Hope Dies Last — Eight Years as a Day Trader
I began with plenty of capital, I used signal services from some of the best traders in the world and took mindset training from the biggest names in the industry.
As the years went on, I focused on devising the most effective mindset routine: I took daily cold showers, did morning and evening meditation and an energetic breath practice. I jogged in bare-foot shoes, gave up alcohol and drank bulletproof coffee. I journaled every trade, studied the markets and even created my own website explaining how to trade the Dax and describing all my setups and why they worked.
Before becoming a trader, I had written documentation on bonds and exotic options for investment banks. Before that, I had trained people in technical analysis and written plenty of documentation on the uses and valuation of all kinds of financial derivatives. My first degree was in economics.
There was plenty of time to learn my new craft as I was on a sabbatical, and I planned to use the time to find a new career.
What could possibly go wrong?
How to change your life
Start day trading, make some money, then lose it and make a little bit back, then lose that and more again and keep going. Justify your behaviour by saying ‘this is normal, it takes everyone years to get profitable’ or ‘it’s a skill — just like any other profession’. Justify keeping your activity at least a little bit secret by saying ‘only other traders understand that losing (a lot of) money is completely normal — essential actually’. Keep your trading goal secret — maybe even from yourself — because people don’t understand how easy it can be to make a fortune and the last thing you want is them pissing on your fire. After all, you just know that one day it will all fall into place. And when that happens, you will solve all your financial problems and you will be free to do whatever you want — at which point you’ll be able to tell everyone how much you lost on the road to success. They will respect you then for sure.
Maybe you have a boring job, or you don’t like where you live, or you’re a little lonely and always feel like an outsider. It could be that you feel you have made a lot of mistakes in life and find them hard to shrug off. Perhaps you didn’t succeed at the thing you really wanted to do or didn’t find the courage to try. You resist your situation with every cell in your body, and you need a dream to distract yourself from it.
Fantasizing about your bright future as one of the rare trading success stories provides the perfect escape: every time you experience a bad feeling about your life you can immediately counter it with ‘… but when I succeed at trading, it will more than make up for my struggles/misfortunes/mistakes’. After all, once you become a profitable trader, you will be free to realise all your dreams.
What I did
2011 — started trading using a signal service from John ‘the bear’ Burford at Financial Trading Strategies. Traded on my phone while in cafes, in bars, during workshops — anywhere that had mobile reception.
2012 — I pursued my goal with ever increasing intensity and budget.
Took a trading course with John Burford to learn his ‘tram line trading method’
Realised I had a bearish bias so bought a bullish biased, trading education and signal service from Fat Prophets.
I traded at home and abroad. I traded any time of day — whenever a signal came in — and I spent hours watching the charts. If I had positions open, I would wake up and check my charts overnight too.
I remember one trading session when I was -3000 GBP in the red. Busy with other stuff, I watched the trades on my phone, and I saw the market get near my stop loss but just miss it. When I went to bed, the trades were hanging on by a thread and flirted all night with the stop loss. By the time my alarm went off in the morning, I was at +6000 GBP. Left the positions open as I had obviously hit a trend and I was flying to London anyway so couldn’t monitor them.
2013 — My predilection for counter trend trading was growing. I shorted the Dow over and over again because I just knew it couldn’t go any higher: this was the top — I could feel it.. I knew… I also enjoyed shorting gold during a volatile Non-Farm Payrolls session — again because I was watching the charts and I knew it had seen the high of the day — no way could it keep on rising! No way! This had to be it.
I realised I needed a bit more structure to my trading, and I found Mark Austin, founder of Magnet Trading. I signed up to his signal service and I took his course. I could see that his clients were doing really well.
2014 — More of the same.
I was so impressed with Magnetic Trading’s service so much that I took another course with them and then signed up for Cameron Malik’s Dow trading signal service too. I like this system, so I studied it in great depth and thoroughly back-tested it.
2015 — Took a training course by Chris Capre of 2ndSkiesForex and bought his Advanced Trader’s Mindset course and Advanced Price Action course.
Did some demo trading.
Opened an account with Ayondo because they were offering bonuses if you deposited funds with them. I tried my hand at social trading and carefully researched the options available. I placed my funds with the most consistently profitable trader with the lowest drawdown.
An investment I had made a nice profit on was liquidated by the trustees and so I realised some more cash.
Results 2011 to 2015
The NFP afternoon in 2012 cost me 2000 pounds. One of the Dow shorts — which I took after coming back from a restaurant mildly pissed — resulted in me waking up 1000 pounds poorer but I then did the same the next night. There were many similar examples.
Shares, CFDs and ETFs
The Trader Cycle of Doom
As my losses grew, so did my determination (desperation) to succeed. It all looked quite plausible from the outside: trading is a tough game to master, but I had good teachers and I was putting in the necessary hours.
In reality, I had entered the classic addict’s downward spiral.
“* If you want to make people believe in imaginary entities such as gods and nations, you should make them sacrifice something valuable.”
In my case, the imaginary entity was not so much an entity as a multifarious concept that went something like this:
I can get all my money back and restore my financial security by trading + trading is the only way to achieve this
+ if I just keep on at it I will succeed
+ the anxiety I feel while trading and the regret I feel over my losses can be overridden with the correct body/mind practices.
And just as Harari predicts, as I increased the time and money I devoted to trading — while also decreasing resources I gave to more rewarding work — my faith in trading as the answer to everything grew.
Second bite at the apple
Having the new funds gave my trading career a reprieve. I knew exactly where I had gone wrong and vowed not to it again. From the courses with Van Tharp, Chris Capre and others, I knew that my shitty mindset was to blame, I knew it before as well but at least they gave me some techniques to change it, which I decided to do.
I took more workshops and told myself that I had to get rid of all my fear and all my conflicts otherwise I would f**k this opportunity up too.
2016 — mostly demo trading but traded the US election using ETFs.
2017 — Still determined to make this work, I signed up for the (now defunct) Protrader Program with Magnetic Trading. I knew they were excellent traders who just traded the first couple of hours each day. Perfect. That would mean that I could continue trading and get back out into the world and do the work I was supposed to be doing — even if I still didn’t know quite what it was. All I had to do was follow their instructions. It was easy. Well it would have been had I not been shaking so much every time I tried to trade that I couldn’t focus, couldn’t make decisions and definitely couldn’t follow instructions. I would dread trading and hope to God each session that nothing would set up so I wouldn’t have to trade.
Towards the end of 2017 I posted a message in the Skype room for the Protrader Program describing my real situation. I liked the responses I got and felt better after being honest. Enter Graham Levine and Amit Desai, the Dax Masters.
2018 — Knuckled down and traded with these new people for a few months. They were great traders but I wasn’t; I watched them raking it in day after day, I understood everything they said, I documented all their trade setups and their decision-making processes but still I lost. I lost a lot of extra time too because I was also writing documentation for these guys in return for a free subscription. They didn’t ask for this, but I did it because I was finally learning to trade.
Technology to the rescue
In the meantime, I had been in contact with the Buddhist and trader Chris Capre at 2ndSkiesForex — one of my favourite, most highly rated, trading teachers. He had just started a JV with Ken Medanic who had developed a system called Neurotrader (the testimonials on this site are complete FAKES — he published my review of Chris’s coaching as if i was talking about him). Using the Neurotrader software and wearable technology, your stress response would be monitored while trading and best of all — it would stop you trading when you were not in a ‘peak performance’ state. They did a presentation together about the technology and dangled a huge carrot: you could be funded by their hedge fund and you only had to be a little bit profitable to do so. After the main pitch, Chris held a special invite-only meeting for people he thought would be candidates for the most expensive option — a professional trader development program costing 699 USD a month for 12 months. Only 10 places. Buy today or miss this once-in-a-lifetime experience! Flattered and a little desperate for a solution to my dwindling trading funds, I handed over my credit card details.
It was a disaster. The technology never worked. Neurotrader moved deadlines and then missed them. The mindset course was deeply conservative and orientated towards traditional monotheism. It included questions such as ‘Do you believe in God? True or False? Do you have an intimate relationship with the creator of all things? True or False? The program imploded, Chris Capre walked away, ending the joint venture and Medanic at Neurotrader conducted a webinar to tell us we would work for the hedge fund if we stayed with him and we would even get shares in it.
Results 2015 to 2019
At least the haemorrhaging had stopped.
Spread betting and CFDs
Trading skills at last
The irony is that by the time the Neurotrader dream fell apart, I had developed my own system and I had worked out how to trade the Dax. This is only a demo account but the results in May and June 2019 were impressive — an 18.8% rise.
Looking at these results, I feel myself pulled back into the whole project. But how could the skills that I had developed translate into a salary plus wealth creation?
Option 1: trade own money
Salary goal is a modest 50,000EUR/year and the maximum amount I could use to fund a trading account is 20,000EUR. That means I would have to make 250% return consistently. If I could do that, I would be a trading genius. Even to make 20,000EUR, which I could barely live on, would require a 100% annual profit — being able to do this year-in-year-out would guarantee me entry into the trading hall of fame.
With the new ESMA regulations on spread betting, the maximum trade size I could use would be 30 contracts, so with my trading style, that is 300EUR risk per trade. By this measure, I would need to clear 3R a week — again that would be a pretty impressive result.
These kinds of results are not likely outcomes from (1.) a part-time trader and (2.) someone with my track record.
The traders at Magnetic Trading suggest a target of 1%/week for their clients, so if you want to make a salary from trading, you need a 100,000EUR account.
Option 2: get funded
Funds are available to private traders from companies such as PsyQuation. However, in reality, this option would be tricky too: I have no consistent track record on live trading, and this would take a minimum of six months to develop. When you do get funded, it will be just 10,000 to 20,000 for the first few months. Consistent profitability will then earn you more funds. But the catch is that you only get 20% of your profits.
Even if you make the Magnetic Trading target of 1% a week, you need a 500,000EUR account to make a half decent salary. Plus, you can easily get removed from the program if you break the risk rules.
This is not defeatist, it is realistic.
One sunny Tuesday morning in June, I was trading as usual, practising for the Neurotrader Program, and I stepped out of my office and said to my partner ‘I am addicted to trading and it has to stop’. With that one sentence, a fantasy that was eight years in the making fell apart.
I was not addicted to the activity, to buying and selling the Dax, but I was addicted to the idea that if I just kept at it, I would succeed and reap the rewards of my years of hard work, thereby solving all my financial problems. I had also developed some strange and distorted ideas over the years — which would fall into the category of magical thinking:
- Trading is a form of alchemy, and therefore an artistic activity, so when I succeed at trading, I will be an artist again.
- My true goal is mental freedom through a non-dual understanding. As this becomes more and more my lived experience, I will be completely unattached to money and therefore to the outcomes of my trades. At that point, I will have achieved a form of enlightenment — and made a big pile of cash in the process. This is called ‘spiritual materialism’. (Plus, if I was in such a state would I really still want to be a trader???)
- If I keep doing my spiritual practices and rejecting all my doubts and concerns for security, trading funds will naturally be attracted to me and all my desires will be fulfilled … more embarrassing spiritual materialism.
With these more eccentric trading goals exposed and extinguished, no prospect of getting funded and no significant funds of my own left, was there any point in continuing? No.
Once I faced the reality that I was never going to get my money back by trading, never going to restore my financial security this way and that the redemptive story was never going to play out, I saw the extent to which I had been using trading as a mental comfort blanket. While awake in the small hours, or when I saw my friends retiring early on fat pensions, I would assuage my fears of the future and shame over those past losses with dreams of huge success.
It wasn’t just the money I lost; it was also the money I spent on living while being a trader. Now I have just 5% of my original funds left; I am without any financial security but grateful that at least I stopped when I did. I am solvent — and I still have resources with which to pursue what I really want to do. And I am free of the mental shadows that are part of addiction and self-delusion. The very thing I was doing to hide my shame from myself and others was in fact feeding it, so the shame evaporated too.
After all of this, I have come to understand that happiness and integrity are one and the same and forgiveness is the key to everything.
I am not suited to be a lone trader. I am an extrovert; an artist and I get my energy from being around people. For years I did everything in my power to ignore what my body was telling me, hiding in the false sense of security that screens and numbers gave me. Now I can finally admit to myself that I want to do something useful, to pursue my career as a bodyworker, course creator and writer on mind/body issues. This idea doesn’t give me the libidinous rush that trading did, but when I do this work, it just feels right. If I learned one thing from eight years as a day trader — it is to take feels right seriously. Trading felt exciting, grasping, desperate, overwhelming, intense, powerful, but never right.
PS —Since I wrote this essay, many traders have got in touch with me to tell me that they have been experiencing similar problems.
What would have really helped me break my addiction to losing and come to my senses would have been to tell someone what I was doing. Someone who knew how this business worked would have been ideal. Over the last 18 months, I have been developing the skills I need to become just that person. You can find me here beingnessnow.com. I offer a free exploration session so that we can meet and see if we are a good fit and if I can help you let go of the past and look forward.