You know those lists of personality traits or characteristics of ‘good traders’ – what happens after you read them? Do you get excited? Do you become hopeful? Do you become worried that maybe you don’t have the right stuff? Moreover, will reading about it make you a better trader?
That’s the big question, right? Does reading that stuff help you become a better trader? For the vast majority, my bet is that it doesn’t help at all! In fact, for most traders it triggers a very personal and particular sense of worry….I don’t have the right stuff….Will I ever have the right stuff? How do I get the right stuff?
Then along comes an ad, a tweet, a webinar, or blog piece that promises to show you the path. Hypnotic suggestions, meditation, affirmations, positive thinking, NLP, Tapping, ‘brain balancing’…etc. I threw in ‘brain balancing’ because I recently spoke to a trader who was very angry, telling me, “I wasted money on brain balancing”.
The list of things promising to make you a better trader seems almost endless.
Most of the people selling you that stuff are not that different from the people selling you the ‘trading edge that works’. I like to refer to them as dream merchants. They are selling you a dream, not reality.
Whether it is the dream of freedom from trading mistakes, freedom from the job you want to quit so you can trade full-time, or just the idea of financial freedom – “be the master of your own destiny’ – ‘learn to make xx dollars per day’ – ‘supplement your nest egg and secure your retirement’, or whatever. They are simply preying on your desire on some level or another. They’re not actually giving you what truly need.
What you actually need is the ability to tolerate discomfort in all its various forms – losing, being wrong, waiting, taking heat, booking a profit and see it continue without you, missing out, etc. This is the stuff of trading!
And here’s the kicker…much of our response begins on a subconscious emotional level, with the final act – the actual behavior – showing itself as a “trading mistake”. Or series of related mistakes. Often part of a theme that gets repeated.
Here’s what I know from my own personal trading experience and having worked with many traders, some great (and famous) and some not so great; when we experience distress or discomfort in any way, or have a strong feeling about the market or a trade, it’s very important to pay attention to it and work towards understanding why you feel that way.
It’s not just important, it’s critical because it is the difference between staying stuck and moving to a new level in your trading. Reading or hearing someone tell you to eliminate your emotions or control them may sound logical on the surface, but in reality it’s not only impossible, it’s counter-productive. Feelings are important data points for a trader.
Trading is about actions – buying and selling – and this is how we begin to control our actions despite experiencing distress.
We may not be able to control our feelings, but if you understand why you feel the way you do – getting at the deeper roots of your feelings (they usually connect to other areas of our lives – self-worth, social status, current and past relationships, upbringing, etc) you put yourself on the path towards controlling your actions. Understanding the deeper roots of your feelings is a special type of work. It happens to be one of my specialties.
So, next time you read one of those lists or hear a promise made to you about how you can be a better trader, please remember what I wrote. I get emails from many traders who tell me about their troubles and how they invested in this or that only to find themselves right back making the same mistakes! Please don’t be one of them…
To learn more from Andrew, be sure to register for his blog updates at AndrewMenaker.com.