What Makes A Pro Trader Part 2
Quite a while ago, I wrote an article titled “What Makes a Professional Trader?” In this article, I argued that a professional is defined not just as someone who does something successfully for a living (like binary options trading), but also someone who does something well enough to do it for a living. I listed 5 traits of a professional binary options trader:
- Professional traders display flexibility in tough times.
- Pros only trade fundamentals when they know them.
- Pros manage their risk wisely.
- Professionals have a trading plan and follow it.
- Professional traders know their own strengths and weaknesses.
I still stand by all of those points. Most of them are specific to trading, and all of them are quite fundamental. Without them, there is no way you can make a living as a trader.
Still, I find myself coming back to this topic again. In fact, it is something I think about regularly, for the simple reason that the majority of binary options traders do not come into this game with money or luck on their sides. My guess is that if you are an average trader, you have a few hundred dollars, a full-time job that you are doing professionally, and plenty of people telling you every day that you cannot possibly make a living trading.
And yet, this is the formal definition of the word “professional”:
Professional: A person engaged in a specified activity as his or her main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.
This can all get really discouraging, and after a while, it can take a real toll on you psychologically, and make you want to quit. Worse, you may know so-called “professional” traders who are anything but. These traders may try to convince you that you are the hack when they are.
Consider these two hypothetical traders as an example:
Judy has been testing and trading binary options for two and a half years. She has restarted three times, and currently has an account balance of $2,340. She follows a rigorous and carefully structured trading routine, and spends hours every week researching and developing powerful trading techniques. She works a full-time job as a teacher. As a result, she cannot dedicate all her time to trading. She also has a low income, so she cannot afford to put much into her trading account.
Judy is truly passionate about trading and loves it like nothing else. She currently makes around $50 a trade, and only is able to take several trades a month. Her account is growing at a snail’s pace, and she certainly is not making a living as a trader … yet. Judy’s life as a trader is hard work, and anything but glamorous.
Tom has been trading binary options for around ten months. He took a brief training course, which he paid for out of pocket, and invested $100,000. He makes around $3,000 on each trade, and usually takes several trades a month, just as Judy does. But where Judy can only make a couple hundred dollars on a good month, Tom can easily net almost $10,000. On trading alone this year, he has pulled in another $150,000. Next year he expects to make even more.
Tom’s approach to trading has been pretty casual. Sometimes he wagers 3% of his account, but when he feels really confident, he wagers as much as 10%. He has a trading method that he bought, an auto-trading program that he uses, and his gut instincts, which he trusts. He feels he has an intuitive grasp for the market. About half the time he relies on the software he purchased. The rest of the time, he trades his system or his gut.
His win percentage is pretty high, but asked why, he cannot articulate why he has won the majority of his trades. Nonetheless, he is convinced of his own brilliance. “I just know the markets,” is the answer he typically gives.
Besides, he might continue, he is making a living from trading … not like that hack Judy who only makes a couple hundred dollars a month, and has to work as a teacher.
Asked which of these two traders is the professional, which would you say? Tom or Judy?
A lot of people would point at Tom and mark him out as the professional. After all, Tom is the one making a living at trading. It is his principle and only occupation. He makes a ton of money, and that makes him a success.
But does that really make Tom a professional? And does it really make Judy not?
The whole problem with the formal definition of the word “professional” is that it implies that there are only two possibilities: Either you make a living at something as your principle occupation, or you are doing it as a pastime or hobby.
But Judy is not trading to pass the time. She is not trading for enjoyment—though she is passionate about trading. She is trading for work reasons. Her approach is anything but casual. It is in fact far more serious than Tom’s approach. Whereas Tom relies on luck and other peoples’ hard work and then boasts that his success is built on his own ingenuity, Judy is the one displaying real ingenuity. She is the one doing the hard work every day, and not relying on luck.
The only reason Tom is defined by society as a professional and Judy is not is because Tom was lucky enough to have a huge bankroll going into trading, and has been lucky enough to win trades again and again during his first year in spite of his non-methodical and unserious approach. Judy has not had the same luck going in. She is not fortunate enough to have a big bankroll, and so her profits are much smaller—not enough to live on.
- Is genuinely passionate about trading and loves to delve deep into her techniques. She enjoys the process, but is not trading for her amusement.
- Is willing to take the slow path to riches, instead of borrowing shortcuts.
- Is methodical, instead of relying on intuition.
- Realizes that factors outside her control play a role in her success or failure.
- May claim he loves trading, but really only loves winning. This is evidenced by his utter lack of involvement with it, and his reliance on other peoples’ techniques—people like Judy.
- Takes every shortcut he can find, without questioning whether those shortcuts will ultimately fail. He believes success is built overnight.
- Relies on intuition and is in no way methodical.
- Does not believe in luck, despite the fact it has been on his side. He believes he has built his own success simply by deserving it.
Given enough time, if Tom and Judy both stick with their trading, two things are likely to happen, both as a result of these differences:
Tom will eventually end his lucky streak. His gut intuition will fail him, or his auto-trading program will stop delivering. Or perhaps the method he has borrowed from someone else but never really tested, analyzed, or learned in-depth will stop working. Being as he has no actual expertise or passion for trading, he will fail. When he does, he will probably lose big.
Judy on the other hand will slowly but steadily build up her trading account. It will take her years, and it will be a long, painful haul with plenty of setbacks along the way. Because she is passionate about trading, serious about making a living from it, and becoming a true expert, she will be able to adjust as she needs to. She will persevere, and gradually her bankroll will grow. As it does, so will her winnings. One day, she will be the one making thousands of dollars per trade. She will be able to quit her job as a teacher, and she will eventually leave Tom far behind in the dust.
None of this is to say that there is anything wrong with a big bankroll, or with using an auto-trading program or someone else’s trading system. If you have shortcuts available to you to use, like Tom, you should use them. But you should not rely on those shortcuts or define your success by them. Real, lasting success is built on skill and hard work and plenty of sweat, not on luck and circumstance.
The really sad thing about all this is that the majority of our society believes in the illusion they see on the surface. They will compliment Tom and admire him, reinforcing the idea that he is doing everything right. They will actually bolster the behaviors that will ultimately cause him to fail if he continues on his present course. Meanwhile, they will deride Judy for her present inability to make a living trading. They will call her uncommitted for not quitting her day job. They will scorn her lack of wealth, and urge her to quit.
Imagine if we lived in a world where professionalism was defined by our potential, not just our lucky circumstances. In such a world, the struggling trader who is doing everything right would be recognized and rewarded above the millionaire trader who is thriving on lucky circumstances.
The good news though is that the market does not work that way. Even though the market’s course is determined by the choices of numerous people around the globe, the market itself is a much fairer judge of character. Ultimately, it will reward Judy and destroy Tom, every time.
The key is just hanging in there long enough for the market to make its true and objective judgment. So if you are struggling and taking the slow, hard path to riches, and every day your professionalism is being called into question by people around you, take heart.
You may work a full-time grind and may only be making a few hundred dollars a month trading, or even less. But one day, you will surpass the rich “pros” who really are nothing but hobbyists. Their success is nothing more than an illusion built on a big bankroll and a lot of braggadocio. You are the real pro, and one day, you will see that reflected in your bank balance, and all the world will know it.