The First Lesson of Trading: You Stink

A trader on our desk shared this email sent to him by another trader on our desk.  It offers a great lesson to the new and developing trader based on the work of Dr. Steenbarger and a trader’s individual experience.

I was reading the first chapter of Enhancing Trader Performance by Dr Steenbarger today and I realized that I was going about my trading completely wrong. He describes that to get to a level of elite performance you have to go through three stages:

1) Early phase- having fun with the new style of trading and exploring it to find if it truly speaks to you. Learning about trading in this timeframe and being minimally involved bc you are in an introduction phase

2) Middle phase- emphasize in skill development, where you acquire basic knowledge and work on skill building and now put effort to learn specific techniques to this performance field

3) Late phase- mastery of the performance activity that becomes a life focus and is met with intense mentoring, journaling, and self observation to push you toward being an elite performer in your field

These made sense to me but a couple lines really caught my attention

“working our way through the earlier steps in the developmental process is necessary for moving on to the later phases”

“achievement of elite performance cannot begin with the hard core pursuit of mastery, yet that is what so many traders try to do”

“the implications are profound: to develop expertise as a trader, the imposition of discipline and deliberate practice is NOT the first step to be taken- the first and often the one so often forgotten by new traders- is to simply have fun”

This really got me thinking about how I have been approaching trading lately, basically I went from trying to get better every day in the training program to having this mindset that I have to make money or else I am not successful when I started trading live. Essentially, I am trying to be at step 3 instead of working my way through step 1 and 2. After work, if I made money that day I start thinking how awesome I am and that I am going to be a multimillionaire in a few years, to where if I lose I think that I am a terrible trader and how could I have made some of those trades during the day when I know that they were bad in the first place and were strictly emotionally based.I really don’t know what caused the sudden shift in attitude or mindset but I know now that I need to get back toward the process of skill development and simply having fun by learning new things each day, rather than being focused solely on results (which really mean nothing for me one month in). So instead of focusing on pnl I am going to judge my day based on if I am better than I was the day before.

I need to focus on learning the craft of trading and not making money

I am going to trade the open on the demo for the first 30 minutes until I feel comfortable trading it live. There is so much opportunity but I need to develop this skill first.

I am going to trade much less than I have been. I have been glued to my screen pretty much all day and I have no energy left at the end of the day to review trades and to ask questions to traders bc I am wiped mentally. I am going to review my morning trades at lunch and watch tape of my trading. This is where I will get better and not by trading so many stocks that it is impossible to really know what I did well or what I need to eliminate. If I am in a position then I will monitor it and if I miss a trade so what.

Basically like we talked about I am just going to take it much slower and relax by not being tied mentally to my pnl at the end of the day. Yes I want to make a lot of money but I need to start developing good habits first and worry about the money later.

Thoughts?

Bella

One Good Trade

10 Comments on “The First Lesson of Trading: You Stink”

  1. This is a great mindset for any trader to be in, no matter how long you have been trading.
    The thing with being new, at least for me, were the words “discipline,  patience, and rules.
    As a human being, we all know the definition of these words, and as traders we hear/ repeat them constantly.
    I don’t think a new trader can really understand the true essence in the meaning of those words, until the trader has sat in front of the computer, stopped out for the day/ week, watching trades that the trader should be in and all he/ she can do is say to themselves ” if I had only waited”.
    Good luck, trade smart.
    Thanks, Justyn

  2. Interesting…but, i believe it is incorrect to say that all great traders must go through the above steps to achieve elite performance.  The journey is different for each of us.  Having fun is good, but understanding the difference between having fun and getting high from your winners is important.  If you trade to feel “high” from a big win, you’re certainly having fun.

  3. Problem with most new traders is that they come and think they are going to make money from first minute of trading. It does not work in any other field and why should it work in trading. 

    Kaizen is technique that made Toyota can producer NO1 in the world. Small improvements every day, even when you are in this business for 10 year or more. One should never stop working, simply because markets are constantly changing.

    If you love trading then you should not sprint to make few billion by the end of next year. Trading is marathon it is not sprint, and few months on the beginning (that can make or break you as trader) in the greater scheme of 20, 30 years of trading mean nothing

    Trade to trade well. 

  4. Problem with most new traders is that they come and think they are going to make money from first minute of trading. It does not work in any other field and why should it work in trading. 

    Kaizen is technique that made Toyota can producer NO1 in the world. Small improvements every day, even when you are in this business for 10 year or more. One should never stop working, simply because markets are constantly changing.

    If you love trading then you should not sprint to make few billion by the end of next year. Trading is marathon it is not sprint, and few months on the beginning (that can make or break you as trader) in the greater scheme of 20, 30 years of trading mean nothing

    Trade to trade well. 

  5. Focusing on money is not a bad way to develop performance.. a good trader knows when he is trading well vs poor. Trading on simulator will help with that.. Trading with small size if possible is worthwhile too. I recommend trading live at the beginning of the day and then switching to the simulator. I tend to make more mistakes toward the end of the day and that is true for most people. This structure provides for all day training while not giving back profits. I recommend to keep a live platform open at all times while sim trading so that one can take the best opportunities if need arises…

  6. its only natural to focus on our pnl to determine our growth/success as traders, but I think that takes away our focus from skill development (which is most important in the beginning stages) and enjoying the process of becoming a professional trader. I had this problem myself.

    Trading on the simulator is great but u don’t get the full picture of trading. Its one thing to hold 100, 400, even 1000 shares on the demo and another thing to trade live with real capital (from my personal experiences anyway). You truly discover emotions u never knew existed and that’s when u learn more about yourself and hopefully learn self-discipline, patience, and self-control (to name a few positive traits).

  7. Process makes the results happen, first things first!  Do the right things and the profits will follow.

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