The Hard Truth about Day Trading
“If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” — Rounders (1998)
At the beginning of the movie Rounders, Matt Damon squared up against the mad Russian and lost his entire bank roll. Cleaned out, a blow up.
Do you have what it takes to become a day trader? It’s a serious question that requires deep examination as you enter into the world of discretionary day trading. In short, traders seldom possess the ability to effectively examine themselves in the third person. And as you’ll come to realize, becoming a better trader is largely about self reflection and goal setting.
So what does it take? And I’m sorry if this sounds elitist or condescending but I want to be real with you. You are embarking (or have embarked) on a journey that could change your life. Notice how I didn’t say “for the better”.
In my past career as a product designer working for agencies and large product companies, I learned early on that not sharing an honest opinion with an applicant, was equal to enabling this poor soul to continue spending time, energy and money without reward. I would sometimes recommend they take a hard look at their portfolio and re-evaluate their career choice. Imagine going for an interview, and not only not getting the job, but being told you don’t have what it takes. Needless to say, some would take offence.
However, something miraculous would happen, the applicants who had drive, set out to prove us wrong and returned with a vengeance. While the applicants who didn’t, likely moved on to something they might be better suited for in another field.
This naturally goes against what your teachers, parents, millennial sports coaches and priests told you about equality and how everyone is special in their own way. I propose an alternate ending. You are not special, you achieve special. At that particular moment in your life, you either possess the drive and passion to succeed or you don’t. But the good news is that it’s something you can attain if you want it badly enough. Voilà.
So how does this relate to trading? As you embark on your journey, I want you to find people that will give you their honest educated opinion about your decision making, personal and professional performance. Find a mentor that isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings. You’ll thank them later.
You need them to be able to tell you the truth about how difficult it is to break into this profession. You need to be Chef Ramsay’d. They will help you unlearn this fear of greed, expectation of equality, and “everyone is a winner” attitude.
If you’ve ever heard the quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention”, I will propose an edit for the trading community:
“Adversity is the father of innovation.”
In trading there is no equality, there is only rich and poor. Those who are in the know, and those who aren’t. And the faster you realize that by nature you are ill-equipped and ill-evolved to handle the emotional swings of day trading, the faster you will develop the thick skin necessary to weather through tough times on your journey. And the faster you will turn this adversity into innovation in yourself and in your trading system.
At the end of the movie Rounders, Matt Damon’s character beat the mobster Russian in heads-up poker and took off to Las Vegas. As a trader, what you need to realize is that the second time he faced the mad Russian, the opponents were the same, the game was the same, the risk was relatively higher, but this time the outcome was different. The only thing that had changed was that this time, Matt Damon’s character was in complete control of his emotions in the face of adversity.
If only he had chosen a better mentor, he wouldn’t have had to lose his bank roll, lost his girlfriend, lost his best friend, been beat up, punched in the face, and threatened with death.