But it’s not my fault!

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A few days ago we were having one of our regular weekly TRG live meetings, and one of my favorite subjects came up and I thought it would make a perfect blog post: the subject of personal responsibility.

There are a lot of things you hear repeated in trading everywhere you go. From online forums, to social media, to in-person trading clubs.

“Those market markers are watching me!”

“The algos are pushing the market!”

“They’re out to take my stops!”

And so many other variations on this theme. There’s one extremely important, significant thing every one of these has in common: a desire to avoid any personal responsibility for results.

It’s a fairly easy thing to understand. It’s never fun to say “Well, I put my stop in a really obvious place where everyone else did too, so it’s entirely my fault that I lost money on that trade.” Or “The direction was clearly down and I was foolish to keep trying to catch the bottom, no wonder I blew up my account.” But the reality is that any trader who has survived long enough to actually have a career, almost certainly excels at quickly taking responsibility for their decisions, and then moving on.

This is so critical, and there’s more to it than meets the eye. First of all, there’s the somewhat obvious reality that refusing to take responsibility for your actions means you can comfortably keep making the same bad decision because every time it doesn’t work out, it’s not you fault. And taking blame never feels good so people tend to avoid it.

Then there’s the sympathy that is often being sought. It’s a whole lot easier to get sympathy and support from people when you’ve lost, than when you’ve won. Winning can breed jealousy, resentment, or anger in others (especially non-traders) and most of us probably don’t want to be on the receiving end of that. And so subconsciously we may even knowingly make errors or self-sabotage in order to be able to get sympathy afterwards.

Most people that I’ve observed, whether traders or not, do as much as possible to design their life around not having to take personal responsibility for anything. They seek a stable career where they can just show up, do a mediocre job, and get paid every couple of weeks. They want a relationship that’s convenient, doesn’t push or demand much of them, and will just be there without really requiring much effort. They want the government to be there to bail them out any time they get in a tight spot (universal basic income, health care for all, student debt forgiveness, etc.) and so forth. And I understand the temptation of all of it. I mean, it sounds like a life on Easy Street doesn’t it?

But what many people may fail to realize is that with a life like that, you aren’t in control. You can’t actually, directly influence much of anything since you didn’t make any of it happen in the first place! For instance if your sole source of income is from a single employer (assuming you don’t own the company that is lol), then you aren’t in the driver’s seat. The company could go out of business tomorrow, or get acquired and your role no longer needed, or an economic downturn could wipe them out (like, say, a global pandemic maybe). Lots of things could happen to find you suddenly cut loose and there’s really nothing you can do to directly influence any of it.

Now compare that to being “self employed” whether that’s as a trader, freelancer, entrepreneur, or whatever. Yes it may be a bit scary to only be surviving by your own wits, “eating what you kill” so to speak. But the great part is that you now have direct control over every decision! You are in the driver’s seat. No boss to tell you they do or don’t like an idea, no committee to approve/deny a request, no wasted time in weekly staff meetings, and no more TPO reports! (OK that last one is an Office Space reference. If you haven’t seen the movie, go do it and thank me later 😉 )

In trading, what this means is that we can work on ourselves, the lynch-pin of everything we do. We can study, we can practice, we can find community with other traders and share ideas, find strength in numbers. We can continually work on and evolve our process, our edge, our playbook, our results. And we choose all of it. We decide what needs working on, and when, and for how long. We choose where to focus our time and energy. We choose how to deploy our capital, when to trade and when not to. And we get to take not only the responsibility when things don’t work out, but all the credit and glory, deservedly so, when they do. And it’s not ego talking to acknowledge when you’ve improved, or executed something supremely well. As long as you are also acknowledging and accepting the responsibility when you screw up. Because as a human, you will.

Which brings me to the last piece of today’s little essay. We are human after all, so we’re subject to all the normal human stuff like emotions in particular. Which means it’s quite normal and natural to be really happy when you make money, and feel really bad (or even furious) when you lose money. But it is absolutely essential that you keep these things in perspective, and not allow the emotion of a moment to take over and cause you to do something you will regret (some huge excessive purchase for example), or that makes things worse (revenge trading!). Examining both your successes and your mistakes is very important and valuable, but it needs to be done with some objectivity. “Just the facts, ma’am” to use an old reference. And once you’re done examining what happened – especially on a losing trade or even a losing streak – you must simply accept the responsibility, forgive yourself, and move on. No drama, no punishments, no name-calling. That stuff is all extremely toxic and harmful to your development as a trader. Just accept, forgive, and move on.

We all have wins and losses. It’s what we learn from them and how we react to them, that determines the path we stay on.

Until next time, trade well!

Jonathan van Clute
Community Manager, Trading Research Group

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2 thoughts on “But it’s not my fault!”

  1. If you find yourself using the words THEY or THOSE during the trading day to describe a situation with the results of a trade that YOU entered,
    it’s time to step back and rethink what you’re doing… The man in the mirror is SOLELY responsible…

    It’s always interesting to me how THEY never get mentioned when a trader is successful…

    • Yep, totally! And personally I love being the one responsible because then I can *do something* about it! When things happen to you that you genuinely bear no responsibility for, there’s generally nothing you can do about it which sucks!


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