If I Could Teach You One Thing About Trading Success, This Is It

What if it was all wrong? The common advice you hear about trading, that is. What if it was, plain and simple, wrong? Have you ever really considered that?

You’ve been told that you need to focus on simplicity. And that you have to find a few trusted setups to execute with discipline each time they show up. And that all you need is good psychology and you’ll be profitable. But who tells you all of this? Is it professional traders who are making a living from their trading, or is it people who are trying to sell you trading education? Do you think it might be in their best interest to tell you that it’s simple and straight-forward, even when it isn’t?

Well, I’m not here to bad-mouth those people, but as a professional trader who’s made a living solely from trading, I have my own views about what trading is all about, and what it takes to achieve success. So here is what I’ve found.

Trading is not about clear-cut, straightforward simplicity. Trading is about being okay with ambiguity. It’s about tolerating confusion. It’s about sitting with discomfort and being at peace with it. It’s about not having an exact script of when to trade or not to trade, and being okay with that. It’s about exceptions to the rules. It’s about contradiction. It’s about uncertainty.

And yet traders left and right want to make it simple. They want to reduce it to a few simple setups to trade mechanically with discipline. But the market is not simple. The market is all about uncertainty, and complexity, and ambiguity. Simple setups traded mechanically could never capture that, and they can never give you a true lasting edge. So choose a different way.

Choose to learn the art of reading the markets. Learn to synthesize different elements like price action, structure, market internals, and intermarket themes, and pull them together into a contextual view. Only then can you choose to employ “simple” setups to trade with. Because only then will you know which setups to use under which conditions. And this is everything.

And don’t be fooled. Learning this is a very complex process that will take time. It turns out that psychology, while hugely important, is NOT everything. First, you need an edge. And having a consistent edge requires that you dedicate yourself to learning to read the markets and how to execute correctly in context. But it’s very possible. Many have done it before you, and this means that you too can learn it if you dedicate yourself. They had nothing that you don’t have. All they did, was to be relentless.

They didn’t spend their trading days waiting for mindless setups and indicators to line up. No. They spent their days reading the market from minute to minute, hour to hour, figuring out the odds of it doing this or that, adapting dynamically, thinking of trading ideas as the action unfolds.

Now, you’ll ask me if it’s not easier psychologically to just have simple clear setups to wait for. Absolutely. It is. But who said “easy” would make you money? The market rewards what is hard to do. It’s hard to have ambiguity surrounding your market reads. It’s hard being uncertain. It’s hard dealing with competing and sometimes conflicting signs. And yet, this is what it’s all about. You have to avoid needing things to be clear cut. Instead of running from uncertainty, train your mind to be able to better deal with it.

And keep a trading journal. But don’t fill it only with thoughts about your emotions. Let it be filled instead with your notes about market action. You’ll find my notes still in the drawer beside my bed. Over 1000 pages of them. Day after day. Week after week. Making mistakes, wrong interpretations, being clueless about how the market was acting, not knowing how I should trade, not knowing if my views made sense or not. But I continued taking notes and learning. And then, something magical happened. Market feel was born. Now I had the prerequisite to trade those “setups” they’ll tell you about.

So dedicate yourself. Dedicate yourself like you’ve never dedicated yourself before. Trading is a mental sport. You have to approach it like that. Don’t listen to the salesmen. Start building your skills. Start practicing. Make mistakes. Take losses. Be clueless. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s okay; that’s the only way you’ll progress. And trust me, progress you will.

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