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  1. The "Group-Think" of Traders that Blinds Them to What Really Matters Have you ever listened to groups of traders talking about trading? If you have, you’d think (particularly to yourself) that everybody was hitting homeruns and driving in runs. But that’s not the reality. The reality is that they all are covertly participating in a form of group-think called looking good to others. Have you ever noticed that no one talks about the real task of producing sustainable, consistent income from their trading? Instead, they talk shop in a vacuum refusing to address what they are ultimately seeking. The one thing that is most important to the financial health and long term survival of a trader, they do not talk about. Their eye is not on the ball – their eye is being distracted by talking about the minutia of trading, saving face, and the self-deception of looking-good. Meanwhile, another year goes by – and it’s January of another year already. Time is ticking by (do you hear it in your internal clock), chipping away at your capital (sometimes chomping) and your timeline (just how much time can you fritter away before you feel the financial noose tightening?). And, right there, hidden in plain sight, is the answer they you avoid acknowledging. This is the place where the vast majority of traders stay stuck – being blind to their blindness. And the cost of this blindness is their trading success. Their trading performance keep giving the struggling traders feedback about their performances in the form of drawdowns from their trading accounts, underscoring the real problem they are avoiding in their trading -- them. Yet, despite all the evidence, the "wannabe" traders refuse to look within themselves for the source of their performance problems. Instead, they focus on solutions outside of the psychology of performance. That’s not nearly as uncomfortable as acknowledging there is a chink in their armor that allows them to maintain their looking-good even while their trading capital erodes or stays stagnant. And the clock keeps ticking as the trader maintains their self-deception. Meanwhile, they stay where it is safe – they talk around trading as if they (the one who is actually doing the trading) were not a constituent part of their trading. They talk the details of trading and, listening to them, a by-stander might be led to believe that everybody is making money. But what you’ve got is a bunch of really good Monday-morning armchair quarterbacks talking about the game from a spectator’s vantage point rather than from actual performance. Waking Up to the Problem and to the Solution The real question for the life-blood of an evolving trader, “Are you making consistent money?”, is not asked. And, if you are not making consistent money, another question begs to be asked, “How do you diagnose the problem and fix it?”. Once a trader has learned technically how to do his/her business, these are questions that take you to the core of the issue. There is really no risk in the moment of performance to a spectator’s game face – only his looking-good in the fantasy league of fellow retail traders. What you will notice is that traders talk the game of trading, but not their performance in the game of trading. It is so much more self-effacing to talk about the game of trading (as if they were fans of the game, rather than participants), rather than to evaluate their performance as a function of their competence as a trader. This discomfort of evaluating personal performance is so ingrained into traders' thinking that they will avoid dealing with it as long as the capital they bring to trading will allow it - or until they have felt enough prolonged pain and discomfort that they come to the conclusion that they are the problem in their trading. (And they are also the solution to their trading performances.) For most traders to wake up to this pivotal moment, a tremendous amount of time and money may have been squandered needlessly. So much short-term energy was focused on saving face by looking -good that the long-term development of the mind that can embrace and manage ambiguity without a sense of dread of being wrong was never embraced. And this is what is required to become a consistently successful trader. Once this is recognized at a core level, it seems simple, until you realize that your biology and your psychological underpinning conspire against the development of this kind of mind. Your biology and the psychology that arises out of your brain’s survival adaptation to its environment is biased toward the self-preservation of the status quo, rather than developing a higher functioning human being. What Got You Stuck in Performance Limbo in the First Place The power of this primordial drive for self-preservation needs to be understood in a different context from a civilized conception of man’s recent history. The brain builds a self that is adapted to survive in a particular environment. It doesn't care if that self thrives in that environment or not. It cares that the self (the bio-cognitive system that you have been organized into) survives. To the ancient brain that self needs to survive until sexual maturity, prevailing in your environment, and perpetuating the species through your survival success. All successful strategies for dealing with the challenges of survival are hardwired into neural-circuitry as they are learned. Once wired they become an automatic response in the organism’s bio-cognitive repertoire. This means that successful adaptations to survival situations become a reactive dance between the environment and the self. This is called the stress response. And this adaptive response mechanism was essential to our ancestors where danger lurked constantly in their environment. That danger was biological and life threatening. And the stress response, being reactive in nature, allowed our ancestors to have a better chance at surviving in an environment loaded with saber-toothed tigers and other predators. The problem is that this biological system of stress responses was built for another time and another environment than the world that the trader now lives in. Unfortunately for the trader, the ancient brain (the emotional brain where all this stuff is wired), cannot distinguish between a biological threat and the psychological discomfort of uncertainty found in trading. And here is the kicker: When under stress, the brain is going to revert back to old familiar patterns learned long ago for the avoidance of pain. Remember, the emotional brain cannot tell the difference between biological threat (pain) and the psychological discomfort found in the management of uncertainty. The moment that the emotional brain perceives uncertainty (stress or the challenges of living life), it falls back to old familiar reactive patterns that have produced survival success in the brain's formative period. This is what the trader perceives as falling apart in the moment of emotional uncertainty. And an emotional hijacking is triggered instinctively long before the thinking mind can begin to manage the uncertainty of a critical moment, unless the trader re-trains the body and mind to respond differently. The Psychology of the Trader is Railroaded by Primitive Emotional Belief This is where the bio-cognitive system that “you” are (responding instinctively to stress) and the deeply held beliefs about your capacity to manage uncertainty (that give rise to your trading psychology) conspire against you. The Emotional Brain makes a decision and the Thinking Brain produces an explanation to support that decision, no matter how irrational. Your Emotional Brain on stress (managing the uncertainty in a moment of ambiguity in trading) reverts back to primitive stress responses learned long ago. And then, your Thinking Brain (rooted in beliefs learned in your family of origin, culture, and circumstance) demonstrates those beliefs under the stress of the moment. If you are a human being that trades who tries to save face by “looking good” to the outside world, you are operating from a belief system rooted in a sense of inadequacy, not mattering, unworthiness, and/or powerlessness. And as long as you avoid engaging those beliefs head on, your Emotional Brain will continue to hijack your performance mind in the clutch. It will instinctually avoid the danger of not being able to survive in the environment in which it lives. Short term, this strategy works because it avoids the threat - and that is all the Emotional Brain is interested in. Long term, this biologically induced strategy keeps you, the trader, locked in the limbo world of perpetual mediocrity. Toward a New Construction of the Self When a trader learns that self-honesty is the most powerful tool he/she can possess, then the game of performance can change. There is no shame in being a fallible human being. It is our nature. It is also our nature to learn from mistakes. It is this openness to making and learning from mistakes that must be cultivated. Attempting to avoid mistakes simply keeps us stuck in old self-limiting patterns. These patterns were successful solutions when certainty of survival was the driving force. But now, in the brave new world of trading, the trader has to step out of the old comfort zone that has become his prison. And now it is time to embrace self-honesty as a tool and reconstruct the mind that trades. It is your choice – stay stuck in old self-limiting patterns or intentionally and consciously grow new ones, adapted for the world of uncertainty found in trading.
  2. This is a new excerpt from my forthcoming book: Mastering Trading Psychology. It is focused on another common fear that limits the capacity of a trader to develop his or her full potential. The set up was there; all Jim had to do now was pull the trigger. His hand hesitated as he felt the clamminess in his finger tapping the key. Jim held his breath. A cacophony of strident thoughts erupted in his mind as his gut tightened. A battle was going on in his mind. “You’re going to lose. What if you lose? You can’t win. Who told you that you could trade? You need to find a safer way to make money.” The battle in Jim’s mind raged on – his hand frozen, his gut in turmoil. This was a battle he went through every day. And it was taking its toll on Jim. He feared pulling the trigger because he feared losing. In his logical mind he knew that traders always lose a percentage of their trades, but Jim could not shake the sense of catastrophe that would happen if he did lose. He did not like admitting this to anyone, but he was trapped by his fear of losing. He grew frantic. “Just pull the trigger so it’ll be over,” commanded a thought in his head, “You’ll feel better.” Jim held his breath in anticipation and pulled the trigger on the trade just to escape the tension. What a relief! He could feel the tension drain from his hands and chest. Then the price took a nose dive. He stopped out. Then his growing sense of despair engulfed him, “What are you doing to yourself? Trading is killing you. Why don’t you give up?”, echoed in his mind. _________________________ Coming Face to Face With Your Self Doubt This is one of the most common fears that traders experience. A trader’s entire dramatic relationship with fear and future possibility are rapped up in his fear to pull the trigger on a trade. It is literally the moment of truth about whether you are emotionally stable enough to be trading at a particular moment in time. And like Jim in the vignette above, it is a time when fear crushes the possibility for a trader to be in a calm, disciplined, and impartial state of mind. It is also one that illuminates the inter-connectedness of body and mind. You can literally experience the body and the mind seized by fear. In this vignette taken from real life, the trader’s hand is frozen, and he cannot pull the trigger. Has this ever happened to you? Simultaneously, his mind is plagued by self doubt. Fear has seized the body/mind of Jim – just as it does for many traders. And here we see the closing of possibility for successful trading. Why? Jim’s fear has set up the expectation of loss in his mind. Now the awareness in his mind is focused on loss if he acts. He is literally caught in a catch-22 of his own making. Unfortunately we generally find what we are looking for – or at least what the attention of the mind is focused on. The fear sets up the state of mind, and the state of mind “sees” what is possible based on the force of the emotional state. The mind on fear sees loss which is exactly what happens in Jim’s case – and in many traders’ cases. Fear restricts the possibility that the trader can see. If he were in a calmer more disciplined emotional state, a very different range of possibilities would have been possible. But, locked into a state of mind rooted in fear, he loses his capacity to assess impartially the quality of his set ups. He became the bucking horse in a burning barn. Reacting instinctively, the horse is trying to defend itself from a source of threat – only to be devoured by it. Jim, like the horse, ultimately jumped into a trade impulsively simply to escape his fear. Managing Fear Managing this fear so that it does not hijack the impartial state of mind and the courage to act within the risk management guidelines of a trader’s methodology is a novel idea. Gut level fear is not something that can be talked away or ignored. There is no leaving your emotions at the door in trading – no matter how appealing the concept. But the capacity to manage the fear so that it does not sweep you into reactive patterns can be taught. When trading is simulated, this fear stays in the background of your awareness because there is no possibility of real loss. However, the moment your money is at risk, (and you will most definitely lose money and take draw downs on a percentage of your trades) the primitive emotion that the fear of loss is rooted into stampedes your rational mind. And just like in Jim’s example from above, the rational, left-brained (and well trained) mind of the trader is swept away in a flood of self doubt. To the emotional brain the fear of loss associated with pulling the trigger springs forth from the deeper, darker emotion – the fear of death. The emotional brain simply cannot discern the difference. Threat is threat. And loss is interpreted as a threat by this primitive, emotionally driven, part of our brain and mind. Until its power to hijack the rational, impartial thinking required for successful trading is managed, an anxious state of mind sabotages knowledge every time. Add to this our culture’s obsession with winning as a measure of our worth and importance as a human being. This creates a psychological pressure to perform to a set of expectations that are not realistic, or needed, for success. If you stay mindless to this pressure, you get stuck in the fearful pattern in which our friend Jim is embedded. Regulating the instinctive aspect of this fear of loss is essential. It is by calming down the power of this fear to freeze us from taking calculated risks that we gain access to the state of mind that accepts risk and loss as part of trading. It is this mindset that allows us to stack the risk so that it favors the probability of winning more times than losing. Beyond Calming the Body and Mind When the body and mind are calmed, your capacity to trade from an impartial state of mind becomes possible. Accessing this state of mind that self soothing skill sets requires re-learning how to breathe as a first step. It is your breath that either accelerates the fear that seizes the mind or regulates the emotional state so that you can trade from a calm state of mind. Beyond that though, after the body and mind are calmed, you can access the very emotional intelligence that leads to peak performance states of mind for trading. In the managed calmness, you can learn to call up the impartiality, discipline, patience, and courage required to trade consistently. Calming the emotion is the gateway for building these essential skills. Rande Howell
  3. "Dale grew up in a hard working farm family in Arkansas. His parents, while growing up during the Great Depression, had nearly lost their farm. That experience really changed them. They hoarded what little money they had and came to believe bad things can happen if you can’t be certain about the future. And Dale was born into this legacy. Leaving the farm for greater opportunity, Dale became a banker in a trust department of a bank where he protected the value of assets placed under his care. He was a natural at his job of maintaining certainty in the face of threats to his clients' capital. As time went on, the bank was gobbled up and Dale was fed up. In a career change, he moved into day trading. He learned a proven methodology to control risk well and was prepared to trade. What he was not prepared for over the next several years was the hesitation and anxiety he experienced, and could not overcome, when he risked capital." ________________________________________ The brain, memory, pattern, and the unconscious mind make unlikely partners to your trading methodology. Like Dale in the case study above, after investing a number of years learning and tweaking a methodology that should provide an edge, traders often discover that something is still missing that limits their success. It’s not their methodology, they conclude – it’s them. Though they strive for success, they keep falling into the same self-limiting patterns over and over again. No matter what they try, who they train with, or who they listen to – they stay stuck and they do not know why. If they want to make money and are willing to invest the time and energy into learning, you would think that they would achieve their goal, even only by perseverance. It is as if something seizes control of their mind and their capacity to dispassionately trade their plan is hijacked. After the smoke clears, and they come to their right mind, most traders feel as if their bodies and minds were kidnapped by unseen forces. If you have ever thought this – you are not alone. What Really Drives Your Perception of Money In a capitalistic culture such as ours, our sense of personal worth, adequacy, meaning, and power get woven into our perception of money. As an example, a trader (who has not been successful for several years) is at a cocktail party. He strikes up a general conversation with an unfamiliar man. And the man asks, “What do you do?” Right there, the trader’s identity is tied to trading. The next question is, “Can you really make money at trading?” Though the trader has yet to be able to support his family on his earnings from trading, he answers, “Yes.” Then the trader proceeds to create a fiction that paints a rosy picture of his life as a trader. Actually the trader feels shame erupt and he feels “less than”, so he lies to cover up his embarrassment. The trader’s notion of being a successful human being and his sense of mattering in the world is so tied up to how much money he should be making that he finds himself lying. His worth, his importance, and his social standing are tied up in his relationship to money. Money has become the yardstick by which he measures his value as a human being. And as long as his perception of money is the measuring unit by which he gauges his worth, he will continue to struggle with finding success in trading. External validation by performance in trading becomes the judge of his character. His ability to make money in trading moves from competency of performance in a certain domain (where mistakes point out where he needs to learn in order to become better) to judgment of his worth as a human being. Where does this come from? We Are Born Into a Money Script Go back to the case study of Dale. Dale is born into a certain history and his brain adapts him to the conditions of that environment. His parents had been devastated financially by the Great Depression. Life had become very uncertain for his family’s financial survival. They were scared that they would not have enough money to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Money was scarce, and they could not afford to lose anymore. This was the mantra by which they lived. Like many of their generation, they became savers and avoided risk at almost all costs. They were risk-averse and had developed a way of seeing the world as a dangerous place where things that could go wrong - and did, in fact, go wrong. This became their mindset. And it governed the way they saw life. Their mindset for managing the uncertainty of life was that of a victim of circumstance beyond their control. And into this mindset their son Dale arrived. He was born into this perceptual amalgam of risk, money, inadequacy, powerlessness, and possibility. His brain adapted him to this circumstance. No one noticed that this way of seeing the world had taken over their perception. It was like water to a fish. It was a set of assumptions that had become so familiar, so true, that they were never questioned. And these assumptions of risk, capital, power, and worth became woven into the neuro-circuitry of Dale’s brain and mind – and became his beliefs. This is the money narrative. The Money Narrative All Grown Up Like many people who eventually become traders, Dale grew up and came to trading as a second career. He, like other traders, physically left home and never realized that he was taking the money narrative rooted in this history with him into his adulthood (think about the first career he drifted into). And into his trading. Most traders, just like our friend Dale, have never questioned their beliefs about money – the money narrative. Understand, you do not have a money narrative – rather, a money narrative has you. It is not yours – you belong to it. In particular, traders rarely ask themselves, “What is money to me? What does money mean to me? And where do these beliefs about money come from?” Money will form a certain symbolic representation that connects your sense of power/powerlessness, your sense of adequacy/inadequacy, your sense of mattering/not mattering, and your sense of personal worth/worthlessness into your personal money narrative. And all at the pulling of the trigger where capital is put at risk. In Dale’s example money was connected to his sense of power/powerlessness and to his sense of adequacy/inadequacy. He had avoided confronting these carefully hidden self-limiting beliefs about himself until he started trading. He came face to face with this money narrative (what money and risk means) every time he attempted to pull the trigger on a trade. His money conversation of losing everything and being powerless (that he was born into and adapted to without his knowledge or consent) came rushing into the forefront of his awareness like a ton of bricks every time he attempted to pull the trigger. By becoming aware of this hidden money narrative, he began to alter it. The biggest problem with traders is when they resist acknowledging the presence of the power of their personal money narrative. Most traders are not so fortunate as to be born into a thriving money narrative that balances capital with risk management. Most grow up in families that attempt to avoid uncertainty and risk by not making mistakes. Yet, a money narrative that incorporates management of the risk of uncertainty is vital to successful trading. Finding the Hidden Money Narrative What’s your historical money narrative? One of the most effective ways of discovering the assumptions that have become self limiting beliefs that drive your trading is to ask two simple questions: First - what personal assessments, criticisms, and judgments do you have when you beat yourself up after a loss? This will tell you how your worth, mattering, power, and sense of adequacy is connected to money. Second - observe your personal assessments of yourself when you are on the winning end of a trade. Notice how your performance becomes a yardstick to measure your worth, your sense of value as a human being, or your personal sense of power. Money has become a symbolic representation of who you are. (Confusing net worth with self worth.) The problem is that this narrative has you, you belong to it – and you are its captive. Enormous freedom becomes possible as you learn to be mindful of your financial narrative. It no longer has to control the way you connect money, performance, value, and adequacy as you begin to de-construct the narrative to which you were born. The most powerful part is that at this moment, you can begin constructing a much more empowering narrative about money, worth, meaning, power, and possibility. And your trading just becomes a performance to assess and improve, rather than a judgment of your being. Rande Howell
  4. “We create the possibility of our future based on the way we interpret our world. Becoming a new observer of our world opens the door to new ways of being in the world.” Between the Crosshairs of Emotion and Trading Hesitation gripped Jack’s tensed hand. He couldn’t decide when to enter this trade. His trading plan said he had really gone past the entry point he should have taken. But he had hesitated – what if he was wrong? He decided to wait and track it just a little longer – just to be safe. This was the story of his trading life – waiting on the sideline frozen by his fear of uncertainty. “If I stay on the sideline, I’ll be safe,” he consoled himself. He watched the price go higher and higher. Still he hesitated. Ex-banker that he was – he wanted to be sure. But as he hesitated on the sideline pondering this trade, Jack also began to fear he was missing out on a profitable trade – he wanted in. He felt the urgency build. “Just a little more proof”, his tentative side whispered in his ear. “Get in this trade before it’s too late!” urged another impulse, “Sitting on the sideline isn’t getting you anywhere. You’ve got to get in to win.” This internal struggle in Jack’s mind escalated. Finally, to prove he had the courage to face his fears, he jumped in. The impulse to get in on the trade finally trumped his fear of uncertainty. In a matter of moments, however, the price began to tank and hit his stop. Because of his hesitation, Jack bought beyond the higher end of his entry range. He had missed the opportunity of profit. Instead, he took a small loss. Hesitation was fatal. Why Jack Can’t Trade An emotional roller coaster ride is not what Jack imagined trading was going to be like. Before he started investing in trader training, he studied the opportunity. With his deep institutional investing experience, Jack reasoned active trading was a skill set that he could learn and develop successfully. It was going to require practice and training – he was prepared for that. What he was not prepared for, however, was the role emotions play in trading – and the need to manage them. None of this was mentioned, or he did not hear it, before he committed himself to learning how to trade. No one told him that 90% of trading was in his head – putting himself literally on the line really fired up his stress level. After investing in a solid trading system and training to develop a methodology and trading plan, he was finding that he had a difficult time sticking to and executing his trading plan. And, it was the moment that he moved from simulation trading to having his money in the game that things changed. After all, this was his money he was risking now! In this new world, he seemed to be pulled emotionally in various directions at once. Fear and self doubt collided with a child-like impulsivity that left Jack stressed out and making poor trading decisions. Jack had spent a lifetime pushing emotions away like a nuisance. Now he felt emotional chaos and did not know how to get it under control. Whether it was getting into a trade or getting out of a trade, Jack was often confounded by a mixture of self doubt fueled by his fear of uncertainty or impulsiveness egged on by his fear of missing out. Caught in the crosshairs of these two emotional positions, his winning percentage was dismal. What he knew is that if he did not get a handle on his emotional nature soon, his trading account was not going to survive his learning curve. Thinking Hijacked by Fear A trader’s emotional state determines how he will interpret the market and what he sees as possible in the market. This is because all thinking is emotional state dependent. What does this mean for the trader? Everything – because we trade our psychology. And emotion drives psychology. In the example above, Jack was being pulled in different directions by competing fears. Initially his thinking was contaminated by a fear of uncertainty that kept him tentatively on the sidelines of trading. As he sat out watching the price climb, a fear of missing out on a profitable trade fueled an impulsive entry into a trade. And with no understanding of how to manage them, he sabotaged his trading plan and himself. Without a capacity to manage his emotional states, Jack’s thinking historically fell into self doubt and caution. When he was in the corporate world, this was never a problem. He was always able to steer clear of having to deal with the messiness of having to deal with emotions. In business, there was little need for introspection and he could always hold other peoples’ behavior responsible for the way he felt. It did not work this way in trading. There was no one responsible for his trading but Jack. In taking full responsibility for his trading successes and failures, he discovered that he had developed a habit of avoiding emotional discomfort. The breakdown for Jack, and many traders, is that there is no room to avoid the fears and self doubt in trading. They had to be dealt with head on – a talent he had never developed. Its time had come. Distinguishing Biological Fear from Psychological Discomfort To help him identify and resolve issues that affected his trading performance, Jack found a trading coach. By taking responsibility for his profitability, Jack came to recognize that he could develop himself into the trader he needed to be. The first thing that he learned to do was to separate biological fear from psychological discomfort. This is critical. The brain cannot distinguish between a real threat to life and psychological distress. Jack’s biological fight-or-flight system had been triggering him to avoid risk because the body interprets all risk as a threat to life. His brain’s hardwired motivation to avoid uncertainty (biological risk) put Jack on the sideline. But risking capital is not a biological threat – it does produce psychological discomfort though. When we are faced with the trials and tribulations found in life (particularly trading), our motivation needs to shift from avoidance of the threat for short term gain (biological fear) to approaching the source of the discomfort (it is not going to kill and eat us) in an emotional state of calmness, curiosity, and impartialness. It is in these emotional states that we become capable of long term problem solving. By learning how to calm his body and mind down so that fear did not sweep his thinking into negative appraisal and catastrophic thinking, Jack was able to learn how to take biological fear (and its avoidance motivation) off line before it swept him into reactive behavior. And he was able to replace it with the confidence of a risk manager. A risk manager knows that there will be losses – but there will also be a higher ratio of gains. His job was to reasonably manage risk over a larger number of trades. He had to develop a longer term view rather than a biologically driven, emotional, and short-term knee-jerk reaction to risk. Before, Jack placed life or death significance on each and every trade. With training he was using his psychological discomfort as a reminder that he needed to trade from a calm and impartial state of mind. His ability to take a step back from his automatic fear response into a calm state of mind allowed him to develop the qualities of a successful trader. Freed from habitual triggering to fear and dread allowed him to access inner resources within himself. By cultivating these aspects of his psychology, Jack developed his inner game of trading to a new level. Creating and Managing Peak Performance States of Mind He now mentally rehearsed his trading day, rather than just allowing it to hit him with full force. He used breathing and relaxation to calm his body and mind so that accessing calmness, discipline, patience, courage, and impartialness became a possibility – he achieved emotional state management. And with a disciplined daily practice of keeping the body and mind calm and mental rehearsal of calm assertive states of mind, he was prepared for the trading day. His inner game was in the zone. Developing this part of his inner game of trading led him deeper into his ability to manage his emotions and his states of mind – and it positively impacted many other areas of his life. He had come a long way from being stuck on the sidelines by his fear of uncertainty and then impulsively entering trades out of a fear of missing out. Jack’s decision to take responsibility for his states of mind and to learn to manage them created a very different trader. As a result a very different psychology of the self was deciding when to enter and exit trades – calm, relaxed, impartial states of mind rather states of mind rooted in fear. J. Rande Howell, MEd, LPC http://www.tradersstateofmind.com
  5. A Time for Self Reflection: Why do so many traders stay stuck in painful self limiting patterns rooted in fear and self doubt? It's not like your trading account will allow you to live in comfortable denial for long. Hold this question in your mind. The trader can see that what they are currently doing is not working. They acknowledge they need to do something about their fear-based trading - "they talk the talk" - but they, for some reason, can not push themselves into "walking the walk" of actually doing something about the power fear has over their trading. What's at work here? I asked a very successful trader and teacher this question, and his reply was: "Because the trader has not suffered enough pain." What!? I asked him to go on. "It takes tremendous pain for a trader to seek help and decide to change his ways. It was the same way for me. I'd been trading for 7 years before I finally cried out "UNCLE "- I've had enough and sought help for the psychology I was bringing to the trading room - I had blown out several large trading accounts, had declared personal bankruptcy, and was staring at my family starting to fall apart. That is what did it for me." "Until then, I had way too much pride to admit that I was the problem - not something outside of me. It just wasn't me I was destroying - it was my family. That was rock bottom for me. I couldn't allow that - the pain was just too great. Finally, I knew I had to do something. Avoiding my pain wasn't worth it anymore. It was just a short term fix anyway. The fear kept coming back. In getting beneath the hood of my mind, I found the courage, plus the skills and tools, to face what I had spent my entire life avoiding. I know now that my fear of not measuring up created a bigger than life personna that tried to protect me from feeling my wrong-headed sense of unworthiness. " "What's crazy is why it took me so long. I was really invested in "looking good". I much prefer who I am now than the trader I used to be. Losing is not longer a statement about me anymore. Anyone who trades professionally trains themselves to emotionally think in terms of having an edge in probabilies as they approach the uncertainty of a trade. Over time they are going to have more winners than losers and the winners will be much bigger than the losers. Calm, detached, confident, and humble. Losing or winning is no longer emotionaly charged. Confronting my fears allowed me to separate fear from uncertainty. This psychological freedom is what has allowed me to develop the trader I am today. But I had to experience pain beyond my threshold before I was willing to push through my denial and face the demons roaring like a hungry lion in my mind. Once did that, I wondered why it took me so long to do something so simple." What can you learn from this trader's journey into financial success and personal growth? What I want you to notice about this trader's story is how long he stayed in the denial that continued his march into pain. I also want you to notice the enormous pain he shouldered. What was the cost of his not acting to master his fear? Hundreds of thousands of dollars for sure. But you, as a trader, know the cost of not confronting and mastering your fear is much greater that dollars alone. It is the loss of your potential as a human being that is really robbed. The tragic part is that it is not the market that robs you. It is nothing outside of you. It is your fear that robs you of the potential that trading offers. This is what keeps the unsuccessful trader locked in the comfort zone of his self limiting beliefs. How do you or how have you broken out of this biologically-wired spell fear has entranced you? Where are you at in the evolution of the trader in you? Rande Howell
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