The Ugly Choices Behind Trading Success

I once attended a university class where each week, a well-known CEO was invited down to speak with the students.

This was one of my favorite classes, because unlike the usual lectures held by university professors, these sessions were led by people with real industry experience.

There was one particular CEO I looked up to, who runs a well-known international hotel and resort business. Official estimates peg his net worth to more than a quarter billion dollars. Let’s call him Mr X.

During the Q&A session of the class, one student put up her hand.

“Mr X, you must be a very busy man. How do you manage work-life balance?” she asked.

He paused for a bit, as though he had difficulty answering the question.

But then he said something that I’ll never forget.

Get Real

Mr X looked at her, and said:

“In my experience, there is no such thing. You either work, or you have a life. You can’t have both at the same time.”

The room became quiet.

“My first love is my work. My wife knows it, and my children know it… and they’ve come to accept it.

Barring any emergencies, my first priority is work.”

You could almost hear a collective gasp in the audience.


His blunt reply surprised me.

I half expected some politically correct answer, like: “if you manage your time properly, you can accomplish a lot at work and still have time with family.”

But here was a multi-millionaire telling us, that in reality, you can’t have the best of both worlds.

And as I looked around the room, it was clear that most people did not like hearing this.

At the end of the class, I overheard a few people calling him insane, a workaholic, or that he loves money too much.

Personally though, I now respected him even more.

I may not want to live like him, but I certainly appreciated his honest opinion.

Success is by definition unconventional

Mr X is a busy man.

And by “busy”, I don’t mean “busy” like how your best friend is “busy” playing Candy Crush or like how your colleague is “busy” moving into a new apartment.

Every day, Mr X spends his time running an organization that affects the livelihoods of thousands of people.

If your friend screws up on Candy Crush, he can simply try again. If Mr X screws up, hundreds of people lose their jobs. When the stakes are this high, there is no ‘try again’ option.

Thus, in a way, Mr X gets paid to make hard decisions.

And in order to do that successfully, one must have a keen grasp of reality.

People hate seeing how the sausage is made

Most aspiring traders want the freedom of trading for a living, but they hate the process of getting there.

They hate being told that it will take years of diligent study before they get start getting a hang of things. They hate learning about economic fundamentals and they hate going through draw down periods.

They just want more money, and they want it now.

They want the sausage, but they don’t want to know how it’s made.

Where were you on New Years Day?

Since that day in class many years ago, I never forgot Mr X’s words.

No matter how much I felt like quitting, I studied the markets every day. No matter how frustrated I felt about my losses, I always showed up.

During those times, quitting would have been the rational thing to do. After all, I was bleeding capital all the way.

But I never took a break. Not even on holidays when the markets were closed.

On Christmas Eve and New Years Day when everyone was out partying, I’d be looking at charts, reviewing my past trades, or doing research.

Because the reality is that I have no talent as a trader. I love the game, but I have no natural talent for it.

So I had to make up for it with hard work.

The ugly choice I made

Like the nerd who sits in front of class, does all the homework and looks up all the textbook appendices, I’m the guy who’s spent more time studying the market than I do sleeping.

I wish I could say that I was born to be a trader, but the truth is that trading is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.

I’ve lost more money to trading mistakes than some people earn from their jobs. I’ve started so many new accounts that my broker support team knows me by name.

I’ve been beaten up by the market so many times that I’m embarrassed to talk about it.

But the thing is, I didn’t quit.

trader grit

So the ugly choice I made was to be willing to crawl through sewage if that’s what it took. Even if there was no guarantee that I’d ever make it.

trading chances
Of course, there’s a difference between being committed and being dumb. I knew that I was fully capable of doing irreparable damage to my bank account, so I never traded with money I couldn’t afford to lose.

Was it painful to lose money? Of course. There’s nothing like losing sleep over a $11,000 trading loss in one day.

The smart thing to do after that would be to just quit. Most people do that. And that’s okay. That’s the smart thing to do.

But I’m not smart. I’m persistent.

I decided that even if I had to flip burgers for the next 6 months to survive, I wasn’t going to quit.

That was a choice I made years ago. And it certainly wasn’t a pretty one.

So tell me… what’s an ugly choice you’ve made with your trading?

By |2019-01-28T11:13:03+00:00January 28th, 2019|Mindset|20 Comments


  1. Alex McCullie May 11, 2016 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Hi Chris

    I can understand the need for complete single-mindedness, even though it’s not for many people in practice. To bring that commitment to trader I think you said it well – still turn even during those losing times. In fact it’s probably more important. I imagine most a familiar with the expression “fair-weather friend” as opposed to a friend who sticks by you during good and bad times.

    What I didn’t appreciate in learning Forex was the major time commitment. Many Forex trainers emphasize that you can trade with only a short period each day as a trend or swing trader. And that may be true. But to learn the Forex game and to continue learning is really a full-time commitment (or at least a fair bit of your waking time). Personally, I found learning Forex more involved (and rewarding emotionally) than I ever expected.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post. Alex

    • Chris Lee May 11, 2016 at 10:07 am - Reply

      Hi Alex, glad you like the post. Indeed, the ACT of pressing the buy button doesn’t take a lot of time… it’s the analysis and observation of the market that does.

  2. rick May 11, 2016 at 10:05 am - Reply

    i have been trading in excess of three years and losing money each and evey day on average. it is less than a penny a day but still a loss. but i wont quit. i will get this. i am close but close isnt good enough. you either win or lose. period. i will win someday.

    • Chris Lee May 11, 2016 at 10:17 am - Reply

      Keep up the good fight Rick!

  3. Terry May 11, 2016 at 11:24 am - Reply

    Hi Chris,
    I think I am close with you in trade life for, probably, 10-12 years. I always like your teaching, your advice, your recomandation, day after day when we work together with our group of some 29-30 first friend from al around the word. Many of them are today experienced traders that making money, some have stopped this business.i have continue to trade, mostly wining, making modest money. Now I am not everyday in the front of my computer, but I still am in your closest trading friend.
    This blog is another excellent story that keeps me believing in what we are doing. All the best to you and good luck.

    • Chris Lee May 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

      Thanks for leaving a comment Terry. 🙂

  4. mathew ojonugwa May 11, 2016 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    If traders could realize that trading involves their personality and not the movement of prices on the computer i think looses will be minimize,it took some years of big looses for me to realize that trading is not get rich quick business,we are often happy to increase our lots size when we make some significant profits over time. forgetting that every day may never be the same so there is need for caution.until i had to trade base on my personality before i started making a fortune, i started by setting a long term goal of 5 yrs,i splits the goal into daily goals of achieving 1% of my account balance each day for 5 yrs .with this plan i do not need to stir at the system for hrs every day,once my 1% is achieve i stop trading till the next day, i did it for 5 yrs and today am smiling and still using the same plan. chris you have said it all.Forex can not make Rich today but surely will after many years of consistent and persistent method that works for you as a person,all traders out there should please try trading testing their personality this will help the trader develop a method that works well for him and that will make him relax.thanks a lot for been there chris i always look forward to your blogs.thanks and keep up the good work

    • Chris Lee May 12, 2016 at 2:24 am - Reply

      Thanks for the comment Mathew, I appreciate it. 🙂

  5. Henry Grant May 11, 2016 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    Hi. Chris good blog article I have been trading for four and half years, I have not had a winning month, but have not lost much either,have a feeling that something is missing but will keep trying to get there.

    Regards Henry

    • Chris Lee May 12, 2016 at 2:23 am - Reply

      Hi Henry, part of the key is to keep your losses contained.. so you’re halfway there already.

  6. Jovita Mbah May 12, 2016 at 8:13 am - Reply

    Hi Chris,
    I love the sincerity you displayed about forex. Most people dont talk about their losses so they could been seen as guru. But at the end of the day anybody who get into forex business will come to realize the truth you have shown in this write up. It will surely help many people who are struggling in their trading.

    • Chris Lee May 12, 2016 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Thanks Jovita!

  7. Jeremy Williams September 11, 2016 at 5:59 am - Reply

    Hi Chris
    You have written some great articles. I like the way you do not sugar coat the business. It is hard work. I have been trading for 5 years now and still have not achieved sort of success that I wanted, but I am a lot more comfortable now with my approach and strategies. It is true that some are just natural traders and others take years of work to get there.

    • Chris Lee September 12, 2016 at 6:53 am - Reply

      Thumbs up. It’s all about putting in the work, gaining experience, and picking yourself up after getting kicked down over and over again.

  8. arin collins February 10, 2017 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    I completely agree with you takes time to master. In fact, this article will keep me my toes until I get to that level. Thanks.

    • Chris Lee February 11, 2017 at 8:45 am - Reply

      My pleasure, Arin.

  9. Arthur July 24, 2017 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Hi Chris,
    Fantastic article.
    Could you please share your updated economic indicator charts? It would be a great help.

  10. patrick August 24, 2017 at 3:01 am - Reply

    The $64,000 question is: “Is the ugly choice enough?”

  11. Ben September 6, 2017 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Chris,

    I had no idea about markets or trading until reading your stuff. Much appreciated! I’m convinced there really is no easy way to make money – if there were, others would already be doing it, removing the opportunity for others. I’m not convinced I can ever get to the place where trading makes me more money than my well paid but stressful job. It still feels like gambling to me, but I salute those who can make it work! It would be pleasant for the markets to work for us rather than against us.

    Thanks for your advice and time in writing this blog.

    • Chris Lee September 9, 2017 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      Hey Ben, thanks for dropping a comment. 🙂

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