Pathetic or Profitable

It is often difficult to recover from frustration of bad trading. When you make the mistakes you know you shouldn’t have made. When your read of the Market had been particularly poor and you are feeling absolutely disgusted with yourself about it.

Notice your thinking, notice your feeling, hear your self-talk. Instead of learning something from your mistakes and using frustration as merely a catalyst to do something about it, you are succumbing to your frustration, carefully nurturing it together with your ego. You do not want frustration to end, because then it will be time to take action, fixing the issues you have in your trading. You’d much rather play the victim of big bad Market, who is out there to get you.

You can be pathetic or profitable – never both.

“I cannot accept uncertainty”

I cannot accept uncertainty

Imagine how difficult it must be trading with such belief. In our daily lives we constantly strive for certainty, we want the outcome to always be expected, and yet there is just too much we can’t account for.

How do you behave and feel when you try trading with this belief?

  1. AfraidThe Market can take my money at any given moment!
  2. HelplessAnything can happen and I have no control!
  3. RestlessHow can I be at peace when I have no control over my trading even a minute from now?
  4. FrustratedAll my work is for nothing, because no matter what I do, I am not certain of any single trade!
  5. Miserable I try so hard, but all I get is more frustration each day!
  6. LostThere are no trading opportunities I can see! Any trade I consider might lose!
  7. PanickingI just placed a trade and the Market already behaves not the way I expected!
  8. EmbarrassedAll I do is making a fool of myself, I always buy at tops and sell at bottoms!
  9. Withdrawn/ApatheticI don’t even want to look at the Market, there is no doubt it will just go against me yet again…
  10. TiredThe more I analyze, the worse results I get, my efforts – all for nothing…

Well, I don’t want to go to “Suicidal”, but it is true that our beliefs can push us into dark corners of our minds indeed.

Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why do we need to be certain of the future, when we know for a fact that it’s impossible? If you need to be certain, be certain of this:

I have no idea how the Market will look a second, a minute, an hour, a day or a year from now!

So how do you trade, when nothing is certain? Just like Bruce Kovner said in “Market Wizards”:

…making your best judgment, being wrong, making your next best judgment, being wrong, making your third best judgment, and then doubling your money.

Let’s see if your thinking changes when you consider just the opposite of the belief we started with:

I completely accept uncertainty on the market. I have no idea where the price will go.

How do you feel now?

  1. LiberatedHow great it is not having to know!
  2. ConcentratedNow that I know what I don’t know, I can concentrate on my analysis better, without having to be right.
  3. ConfidentActually, now I know exactly what the outcome of my trade will be – uncertain!
  4. RelaxedMy job is to explore the opportunities, Market’s job is to show me if they work or not. I simply concentrate on my business and let the Market do its own.
  5. AmusedEach single step the Market makes is always a pleasant surprise for me – it simply teaches me and shows me where it goes.
  6. Fascinated It is amazing how balanced, harmonious the Market is, if I but let it go!

You can have the best trading system in the world, only to be ruined by your own thinking.

True, you might not become profitable even when your beliefs are in harmony with the nature of the Market, but you will become the greatest learner, watching and following the greatest teacher there is in trading.

 

“I cannot Accept the Losses”

I cannot accept the losses

One of the biggest problems of any trader is accepting this essential part of trading business.

So how do you feel and behave when you believe this about yourself?

  1. Scared – “I cannot pull the trigger because it could end up being a loss!”
  2. Powerless – “It seems there is nothing I can do to remove the possibility of losing”
  3. Hesitated – “Something must be wrong with this trade, let’s wait another day, the Market just does not feel right”
  4. Annoyed/Frustrated – “I am trying as hard as I can, and yet here is another loss!”
  5. Angry – “Damn this Market and its stupid rules!”
  6. Reckless – “I am sure this trade is right, I will not let the Market play against me and stop me out with another spike, I will just put this trade on without a stop loss…”
  7. Inconsistent – “My trading system is just not working, I must change the rules to avoid such stupid trade in the future”
  8. Depressed – “It is all hopeless – how can I ever win if I keep allowing these losses?”
  9. Disgusted – “I swear I’ll never trade as long as I live!”
  10. Foolish/Embarrased – “I was so sure about this trade, I kept telling everyone how much money I’ll make in this one!”

Notice when you allow your brain to enter into any of these patterns of thinking. Take a look through the list, see what applies to you personally.

It is a great thing if we are able to catch ourselves breaking predefined trading rules, such as our Risk Management or Entry rules. However, it is our thinking patterns that lead to breaking the rules or to any other problems in our trading. Consider for a moment, have you ever caught yourself thinking any of the above thoughts?

Being aware of our thinking is much harder than being aware of the fact that we did not put a stop loss in a trade. If you learn catching the moment when you talk yourself into not putting the stop loss you will start working with the cause of the problem, not the effect.

So let’s reverse the original statement:

I can easily accept the losses

Now, this may not be true for you at the moment, but try to imagine how you would feel, behave and trade if this thought would be your reality.

  1. I am confident – the losses do not frighten me.
  2. I am comfortable with my trading system – I accept all parts of it
  3. I am at peace with anything the Market will do – I allow it to behave in any way it needs to.
  4. I am grateful for every opportunity to place a trade – whatever the outcome of that trade might be.
  5. I find all the circumstances helpful – any outcome is completely acceptable to me and therefore I am making myself available to learn from it.
  6. I am looking forward to getting a loss – it is the greatest signal the Market could possible offer to me.

Consider the last point – isn’t it really the greatest feedback the Market could ever possibly offer to you? The Market is not against you, it is simply there to teach. It is clearly telling you, from its perspective, that your view of the circumstances was not correct at the moment when you placed the trade. What did you believe about the current market situation just before you pulled the trigger? Take that belief, reverse it and you have the corrected point of view, available to you with Market’s help.

I you are serious about working with your beliefs, consider trying this method – Katie Byron’s “The Work”.

“I do not understand the Market”

I do not understand the Market.

How do you feel when you believe this about yourself? Examine the following statements and see which ones cause the biggest emotional reaction – these are the ones you want to work on.

  1. Powerless
  2. Hopeless
  3. Stupid
  4. Like I am wasting time
  5. Frustrated
  6. Tired
  7. Angry
  8. Afraid of losing the money
  9. Afraid of looking stupid when I open a “wrong” trade
  10. Hesitated

Whatever you believe about yourself is what you are. So how do you think you would be feeling if this believe did not exist for you, if it would have completely disappeared?

  1. Free
  2. liberated
  3. Empowered
  4. Willing to pull the trigger on my trades
  5. Willing to explore the Market without resistance

Is it possible to understand the Market at all? Once again, the main question here is what do you believe “understanding” to be. Depending on how you define “understanding” it might be possible to understand the Market or it might be not.

What is understanding?

  1. Knowing where the Market will go
  2. Knowing why the price moves on the Market
    OR
  3. Knowing what the possible outcome of my trades could be

Consider which one is easier to understand about the Market. When you need to know where the Market will go, you are bound to be frustrated most of the time in your trading. If you simply need to know what could the outcome of your trades be, you will bring clarity to your trading.

If you really want to understand the Market in terms of knowing where it will go, why is that?

  1. Do you want to avoid losses?
  2. Do you want to prove that you are right?
  3. Do you want your trades to be ideal, absolutely perfect?
  4. Do you want to have confidence in your actions?

Remember, that each of the above questions must be broken down into aspects. Your belief system is extremely complicated and the answers are not likely to be found by scratching the surface.

Limiting Beliefs

Trading can often be very difficult to manage as a business, when you are doing it all by yourself. Every single day you have to get up in the morning and repeat the same tasks over and over again. It can quickly become frustrating, especially in the beginning, when you are not really seeing any outcome of your hard work.

If you have to motivate yourself every day to get started, there is a problem already present. You are not a trader just yet, because you have to overcome the resistance that is constantly present in the background. Think about some other areas of your life, your hobbies, what really interests you? Do you have to struggle to get started in these areas?

Unless we learn to do all the tasks related to trading with enjoyment, we are not traders. We are simple trying to force ourselves into becoming what we are not. The only way to solve this problem is to work with our beliefs.

Try asking yourself, what is it that generates resistance to trading work in your mind? What beliefs do you hold that constantly come up and often do not allow you to work for 8 hours straight with ease and joy?

Here is a sample list:

  1. Trading is boring
  2. It is not “right” to speculate (due to your religious, political or any other beliefs – examine those)
  3. Trading is too difficult
  4. I need someone to tell me what to do in order to do it right
  5. I don’t like working alone
  6. I can’t work from home
  7. I don’t want to spend so much time at the computer every day
  8. My family/friends do not believe in me succeeding and so I can’t take my trading seriously
  9. I am too disorganized
  10. I am lazy
  11. I am not smart enough to trade
  12. I cannot concentrate well enough
  13. I don’t like getting up so early
  14. I don’t like going to sleep so late
  15. I am not lucky (examine your beliefs related to trading being “just luck”)

I could easily continue the list on and on, but the whole point is for each of us to discover our own limiting beliefs.

Let’s examine the first belief, “Trading is boring” in more detail.

  1. I could care less where the Market will go (great, you already have one of the most important components of a successful trader!)
  2. I don’t understand the Market (do you have to?)
  3. I don’t enjoy analyzing the Market (the better you get at something, the more you enjoy it – I did not enjoy practicing guitar the first couple months too)
  4. It is too difficult to keep all the information in my head (make notes, take screenshots, write a blog!)
  5. I am too tired and I am falling asleep as I watch the Market (review your sleeping schedule and eating habits, make sure you drink water ALL THE TIME, review your alcohol/smoking/caffeine addiction)

Once again, this is just an example of how we must take each of our beliefs and break them down into aspects in order to discover what is really limiting our full potential.

Unless you are ready to become self aware and look inside yourself – trading is not for you. Stop wasting your time, your family’s money and go find something you can be truly good at.

Feeling stuck

Trading is probably one of the most difficult endeavors one can choose in life. The amount of knowledge to learn is overwhelming, the amount of information to read, process and understand in real time is pushing our limits as human beings. It can be really draining emotionally, exhausting physically. You do not get any reward from doing what you do other than monetary – and it can take much time before these monetary rewards are starting to come your way.

There is no one to support you either when you are trading privately. There is no value that you are generating for the society, unless you do so with the money you earn on the market.

Given all that, it is only normal that on many occasions you will be stuck. You will feel like quitting, depressed and frustrated. What do you do in these situations to help you move on?

First let’s see why these black stripes happen in our trading career. Interestingly enough, they are not necessarily caused by big losses that one might experience. I think we are most vulnerable to such emotional drawdowns during our learning phase. It can take years of regular trading education, including practicing the concepts on a demo or a small real account before the trader starts seeing the light in the end of the tunnel. During this time there are many challenges that we must deal with.

  1. Income generation. The chances are that any starting traders will not be able to make money consistently for more than a year – and that is a very optimistic estimate, given that there is right learning information available. It is very difficult to work another job while studying and practicing the markets.
  2. The overwhelming amount of information. Depending on your goals, you might want to implement a simple trading system and do it consistently every single day, not bothering to learn much more about the markets. This approach never worked for me, and was actually preventing me from moving forward with my trading, as I was hoping to “make it” with very simple methods, refusing to learn more.
  3. Operating under complete uncertainty.
  4. Having to do the same steps every day consistently that can be difficult physically (our brain is just like a muscle, and will get tired from too much mental work).
  5. Not having a clear work process. This is a huge one. Even if you are ready to put in all the hours required, ready to show up consistently every single day to analyze the market and find the entries according to your trading system, you will be frustrated more often than not unless you have a clear Daily plan, Journaling method, Analysis and Entry rules.

My own approach to all these issues changed greatly over the years, and only very recently I was able to work positively with them.

Five years ago I would get excited about some new trading idea, work for a week or two like crazy on it, fail to get immediate results and proceed to become extremely frustrated, abandoning all trading for many weeks. It is obvious that such attitude was preventing me from reaching any consistent success.

Two years ago I would start trading a small live account or a demo daily. I would do all the necessary analysis, put on the trades and do some notes in the journal. I would not have a systematic approach in doing it however. More often then not I would finish 2-4 weeks period with reasonable profits, but would burn out completely in the process. The result was abandoning the trading again.

Just recently I started trading consistently, analyzing the market every single day, researching different trading opportunities and putting the trades on. Despite all the technical knowledge that I accumulated over the years I am still making many mistakes and moving forward only by analyzing and working through these mistakes. I record and analyze every single trade that I place, writing a journal entry when opening the trade and another one when closing it.

Only by working through one mistake after another, one failed trade after another, I am building a consistent trading system.

The main factor that gives me confidence moving on every single day, placing the trade, not quitting, is market psychology that I’ve been learning over the past two years. My technical understanding of the markets did not change much, but my attitude has changed dramatically. Every time I see a stop loss being hit I am completely calm and accepting. Every loss I get is just another lesson. Thanks to building a very rigid money management system I am completely comfortable with the price I am paying for these daily lessons. This is when real trading education happens – after all the theory and analyzing the markets on the history.