What a Successful Trader Looks Like

In his podcasts and books, Tim Ferriss repeatedly asks his elite guests about their definition of success.

The answers vary.

That's a problem.

We all want to be "successful" but how do we do it if we don't know what it is?

Is it the amount of money we have in our trading account? Is it how long we've been trading? Is it how big our winning trade is? Is it how consistent we are?

Can a $10,000 trader be a success and a million dollar trader be a failure? Yes and no.

A $10k trader could be considered wildly successful if she started with $5k. A million dollar trader could be a failure if he started with two million.

But if a million dollar trader started with $10k...You see the problem.

It's tricky.

To be a success, we need to know what success is. If we don't, how will we know when we get there?

So let's define success using one of my favorite quotes:

A success is anyone who is doing deliberately a predetermined job because that's what that person decided to do.

-Earl Nightingale

Using that metric, a $10k trader is a success if she decided that she was going to beat the market consistently, and a million dollar trader is a failure if he has no idea what he's doing with his account.

The key to success lies in one word: deliberate.

A successful trader intentionally decides to work on a goal, and then never stops working on that goal.

In fact, Nightingale says, "The only person who succeeds is the person who is progressively realizing a worthy ideal. But only 1 in 20 does that."

So, if the $10k trader has a deliberate goal to beat the market (better than 8% per year on average), that trader is on the way to success. To be successful, though, that trader would then have to continually be working on that goal.

Deliberate goal + deliberate work = success.

That's why, when you look at it through this lens, the results actually don't matter.

Wait a second! That's doesn't make sense. Of course results matter! A trader is not successful if he loses money!

And here's where the rubber meets the road. Results don't matter philosophically, but they are absolutely essential to the journey.

Philosopher William James said, "If you care enough for a result, you will almost certainly ascertain it. If you wish to be rich, you will be rich. If you wish to be learned, you will be learned. If you wish to be good, you will be good."

That's why results are critical. Results are the window to our true intentions.

For example, let's say we want to lose 20 lbs. We deliberately decide on this worthy goal. We're on our way to success.

But six months later, we've gained weight. What went wrong?

The hard truth is: we really didn't want to lose that weight.

We didn't deliberately work toward that goal.

It's difficult for any of us to face the truth, but losing 20 lbs is inevitable to anyone who wants to achieve it.

If we eat whole foods, stop eating past 6 pm, and get 10,000 daily steps in, we will lose the weight. There's no other possible outcome.

If we didn't lose the weight, then we ate the wrong things often, ate late at night, and didn't exercise very much. We deliberately didn't do the work.

It's hard for any of us to face the truth, but beating the market is inevitable to anyone who wants to achieve it.

If we have that goal and trade consistently every day, we'll be successful (and our results will back that up).

If we get scared of losing, distracted by other systems, or inconsistent in any way, we're not doing the work and we're not successful (results will also back that up).

Success is available to everyone. In fact, it's inevitable once we go down the right path.

We just have to be willing to do what everyone else won't:

Deliberately work toward our worthy goal.

 

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