Today, 90% of my income is profit from transactions at the Chicago futures exchange. This money allows my family to have a comfortable and exciting lifestyle and to see different parts of our planet through business class windows or from the deck of a yacht, and what’s more important — not to worry about tomorrow. This gives me freedom and independence, allowing me to be in charge of my time and not to sell it for a song. I have an interesting job that brings me joy, and I consider it my life’s work. I like to share my knowledge. There is a place for risk in my life, but I’ve managed to make my financial situation stable.
It wasn’t always like this. Before trading became my primary occupation, I had to travel a long path full of sharp stones and deep potholes. There were moments when I clutched my head in frustration — and when I jumped for joy. I’ve tasted the insane euphoria and the colossal disappointment. There were days when I clung on to the rock by my bloody fingers with my last ounce of strength and tried to find the strength to continue my journey.
I have traveled an over 30,000-hour long path (excluding rest) in trading and executed more than 10,000 transactions along the way.
Now, looking back, I realize that my path was not much different from the roads that other traders had traveled before me, or travel right now, or will travel after me. Except some will reach the point where they will be able to call themselves professionals and others will fail the test. But all of us have something in common: people who want to become professional traders will have to learn from their mistakes, suffer bumps and bruises, rise above themselves, strengthen their willpower and self-discipline, overcome fears and control emotions.
It does not matter what you are interested in — currency, stocks or futures. It does not matter what exchanges you are interested in — currency, stock or commodity exchanges. Moreover: the books and information you use to gain knowledge and improve your skills and the teachers you choose to guide you are not so important either. One way or another, no one has yet been able to avoid mistakes and difficulties at the beginning of their journey. The only thing that matters is that these difficulties do not break, but make you.
|Per aspera ad astra, through hardships to the stars, the ancients said. Don’t be afraid of hardships — with their help you will form the foundation essential for our profession and learn to take responsibility for your actions, for your life and your destiny.
Why I decided to devote myself to trading. The pursuit of money and freedom
How did I become one of those who had chosen trading as their way to success, wealth and self-actualization? The answer is rather prosaic — I really wanted to say goodbye to the poverty, to the constant necessity to deny myself everyday desires, to the disappointment I felt when looking at price tags and to the uneasy thoughts about the future. But what I absolutely did not want to do was to hide my eyes, when explaining to my kid why his dad cannot buy him a toy, a chocolate bar or a ticket to Disneyland.
I looked around — and I saw people chained by the bondage of loans and mortgages, forced to waste their precious time on boring jobs, dependent on their employers and no longer aware of what it was like to have a dream. I didn’t want to become a slave to the system — just another cog in the machine controlled by someone else.
Once I tried to calculate how many hours of my life I spent on earning a slice of bread. These calculations almost drove me into depression. When we sell our time at an average job, we barely cover household expenses. We throw away years of our lives to pay for a roof over our heads. We sell months of freedom in order to go to the seaside for a week. We run like hamsters in our spinning wheels, and then we collapse on the couch with just one wish — to open a can of beer and bury our eyes in the TV. We don’t have enough time for our hobbies, families, and travels and for finding our life’s purpose. Isn’t that slavery? Modern economic slavery, a rat race.
And anxiety, the endless anxiety in the background. Any moment, you might lose even these meager blessings, become unemployed, and end up on the margins of society.
And on top of all the hopelessness is the understanding that you don’t even have the right to control your own destiny. You are doomed to stagger behind your boss year after year.
It had become clear to me that I had to change something in my life.
Simply put — I needed freedom and financial independence. And also — the opportunity to be the employer and the work-performer at the same time.
After trying a thousand and one ways to earn money, I finally came close to trading. By that time, I already had an idea of what foreign exchange trading was, but there was this «honey is sweet, but the bee stings» kind of struggle going on inside my head. Perhaps you are familiar with this, too? The slough of comfort tried to hold me in its soothing embrace. Lack of money wouldn’t let me go to trading. Skepticism battled with enthusiasm. Caution fought the dream of getting rich. Finally, the desire to change my life, the interest in a new business, the temptation of opening new horizons and — no use denying it! — the dream of getting rich have won.
In the end, I did take the most important step of my life — into the magical world of investment.
How I started making private investments. Euphoria and a cold shower
Trading tempted me with its opportunities and seeming simplicity. There was no way I could ignore the stories about traders who had doubled or tripled their capital in one trading session. In 2003, I opened an account with a broker, and with an initial deposit of $2000, I started exploring the Forex market. First — using a demo account.
It turned out to be even easier than I’d expected: prices were rather predictable, a fall was always followed by a rise, and it seemed like I’d been blessed with a gift of foresight. In just 3 or 4 hours, I increased my virtual deposit fourfold. Everything was fantastically easy. I did not use protective orders and traded intuitively. Everything was working out!
The amount of virtual money was increasing, and my euphoria was growing. At that moment, I desperately regretted the years I had spent in doubt, suffering hardships and denying myself a comfortable lifestyle. And the happiness was so close!
So, naturally, I opened a real account, rubbing my hands in anticipation. Villas, yachts, business jets, penthouses, and private islands were flashing before my eyes!
Isn’t that what every trader dreams about, especially a beginning one? Today, trading for me is not just about having a job, business and a source of income. It is as much a part of my soul as painting is for an artist, or poetry — for a poet, or music — for a composer. But at the beginning of our paths, the first thing we see in trading is financial prospects. It’s not bad or good — it’s a given. It’s in human nature. All the more so, since movies show us so many examples of wolves’ spectacular successes in the exchange market! Yes, I wanted all of that. Success, money. And trading with the demo account convinced me: it’s easy! You simply need to reach out, and the wealth is in your hands…
I was high on my success, and so, without any hesitation, I started trading using a real account.
Alas. All $2000 I started my trading path with, were wasted in that same 3 or 4 hours. Demo account trading gave me a short-lived belief in a cloudless and prosperous future — and real money trading brought me back down to earth.
Is there any use in describing the mistakes I’d made? I suppose, there’s no point — they were the typical beginner’s mistakes. I was afraid of losing my money, I acted impulsively, and I did not use protective orders…
If I were a Hollywood screenwriter for a movie about a successful trader, this dramatic part would be followed by the scenes of rising to trading success: my character would take into account all his mistakes and start making a way to his first million. Alas, everything was more prosaic in my real life. I’d wasted six (six!) deposits before I realized that trading is not so easy and that it requires learning.
It is important to bear in mind, that life is different from the movies. Be prepared for the market to knock the wind out of you. More than once. If you choose the path of trading, do not expect indulgences from the market. Do not believe the lulling promises of the demo account game. It gets serious.
By the way, do you know what the first thing they teach skydivers is? It’s how to fall right — and how to get up.
If you lose your footing — it’s not such a big deal. Get back up!
Per aspera… Difficulties, hardships, bumps, and bruises
So, a new phase in my life had begun: I’d realized that I lacked knowledge and skills essential for becoming a successful trader. Yes, I was in the red, but at the same time the mistakes I’d made, in the long term, played a role in putting me back in the black. I realized that instead of acting like a gambler in a casino, I should learn the basics of the profession and acquire the skills that would allow me to earn a steady income.
But what should I learn and how do I do it? At that moment I thought: all I need is technical analysis. My brain processed the books by Elder, Vince, Schwager, Williams, Kahneman… But what is actually worth reading, I will tell you a bit later. I searched for training videos and analyzed traders’ discussions on forums. And, of course, I experimented.
I discovered the continents over and over again. I reinvented the wheel countless times. I believe I even came up with a multiplication table a couple of times.
This phase is natural for a trader. At this stage, you read whatever comes to hand; you try to follow free or paid signals; you put your hopes on robots; you think about finding a good teacher… And, of course, at the heart of your thoughts (or at least on the fringes of your consciousness) burns (or at least smolders) the dream of a magic risk-free and win-win strategy. There’s just got to be one, right?
The search for a magic strategy is an inevitable step in the trader’s professional development. It is hard to accept the idea of inevitable losses. Psychologists say that the joy of making a profit is 3 times lower than the bitterness of losing a similar amount. It’s a defense mechanism biologically programmed into our brains. So it is absolutely natural for a beginner to look for this win-win strategy that makes it possible to trade without losses. But in order for you to become a professional, your brain must make a serious leap forward in understanding the essence of the foreign exchange trading: you have to accept the fact that the terms of the game entail some risks. Only then will it be possible for you to work on minimizing them. After all, if you subconsciously deny the very idea of risk, what’s there to minimize?
But it is impossible to prove to a beginner that there is no magic strategy (or magic button, or magic robot). You need to reach this conclusion on your own.
So, you learn, but somehow you are not getting anywhere. For some reason, people just talk about the market and stubbornly refuse to share their secret indicators and magic strategies. Gurus take your money (either in small, or great amounts), but in exchange, you only get a basic knowledge, that you have already obtained on your own. You pay and you get nothing but theory. And for some reason, you are not getting closer to your goal.
I had to go through all of that as well. I believe this phase is typical for every trader.
Alongside my search for knowledge, I tried to work with:
- PA patterns;
- oscillators (MACD, Stochastic, RSI, etc.);
- moving averages;
- Gann swing charts;
Needless to say, during my experimental stage, I tried different ways of trading with the martingale system. I got acquainted with the Elliott wave principle (I even learned that it was based on the so-called Fibonacci numbers).
I was persistent!
And so four years had passed. I had uploaded massive data into my brain, I’d tested dozens of strategies and hundreds of indicators. And suddenly, it became crystal clear to me — oh, I remember that day! — the magic button does not exist. There are no win-win strategies. There are no robots, that can serve you a steady income on a plate. And yet, the things I had tested over these four years really worked — one way or another.
Yes, you heard it right, you can make a profit using any technical tool — from moving averages to pivots, from support and resistance levels to harmonic patterns and even «banal» candlestick charts. It’s not about the tool. It’s about psychology and the ability of traders to manage risks and to control themselves.
The main secret to successful trading. Finding the best trading system for you
At long last, I had crossed another threshold — and ended up at the beginning of a new part of the path, leading to my cherished goal. The next trading phase had begun for me — self-exploration, understanding my own mind and self-improvement. It was only at this stage that I realized which train I should take in order to go straight to the station called «Professionalism» without any detours.
I devoted this part of the way to studying trading psychology and to personal money, risk and time management. And the more attention I paid to psychology and management, the clearer I understood: the Grail does not exist.
But what does the objective reality offer? There are various tools, and we can use them with different levels of success, which depend directly on our personal preferences and psychological predispositions. There are indicators that are basically general formulas, while it is people and events that form specific prices in the market. There are laws by which the market lives and which you must consider when building your own trading system. And what’s important is that these aspects are psychological, and they are what determines the success of trading.
After realizing this, I started to feel my own way to success — building a personal trading system and forming a working pattern that suits me best. To do this, I started a trading diary (the basis of self-discipline!), I started planning for the next week (making adjustments in the process) and analyzing my reactions to certain events in trading practices. I needed a system that would allow me to work at the exchange with low risks, a good profit, and what’s more important — with stability and psychological comfort.
Incredible as it may seem, of all the knowledge, skills and revealed patterns I had accumulated over two years, the psychological rules I developed at this very stage turned out to be the most helpful:
- Trading requires a calm state of mind. If I am under pressure, if some inner turmoils are distracting me — I put off trading until my mental state is stabilized.
- Carefully thought-out risk management. My personal limit allows me to lose no more than 3% (and this is the maximum) of my deposit in one transaction. Under no circumstances will I risk more and jeopardize a well-functioning system.
- The ability to stop in time. After two failed trades in a row, I take a time-out. There is no point in making things worse than they already are or going into overdrive. It is better to take a break until you understand what is happening in the market.
- Patience. There is no use in fussing and looking for entry signals where there are none. You just have to learn to wait.
- Carefully calculated deposit. My minimal deposit for comfortable trading is calculated based on the 3 percent loss per trade principle and the profit I want to make.
The fifth point proved to be particularly important for me — I will explain why. If you work following a system based on the 3 percent risk per trade principle (3% from the total volume of the deposit), your potential income will depend on the amount of capital and on the leverage provided by the broker. (By the way, what attracted me to futures trading in the first place was the lack of leverage — it is inherent in the derivative instrument itself.) A deposit of $2000, in this case, will earn you a relatively small income. When you make only a small profit, it is easy to give in to disappointment and, as a result, start thoughtlessly raising the stakes in an attempt to make more money and faster.
That is why I add to my calculations not only the risk limit but also the planned profit. It is psychologically-comfortable and therefore safer to work with a good deposit. Wouldn’t you agree that making a 10-15% profit with good money is much easier and more enjoyable than straining your every nerve to get a 100% profit from $2,000?
That’s how management systems (time, risk and money) became my best friends. And after a while, I also understood the role of stability in trader’s work. I had a couple of favorite currency pairs, I knew the ropes of strong candlestick patterns, I thoroughly studied the Price Action and I could quite easily determine reversal patterns and false breakouts. But most importantly — I was no longer looking for indicators, and my trading terminal showed only the price and volume charts.
In addition, I started monitoring news for fundamental analysis, and my desktop got a new widget that showed business hours at various exchanges; I had learned (although at the time not thoroughly yet) to determine what factors affect the value of national currency units and how it happens, and what to expect from certain events in the world economy and politics.
That’s how I’d been working my way through hardships for two years until a beautiful view of the endless starry sky had finally greeted me. I had reached the professional level, and the real horizons of trading had opened before me.
It took me four years to build a substantial foundation for my trading career. Four years — is that a lot or a little? People spend 4 or 6 years studying in universities, but in most cases, they graduate with some theoretical knowledge hardly suitable for practice. I think I’d made a good trade.
How long will it take you?
Trading requires both hard work and creativity. Trading means working for yourself in the shifting winds of the market. Gradually, you will develop your personal time management principles, which will help you to work at the exchange comfortably and on a full-time basis: steadily and regularly. But while you are looking for your own path, the odds are that you will be having long breaks or, vice versa, marathons of learning and experimenting for days without getting a wink of sleep.
It’s natural. It is hardly worth trying to subject your professional growth to any schedule. To be honest, I haven’t met a single beginner who would move towards the goal confidently and systematically from the first days of his or her trading career. After all, you will be influenced by various psychological factors: joy and disappointment, excitement and resentment, hope and despair… Perhaps tomorrow you will angrily push your monitor away — and the day after tomorrow you will go back to your chair and start the hunt for your personal trading system.
It is crucial not to give up at one of those points where it seems that the top is unattainable.
You will feel exhausted from time to time, too — it is inevitable. But do not think during the breaks — which can drag on for a week or even a month — that trading is over for you. In fact, your brain, overloaded with information over the previous days, simply processes and organizes it.
And this means that your professional growth continues.
How long it will take you to walk your personal path and reach the professional level — no one knows. Perhaps it will be shorter than my path, perhaps longer. The point is to keep on going even after facing another obstacle. All obstacles can be overcome.
Do not collect failures, gain experience.
People often ask me, how to deal with failures. How to learn to overcome obstacles? How to keep on going, when it seems that nothing is working?
Statistics are dramatic: 70% of traders leave the market and disappear into the mist in the first 3-4 months of trading, forever disappointed in trading after wasting large amounts of money. Another 15-25% will leave after a year. And only 5% will become professionals. Trading will become their profession, business, and their life’s work.
That’s exactly what happened to me.
I think you already know where to find the strength to overcome obstacles. Moving up and forward entirely depends on your motivation. If you feel that trading is your destiny if you aspire to achieve professional results in this field, if you dream of making money, if you want to become a real wolf in the market — nothing will stop you. Each failure will encourage you to work on your mistakes, and every victory will inspire and empower you.
But there are some significant failures that can break a person. How do you dig yourself out of an avalanche, how do you claw your way from a deep abyss — and how do you keep on going?
I think I will give an example from my own practice.
$280,000 lost. Tremendous fiasco and…
In 2007, I already felt like a shark in the Forex market. Trading started bringing me a stable profit, and I decided to move forward — to larger earnings in the global market. After studying various options, I chose the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and decided to try my hand at futures transactions.
I outgrew the Forex market, where I’d gained a lot of experience, and I felt like my development had come to a standstill. Besides, I had made good money there — enough to embark on a voyage across the great sea. It was time to try my hand at some serious trading and, truth be told, I wanted to try on the shoes of Gordon Gekko from the «Wall Street» movie.
So, I needed to calculate the deposit for trading at the CME. Of course, you can start trading futures with small amounts of money, but I knew that using a small deposit is dangerous: wrong predictions may result in money flying out of your account at supersonic speed. Therefore, investing $2,000, as I did in Forex, would be simply unwise. I decided to deposit $20,000 at the CME right away.
And I admit, in my mind, I was already spending my first million dollars.
Alas, the reality once again hit me as hard as it could. Just like in my first Forex days before, I succumbed to euphoria. Last time, it was the deceptive simplicity of the demo account game that failed me. And this time it was my own arrogance. I considered myself an expert in foreign exchange trading and I got careless. I did not even think to study the specifics of the new trading platform!
I was knocked out. $20,000 (twenty thousand dollars!!!) were sucked into a black hole. I had not made this money in a day. To earn it, I had to master and control my emotions, improve my self-discipline, build a risk management system, develop a convenient trading system and strictly follow my personal psychological rules… But, for some reason, a new trading platform and sailing out into the vast ocean of global trading made me forget about all of my rules. Self-confidence and belief in my own success transformed into something fanatical. I hadn’t taken into account multiple specific aspects of the new platforms and started to trade with maximum risk. The worst part was that I saw myself losing control and I couldn’t do anything about it. I didn’t keep the promises I had made to myself about trading.
I wasted all this money in just a few hours!
Then it got worse. I continued to bring my money to the CME, increasing deposit amounts and raising the stakes. Now I know that I was driven by a simple desire to turn the tables. The desire to «take revenge» on the market, bitterness about my losses, the hope of winning my money back, and rage and greed — all mixed up into a deadly cocktail of emotions. I was basically out of control. A professional trader I thought I had become in the previous four years, turned back into a casino gambler.
The result of this madness: 5 deposits totaling $280,000 wasted. I sobered up only after I had no money left. And the hangover was very bitter.
When I saw what I had done, I thought to myself: that’s it, I’m done with trading.
…In a few days, the feeling of bitterness had dulled, and I started analyzing the reasons for such a tremendous failure. I understood what had happened. The greed — the desire to make the coveted million quickly — was to blame. I substantially raised the deposit amount right out of the gate, because, at the time, I thought it would allow me to work smoothly and comfortably; but it turned out I was not ready for this much money. At the same time, the amounts I started involving in transactions were much larger than my usual rates. This jump was just too much for my mind: I simply went beyond my psychological limits, and my brain had to work under new, unfamiliar circumstances. The level of adrenaline in my blood dramatically increased, and this always has consequences. I lost control of my emotions — and…
What conclusions did I draw from that experience?
- First, I should have increased my usual limits gradually and I should have adjusted to large amounts and a big trading platform one step at a time.
- Second, after wasting the first deposit, I should have taken a timeout to analyze the situation.
- Third, emotional self-control means everything!
A sober analysis of the situation and understanding of my mistakes allowed me to continue my work at the CME — but this time with the necessary experience.
And here it is, the main conclusion I made after my personal apocalypse: if you get into trading to «make a quick buck», every failure will unsettle you and you will soon give up on this venture. If trading becomes a part of your life, the failures will eventually transform into the experience.
As we know, some people see the glass as half empty, and some — as half full. Only you decide how to see your wrong moves — as a complete failure or as another addition to the experience piggy bank.
6 months later. Coming out of a coma. The final battle
It took me six months to «come out of a coma»: to recover mentally and realize that I couldn’t live without trading anymore. Over the years, trading had become a part of me. I found that trading was the business I could immerse myself in and that it was something I truly wanted to do. You cannot take away a violin from a violinist, or brushes from an artist. You cannot erase trading from your life if it has become a part of it.
I started preparing for a new battle with the US futures market.
This time I acted calmly and reasonably, following the developed psychological rules and trading system. Was I afraid to go back to the market, that had flattened me like a steamroller? I can’t say I wasn’t anxious at all. But there was no panic. I saw the futures market as a strong opponent. Yes, it had once defeated me in the ring. But I got back up, I analyzed my mistakes and I got motivated. I had to win!
My preparation for the battle over my place in the market was strategic: I was gradually transferring the skills I’d obtained in the Forex market and mastering them at the CME. I was slowly increasing deposits and trading limits. I was acting within my trading system — calmly and without a trace of emotion. And step by step, I had transferred my strategy to the US futures market.
And this time, I felt like a duck to water in the global market!
It’s my life. I build it myself
Now, after 16 years in trading (12 of them at the Chicago exchange), I can safely say: if you really want to achieve success in this field — you are bound to achieve it. It will not be easy, but it will be exciting. And trading will definitely change your life. It will make you a different person.
What has changed over the years in me?
I realized I was in control of my destiny. Trading allowed me to break the cycle: to break free from a dead-end job and from working for other people, to escape the endless routine and the dull «paycheck to paycheck» life and forget about the sense of underachievement. Now I have recreation and self-actualization opportunities that bring me money. I can fly to the Iguazu falls and see their crystal streams. Or go to Tibet. Or take a cruise around Australia, New Zealand or Antarctica. I can live in New York, Paris, Tokyo, London or Dubai — and make money from anywhere in the world. And most importantly, I can bring joy to the ones I love by fulfilling their wishes.
However, the joy of financial well-being is only a part of the bigger picture. There’s no feeling like the one I get from my professional achievements.
But what lies ahead? People tend to strive for more. So do I. When honing my trading system, I started to realize that ordinary trading is not enough for me anymore. I wanted to share my knowledge with the world. And help other people find their paths if I can.
I would say I’ve reached the point in my life where my desire for personal achievements has transformed into a craving for a social mission.
When I see people wasting their deposits, burying themselves in debt, giving up trading and blocking their own paths to success — I want to change this world, even if for a few people. (And if it works — for hundreds and thousands.) That’s why I have created this website and the Telegram channel, where I share my knowledge and explain how you can systematically make money in trading by minimizing risks and dealing with your emotions.
Of course, I cannot travel this path for you, but I can light the way. And I hope that if you follow this light, you will make fewer mistakes than if you follow the path blindly.
I have already seen the progress people make after seeking my advice. And it is the best prize my work can offer.
If you also want to trade professionally — keep going and don’t be afraid of failure. Transform your mistakes into experience, but make as few of them as possible. Don’t let the market break you. Conquer it by starting your journey prepared — with knowledge, skills and the right mindset. Let trading become your life’s work!