The Science of Success

The Mental Tools Olympians, Traders, & Top Performers Use To Make High Pressure Decisions with Denise Shull

June 15, 2017
In this episode we ask can, and should, we set aside our emotions to make decisions in huge, high stakes environments (like trading)? How to channel and listen to your emotions to make even better decisions, learning from negative emotions, how historical echoes in our life create repeated behavior patterns, and much more with Denise Shull. 
Denise Shull is a decision coach, performance architect, and founder of the Re-Think Group. She utilizes psychological science to solve the issues of mental mistakes, confidence crises, and slumps in Olympic Athletes and Wall Street Traders. Her Book Market Mind Games has been described as “The Best of It’s Genre” and “The Rosetta Stone of Trading Psychology”. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, The New York Times, and consulted on the SHOWTIME Drama series Billions as one of the inspirations for Maggie Siff’s character - Wendy Rhodes.
We discuss:
  • How Denise studied the neuroscience of emotions and unconscious thought but ditched her PHD to become a trader
  • Can (and should) we set aside our emotions in a high stakes environment like trading?
  • Why you should consciously incorporate your emotions into your decisions to make the best decisions
  • Feelings, thoughts, emotions, and physical body are all part of one integrated system and you have to think about it as an integrated continuum
  • Your psyche is trying to get important information to you by turning up the volume of your emotions
  • We should focus on finding the valuable kernel of information that our emotions are sending us
  • How do we learn from negative emotions (such as fear and anxiety)
  • Being able to differentiate between granularity of anxiety helps you process the feelings better
  • If you didn’t have some level of anxiety you would never do the preparation necessary
  • Define, as clearly as possible, the things you are afraid of, own it, connect head to stomach, and describe it with the word. (your psyche will feel like you got the message through)
  • Once your anxiety and fear feel acknowledged it naturally dissipates
  • The vital importance of journaling and being gentle and kind to yourself, to help you understand your emotions
  • Everyone has all kinds of feelings, everyone doubts themselves on some level, the top performers, hedge fund managers, and olympic athletes  - its part of the human condition
  • How can historical echoes create repeated behavioral patterns?
  • The critical period for who we are and how we relate in the world happen very early - as Freud called them “the compulsion to repeat”, and as Denise calls them “echoes” or “fractals”
  • How studying traders and their trades showed Denise that people would trade in accordance with their life stories, and the patterns and mistakes they made repeated themselves again and again
  • Negative feelings are a mechanism to look and understand the fractals from our past and exploring child hood experiences can help you uncover more about them
  • The importance of doing the historical work, digging into your childhood, asking yourself “how would I have felt” (so you can get past the filter of “oh that didn’t bother me”)
  • An amazing question you can ask yourself about past events - how would someone else have felt about that? That question helps you break past the self denial that it did hurt you. 
  • Repetitions of past mistakes are opportunities to reorganize things you weren't able to deal with in your past
  • Always ask - what would someone else think about that, how would someone else feel about this in the situation? You will often project your own feelings onto someone else
  • We primarily think that discipline will change behavior, which is not always the case
  • Feelings are the foundations of our consciousness, thoughts are built on top of that, you have a lot more leverage working on your feelings 
  • Why you can’t solve everything with your head
  • The inaccuracies of the model of the “triune” brain - no neuroscientist at the cutting edge of neuroscience believes that anymore
  • The vital importance of sleep, exercise, and cultivating your physical system as part of building mental performance
  • One of the biggest commonalities between peak performers - dedication to getting better, putting in the work and the preparation, regardless of what it takes
    • Break down all the core pieces you need to achieve your goal
    • Understand how those pieces fit together
    • Execute every piece
  • The other major commonality of peak performers - self awareness
  • How to take negative energy to use that to help you continue to prepare towards your goals
  • How a lot of people ignore the social and emotional aspects of performance despite the massive leverage available to working there
  • Why the biggest mistake high performers make is to set aside their emotions
  • Unconscious setting feelings and emotions aside by being over scheduled - overactivity / constant distraction never gives you the opportunity to understand and dig into your emotional life
  • Know your feelings without judgement, take a step to try and understand what the kernel of that feeling is
  • You, your feelings and experiences matter and you need to take time to honor them
  • And much more!