Sports Stars, Prop Trading and Real Motivation

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Last night I was watching a game of soccer and I got thinking about motivation in sport and the similarities of the issues traders face. Potentially one of the biggest issues a retail trader faces is finding the motivation to succeed. I’m not talking about the motivation to learn and try to do the right things in order to succeed – and many would immediately discount themselves from this equation – I’m talking about the sheer determination to be successful and to not fail. I mean the drive that takes you to the next level, beyond your emotional comfort zone and almost heightens your reactions somehow. Some people may find they have this fight within them naturally, but for many others it’s not as simple as that.

The Rat Race

Thinking back to prop shops, although they had their drawbacks the “sink or swim” method of auditioning new recruits for the big stage did act as a big motivation to those who had a genuine desire to succeed. Fail and you lose your job, but succeed and you’ve got a great chance of making it. But like footballers (soccer players), retail traders don’t always have this “motivator”.

A typical footballer playing top level (or even some of the lower leagues) is very talented. They probably would like to be hugely successful and win titles. But if they aren’t, they’re still going to be paid extremely well. They’re still going to be in with a shout of achieving success one day. They’re still going to be comfortable. And you see so many players like this who you know have the talent and ability to be hugely successful yet they don’t get there. So what makes the difference with the ones who do succeed if there’s no fear factor driving them forward?

The Talent/Performance Myth

Well I don’t believe it’s something that is simple and happens overnight for starters. This is one of the reasons you see certain soccer teams (and other sports) always managing to be competitive. True, the top teams tend to have the best players. But the additional talent that these teams have rarely accounts for the greater level of performance that they manage to maintain. If it were purely based on talent, would you ever see a team of superstars fall from grace? Would you ever see a relatively lowly team go out and cause an upset by beating a top team? But you do see these things happen.

A Mental Recipe!

I think what really creates the “hunger” you see in some players comes down to a combination of psychological factors built upon skills and results. I’ll call it a recipe of the factors to success that a soccer team must have to some extent in order to develop success. Each ingredient may be good on its own but you need a little bit of everything to make it a great dish. And I believe that the same principles can work for the retail trader who is also perpetually in their comfort zone.

  1. Empowerment – they are given the appropriate tools and instructions that they believe they can succeed with.
  2. Focus on attainable targets – they are told to take things one game at a time and to focus on the present.
  3. Get psyched up – technical and mental ability are both important, but a strong emotional drive can be a powerful ally.
  4. Confidence and belief – with results, they gain belief and go on multiple game winning runs.
  5. Mental resilience – the best teams keep these runs up because they have built up such belief and confidence that their mind-set is resilient to setbacks.

Without one or more of these factors, you could see a team go on a good run. It’s the same thing with traders and winning streaks. But it’s when things don’t go quite according to plan that a trader or a footballer with an incomplete mind-set will struggle to regain composure and form. They will be inconsistent in their application and their results.

Just One More Thing

Now there is just one additional factor involved in a footballer’s motivation that’s absent in the world of retail trading. A footballer usually wants to play – so they have to meet a minimum standard in order to do so. Although it’s not quite the same as the “sink or swim” prop shop model, it does provide a motivation to perform. Not only that, but as a measure of performance they are compared with a peer group of other footballers. So as a footballer or a prop trader, there is a degree of natural competition within a group. With retail trading, this isn’t naturally present. So finding a group of like-minded and open traders who are willing to share and compete could be a crucial spark to really get you going.

Whenever we read about the psychological aspects of trading, the subject are usually focused on topics with fear at their roots. But drive is usually where most retail traders are lacking as it rarely exists by default in this environment. If you take the time to cultivate an environment and mind-set where drive and determination have the chance to flourish, you’ll give yourself a competitive edge over other traders.

Trade well.

For more updates from Mark and the team at NetPicks, be sure to visit their trading tips blog at NetPicks.com.