Sunday, December 27, 2020

What Distinguishes Professionals From Amateurs

I see some traders tackle markets for years and never achieve even basic competence.  Then I work with others that achieve unusual success in their first years.  What makes the difference?  Yes, work ethic and skill/talent sets matter quite a bit, but what increasingly hits me between the eyes is the difference in the learning process between amateurs and developing pros.  Here are two of those differences that make a difference:

1)  Professionals keep score - Can you imagine a weightlifter who doesn't track how much they're lifting, how many reps they're doing, which muscle groups they're working, how much body mass they're adding?  Conversely, consider the golfer who uses sensors and apps to track their golf swings, identifying details of what they're doing right and wrong on various courses and holes.  Pro basketball teams review game film in agonizing detail; amateurs leave the game behind once they leave the court.  In trading, we can easily keep score, with performance stats ranging from how much heat we take on a trade to how much we make and lose for various types of trades.  What amazes me is that, when traders keep score, they learn about strengths and weaknesses in ways that they do not when they just review their weekly or monthly P/L.  As I recently shared in my article on building your personal process, I have been using the Fitbit Sense and MuseS units to track my sleep, exercise, stress levels, focus, and much more.  To my surprise, I might think that I'm calm and focused, but all the data sometimes tell me otherwise!  By constructing daily exercises and keeping score, I'm getting better and better at my own trading psychology.  If a psychologist needs to keep score to improve mindset, the odds are pretty good that most of us could benefit.  :)

A couple of tools for tracking performance and keeping score are TraderVue and Edgewonk.  What I find with the successful developing SMB traders is that how they use such tools makes all the difference.  When the score keeping leads to small, steady, consistent improvements in trading, the result is an amazing improvement in trading consistency.  Once that consistency is achieved, sizing can be increased without undue downside exposure.  The traders that simply track P/L and state global goals ("I need to eliminate my overtrading") simply do not make the detailed improvements that lead to consistency.

2)  Professionals emphasize logistics - An amateur plans a surprise attack on the enemy; a pro works out the details of how troop movements will be hidden, how to deliver timely air support, where to achieve quickest exit from the battle area, etc.  Similarly, amateurs talk about "setups".  Professionals identify precise ways to gauge real time price movement shiftsorder flow and sentiment to achieve superior reward relative to risk.  Professionals have different ways to trade different kinds of markets; amateurs approach the market with a one-size-fits-all mentality.  Tools such as Market Profile (volume traded at each price level and the distribution over time); Delta (volume traded at market offer and bid prices through the day); and anchored Volume-Weighted Average Price enable traders to take good ideas and turn them into great trades.  Brian Shannon's work on tracking opportunity across multiple time frames is an excellent example of how logistics make the difference between a successful tactic and an unsuccessful one.  Mike Bellafiore's work on "playbooks" also illustrates how work on trading logistics can become part of a robust trading process.

There will always be "gurus" who want to tell you that there are easy ways to make money in markets or that success can be found in chart patterns or mindsets.  The simple truth is that if the majority of traders pursued *any* performance field without keeping score and building logistics, they would fail.  Every professional starts as an amateur.  It's how they work on their craft that makes all the difference.

As we count down the wild year of 2020, I would like to wish all readers a happy, healthy, and successful 2021.  With fewer but more in-depth blog posts and Forbes articles and trading coach videos to support the ideas, my hope is to provide traders with the largest repository of free trading psychology materials in the world.  The great traders don't have a passion for trading; they have a deep and sustained passion for self-improvement.  Markets are simply the canvas upon which they paint their masterpiece.

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