Do not say Practice

BellaMike Bellafiore's (Bella's) Blogs5 Comments

I end most emails with: “Keep working on your trading game.”  We teach our traders to do the daily work each day that helps them improve.  They are training to become consistently profitable traders (CPTs).  Their ultimate goal is to become a your best trader (YBT). Apparently I could use better words to motivate my traders.

Dan Coyle, author of the Talent Code and the blog with the similar title writes that we should not use the word practice as coach and mentor.  It is not understood in the field of performance science why some are more motivated than others.  Some can practice for hours daily and never lose their drive at a disciple while others can not sustain this energy.  Those that can stay motivated become the elite performers. Dan writes that word choice to describe practice may demotivate players:

Because while the science of talent has made many advances in recent years, motivation remains an area of profound mystery. ….

I’ve come to realize that part of the problem might lie in one word.


Words are signals, and the signal the word “practice” sends is “THIS WILL PROBABLY BE BORING.”  “Practice” tells a story of dutifulness, obligation, of putting in required hours. It’s vague, devoid of spark or specificity, a slice of white bread and soggy peas slapped on a dinner plate.

Now go do your practice. I’ve gotta go to practice. We have practice all week.

That’s why I think many smart parents, teachers, and coaches are starting to avoid the word “practice” and replace it with words that tell a more precise, motivating story.


At SMB we have trained hundreds of traders worldwide.  I used to never know who would work the hardest.  After six years as a trading coach, I know better who will but can be surprised.  Sustained effort is a baseline minimum to become a CPT and then YBT.  So we have to get this motivation part right.

We could tell our traders to “train”.  We could say, “rehearse your trading.”  We might even say,”play”.  I have started making these changes with my students.

I have my doubts.  If you do not love trading and feel a connection with the daily review that must be done to succeed, are you going to do it because I say “rehearse your trading?” It seems to me and the great work Flow would support me you either enjoy trade review or you don’t.  If you don’t after some time, you will stop.  If you do, you will review your trading daily.  Aren’t we all just searching for that game where are interests meld with our talents?


Mike Bellafiore

One Good Trade




5 Comments on “Do not say Practice”

  1. Thanks for this, Bella. It’s enjoyable when you share your insights into the broader concepts of training.

    At the beginning of the book, The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, he talks about the first time that he is taught chess in a formal way. His coach, Bruce Pandolfini, doesn’t immediately start teaching. Instead he asks him about his life, he plays games, he forms a relationship first, and then, when they begin with chess, Bruce makes sure that what they do is fun. He knew that if motivation is lost, the student would not survive long enough to become an expert.

    Of course, then they cooperatively pushed Josh to his limits and sometimes beyond. 😉

    I spent about 20 years in software development as a project manager/producer before becoming a trader, and it shocked me how few managers understood this simple concept. Too many were authoritarian, even cruel, with their employees, yet they were always surprised when workers burned out long before the project was complete.

  2. Jeff,

    Had the priviledge of sittin down for lunch w Josh. Great book. Loved your anecdote! Thxs 4 sharing

  3. Bella, I agree with Dan Coyle’s words above when a coach is trying to engage a student who may not be a top performer in a craft that requires a high level of concentration, mental power, and engagement (trading, chess, etc.).

    But when a coach is dealing with a high performer, I have to disagree with his comments above. I do not think the motivation aspect is a mystery; it is just different for every person. You either have it or you dont. For example, I am motivated to trade and get better everyday because I grew up with lacking financial means. As a result, I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to become financially independent. It just so happens that I think trading will get me to my goal one day. That is my motivation and the reason I can sustain a high level of energy while studying trades and other traders. I am sure every top performer has their own reason for sustained motivation, but, most likely, no deep rooted motivation will be the same.

    The word “practice” doesn’t scare or bore a high performer. I believe it is another motivating factor for them.

  4. You can learn to like the process when rewarding yourself after doing it. Subconsciously, it might become a habit that way. Also, “game” sounds like a challenge you can win, while “practice” sounds like school homework.

  5. Before I was a trader, I coached high school baseball on a very high level. We won state championships and a bunch of personal awards. I found the players who were the most talented need the most motivation to put the extra time and work in because they were just naturally better than anyone else on the field. Either on the field or in the weight room, I always used the words “train” or “work out”, but rarely did I use practice. This motivated them because they were conditioned to work hard or train hard. Practice tends to be boring and repetitive, but training, training is preparing for battle. We would “work out” in the weight room and on the field, and I would get max effort on both because someone who “works out” hard in the weight room isn’t going to “work out” easy once they get on the field. I see some value in using key words to motivate people, but they have to be conditioned. We would “train” or “work out” hard in weight room during the off season, and when it came time to step on the field, we would also “train” or “work out” hard on the field. Thanks. – Stuart Miller SMB Forex

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