At every trading firm where I've worked in recent years, I've observed winning traders and ones that struggle to win. What makes the difference? What are stand-out qualities of stand-out traders? Five characteristics are especially notable:
* Successful traders trade uniquely - They look at markets differently from consensus. They process different information and they process the same information differently. They have found a way of making sense of markets that makes deep sense to them and that grounds their decision making.
* Successful traders are multidimensional - They have ways of making money in different markets and in different market conditions. They are flexible; they find ways to win in difficult market conditions.
* Successful traders work at their trading - They work on themselves and they work at markets. When markets are closed, they're still engaged in their work. Their focus is on self-improvement. They don't just set goals; they live them.
* Successful traders know when to not trade - They wait for opportunities, they pull back their risk taking when they're not perceiving opportunity. It's not that successful traders are always successful. It's that their success springs from knowing how to not lose when they're not seeing the ball well.
* Successful traders are self-aware - They know their limitations, and they know what they do well. They are quick to recognize when they're not "in the zone" and they also recognize when they are seeing unusually good opportunities. They are not afraid to say, "I don't know".
A very significant proportion of successful traders have been mentored by successful traders. Success breeds success.
A very significant proportion work in teams, relying on others who they can mentor and make successful. Success becomes a team sport, with everyone making each other better.
There is nothing static about the successful traders I've known. They are continually learning and adapting, and they are continually searching for fresh opportunity. Performance is not simply something they are good at; it's a way of life.
Further Reading: Two Great Predictors of Trading Success