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1 Thing Every Trader Must Understand To Find Success


In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell claimed that for a person to become an expert on any given topic or activity it requires 10,000 hours (or approximately 10 years) of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is a specifically defined term. It involves goal setting, quick feedback, and countless drills to improve skills with an eye on mastery.

I don’t think Gladwell was truly proposing that crossing the 10,000 mark would lead to some magical ascension to expert level. I think the point is, to become an expert, or simply proficient at something, requires a commitment to hard work over a long period of time.

I’ve been trading, mentoring, and writing newsletters for over 30 years. I feel like I know a lot, however, also recognize there is always more to learn.

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Of course, this ignores the nuances. Not only between the level of difficulty between endeavors, but the natural ability each individual brings to the task, as well.

For example, I could work diligently for 20,000 hours on my jump shot, and with a fair bit of certainty, never be good enough for the NBA. And no matter how hard or long I train, I’ll most likely never break a 4-minute mile. However, a large part of this equation is my level of commitment to these tasks.

But the point is; anyone who has undergone any endeavor to master some skill, even taken up a new hobby, understands there is a learning curve. Even the most simple tasks from gardening to undertaking some self-directed investing can have a long curve, which can lead many to quit at the first sign of rough waters. Quitting something, especially something that could have become your passion, is simply sad.

Any worthwhile endeavor requires an early, uncomfortable learning curve before you become proficient enough to where the activity becomes ‘fun’. The irony is when someone is having fun doing something, it looks easy. It wasn’t, it is the culmination countless hours of commitment, hard work, and frustration learning the craft.

This reminds me of when my 16-year old son, Ethan, visited last April. I got to see the difference in outcomes between being enthusiastic and embracing an activity compared to being fearful and shying away because he didn’t have immediate success. 

He likes sports, is a decent athlete, and has become pretty good at both soccer and basketball, to which he made varsity team as Freshman. Even though he’s never really had a chance to play much tennis, he was enthusiastic to smack some balls with his old man. 

He was terrible. He pouted, blamed his racquet and basically said…

I don’t want to learn proper technique, I just want to hit the ball.”

This translates nicely to traders that don’t want to put in the work to learn, and just want to hit the ball. But, luckily after some harsh words and a few balls being fired back and forth, we both calmed down and focused on basic drills, rather than trying to smash the ball at one another.

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I got him to commit to taking lessons back home. With a skilled instructor, he was willing to slow down, focus on the mechanics rather than be concerned if the ball was in or out, and most importantly, was having fun.

When he came back in September it made a world of difference. His swings were smooth and relaxed, he saw the court better and what areas on it needed defending, and best of all, had a big smile plastered across his face. And yes, he won a couple of games over me.

With that anecdote, we need to acknowledge that ‘becoming an expert’ comes from various forms of training; practice, reading, breaking down concepts (or footwork) into bite size pieces that can be repeated, moving on to a practice environment, whether that means using a ball machine (or a paper trading account in reference to our trading.) Finally culminating with getting some live games (trades) under our belt.

The point being the learning curve for success is not always linear, and can often be lonely. However, making a commitment will indeed bring better results over time.

But the best part about your trading journey, you don’t need to go it alone…

Begin your journey today… with Options360!

Steve Smith

Steve Smith have been involved in all facets of the investment industry in a variety of roles ranging from speculator, educator, manager and advisor. This has taken him from the trading floors of Chicago to hedge funds on Wall Street to the world online. From 1987 to 1996, he served as a market maker at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) and Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). From 1997 to 2007, he was a Senior Columnist and Managing Editor for TheStreet.com, handling their Option Alert and Short Report newsletters. The Option Alert was awarded the MIN “best business newsletter” in 2006. From 2009 to 2013, Smith was a Senior Columnist and Managing Editor for Minyanville’s OptionSmith newsletter, as well as a Risk Manager Consultant for New Vernon Capital LLC. Smith acted as an advisor to build models and option strategies to reduce portfolio exposure and enhance returns for the four main funds. Since 2015, he has worked for Adam Mesh Trading Group. There, he has managed Options360 and Earning 360, been co-leader of Option Academy, and contributed to The Option Specialist website.

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