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.

  • Peter D

    Great post. Couldn’t agree more. I have learnt through my own experience/pain that the “market feel” is vital to know how to trade at which point in time. Like you say – its through relentless hard work and dedication that clarity is achieved.

    Look forward to reading more posts and understanding more about your products.

    Love the video on YouTube btw – great motivational tool for success!

    • Glad the post rang true for you Peter.. almost every experienced trader I know feels this way about the markets, while nearly everyone trying to sell something wants to make it seem more straightforward than it really is.

      Regarding the YouTube video, it was meant to be exactly that! A motivational tool for traders. Athletes have their cool commercials, but us traders don’t have something like that in the trading world, so we wanted to make it specifically for that reason ;)

      I look forward to your future comments and feedback!

  • Awesome post

  • Volatrainee

    excellent view about the failure of ‘need to be sure’

    • Thanks Volatrainee. That’s a good way of putting it! Needing to be sure is what really kills traders. They seek a certainty that can’t be found, and end up on the completely wrong path. I think I could write a whole post just about this specific aspect of ‘needing to be sure’. Thanks for the post idea! :)

  • Frawan

    Very nice article. Motivates me to continue my path from noob to a full-time trader. Trading now on my 10th month, but just a couple per day. No huge success yet, but it is a learning process. Hopefully a couple of years from now I will know enough to stand on my own feet simply trading.

    • Focus on the correct process of learning, as opposed to the need for certainty and easy routes that most traders focus on and you WILL be able to stand on your own feet. It’ll take a lot of work and perseverance, but if you want it bad enough and go about it in the right way, you can do it. I didn’t have anything that you don’t, so stay motivated and make it happen! And hopefully in the coming weeks and months on this blog we’ll be able to make the road much easier for you and help improve your odds of making it.

  • Fantastic read!

    • Thanks William! Glad you liked it… and stick around for more to come ;)

  • Like much how you describe trading. It is an ‘art’ not an exact science. Love your positive reinforcement and supportive approach. keep it up!

    • Thanks Albert! I appreciate that. Will definitely be putting out more posts with insights and reinforcement… Us traders need all the support we can get ;)

  • Felix

    Jesse Livermore said: “If I hadn’t made money some of the time I might have acquired market wisdom quicker.” Nice post Ziad.

    • Thanks Felix. Jesse Liveremore has some of the most insightful trading quotes in history. Still very applicable to this day..

  • Pingback: Is Trading Psychology a Hoax? - Psychology and Money Management - Page 3()

  • mj

    Spot on about market feel! I have spent the last six years looking at indicators searching for the perfect set up. I have done countless bar by bar making sure my indicator entries were exact. I used to believe that if my entries were perfect I would have the perfect trade. And all the while, I spent no time at all “Feeling” the market. Oh what a mistake.

    So what do I have for my last six years of market study? An understanding of indicators, but little true feel for the market. I believe your posts are a turning point in my market study. I shall attempt to get “one” with the market.

    Thanks, Ziad for your sharing. It shall be taken to heart.


    • Thanks for sharing your experience and insights MJ! It’s a shame when serious committed traders end up wasting time because of all the bad advice and ‘gurus’ out there teaching and focusing on the wrong stuff. But it’s never too late to change directions, and now that you know what it’s going to take, your commitment will create the success you’ve been looking for.

  • Great article, I think the first of it’s kind I have found. Really appreciate your honesty. Thank you

    • Thanks Erika. The purpose of this blog is to share the realities of trading from an honest and transparent perspective. We’ll continue doing that in anything we share.

  • Ivo Leclere

    Wow, what a great article. Indeed it’s all about discipline, dedication and mental training. It cost me about 10 years to feel and to read the markets and the feeling is great. I learned a lot by developing a blog just for myself. Almost every day since 2008 I wrote my own opinion about the moves in the markets and so every day I had to make my own evaluation. This was a great learningschool for me. Ivo Leclere owner of http://www.invest-in-vision.com

    • Hi Ivo.Thanks for the comment, and its great that u were able to develop market feel like that. blogging and keeping notes about the market is a great way to do so. all the best to you!

  • JS

    This blog post you’ve made sounds very much like the Carl Futia article written about 7 years ago. Whatever the case, this is a “must read” for all traders.

    • Thanks JS. If you look at that article Carl Futia posted 7 years ago, you’ll see that he specifically stated that it was written by me.

      • JS

        Yes, I now see you are right and now I know why both articles are similar. One thing for sure: whether 7 yrs ago or today, your message stays consistent!

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