The Single Most Important Factor In Achieving Trading Success May Surprise You.

There is no victory in any battle without pain and suffering. In the world of trading, that sacrifice is ‘psychological discomfort’, and the victory comes from learning how to cope with and manage it.

Psychological discomfort is the ‘Elephant in the Room’ of trading. Largely unspoken yet suffered by everyone whose chosen career is trading.

Our most important relationship: the relationship we have with our ‘self’.

In trading the assumption is that your main opponent is the market. That is why we hear terms like ‘beating the market’, but this is misleading. In reality the market is the terrain that a trader has to navigate. In that sense it is comparable to a mountain for a climber, or the sea to a sailor. Like the seas, the market does not have an agenda against you and has no intention to beat you, instead it exists like a natural phenomenon. The market is not the enemy but merely the terrain that needs to be encountered and navigated. The real opponent for a trader is their self.

Thus, it is the relationship one has with their self, that is vital. This is why at AlphaMind we believe the quality of this relationship is the single most important factor behind success in trading.

This quality of the relationship with yourself will determine whether you succeed as a trader. If you can act as your ally, your support, your guide, your teacher, your critique and your cheerleader, then you have a team with you which will help you win this hugely challenging battle. But if you allow your insecurities to take control, your fears to come out on top, your inner critic to gain power, and the negative voices of your past to come to life, then that team will forever be a drag on your chances of success.

This is why developing a better relationship with yourself will have a far greater impact on your performance over time, than working on any amount of high-quality data, research or even advanced information.

Becoming Comfortable in Your Own Skin
Before becoming a performance coach, I traded for almost 25 years at some of the world’s leading investment banks. I look at my career as one of two halves. The first half was characterised by periodic success; sometimes I was hot, sometimes I was not. When I was hot, I did well, but never made as much as I should have. When I was not, it was a very unpleasant journey. Fortunately, I managed to survive to make it to the second half of my career. At the halfway stage of my trading career, I started working with a performance coach. The coaching helped me to me develop my relationship with myself within the context of my trading. The latter half of my career was characterised by far stronger performance, far more consistency, and far less stress. Psychological discomfort was not eliminated, but I was able to deal with it far better, which meant it had a less destructive effect on my performance.

In 2010 I hung up the trading gloves and started the transformation into a new career as a performance coach. One of my first coaching clients was a phenomenal private trader who had achieved great success in trading over many years. I observed immediately how ‘comfortable he was in his own skin’. This is a characteristic of people who have a good relationship with themselves. When markets favoured this trader, he would do what necessary to optimise them. When markets did not favour him, he was resilient and quickly recovered his poise and balance. Thus, he made more money than others in good times, and lost less in bad times. If there is such thing as can be called a ‘Holy Grail’ in trading, then surely that is it.

We are not all made the same. Our life experiences are different and have shaped us all to be the different people we are. Whilst I find it rare to come across people who are blessed with the degree of comfort this aforementioned individual had in his own skin, there are many who still go on to achieve great success in trading. Many of them have come to terms with who they are: They learn to value their strengths and not overplay their weaknesses. The better your relationship with yourself, the easier this is to achieve.

I will finish with a quote we use at AlphaMind adapted from a quote by mountaineering legend Edmund Hilary. 
‘It is not the Markets we conquer, but ourselves’.


This article was written by Steven Goldstein and originally produced for by AlphaMind.