Learning To Day Trade

I had an email from someone asking me if I would give them personal one-on-one coaching in the practice of day trading. The short answer is, as it has always been, no. I’d like to share why, because it’s something that comes up every now and then, and it’s something that affects most traders learning their business.

Many (many!) years ago, I did one-on-one trading coaching. I would receive students and spend a few days with them. We would begin at the beginning (usually a good place), and would cover the basics. You know, where prices come from, how a chart is built, how to read what it’s really telling you, that sort of thing. We would talk about exchanges and order types, the importance of money management, and of course about how execution is everything. Then we would move on to the specifics of the stock trading strategy I’ve used for more years than I care to remember. We would look at how to build a watchlist of stocks each day and how to filter down from the thousands available to the half dozen to dozen that we want to watch for the session. Then I would cover a number of very high probability trade setups, how to find them, and how to trade them. Setups I continue to use to this day.

Once the student had had some time to try these trade setups for themselves, either in the safety of a live simulated account or trading very small size, we would move on to what I believe is the most important aspect of any trader’s education — execution. As I’ve said a hundred times, knowing what to do is one thing, being able to ‘pull the trigger’ is quite another. Getting the psychology right is what separates the winners from the losers in this game.

The Problem With Teaching

Teaching students like this was fulfilling in its own way, but there were two problems. The first was that I always had a waiting list comprising more people than I could ever realistically hope to coach in person. And the other more selfish problem was that I originally took up trading because I wanted to escape ‘the man’, the grind of the nine-to-five. I’m an independent soul, and I value the freedom to work as much or as little as I like more than anything. For me, trading was never about the money (though that’s undeniably a nice perk), it’s about being able to get up, look out the window, and say, “Screw it, let’s go to the mountains for a few days.” Having a diary filled with training sessions took away that freedom I’d worked hard to earn.

Which is why I wrote my books. Well, originally I wrote a course which I sold for a couple of hundred dollars a shot, but that eventually got rewritten into my first published book, How To Day Trade Stocks For Profit. Literally everything I taught in my coaching sessions is in that book. There is nothing I taught in person that was not included.

Then I wrote more books, including Brain Hacks For Traders, which goes way further into trading psychology than anything I ever covered one-on-one.

Putting my teaching into book form solved the problem of my work ethic (or lack thereof), and more importantly meant that my advice was available to literally anyone who could shell out ten bucks to buy a copy. No more waiting lists, no more travelling to meet me, and no more expensive coaching that was financially out of the reach of most people anyway.

So now when anyones asks if I can teach them to trade, I point them towards my books. It’s not that I don’t want to help, or that I don’t think I can, it’s that the best way I can teach is through my books. Paying thousands (which is what I used to charge) to sit next to me and trade with me in person will provide nothing above and beyond what is already covered in my books.

Trading Is Not Art

Trading is something anyone can learn. It’s not an art like drawing or playing a musical instrument, where an abundance of natural talent will get you a long way. It’s not a physical activity like gymnastics or weightlifting where your physicality will be a determining factor in your success. Trading is an entirely constructed activity; it was created by humans and can be learned by humans. It’s not even very complicated. I failed math in school but I make my living trading. The only character traits that are essential to success in trading are determination and discipline.

However simple trading may be, like any learned activity, practice is key to success. A book can get you so far, it can provide the necessary knowledge, but then it’s down to the student to put in the hours practicing. Malcolm Gladwell would have us believe that it takes ten thousand hours to become properly good at anything, but that’s rubbish and has already been debunked. Most people can reach profitability in trading within a few months.

The requirement to practice is the same however the core trading knowledge was acquired. In other words it doesn’t matter if someone sat next to you and showed you in person how to trade, or if you learnt from a book — the need to put that information into practice and to keep trying until it sticks is the same. Most people won’t put in the effort, and that’s why most people don’t succeed at trading.

A Harsh Reality

This is why I turn down requests for coaching. The harsh truth of the matter is that if someone reads my books, puts in the practice, and still cannot make money, then they are probably not cut out for trading. They probably lack the discipline to manage their trades correctly. And they likely do not have enough determination to persevere and instill that discipline within themselves. Taking a coaching session will not change either of these facts.

Looking for additional education is almost always a diversion, a trick the brain plays because it doesn’t want to put in the hard work to practice. It’s a form of the grail hunt syndrome I’ve written about before — a belief that there must be a missing piece of the puzzle, when in reality all the necessary information is known and all that’s missing is the practice.