It never occurs to most traders that they may have a big problem with success. I have never had a new private client tell me that one of their biggest issues was handling financial success and wealth as a trader. Yet the traders who work with me and start seeing growing consistent profits, discover that success and consistent profits is such a foreign experience, that they sabotage their trading to return to a more comfortable identity.
I did not realize that I had internal success limits when I started trading on the CME and options on the Pacific Exchange. When the market opportunities gave me more profits than my internal limits, I sabotaged my own success. I was not prepared to be wealthy. My mind could not accept my own success.
Most traders don’t believe this, but about 70% of my clients hit a “success ceiling.”
This process creates a negative asymmetrical risk to reward experience. As traders, we spend years learning our craft, resolving our issues, risking our capital, giving up many other options in our lives and careers to build success. We own the hard work, the risk, the losses and opportunity costs.
But, we don’t own the upside.
Our brains, our survival mechanisms, can find consistent success threatening. Very few traders believe this when they start their trading careers. I certainly know that I was clueless about my discomfort with success when I started trading.
So, what would you like instead?
When I start working with a new client, they will tell me the trading issues that haunt them. After careful review of the issues and gaining clarity of the fundamental causes, then I ask, “So, what would you like instead?” More often than not, they will repeat the issues again. I continue to ask the question until the client realizes they do not have a clear picture of themselves as successful. And, when we develop a clear picture, parts of that image conflict with their history and values.
Our brains will not allow us to create success if can’t even be comfortable with just imagining it.
The “elephant in the room” is our subconscious sabotage of wealth, profits and success. We literally do not know how to handle being a consistently profitable trader which may conflict with our older beliefs, identity and family programming. Making money easily and consistently as our bank account builds can be a significant shift of our beliefs, identity and values. This new state of mind is foreign to us and, as a result, our survival mechanisms, old programming and fear of the unknown all kick in.
Are you prepared for success?
You may have the fortitude, the determination, the drive and the commitment to handle the struggle. In fact all of my clients have many of these attributes. But what we lack is a clear image of ourselves as we grow wealthy. Not only do we lack a clear image, but with clarity, it is out of harmony with our family, beliefs, values and even our core identity.
Are you laughing at this notion?
At the beginning of my trading career, I would have laughed along with you. But after training a handful of traders to trade my capital on the major exchanges, coaching dozens of private clients, reviewing thousands of trader personality assessments, I cannot avoid this conclusion.
Don’t invest years of struggle and hard earned money without creating a clear path to wealth that is in harmony with your values, history, family and culture.
Take this self-assessment thought exercise. This will take some thought and some time, but may expand your self-awareness around your success limits.
Please create two lists of people you know personally or are familiar with. List “A” and List “B.”
For list “A,” write the names of three people you know, or know of, that have their financial thermostat set at their current income or wealth.
You know this person should be on this list if:
1. Their income has never gone above this amount
2. If you imagine visiting them in five years, you are confident that their financial situation will no better
3. They may have dreams about wealth, but their behaviors don’t reflect the dreams.
For list “B,” write the names of three people you know, or know of, that have their financial thermostat set much higher than their current income or wealth.
You know this person should be on this list if:
1. They have had past successes
2. If you imagine visiting them in five years and you can be confident that their financial situation will be improved
3. Their behavior reflects their dreams for increased wealth
Now, answer this question. What is the difference between the people in LIST A and LIST B? Write this in as much detail as possible.
Here is the really challenging part of this exercise:
If your friends and family were to take this survey, in THEIR opinion, right or wrong, would THEY put you on LIST A or LIST B or “Don’t know?” Give this answer some careful thought before answering it.
Now ask yourself if you were avoiding the answer, answered honestly or answered it to be “right.”
Finally, what insights did this exercise give you about your own ability to step into your trading success?