Weekly Insights: Key Questions to Gauge Your Trading Success

Key Questions to Gauge Your Trading Success


The attitude of the individual trader (part of the important aspect of trading psychology) plays a huge role in success (or failure) in futures trading. For a trader to become successful, he or she must enjoy the “process” of futures trading.

Below are a few questions that will help determine whether you are a good candidate to become a successful trader­—if you are not already in that category.

Before I get to the questions, it is important to touch upon the term “trading success.” What is trading success? Many would reply that trading success is defined as being profitable at trading — making more money at futures trading than one loses. I cannot disagree with that definition, but there is more to trading success than just the amount of profit accrued from trading. To better explain, here are examples of two hypothetical traders:

  • Trader Bob just started trading this year and has racked up $50,000 in futures trading profits. But he is not happy with that figure. He wants more. Bob wants to “bring the markets to their knees” — and quickly. Bob does not at all enjoy studying charts or reading and learning about fundamental factors that impact markets. His trading decisions are based mostly upon “tips” from friends or his broker. Soon, Trader Bob says he will begin establishing larger trading positions to accrue even bigger and faster
  • Trader Mary has read many books and attended trading seminars, and she has “paper traded” before she began putting “real money” on the trading table. She, too, has been trading for around one year and has accrued about $2,000 in profits. She enjoys studying charts, reading about market fundamentals and continues to read books on how successful traders became successful. Trader Mary enjoys the interaction she has with other traders with whom she has become acquainted. She does not get overly excited about winning trades or overly discouraged about losing trades. Trader Mary knows she is “in it for the long haul” and figures that if she works hard, uses sound money management, and “loses her ego,” then hopefully good things will come from trading futures.

One can argue that both Trader Bob and Trader Mary have been successful futures traders. But which trader would you say has been most successful? Which trader would you say will continue to be successful? Most would agree that Trader Mary is achieving a greater degree of success in futures trading — even though she does not have nearly as much trading profits as Trader Bob. No doubt, Trader Bob has seen a very good run of trading profits. However, he appears to be a “flash in the pan” and is very likely doomed to “flame out.”

One more analogy before I get to the questions that may help determine if you are, or will be, a successful trader. (I think my friend and respected fellow trader and educator Joe DiNapoli would agree with this analogy, as Joe restores classic cars, too.) Trading futures is like rebuilding and restoring a classic automobile. There are several tasks (many of them tedious) on the road to completing the restoration. Those restorers who do not enjoy the tasks of restoring likely will not continue to restore, and will not have a good, finished product. Those restorers who take their time and enjoy the entire process of restoring an automobile will have a very fine finished product. The same is true with trading.

Now, here are a few questions to help determine if you are, or will be, a successful futures trader:

  • Do enjoy the entire process of trading futures — from studying charts, reading about and learning fundamentals, listening to and learning from mentors, and even figuring out what mistakes you have made in previous trades, and how you will improve from those previous mistakes? (Remember, a trader never stops learning and should never stop seeking knowledge about markets and )
  • If you are a beginning trader with less than a couple of years of experience, are you willing to use the very sound money management principles required for survival in futures trading, even if it means meager profits (or meager losses) the first year or two?
  • Do you have the patience to wait for good trading opportunities to develop, followed by the discipline to follow your trading plan once you make the trade?
  • Are you the type of person who CAN stand to lose, and can you accept that trading losses are your own fault? (This is a very important question because the typical futures trader has a more competitive personality. Remember that even the most successful traders have losing trades — and sometimes several in a )

If you have answered “yes” to these questions, then your road to trading success will be less rocky. If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, then you face a more difficult task on the road to trading success and you need to figure out what changes you should make to make the process of trading more rewarding.


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