Module 12 Innerworth — Mind over markets

Chapter 69

Commitment to Trading: Why It’s So Difficult

You’ve been told time and again that a strong commitment is vital to long term trading success. We’ve all seen the adverse consequences of people who are not committed to their goals, in other fields as well as trading. When one is not committed, he or she waxes and wanes, procrastinates, gives up easily, and never seems to achieve one’s goals. Accomplishing significant life goals requires a strong commitment, whether it is graduating from college, starting a business, or getting a significant promotion. But trading seems a little different; many people have a difficult time making a strong commitment. There are several good reasons why. It is useful to gain awareness and come to terms with them.

Trading is different from many professions in that the effort one puts in is not directly related to a clear and immediate payoff. With most professions, it is a certainty that the number of hours you spend learning a craft and applying it has a direct payoff. For example, if one were a mason building a wall, he or she knows with certainty that placing brick upon brick, hour after hour, will lead to the completion of the wall (The wall may look unattractive if the mason is poorly skilled, but the wall will get finished, nevertheless). There is a direct one-to-one correspondence between effort and final outcome.

When it comes to trading, in contrast, traders can put in hours of effort, but success can elude them. With trading, a threshold of skill must be achieved before rewards, or profits, are consistent. (This may be true of other professions, but whether one has the talent to learn the skills is immediately apparent to teachers and gatekeepers, and one is prevented from even trying to master the profession.) Unless one achieves a high level of trading proficiency, one may never make a dime trading. The possibility that one’s time and effort may not pay off immediately, or at all, makes a strong commitment to trading difficult to nurture. It is reasonable to question whether one will become a successful trader. A Pollyanna “can do” attitude is not going to alleviate these doubts, if deep down you know that the doubts have some truth to them.

How can one cope with this issue? There are several ways. First, accept the possibility that it may take you some time to build the skills you need to become a profitable trader. Don’t think that you MUST be profitable immediately. Second, follow the old adage, “Practice makes perfect.” Give yourself time to build the skills you need. Just as with any activity that requires skill-building, such as playing music or sports, it’s vital that you practice, enjoy the process of learning, and patiently wait to build up the necessary skills. Third, put your goals in perspective. You may need to initially set modest goals, such as learning how to “paper” trade or successfully trade small positions, before deciding to trade full time to make your entire income. Perhaps you will make it as a professional trader, perhaps you will have to settle for being a proficient amateur, but if trading is your passion, and you enjoy it, the idea that you need to spend time developing these skills should not deter you.

Becoming a trader who is consistently profitable is rare, and this fact hinders one from making a firm commitment. Many professional traders warn novices that trying to gain success overnight is daunting, unrealistic, and quite discouraging. It’s best to take it one step at a time. Gain knowledge, develop skills, and then gradually increase your position size. Even seasoned traders point out that trading is so difficult in the long term that they just take it “one day at a time,” or one trade at a time. It’s easier to develop commitment by first committing to smaller goals before striving for larger goals. Following this wisdom will help you strengthen your long-term commitment to trading.

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