Becoming a Successful Trader is a Process of Elimination

Becoming a trader is not a journey for the faint of heart. Becoming a successful trader is ultimately an act of determination. Not unlike the titular character of the John Wick trilogy (Quadrology? Pentology?), we traders have to be "a man of focus, commitment, sheer will." (and I'm certainly not being sexist... this goes for you female traders as well!) We have to get up early, stay up late, follow a routine, backtest, journal, rinse, and... repeat... and repeat... and REPEAT.

Focus. Commitment. Sheer will.

Ultimately, the journey of becoming a successful trader is a process of elimination, not much unlike Michelangelo sculpting his great masterpiece, David, from a mediocre piece of marble. Reportedly, someone asked the artist how he made such a magnificent sculpture from the hulking slab of what was a previously abandoned project – literally a 'leftover' piece of marble. His reply was "Simple... I just chipped away all the parts that weren't David."

Likewise, the successful trader we want to be is inside us... we just have to chip away all the pieces that are "un-traderlike".

Early in my trading journey I had several friends, who career-wise, were in "high places", who tried to convince me that the road I was about to travel was a pathway to failure. One is a fund manager who oversees 8-figure retirement accounts for wealthy clients. Another friend is an industry recognized globetrotting auditor for Fortune-100 clients. Another friend was a nuclear engineer. (All smart cookies, right?) All three tried to sway me from my plans of becoming a trader by recounting stories of friend after friend who lost their homes, lost their fortunes, lost their marriages, lost their minds, etc. after losing their proverbial shorts in the markets. Their universal theme: "Trading is a path doomed for failure. It's legalized Gambling! Nobody makes money trading."

Well, friends, just watch the news... somebody is making money in the markets, and the secret to success is to do what successful people do. My motto: "Do what successful people do, get what successful people got." Just because you are a successful accountant, a successful investor, a successful nuclear engineer, it doesn't make you a successful trader, and it's hard to take advice from someone who you respect, but has no experience in the field they are pontificating on, saying, "you can't make money doing 'X' " if they themselves have never done it. 

I'm not going to listen to my brother for financial advice... he's broke.
I'm not going to listen to my uncle for marriage advice... he's been divorced 3 times.
I'm not going to listen to my brother-in-law for business advice... he's started and shut down 10 businesses in 5 years.

Likewise, I wasn't about to listen to anyone, friends and family included, who have never traded tell me that I can't become a successful trader.

It is said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If we want to become successful at trading, we have to associate with successful traders... and we have to simply do what they did to get what they've got. We not only need to take on certain new behaviors and attitudes... more importantly we have to stop doing certain activities and stop believing certain things to start heading in the direction we want to go in our trading, or any aspect of our lives for that matter. These are the things that are preventing us from being successful. We have to take away all the "bits that aren't trader-like" and become the magnificent trader we are destined to be.

This is a simple process of elimination.

Elimination Point 1: Eliminate or limit relationships that do not support you and your goals.

I had to 'eliminate' or limit some relationships (as mentioned above, people who never traded before trying to tell me that "nobody makes money trading"), and establish new relationships (those among the trading community who are successful at trading) and follow in the footsteps of the successful. One of my mottos as I alluded to before is: "If you do what successful people do... you will get what successful people've got."

Why spend time with or take advice from someone with literally zero experience in a field they feel qualified to pontificate about?) Just look at all our FaceBook "friends" who think they're qualified to give advice on immunology, virology, or geopolitics of the Middle East. Turn that noise off... Ain't nobody got time for that!  

Elimination Point 2: Eliminate or limit activities that do not move you forward in your goals.

I love movies. One of the reasons (well, the primary reason) I built my home was that I could build my dream home theater in its massive bonus room. It has 2-tier seating, a 144" projection screen, an ear-splitting loveseat-pounding surround sound system, custom cabinetry, and so on... I would binge TV shows (7 seasons of 24, 5 seasons of Breaking Bad), I would have Movie Marathons (9 Star Wars films, 6 Middle Earth movies, 8 Fast & Furious films) and host monthly movie nights with our friends. Other hobbies included woodworking, writing, getting on the JetSki several times each week, not to mention all my other 'commitments'.

We live fast-paced, hectic lives full of 'good' things. However, our glasses are full. In order to add "developing my trading skills" to our glass we have to "empty" that glass of 'good' things in order to make room for 'better' things. This can be a very difficult thing for us to admit: We have to sacrifice the "good" for the "better." My movie routine is now simply Friday afternoons with friends and a twice-a-month movie "date night". I'm not on the lake as often as I'd 'want' to be but I'm still getting out on the 'ol SeaDoo. I haven't done a recreational woodworking project in a long while. Freeing up or reorganizing my time gave me the ability to spend at least four (and sometimes eight) hours per day to hone my trading skills and develop my own consistently profitable trading system...

Every day we need to focus on whittling away bad habits and building on good habits... Every day we need to build our trading psychology from "I hope I can trade full time someday" to "By doing what these successful traders are doing I will get what I deserve after my consistent efforts in short order!" We need to change our commitment level from "I'll find time to fit in learning how to trade when I can" to "I'm committing the time to develop this skill in order to never be dependent on an employer, customers, on the economy, ever again!" And day by day I and my fellow traders who followed this philosophy alongside me were committed to build our trading performance from a 20% win rate, to a 40% win rate, to a 60% win rate... to where we now have a reliable, consistent income from the markets.

Elimination Point 3: Eliminate all education channels but one: Become an education minimalist. 

One of the blessings of the internet today is the plethora of information available about trading. One of the curses however is you can easily find yourself "spinning plates" jumping from guru to guru, watching video after video, following technique after technique and six months later after spending hour after hour doing all that you find you are no farther ahead in your trading journey than when you started.  (I speak from personal experience!)  I one day decided to simplify: simply look at the trading styles of all my favorite traders and choose one single trading method which I thought would be the best fit for me. My goal was to turn my light bulb into a laser.

Fun fact: a 5-watt light bulb will barely keep a muffin warm. A 5-watt laser will cut through steel. If you focus all of your energy and efforts into one spot, you can literally burn through the barriers that have been holding you back from becoming the trader you want to be, the trader that you need to be.

What one technique do you know, which one mentor or trader do you respect, which one timeframe can you focus on, what one market will you trade over and over until you have the win rate you need to take your trading full time?

Elimination Point 4: Excuses. Eliminate them!

It has been said that "Excuses are reasons wrapped up in a lie." We can all justify, give a 'reason' for why we can't wake up early, why we can't stay up late, why we can't carve out 90 minutes per day to develop our skill, why we can't commit that first $10K in capital, why we can't join that trading group... 

You can make Money, or you can make excuses. You can't do both.

Find the reasons you can and will do what you need to do to get what you are committed to get. Put together a playlist of inspiring music. Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room. Read The Miracle Morning. (More importantly, don't just read it, DO the Miracle Morning!)

We don't have the time to do everything in the world that we want. But we do have the time to do everything that we need to do that is important. If you "don't have time" to trade or develop your skill to the next level then it's just not "important" enough. If you really want to be a successful trader, (the great) it has to be important enough that it will usurp the time previously committed (or squandered) on other activities (the good).

Take 15 minutes to look at what people, activities, excuses, you need to eliminate or limit, and what habits, routines, and relationships you will add or magnify in your life. Then put those items on the calendar and as the most successful ad campaign in history commands, "Just Do It!"

Trade Well!

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