Sunday, September 06, 2020

What Predicts Success Among Developing Traders?

I've spent many years working with developing traders and have learned a good amount about what makes some successful and others not.  Below is a summary of what I've learned:

1)  Motivation and passion for trading and succeeding are not predictive of success - Not all who profess motivation are hard workers and not all hard workers work the right ways.  Starting out with a drive to make money is, if anything, associated with greater odds of failure and emotional upheaval.  There *is* an association between dedicated effort and success (see #2 below), but it's the ability to channel motivation into constructive effort that is key to success.  The louder the trader professes passion and motivation, the more I dig to look for substance.  I generally come away with very little.

2)  The learning that goes on before a trader puts money at risk and the effort that goes into learning when markets are not open are predictive of success - The consistency and intensity of the learning process distinguish those who succeed.  The amount of detail in their journals/reviews and the ways in which the reviews build upon one another over time are big predictors of success.  Unsuccessful traders take away isolated, fragmented bits of learning from each day and week.  Successful traders have a curriculum in mind:  they learn in a cumulative, coordinated fashion.  True deliberate practice is a significant predictor of success.

3)  Innovation is predictive of success - I consistently see successful traders develop multiple ways to profit in markets.  They don't look at the same things as everyone else, and they don't think about markets the same way.  I recently spoke with a trader who utilizes options structures to trade patterns associated with macroeconomic data releases.  Sometimes his trades capture patterns of volatility, sometimes directional patterns, sometimes patterns of relative value.  He is playing on a multidimensional chess board, and that provides him with multiple ways of winning.

As Mike Bellafiore and I emphasized in our recent podcast with Tradeciety, success in markets comes in stages:  first with learning concepts; then by observing patterns in markets; then by practicing trading and developing consistency in performance; then by sizing up risk and cultivating new sources of edge.  A very common source of failure among traders is the temptation to short-circuit this process.  

Now here's a key takeaway:  It's the quality of the learning process that shapes the positivity of a trader's mindset.  A positive psychology does not create success.  A positive psychology is the result of focused learning and the exercise of creative problem solving.  No amount of self-help exercises will substitute for skill development and the capacity to uncover fresh sources of opportunity.  There is a surprising overlap between the qualities of successful traders and the qualities of successful entrepreneurs.  Innovation + focus + detailed effort turns dreams into realities.

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