Survival Before Learning

If you are trading without first assuring your survival, you are just playing a game, a crazy gamble that a drunkard places over the weekend in Las Vegas casino. No real trader who aspires to reach constant profitability will participate in the Market without first assuring their survival.

The above is absolutely essential and goes without saying. It is assumed by default that your risk and money management, as well as psychological well-being, are taken proper care of.

What’s next?

Before anything else, you need the willingness to put in countless hours of work into the Market. Only this will allow you to gain this important subjective feel of the Market as you watch it. The trading ideas will come to you effortlessly and it will only remain for you to execute them. This is how you build your trading system.

Ask yourself: “Why am I not putting enough time into watching the Market? Why am I not willing to take losses, make mistakes and yet continue with my method, learning and improving with each passing day?” Find the answers. Write them in your diary. Propose the solution and implement it.

When you spend enough time on trading and seemingly totally committed to your success in trading, ask yourself this: “Why am I not acting on each and every idea I have? Why am I closing the trades before my targets are reached or my system tells me to close them? What am I afraid of?”

Honestly answering these questions in your daily diary will lead to important improvements to your trading system. Go back to the first step – putting countless hours of work – and repeat the process times and times again, with humble understanding that you will never be good enough to cease improving your method and your execution of it.

Above all else, remember – it is only possible to go through this difficult process when you have absolutely, perfectly ensured your financial and psychological survival! You cannot be worrying about your well-being or losing more than you can afford to lose AND going through the mandatory learning process of taking losses, making mistakes and being clueless.

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.

Your Diary

We can all agree about the value of books, from which we learn so much. But how about the most important book you could every have?

The book that matters most in your life can only be written by you. No one (at least of this world) knows you better than you are. Much of this knowledge is hidden deeply in your unconscious mind and it is up to you to uncover it.

I consider my habit of writing in my diary as the most important aspect of my personal, professional and spiritual development. Your diary is the best friend you can ever hope to have in this physical world and it will honestly reflect the most important lessons back to you.

How many words have you already written in your diary this year? Six months have passed, how much did you learn, how many lessons did you uncover? How many mistakes have you documented, hopefully never to be repeated again?

If your answer is “zero”, you honestly can say that most of the past six months have been wasted for your growth. You are not aware of where you were going, and therefore, you cannot know where you are. But I can assure you of this – where you’re right now, is the only place you need to be. This is your path, you had to live these last 6 months unconsciously. And reading these words right now is not an accident either. Now, you may decide to change the road you’re on, never to look back.

If you say “less than 10 000”, you may have skipped many days, or even weeks, not reflecting on your day, not being aware of your path. Or maybe you are so concise that less is really more for you – not having such gift myself, I can only congratulate you!

“About 50 000” would mean an average of about 300 words a day. A great point of balance – just enough to state yourself clearly, reflect upon your lessons and move on with your life. On a couple more difficult days, however, you may consider expanding the self-analysis.

And if your answer is “more than 100 000”, I am glad I am not alone in knowing not the limit and suffering from verbal diarrhea.

“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”.

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.

The most important belief

By far the most important belief on the Market is in myself.

Throughout the years I’ve been always trying to perfect my trading system, analyzing each losing trade and trying to figure out what went wrong. I always assumed that any loss means that I didn’t recognize some obvious hint the Market was giving me. I assumed I made a mistake that must be fixed before I take the next trade. That kept me going in circles for many years.

The problem with that attitude is that I was believing that it is possible to be always right. I wanted to be always right. In essence, I didn’t have any belief in myself so I was trying to build an ideal trading system that I could believe in.

A breakthrough was the realization that some trades are simply not working out. There is nothing wrong with them whatsoever. They were taken at the right time and at the right price in the right direction. And yet, the Market did not go in that direction.

When I define “the right trade” or “the right direction” in terms whether the trade made profit I am in for trouble. Basically, I am making sure that any loss will make me “wrong”. A different attitude is to define “the right trade” as the trade that has been taken according to my trading system, without any anxiety or hesitation. The trade might still lose me money, but it is “right” because it wins in the long term. Even when the trading system is not good enough to give me a winning edge, the trade is still “right”, because by following my rules I will soon find out the problems in my system and improve it.

On the other hand, when I judge every losing trade as “wrong”, I will experience emotional pain. If a trade is capable of causing me pain, disturbing my emotional balance, I will soon develop a fear of taking a trade. When I start hesitating pulling the trigger, my belief in myself is further diminished. Before I know it, I am trying to improve my trading system again, trying to make sure it will never lose and become the Holy Grail I can believe in.

Until we can fully believe in what we are doing we can never become consistent in trading. If there are no rules in your trading, you are going nowhere. If there are rules in your trading, which you constantly adjust to make sure the Market does not cause you emotional pain, you are going in circles still. We have to change what’s inside before we can start seeing what’s outside clearly.

 

Market Advance featured on Your Trading Coach

When anyone who knows about Your Trading Coach, reads back into my old blog posts, it should become obvious to them that my understanding of Price Action was heavily influenced by Lance’s approach. Even though my trading system is mid to long term, I am reviewing his Price Action articles anytime I feel like I cannot read the current market structure.

I am very pleased that he decided to show some of my trades on his blog, so that his readers can see that the same principles apply to any market, on any timeframe.

I would like to emphasize, that when I say his blog influenced my understanding of the market, I do not mean that I read it once, had an “a-ha” moment and realized how to trade profitably, never to lose again. The only reason his writing is helping me is because I am coming back to it every single week – not only to read his new article, but to look through the old posts in all categories that he writes. We do not learn by reading some idea once, we learn by systematically reminding ourselves the important principles in that idea and applying them in our daily practice.

If you read “Market Wizards” by Jack Schwagger, you will note that the best traders in the world are constantly improving by learning from other professionals in the field. I do not recall a single interview in the book where the trader would not show his respect for other’s work and would not acknowledge the fact that he is still learning from other traders, books, market newsletters and of course the market itself. It goes to show that no matter how successful a professional trader is, he still needs to constantly learn and improve.

Eleven years ago, when I was just starting getting interested in the market, I was believing that I need to learn for a year, possibly two, and then I will just enjoy trading my system and spending the profits. Now, more than a decade later, I am learning much more than when I started, spending more hours each day on learning (certainly spending more time studying the market than actually trading it) and only recently starting to open trades in the right places. I came to realize, that the essence of anything we want to do well in this life, is in constant studying and practice. There is no point where we can stop learning and relax. Instead, we relax by enjoying the learning process, constantly fascinated by the infinity of knowledge we are yet to learn.


 

Part of my everyday trading process, is reading selected market books. Along with new books I add to my library every couple months, there are some that I continue reading every single day. “Trading in the Zone” by Mark Douglas and “Market Wizards” by Jack Schwagger are only two examples without which any progress in my trading would not be possible.

I have read “Trading in the Zone” in Russian when I just got interested in trading eleven years ago, but unfortunately I could not see how it will help me to make any money trading. I put it aside, and continued pursuing more “Holy Grail” trading methods, confident that I will find the one that NEVER loses – why do I need any trading psychology then? Nine years later I was still learning about the market, developing new trading systems, still unable to make any consistent profit, still not finding the “Holy Grail”. Realizing that I am not getting anywhere I started looking for answers, and noticed the book again on Amazon, while shopping for new technical analysis bibles. I bought it in English about a year and a half ago and it made all the difference for my trading performance (I was very lucky to stumble upon Lance’s blog about six months later as well).

Since then I have read “Trading in the Zone” fifteen times, taking notes, highlighting important parts. I cannot emphasize enough how many new insights I am getting with each new reading. Every single day I put a timer for 10 minutes and read it again. Today I am on page 87, and as soon as I am done, I simply go back to page 1.

Last year I was living in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and on 15th of September we had the biggest hurricane in modern Baja history – Odile –  hit the town. After one scary night we found ourselves in a house without a single window, ocean water covering everything. Almost all the books in my library got damaged. Still, I decided not to buy them again and instead try to restore them. Here is a photo of my copy of “Trading in the Zone” today:

"Trading in the Zone" by Mark Douglas
“Trading in the Zone” by Mark Douglas
"Trading in the Zone" by Mark Douglas
“Trading in the Zone” by Mark Douglas

 

I am not trying to say that this particular book or Price Action based trading system is a “Holy Grail”. Instead, I am saying that the attitude of constant learning and improvement, such as you can clearly see in Your Trading Coach blog, is that illusive “Holy Grail” that every trader is trying to find outside, not realizing that it’s always been inside – hidden by our ego and only waiting to be developed.