As toddlers, we grew up wanting to be policemen, artists, teachers and nurses. This was all based on what we wanted to do with our lives. There were no restrictions, as no one imposed their thoughts and beliefs on us.
But as we grew older, we got told that these vocations “aren’t practical”, and that it’s “better” to become an accountant, lawyer, doctor or banker. These are the “safe” jobs that made money. These are the jobs we should want.
So we listened, and graduated from Grade School, moved on to High School, and then on to College where we proceeded to get a Degree, Masters or PhD.
And throughout this 2-decade long process, we are constantly influenced by teachers, peers, parents and even career counselors that repeatedly tell us what we should be doing with our lives.
The whole education system fed us information on a structured, sequential manner, like a factory assembly line: in pops the freshmen, and out pops a new generation of accountants, lawyers and doctors. Like clockwork.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is an effective way to train people to take up essential economic and social roles. Without this system, we’d live in a world of messy business accounts, a slow economy and a lot more sickness in our lives.
The formal education system does a great job of turning people into professionals.
Professionals Are Great To Have Around…
Professionals become professionals because of their ability to stick to a set of fixed rules.
And for many human endeavors, this is a good thing.
I wouldn’t want to be treated by a doctor who doesn’t follow standard medical procedures. And neither would I want the services of an accountant who dropped out of college.
It’s all part of the life of a professional – doing what the rules say they should be doing.
In fact, if you deviate from the norm as a professional, you may even get punished for it. Try over-prescribing medication as a doctor and you’ll soon hear from the state health department.
Professionals survive by doing they are supposed (or told) to be doing.
As a professional, it pays to run with the herd.
But Winning Traders Aren’t Professionals
When it comes to trading however, the last thing you want to do is act like a professional – the simple reason being that winning traders, by necessity, behave differently from everyone else.
The fact of the matter is that in order for any one of my trades to be closed for a profit, I require the effort of others to push prices in my favor.
This means that winning traders must take action early, before the masses catch on and it’s too late to make a profit.
The Cookie Cutter Student
I’ve spent a large portion of my life in the formal education system, where I was constantly being told what to read, write and study.
Everything I would want to know about my field of study could be found in textbooks, all nicely and thoughtfully displayed with pictures, bullet points, and charts.
I got so used to someone else doing the thinking for me and feeding me with information that I never considered trading to be any different.
I thought that like studying to be a doctor or lawyer, there was a curriculum I could just follow along and “become a profitable trader” at the end of it.
I wanted to join the assembly line where I could pop in as a newbie, and come out as a winning trader.
Adventures In The Real World
After graduating from university, I left the world of academia to join the workforce as a project manager.
Pretty soon, I realized that while I had spent 4 years in university learning how to work within a business, I had no idea how to actually run one.
The differences were startling.
I noticed how everyone in the office thought and behaved differently from the big boss – the guy who actually owned and ran the company.
Staff members would come into the office at 9am, break for lunch at noon, and leave the office at 6-7pm. This happened 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year, with the exception of public holidays.
And I compared this with how Mr. Big Boss lived his everyday office life.
Sometimes he’d come into the office earlier than everyone else, at 7am, sometimes, he’d come in at 3pm, and sometimes he didn’t come into the office at all. He’d take lunch whenever he wanted, and left the office whenever he felt was appropriate.
I thought to myself… “He’s clearly playing a different game than everyone else here.”
School had taught me to listen, and obey instructions, work hard, and don’t break the rules. And if I followed along, I’d be rewarded with good grades and a nice certificate I can hang on a wall.
But upon observing my big boss, I realized that he rarely did any of these things. He pretty much lived as though none of the rules (that everyone in the office was following) applied to him.
I wondered how he was able to drive a nice car, own a great company and decide how to spend his time when he didn’t follow the rules that I’d been taught to follow.
And Then It Hit Me…
While brighter minds would have caught on much earlier, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe… there was another set of rules to live by.
This thought scared me… because it meant that almost everything I’d been taught to believe was misguided.
I struggled and suffered through school with the anticipation of finally “making it” with a good job…
But I’ve now stumbled onto a whole new perspective that screamed “there’s a better way.”
The Day I Started Thinking For Myself
So I decided to stop looking for others to tell me what to do, and to figure things out on my own.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy going against the grain, but everything I’d been taught to do in the past 16 years left me tired, un-enthusiastic and with a $20,000 student loan.
There had to be a better way.
The Entrepreneur’s Perspective
Inspired by my ex-boss, I began to read up on topics about entrepreneurship and lifestyle perspectives.
Books like the Cashflow Quadrant and the 4-Hour Work Week opened my eyes to a different approach to life and career.
While what I learned in school was mostly informative knowledge (dealing with facts), these books taught me transformative knowledge (dealing with perspectives).
And they helped me realize that just like millions of people around the world, I’d been brought up to play the role of a cog in the economic machine – just another easily replaceable worker.
The well-intentioned advice of my parents, peers and authority figures was really just setting me up to live the life they thought would be beneficial for me.
My poor dad always said, “Go to school, get good grades, get a high paying job, work hard, live below your means, save money, get out of debt, have a good retirement plan.” – Robert Kiyosaki
The thing is, I didn’t want a good enough life.
I wanted a great life.
Climbing the corporate ladder meant playing the game that had been set by someone else higher up in the ladder… and that didn’t appeal to me one bit. It’s an uphill game that only gets more difficult the higher I climb.
I wanted to spend my time and energy on something that makes it easier for me to succeed over time.
So I took everything I learned about entrepreneurship and applied it to my trading.
I didn’t want to work for money – I wanted my money to work for me.
I Trained For 16 Years To Be A Bad Trader
Looking back, I realized why I had such a difficult time trading at first.
You see, being a trader has a lot in common with being an entrepreneur – it’s all about understanding and controlling the effects of uncertainty.
I spent 16 years in school learning to be precise (like the professionals), and I’d mistakenly transferred those expectations to my trading. Unlike math and science however, human emotions and imagination (which are what drive markets) cannot be reliably quantified.
The rules of the market change too often, too quickly and too drastically for there to be any reliable “cookie cutter” training process.
For instance, Einstein’s equation E = mc2 describes how energy can be calculated with a known mass, and the speed of light. And since the speed of light never changes, one can easily work out the energy contained within an object, based on its mass alone.
This is knowledge that can be universally relied upon, and can thus be learned from a textbook.
Now what about trading?
Let’s say the latest Non Farm Payroll figures are positive. The resultant price movement of the EUR/USD would then be influenced by traders’ and investors’ interpretation of what this means to them.
To one trader, this could mean an opportunity to sell his U.S. Treasury bonds and buy stocks in the German market, pushing the EUR/USD up.
To another investor, this could mean an opportunity to SHORT the EUR/JPY on his expectation of the longer term strengthening of the Japanese Yen, pushing the EUR/USD down.
And not to forget the traders who are waiting on the sidelines, ready to act over a hundred different reasons, or traders in the market who are holding on to existing positions, and are looking to exit.
You see, there are simply too many factors and far too much subjectivity involved to accurately predict the outcome of these factors.
So it’s no wonder trading can’t be taught from a traditional textbook – the rules are too subjective and change too quickly.
What all of this means is that unlike students and professionals, a profitable trader cannot act the same way as the majority of his peers.
Instead of following the rules, a trader needs to work within a framework that allows for significant flexibility.
Awaken The Entrepreneur
So as you’re learning to trade, understand that there is no fixed approach to success. There is no study curriculum.
Just like how there’s no fixed way to succeed in business, such is the same with trading.
Of course, you’d have to learn the basics of how to enter and exit trades, and how to properly use leverage, etc – just like how new entrepreneurs must first understand the basics of accounting and marketing…
But the knowledge that’s really going to make you money won’t come from a textbook.
It’s a combination of sensibility, experience, insight, attitude, perspective and courage that will see you succeed where so many have failed.
So stop thinking like an employee, and start thinking like an entrepreneur.
Stop looking for tools and figuring out how to use them. Instead, figure out what you want first, and then look for the tools to get you those results.
You are the only one in charge, and the moment you start looking for someone else to make decisions for you, you’re on your way out.