And so I'm constantly trying to get creative to say something to him that will soften or will open up a little window in that defense mechanism, but I can't go in there and go, “You got to stop doing A, B, and C because you don't have a clue what you're doing.” Like it'll work for a day or two, but it's not, you know, I'm about really helping people gain a skill that will last. And so I don't want that just the quick hit for them or me, even though it'd probably be better, it probably be better for me from a, you know, career company reputation point of view.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:39] So you actually have to let people get away with a little bit of shit in order to get them to continue with the stuff that's actually going to work.
Denise Shull: [00:29:47] I have to let them get away with a lot of shit usually.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:50] Yeah, especially those guys.
Denise Shull: [00:29:51] But I do know this, you know, every step I can get them to take is the better next decision. And with Hedge Fund managers particularly, I look at it like, okay, if we cut out the worst 5% of our decisions last year, what would our bottom line look like? Well, it's always wildly different. So in the Hedge Fund trading world, I'm just trying to cut out the worst 5% from last year. I'm going to try to solve the whole enchilada. I mean in my mind like it's a life's mission. Yes I am. But like immediately as a performance coach, I'm trying to make this year better by avoiding the worst decisions always from acting out some feeling you don't know you have. That's true for everyone. I mean it's really clear on Wall Street. I was about to say it's clear with athletes too, but it's so clear on Wall Street.
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Denise Shull: [00:33:24] The worst decision you make is always from acting out some feeling you usually don't know you have, but you don't want to have.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:34] Can you give us an example?
Denise Shull: [00:33:35] Yeah. So in the market, it'll be like, you know, you're mad at yourself because you missed an opportunity in stock A and you feel like an idiot. And so then opportunity B comes up and you don't really know that much about it. You haven't done your research, but you're so worried about feeling like an idiot again, which I call that fear of future regret, that you just buy asset B without having fully done your work and all you're doing is acting out that desire to not be like an idiot again. And it never works out. Like those kinds of trades people always know like right afterwards, why did I do that? And then it goes against them and they can't get out of it.
[00:34:17] And then, I mean, you know, it's been years ago now, but the London whale at JPMorgan was that way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:23] Can you tell us about that? I'm not familiar with that.
Denise Shull: [00:33:24] Well, they lost $6 billion ultimately. When they went through a whole laymen re -- I can't think what the right word for it is, but basically rewrote the model behind the trade to justify staying in the trade. This is a really common feeling on Wall Street. I don't want to feel like an idiot in the future. It's the feeling below the fear of missing out, like fear of missing out. Okay, I don't want to not make the money or I want to make sure I make the money on Wall Street, but there's this other feeling below that that technically gets fear of future regret, but anyway, it's fear of feeling bad in the future and that fear of feeling bad in the future
[00:35:06] usually it doesn't relate to the money, it relates to like, am I stupid or smart? Or what are people going to think of me? It has an ego element to it. People will do all kinds of things to avoid this wells backed of feeling bad and stupid in the future, including rewriting models, including, I mean this is what keeps people and losers on Wall Street. Like everyone knows your first loss is your best loss and you should just get out and people stay in all the time and like the JPMorgan example, you know, they rationalized it as a corporation stayed in for months ultimately lost $6 billion. Jamie Diamond had to go to Congress to explain it, but they just didn't want to feel stupid in the future. Every trader has had the experience of getting out of a losing position and having it come back and then you feel like an idiot, I shouldn't have gotten out.
[00:36:02] I didn't have to take the loss and that's a really painful feeling and no one wants to feel it again. So everyone avoids feeling it by rationalizing why they're staying in the loser and the loser just gets bigger until no one can stand on it anymore. You know that the company is going to go under the, you know, risk management. People are like just getting you out of the position where if you can realize I'm really afraid of feeling like any of that in the future and put that into words, then you go, “Oh man, okay, well I don't want it just to act out that feeling so therefore I don't want to just justify this trade, so maybe I should get out now”, and then you realize that you possibly feel less like an idiot by getting out now than risking feeling more like an idiot in the future.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:46] That's interesting. So it's almost like a, maybe not a mirror of FOMO, but it's kind of the, yeah, it kind of is. It's like a reverse mirror image of FOMO. It's like, “Oh, a FOMO. No, I'm in. And so I don't want to have FOMO and I also don't want to look stupid for having pulled out.” So this is what we see with cryptocurrency and things like that, especially with unsophisticated markets where they're totally unregulated like cryptocurrency. You see people saying, “Oh well this is going down. It's time to buy more.” Well, it's either time to buy more or this is actually a really terrible idea and you really don't know. So since you've had FOMO so many times, “I should have bought Bitcoin in 2011 when my dumb cousin bought it now, and he lives in a mansion instead of a trailer”, right? You have that.
[00:37:31] So you go,”Well, you know, I bought a ton of Bitcoin at $17,000 and now it's eight or 6,000 or whatever it is today.” And you say, “Well, instead of doing stop loss or hedging, I'm just going to maybe either buy more of this or sit on this cash for as long as I can because I don't want to look dumb. And then repeat the cycle of feeling dumb in the future. Plus adding FOMO on top of it.” So you see people right now taking a second mortgage out on their home and saying, “There's even more uncertainty than market. I'm going to buy more now.” And you go, “Well, do you really know what you're doing? Or are you just trying to avoid what happened in 2011 where you said, Oh, I could have had this outcome?”
Denise Shull: [00:38:14] Well see, and if you sit with your feelings and ask yourself what you're feeling and why you're feeling it, then you know the answer to that. And then once you know the answer to that, your chances of having to act on it go down. And you can basically pick your poison because obviously no one knows what's going to happen, right? And we never know what's going to happen. So if you can at least choose what you want to feel in the future and know why you want to feel it in the future as opposed to just putting on these fears without realizing it, your odds of making a decent decision go up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:44] So are you doing this in the moment when somebody has to make a decision? Is this like, “Hey look, we need to know in the next 10 minutes whether or not we're going to make this decision or the next hour or the next day.” And you say to your clients, “What? Go for a walk. Go get some coffee, lay on the couch, look at the ceiling.” What does this process actually look like? Where you say sit with your feelings? I literally sitting with this or are they just doing something else for a few minutes?
Denise Shull: [00:39:06] Well, both. I mean I try to get people to just, you know, close their eyes and breathe for a few minutes. As popular as meditation seems to be on Wall Street, that's still hard for a lot of people. I definitely try to get them to leave their desk, you know, a lot of funds, not so much banks, but the funds do have some place that people can go, of course then becomes the peer pressure of, “Oh, if they got into the, you know, relaxation room while they got into the nap room. Well, because they're trying to make a better decision or take a nap.” But, you know, it was good idea too. I truthfully, I tell all my clients that they can text me and almost none do in real time. Shocks me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:51] Well, that makes sense. Yeah, I get that though. I mean you also get it from the Wall Street perspective. I mean you're essentially saying, “Hey, be really vulnerable and put it in writing.” And that's just not, those are two things that Wall Streeters don't love to do, generally speaking.
Denise Shull: [00:40:06] True, true, true. But what oftentimes happen like this happened the other day. I got an email, can I talk to you for 30 seconds? And so, but I was with another client so I called in an hour. Oh, never mind. You know, of course you can imagine that being in the Wall Street.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:18] Yeah, sorry I needed you 59 minutes ago and I already made a bad decision based on my feelings.
Denise Shull: [00:40:23] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it is like just developing that skill of taking a deep breath, you know, stopping, asking yourself like you can get good at it and knowing the answer quickly. I mean it's like I always say it's like a physical skill. It's like learning to ski or play golf because you are just becoming so much more aware of things that are happening in your body, just like a sport. But it's also the path of least resistance for the most part. So people will find that they can do it better than they thought they could for the most part. Okay. A whole slew of defense mechanisms, not withstanding, I'm saying when people who really want to do it find that they can do it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:03] Okay. A whole slew of defense mechanisms sounds like avoiding those same unpleasant feelings that we just mentioned before. So do you find that your clients have like a huge list of avoidance mechanisms where they switch to to avoid those feelings that you're trying to get them to sit with in the first place?
Denise Shull: [00:41:21] Yeah, so like on Wall Street's analysis paralysis in the athletic world, it's train harder. On Wall Street, it's also, you know, train harder, like run marathons and you know, whatever, do extreme sports. I mean everybody's got, you know, resistance at some level, to changing anything despite what their conscious mind may tell them. And then, you know, robust forms of resistance turn into defense mechanisms. But by the way, I do believe resistance and defense mechanisms were created for a reason. So like when we're kids and difficult stuff is happening to us, it's best if we can put it in a box because as kids we have so little control over it. So the idea of resistance and defense mechanisms helps a kid. But you know, if you still then use the same mechanisms as an adult, which you will unless you've learned otherwise, you're not working with your own brain and psyche in the most effective way or in the most powerful way. So like, I think part of being adult is learning to unwind those defense mechanisms slash resistances. And then back to me being a performance architect, it's like, how do I help this person where they are? Do that in a way, in a pace that will be most effective for them, effective for them in their situation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:56] Is there a common place that that process begins? Because it always seems to mean like it's awareness. So do you have them make a list of other avoidance mechanisms or make a list of all the ways in which they feel something and then go for a run instead?
Denise Shull: [00:43:10] They usually don't know. What I try to do is get them to talk about their feelings related to things that have happened to them in the past. And then hopefully we can get a good handful of examples of how they felt in situations in the past. And then they're able to see, “Oh my gosh, I felt the same way every time, even though it was three completely different situations.” And then they go, “Hmm, if I felt the same way every time, but it was three completely different situations. Maybe it's the feeling, not the situation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:44] Can you give us an example of that? Because it's sort of abstract for me right now. Yeah.
Denise Shull: [00:43:48] Let me think for a second. I just did this with it where the Hedge Fund guy the other day, and so we went through three really bad trades they had made over the past 20 years and they are a bit private equity. So you know, they're in complex situations where they research all this level of detail about the company and the people and that three completely different situations. And what they ended up figuring out was actually in each case something all the left field had gone wrong. So that was interesting because it's like what did that do to the person in terms of making them feel out of control and then how they might feel once that thing went wrong. Shouldn't have gone wrong. Like there need to be back in control. I'm basically feeling intense level of anxiety causing them not to see the real situation. Something had gone wrong.
[00:44:44] They'd also got an inkling that they should get out of the trade, but their reaction in each case was to prove that they were right. So you know, you can always prove, you can usually prove just about anything you want if you kind of have selective attention. So they prove to their team in each case that they should get bigger in the position to hold the position for longer. And you know, of course in each case it went very badly. But when they looked at it in 2018 and I think the first example was from like 2006 and the second one was from 2011 and third one was from 2013, they all looked exactly alike and they realized they'd had the exact same set of feelings. So then it's like, okay, now that we know their set of feelings, like feeling out of control because something went wrong, feeling afraid because you're out of control, reacting to the fear like I have to prove that I'm right and I have to prove that I have control and so therefore just taking action and you know, doubling down into the position. Now in 2018 and I've just started coaching this fund, it's like, okay, we're going to be on the lookout, we're actually going to go through each one of our positions and make sure we're not reenacting that scenario in any of the current positions.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:57] Okay so that seems complex in a way. But on the other hand it is quite simple and that it seems like a large portion of this is awareness. It seems almost like the name of the game for you and your clients with this is awareness because we spend so much time with our coping mechanisms or with our avoidance mechanisms that we want to, we have spent most of our lives purposely being unaware or burying these feelings and now we have to undo that process.
Denise Shull: [00:46:27] Yeah. Yeah. It really is awareness. It's just the reason I don't like to just say it's awareness even though it is technically, is because that makes it sound like it's this intellectual thing that you can realize in a moment. And it's a more physical thing that you have to work at like that learning to ski or play golf. And it helps to have someone being able to speak to you and ask you questions in a way that will make it easier to see the connections. So like to do that, you know, the thing I just described about the Hedge Fund manager in a way that was like, “What's the thing I'm always feeling like, what's the thing that always happens to me? Like everyone has some story of the thing that always happens
[00:47:20] And if you start to realize I always feel this way and you'll start to see similarities in the circumstances. And then you'll also usually, I mean we didn't get into this with the Hedge Fund manager yet, but like how does that relate to his whole personal history? And that was sort of the feeling of being out of control and the need to prove he was right. But at level number one, you can realize, I always feel this way. I always have this same exact circumstance happen to me. Well, if you had a repetitive circumstance, repetitive feeling, it's not just about the thing outside of you. It's about how you're perceiving the situation, how you're acting, it's about feelings that you've learned over the arc of your life. But you can like unravel that and then start to change the thing that always happens to you.
[00:48:08] Have a slightly different experience through awareness, but not just intellectual awareness, like a physical awareness of this feeling is starting to come over me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:17] To what extent do we see these unpleasant feelings coming from, let's say, a past experience like childhood? I mean, are we talking about things that go way, way back or just things that happened to us at work? So for example, if there's a baseball player that can't hit suddenly, are we talking about they had a bad game a couple of weeks ago? Or are we talking about they were abandoned in a shopping mall when they were 12 and now suddenly that's coming back to rear its head.
Denise Shull: [00:48:46] Well, the truth is it could be both in that case, but when you, let me explain what I mean by that. So when you have a sort of sudden performance problem, it always makes sense to go back to when it started.
[00:48:59] Like the baseball player who, who had a really terrible game three weeks ago and now it goes into a slump. It's like everyone says shake it off and you know, think positive and all that. No, no, they need to go back to when it started and understand like whatever, how embarrassed they were that night it started and then that made them afraid just back three weeks. And that chances are we'll solve the problem if it's just something at that kind of level where there's sort of weird mysterious performance problem that comes in at proverbial left field. But if it's some longer standing challenge, it usually pays to figure out what the symbolism is from growing up. And what I mean by that is like what was similar in your developmental years that felt the same and sort of maybe what experience, if you go back to your memories, what experiences felt the same and what was happening?
[00:49:54] Like did your younger sister, you know, get hit by a car and that first night that you, you know, couldn't catch a ball. Like usually these things are well always they exist in a layered format. So you've got this top layer that's like your intellect and the things we think about and that matters. And then you've got kind of conscious feelings of the here and now and then you have the not so conscious feelings of, in this case example you gave like three weeks ago when you first have trouble hitting and then you've got all this advice to set all that aside and just think positive, you know, and then you have potentially if it becomes an intractable problem, you have some connection to when this happened to you in the past. And if you can ultimately realize that you feel the same now as you did then, and that some of the intensity of that feeling now is not about now. It's about when it happened in sixth grade, then you go, “Oh, okay, I feel really intense about this, but only 20 or 30% about that is now. And the really unpleasant stuff is about then. So, okay, I know have some sort of work to do about that then, but I can just deal with the feelings of when this problem started three weeks ago.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:12] So if we want to tackle this for ourselves, how do we get started? You know, we're not on your couch or on the phone with you. How do we get this process kicked off on our own? Is it possible?
Denise Shull: [00:51:21] Yeah. Yeah. So I think first you just commit to the extent that you can to drop the defenses that you've got. And then think about what you do, make a list of what you do to actually avoid your worst feelings. And when you realize that you might say, “Hmm, you know, I do go into action or I do go to the gym,” or you drink too much, you know, um, just what are the things you do? I mean, you know, surf the internet too much. I might do distracting things to just admit to yourself that there's activities you engage in that really, if you really look at it, it's trying to avoid feeling lousy and just like, it's okay. It's okay that you do those, but realize that maybe if you did a little less of them and you're able to know a little bit more what you were feeling and why you were feeling it, you might get some valuable information.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:22] So we make a list of all the ways that we can think of consciously, of course, that we avoid these unpleasant feelings. And then how do we decode the information? Are we journaling this? Are we writing a list of what we think there might be in the information, in the feelings that we're trying to avoid? Is there a way to sort of parse that? Because it seems like I can easily say, “All right, well, when I'm feeling on bad, I go to the gym, or when I'm feeling bad, I go for a walk. When I'm feeling bad, I try to read or do show prep or something like that”, but how do I get the useful information out of there or the potentially useful information out of there?
Denise Shull: [00:53:00] There is this phenomenon where if you dive into the, what is this really lousy feeling about and you get to the thing, it really is about the feeling vanishes or at least dissipate so greatly, it practically vanishes. Like you'd go, “Oh yeah, you know, I'm mad at that person who did this to me because it was insulting”, and then you're like, “Oh, okay.” Well maybe I will react. Maybe I will just, you know, not have anything to do with them anymore. There's something about actually finding the kernel that's the fuel for the bad feeling that causes it to contract and be way less disruptive. The other thing that happens is as you sort through these, you know, yucky, unpleasant feelings, you often do find useful pieces of information both about the situation and about yourself. And you go, “Oh, I know I have a tendency to do this, that, or the other thing or that person, you know, always whatever, whatever, you know, drops the ball is late, whatever.”
[00:54:13] But you find information in there that can help you and all you need is the skill to be able to sit with feeling lousy for some period of time or the skill to be able to feel lousy and doing the basics of what you need to do while you're going, “Okay. I'm not going to feel guilty about feeling bad”, because that's kind of what goes on in 2018. There's so much pressure to feel positive that on top of whatever you're already upset about or was already making you feel bad, you have to feel guilty that you're not being positive because everyone tells you there's not that many people you can talk to with. “Oh no, no, you're being negative. I don't want to talk to you.” Well, you're doing the world a huge disservice when you do that and yourself. So, but my point was is it's often times easier to be acting in a wise way while you're giving yourself that time to feel whatever you feel about something and sort through it.
[00:55:15] And that way if you're saying, “Okay, I'm going to give myself some time to sort through this frustration, you know, that maybe can be called anger and maybe even be called rage just to bring up that totally unacceptable emotion.” But I'm going to just let myself feel that and try to examine it, research it until I figure out what it's really about. And in the meantime you're going about your basic business and it really in a way gives you energy. That's the irony about all of this because everyone thinks that if you delve into your fears or you don't delve into your frustrations and you know, particularly anger and rage, it'll, you know, like it'll explode and you know, you'll ruin the world. It has a way of focusing you, helping you concentrate and then ultimately helping you get to a better understanding of your situation and therefore better choice as to what you really do want to do that will be effective to move you and yours for one.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:06] So in a way, anger can be an ally. Why, again, do we ignore all this pressure to be positive? I think that's a very common theme. Everyone's trying to be inspiring. Everyone's trying to think positive. And I do have people that I kind of can't even talk to when I have an actual problem because their solution to everything is just think positive or just look on the bright side. It's like, “No, I actually need a real strategy here. Or no, I truly, I want to feel upset about this thing so that I don't continue to feel upset about it for 20 years.”
Denise Shull: [00:56:38] Exactly. Exactly like the feeling upset about it. There is some piece of information in there that's trying to help you and that's the only purpose of those feelings. I'd like to get your attention. Jordan, you know, your psyche, your unconscious wants to know once you to know this thing because if you know it, you'll make a better choice or you'll be more productive but you're not allowed to. And I believe me, I know, I mean you would think that no one would ever say that to me. Just be positive. Because if you know me at all like, but even people still do and I'll be like, “Oh my gosh, you got to be kidding me.” It's a skill.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:15] Being angry or ignoring the positive, the pressure to be positive.
Denise Shull: [00:57:19] Well both, but allowing yourself, just allowing yourself all of your thoughts and all of your feelings without judging them. Saying what are they about?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:34] And then what do we do with that information? Are you writing it down or are you just letting it sort of swirl around in your head?
Denise Shull: [00:57:40] Well, again, this goes back to me not having a specific plan for everyone. A lot of people find value in writing it down, but a lot of people are averse to writing it down, right? Like they're afraid if they put it on paper, it will get more real. Now the truth is it won't. So I can say generically like it's not going to get more real and you can delete it right after you've done it. But I'm very well aware that very many people are afraid of writing it down. So if you're afraid of writing it down, you know, you don't have to write it down. You can just think about it to yourself but if you can write it down, it's usually a plus because it helps you put things into words. And the more things that you can put into words, the more you can sort through this. So the more words you use, it's sort of getting better at the golf skill of this, sorting through your feelings. I'm just doing what I do, which is sort of not pressure. The people who are disinclined to write it down to write it down.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:39] And so do you find that market or athletic performance improves even if they're already really good at what they're doing, of course, when one learns to recognize, comprehend all of one's emotions, do you find that their performance improves as a result?
Denise Shull: [00:58:54] Well, I think it's actually astonishing. The more people can recognize their fears and their frustrations and frustrations is, you know, as I've sort of already alluded to or if I haven't said directly as a code word for anger/rage, the better people perform. I mean it's really black and white to me. Like it’s just astonishing. It lets people focus, the energy gets channeled in a way that you can use it. And even if it doesn't rise to the level of channel, it stops being as disruptive.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:27] Are we talking about negative emotions mostly here? Having those new strategies for negative emotions that offer the most leverage?
Denise Shull: [00:59:33] Yeah. Yeah. I mean you can be, you know, elated and jubilant and sometimes that causes you to take more risks and there's some research showing that to be the case, but that's like, you know, in terms of people's challenges and problems feeling too positive is so low on the totem pole that I don't talk about it that much. You know, unless it's induced of course by substance, that's a different story, you know, if induced by a substance and you're avoiding a negative feeling.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:05] There's plenty of that on Wall Street as well if memory serves. I never thought of that as avoidance though. I always thought of that as like prescription strength Red Bull. But you're right, it really is just avoidance.
Denise Shull: [01:00:18] All things in moderation. Anything that's beyond moderation is suspect.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:22] Denise, thank you so much for your time. I know that a lot of people were curious. First of all, when I saw Wendy on Billions, I was like, is that a real thing? Is that a real job? I need to find this person? And then little, I can't even remember how I found you, I think I was literally flipping through Twitter and I saw your bio. I think I clicked on your profile by mistake, so this is kind of a lucky find, but is there something practical that you can leave us with because I know that you work with a lot of different high-performers from Wall Streeters to athletes and I would love to see what your first bit of advice is for someone who's listening to this and says, Oh, “I've got to do all this and I have all these positive pressure to be positive. All these negative emotions that I got to channel these things.” What would you recommend?
Denise Shull: [01:01:04] Just be gentle with yourself. Like you can nurture yourself and you can be kind to all of your thoughts and feelings and not judge them and say to yourself, I'm just going to let myself admit to what I'm thinking or feeling and see what I can deduce out of it, but I'm not going to tell myself not to think it in. Certainly not to feel it because like be that best friend to yourself that you wish you could talk to without any pressure to be positive and more with a curious mind to understand, you know, what's this really about and where this is coming? Where's this coming from? Kindness and gentleness to yourself.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:48] It seems like a tough habit for people who are used, who have gotten where they are in life by being really hard on themselves. It seems like a tough habit for them to go, you know what? Now the next step for me is to not do that anymore. All the time. 24/7.
Denise Shull: [01:02:04] Yeah. Well I can virtually guarantee this -- if that person has any sort of consistent frustration or any sort of thing in the back of their mind that they worry about, if take this approach to themselves, the consistent frustration or the thing they worry about will probably be alleviated to some degree over time. In other words, what I'm saying in a nutshell, is this will be the solution for the thing they haven't solved.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:36] Right, and this makes a lot of sense, right? Because if your intensity, if your focus, your drive got you to where you are and you have this unsolvable problem, maybe more intensity and drive and focus is actually not what's needed to solve this. Maybe you have to choose a different path and maybe this is it.
Denise Shull: [01:02:55] Yeah. Plus oftentimes the intensity drive and focus, there's a bit of a wasteland around that. It means that fears and frustrations and anger and rage or they don't go away no matter how much people think they power through them. So they just come out in different ways. So like in the Hedge Fund world, a PM might be thinking that they're not feeling any of those things while they're screaming at their people. And so the screaming, you know, may solve the immediate problem, but what does it get out of the people you know, over the next week, month, year. Like in other words, it's not like their negative emotions aren't there just because people think they power them into action. They're still there, they get distorted and turned into other kinds of behaviors that tend to get in your way in other ways.
[01:03:47] And the obvious one with high-performers is with the team around them so that the team then gets, you know, sort of, they feel underappreciated, let's just say generically and then maybe they aren't as committed or don't work as hard. And so it comes back to bite you because no man's an island, right? No one can do it completely on their own. So if you think you're powering through this, say frustration particularly, and it comes out in blame or criticism or haste or unreasonable requests, that has a cost. You just tend not to see it because you're the hard charger that's just going then hard charge through the next thing that was created by the cost of the distorted frustration that happened in the last situation.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:37] I almost called you, Wendy. Denise, thank you so much for coming on the show. That would have been one of those subconscious. Yeah, that's an easy one to dissect though. What happened was I watched too much TV. That's the reason for that. Thank you so much for your time today and your expertise.
Denise Shull: [01:04:52] Thank you Jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:54] The real life, Wendy. I love it. It's actually makes perfect sense to me that there are negative emotions that we avoid. What I didn't really realize was that those negative emotions had some sort of encoding of useful information and that we were often just repeating childhood patterns and they were really interrupting our decision making. It's a little scary. It's a little scary to think decisions I make in a high stakes environment would be influenced by something that happened to me when I was 12. That's a little scary and it's scary that other people are doing that as well.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:05:25] Yeah. A little joey on the playground stole your toy and now you're making a bad business decision. That really is kind of scary.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:31] Yeah. Or worse, right? Worse. Yeah. I mean this could happen in any field and we see it with the athletes of course with the financial folks and I'm sure it happens in politics and other areas as well, so that's a little bit, a little bit scary, but of course interesting to see the behind the curtain look at how these people address these problems when they address those problems. So great big thank you to Denise Shull. The book title is Market Mind Games and of course we'll have all of that linked in the show notes, and if you enjoyed this, don't forget to thank Denise on Twitter. That's where I found her in the first place. That'll be linked up in the show notes for this episode, which can be found @jordanharbinger.com. Also, if you tweet at me your number one takeaway here from Denise, I'm @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and I'm also on Instagram @Jordanharbinger as well.
[01:06:14] Of course, don't forget we have worksheets for today's episodes. You can make sure you understand everything that we brought through here from Denise, those takeaways, those exercises, that link to that worksheet. That'll be in the show notes at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast. And hey, if you're not subscribed, go to JordanHarbinger.com/subscribe for a list of all the ways you can connect with the show as soon as it comes out. This episode was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo, show notes are by Robert Fogarty, booking back office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. Rate and review the show on iTunes if you would. Work starting again. So it helps when we see those reviews pop up every single day. It's a nice little little boost and motivation to know that you all are still out there. And of course if you want to help us grow and I really wish you would -- share the show with those you love and even those you don't. We've got a lot more like this in the pipeline and we are very excited to bring it to you. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen and we'll see you next time.
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