What Do You Want Out Of Trading?
Why do we want to be Traders? Some feel this is a stupid question, they just do and don’t need any more of an explanation. To some its obvious but to me it’s something that needs a bit more thought.
There’s no two ways about it — the goal of trading is to make money. It comes down to this and only this when looked at purely as a measure of success at the activity itself. The bottom line is exactly that, the bottom line. I think it’s important to be honest about that, but I think the goal for what trading is to provide you in life needs to extend beyond money.
I’ve been round the mill with defining trading goals make no mistake. All the good books tell us to have a clear defined vision of what we want, they also let us know we must have a love for the game because if we don’t and pursue monetary achievements as a sole objective we will ultimately fail in our endeavours to become successful retail traders.
What’s my take on that? Well I see both sides of it. I whole heartedly believe that simply aspiring to money is an ultimately toxic path to go down but trading is the ultimate of capitalist pursuits and we can’t kid ourselves about that. I’ve seen people say “I just love the analysis involved and the payback of ultimately being right” or “for me it’s the thrill of finding and exploiting an edge, or seeing the patterns in the market”. From seasoned pros I can probably understand this, from amateurs like myself I find that hard to believe. I think most people deep down just want to survive, initially anyway.
That’s how it was for me anyway. Survival meant I was validated, if I wasn’t failing I wasn’t crap so initially I just wanted to survive, to break even, that was the goal. The hope was pretty shallow, I just wanted some more income. I’ve always been fortunate enough to love my job so never really had any aspirations that you hear about working from home or escaping the rat race. I’m lucky enough to not consider myself in a rat race but I did want something that I could use to earn a bit of extra readies. Initially I wanted it to support my flying interests outside work, upgrade the car etc. That was the start, my motivations now are very different.
My drives to becoming successful at trading now are on two separate levels. One is the practical side, how I want it to impact my life. This is a pretty easy one. I’ve had times where I’ve wanted it to buy a Lamborghini or a holiday home near Disney Land, you know all the good shit the “think big and take massive action” industry will have you aspire to. I found it hard to make this tangible though. Don’t get me wrong it would be nice and if one day I get there then fabulous, but for now what I’d really like from trading is a bit more income to put towards a bigger (although not too much bigger) house a bit further in the country and to put away for whatever my Daughter decides to do in life. Maybe one day a light aircraft would be nice too!
For me — getting married and having a baby really helped with that. It may seem counter intuitive but having a family brought me a number of steps closer to success I think. It made me look at trading very hard and decide firstly if I wanted to continue kidding myself about my ability to achieve my goals and to rapidly reassess what those goals were. Now I’m at a place where if I achieve those goals then I’d be really proud — and that’s a powerful motivator.
On the second level is what drives me from a more emotional perspective. This is where we can dig up all those demons within us about all the times we didn’t quite apply ourselves or didn’t achieve what we wanted in life and can channel it into our trading endeavours. This works one of two ways, it either eats you up when a trade goes wrong and you end up shit kicking yourself because you can’t do anything right and whats the point in trying, or you realise that actually those past events can serve to help you. I’ve had a foot firmly in both camps for most of my time trading.
I’ve carried around a lot of angst about past achievements in life and given myself a very hard time about why certain things didn’t work out in my professional career. What I found was that every time a trade when wrong or I failed to spend a day doing something productive in the markets I’d find it really difficult to deal with, it just ended up affirming this image I had of myself that I was stupid for thinking I was the type of person that could make a go of this.
You can only take so much of this. I decided to quit trading. After a while I began to miss it, I’d learned a lot about economics, psychology, how people make decisions and what drives people. My failings in the markets had taught me an awful, awful lot about myself and I realised that it was hugely satisfying. It had helped me come to terms with past events and got me to a place where i felt I was just as deserving of making a go of trading as anyone else, so why not? It wasn’t long before I’d decided to give it another go and I realised giving up was something that this time I wasn’t going to be able to live with.
I did however know that it needed to be balanced, it needed perspective and it needed to be an honest ride. I have a family and I have a job, as much as I want to make a success of trading it has to have it’s place. I’m happy now that this might take a number of years more to get to where I want to be but it is worth nothing if along the way I sacrifice everything trading is supposed to make better.
So what point am I making? I guess all I’m saying is that it was really important for me to look inside myself and ask some pretty deep and sometime dark questions about what was motivating me and how I felt about myself. I had to call myself on the bullshit parts of what I was telling myself and decide how best to use the answers move forward. I know I have some demons about my worth an individual and my ability to learn hard things and I now know exactly what drives me in my trading. I know that if I achieve my goals I’ll have proved myself to the only critic that matters and thats myself, the material benefits will be nice and I’ll be grateful for them but for me having a trading dream that is just a little bit more grounded in real life makes the prospect of achieving it infinitely more compelling.
I’m not saying these motivations are good for everyone, if you want a Lambo thats cool but I do think a conversation with yourself to ask what it is that really drives you and what you really want out of the game is paramount to gaining perspective and balance in a terribly challenging and sometimes destructive endeavour.
This article was originally published on The Unlikely Trader in October 2016