Six Characteristics of Successful Traders

We’ve seen traders succeed in very different markets, over very different time frames, and with very different strategies. Here are some common elements we’ve noticed among the most successful traders:

1) Capacity for Sustained Focus – Quite simply, the successful ones process more information–and sustain the search for unique information–better than their peers. This enables them to see what others do not;

2) Originality and Creativity – I have never met a successful trader who traded in the ways that trading texts describe. There is always something unique to the successful trader, and very often it’s looking at unique information or looking at common information in unique ways;

3) Learning From Mentors – There may be completely self-taught genius traders, but the best that I have met have learned from other successful traders. Indeed, it’s common for the great trader to have multiple role models and synthesize lessons from each;

4) Emotional Resilience – Some traders bounce back from losses and setbacks better than others. The successful ones actively learn from the setbacks–and then move on. The less successful ones fail to learn from their experience and often fail to move on;

5) Attention to Detail – In football, it’s often the blocking and tackling that ultimately wins the game. In basketball, it’s running the plays and the defense. Less successful traders focus exclusively on “setups” to get into trades. Successful traders develop rules and processes for sizing and managing positions to maximize reward relative to risk.

6) Always Working on their Game – As Merritt Black at SMB Futures recently noted, the intensity and consistency of the review process is very positively correlated with success. Just as in sports, the successful traders review markets, review their trading. They are studying “game film” to prepare for the next contest. They aren’t focused on getting rich; they’re focused on getting better.

Quite simply, the best traders start with distinctive strengths and then cultivate those through rigorous tracking of performance and learning. There is a winning process long before there are winning outcomes.