Why Traders Lose Money… Period

What is it? What makes us, as human beings, always search for the next flashy thing? Why can’t we just do one thing, and do it well? We don’t know what we want even when we think we do, and what we really want doesn’t even come into the picture until years down the road when all of a sudden we realize it and then we wonder why we had wanted anything else… Sorry this blog post may be a bit of a rant. Just warning you…

Anyone who has followed the blog or me or anything I have ever said knows that one of my all time favorite books is “Mastery” by George Leonard. It is a book all about how to master your craft. Martial arts, painting, card shuffling, like literally anything. Anything that takes time and practice to get better at, this book will give you the tools you need to reach your goals.

What is Mastery? It resists definition yet can be instantly recognized. It comes in may varieties, yet follows cerain unchanging laws. It bring rich rewards, yet in not really a goal or a destination but rather a process, a journey. We call this journey Mastery, and tend to assume that it requires a special ticket available only to those born with exceptional ablilities. But mastery isn’t reserved for the supertalented or even for those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start. It’s available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it…”

I believe wholeheartedly in mastery. Even in all of the years I didn’t practice one ounce of it, I still knew without question that mastery was the path. Practice. Patience. Repetition. Details. Those were the keys to life and success. I knew it. Even when I was trading without any kind of system, no knowledge of indicators or price action, I knew that I needed repetition. But repetition of what?

Let me give a little back story…

I was the worst trader in the world. I will admit that. I lost money, I traded too big, I moved from indicator to indicator trying to find what I was looking for. But in the end, the U2 song always played in the background of my thoughts…. “But you still haven’t found, what your looking for”.

And then I would start over again.

No mastery. I was not practicing what I was preaching. Go back and read this blog from 2 years ago. I was a hot mess. It’s all right here for you to see!

So I worked my butt off. I committed to this trade. I committed to mastery. I committed to making myself better by mastering my craft.

I love getting better at what I do. Do I make progress everyday? No. Do I show up every day? Yes. When Steven Pressfield talks about this process, he says that the muse doesn’t show up if you don’t sit your ass in the chair every day. If you aren’t available to learn, the learning will never happen. If you aren’t in the chair in the morning, your ability to trade will never get better.

Let me take that a step further for the traders here. If you don’t sit in the same chair, and DO THE SAME THING for a long period of time, you will never get to where you want to be, profitable, much less quit a job or blah blah blah.

Let’s put in terms of your current job and I’m going to use the medical field as an example because I have recent exposure to this industry. Here’s the example:

My son went in for surgery this week. He had to have a thyroidal cyst removed from the back of his throat. The doctor performing the surgery was a pediatric ear nose and throat specialist. Their field is referred to as otolaryngology. Here is brief description of what it takes to become an ENT doctor:

“To become an ENT doctor, you will begin by pursuing the traditional route to and through medical school.  Score well on the MCAT and earn a high undergraduate GPA, especially in the core science courses of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. Obtain clinical experiences that allow you to shadow an ENT doctor so that you will begin to understand the realities of the profession.  Apply to complete four years of medical school. During the last two years, you can take specialized coursework in otolaryngology. SeveralENT residency programs stand out among others, including Johns Hopkins and Tufts. Plan to spend anywhere from 3-5 years in an ENT residency program.  After you’ve completed your residency, which includes a year of surgery training, apply for your state medical license as well as obtain board certification through the American Board of Otolaryngology”

They are a master at their craft. The doctor that worked on my son was a master.

And when I put him in the room with the surgeons and watched him take the anesthesia, the last thing they said to me was “we will take good care of him” and I had to trust it. I had to walk away knowing that they would do that. That they had put in the work to have the mastery to slice open my son and do their job. That the training that person has done and the books they studied from 10 years ago would help them at this moment be a master of their craft, and that mastery would allow them to heal my son. That was powerfully moving for me.

Even writing this now, I am preaching to myself to perform at a higher level…

Do I want a doctor who walks in and looks at me and says “well, I did an appendectomy yesterday, I gave an old man glasses last week, and today, well, I think I can work on a throat”. Am I going to walk out of that surgical room and leave my son there? No fricking way!

That is what most traders are like. They are the doctor that has no mastery but will try anything to make a quick buck. It is this mentality that makes casinos one of the most popular and profitable places on earth… for the business not the players. This is why casinos make money and traders don’t. They know your nature, you don’t accept it and admit it. They know you will move from one table to the next, from one game to next, hoping your luck will turn. “Blackjack, that’s my game” says every gambler until they have to go to the ATM to get more money. “Well, I will slow things down and go play nickel slots”. A couple hours later, another trip to the magic cash dispenser that also needs to dispense your light bill money, and its now time for some three card poker…

This is the PERFECT example! (I love this scene)

Do you see the resemblance? People on the outside say trading is like gambling only because that’s what it looks like! One system to the next, one game to the next.

We take our untrained and undisciplined attitudes with us wherever we go. Those doctors don’t have that luxury. They have board accountability. They have bosses. They have results that directly effect another human being, sometimes in a life or death manor.

We have have our screens, our extra cash, our undisciplined behavior that is never “our fault” so we try to transfer that risk to an indicator or a robot or the next “teacher” who can give us what we need. The problem is, none of those things will give you what you need.

I run a chat room for trading and an email service that sends out trade alerts. Most people either don’t take those alerts because they don’t believe them or think that after a month or two they can see what I see, after my 6 years of blood guts and tears trying to become a master of this game, and they leave. They go to the next thing that will “fit their personality” or whatever… I am on a path of mastery for one way to look at the market. That’s it.

All you did was get up from the craps table, walk over to the slot machine, and hope your luck is better there than it is here…

Sit down, shut up, and become a master at something. Anything. Put in the work necessary. Have the goal to be as accomplished in your field as an ENT doctor who needs 15 years of schooling and training. Deal with it.

Find some accountability. Get some actual training. Get up from the casino table once and for all, and commit yourself to one way, and then become a master at it.

That’s it. #rantover

Have a great day.




6 thoughts on “Why Traders Lose Money… Period

  1. Very good article Shonn, thank you for sharing. Would like to read your earlier blogs, can’t seem to access. Many thanks kate xx

    1. Hi Kate

      There is a small tab at the bottom of the posts for older posts or the menu button at the top should get you to the experiment. Hope that helps.


  2. Wow. What a hard hitting message. We’d like to think this only applies to noobs still searching for the holy grail, but I find as a veteran that it is easy to slip into without even realizing it. Great post.

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