5 Things That Can Freak A Trader Out.

Forty or fifty muscle-bound, testosterone filled neanderthals were surrounding him, yelling the worst things you could imagine, just inches away from his face.

“YOU SUCK ASS,” shouted one.

“I BANGED YOUR GIRLFRIEND LAST NIGHT,” screamed another.

Adding a slight twist, his friend piled on, “YEAH…AND I BANGED YOUR MOTHER TOO.”

A not particularly creative one sputtered, “YOU SUCK BALLS.  AND THE BALLS ARE HAIRY…AND YOU LIKE IT….CAUSE YOU’RE A BALL LICKING GUY…WHO…UH….LIKES BALLS.”

The target in the middle of it all didn’t pay any attention to them  He just kept drilling fifty yard field goals right through the center of the uprights.

The object of all this venom was the place kicker on my high school football team.  What the hell was I doing playing football in the first place?  Well, that is a story for a different blog post, but in this story, what we were trying to do was mess with his head.

In practice he would make kicks all day long, but come game time he was shank city.  It got so bad that we had given up even trying extra points altogether, opting instead for two-point conversions.

Our coaches were desperate and thought that maybe if we tried to distract and unnerve him in practice he could learn to steel himself, and that would translate to the playing field.

In essence this was once giant X-rated version of the “Noonan” scene in “Caddyshack.”

Suffice to say it didn’t work.  No matter how coolly he handled abuse in practice, once he got under those stadium lights he choked like the choking choker that he was.  Nobody knew exactly what it was that made him freak out, but the same thing can happen to you as a trader.

What might cause you to go off the rails?  Who knows, maybe you are one of the greats that doesn’t get phased by anything?  But just in case you aren’t, here are five things to keep an eye on that can freak a trader out.

1.  Scaling up –  I’ve known traders who can shoot that lights out all day long in the market as long as they don’t go over a certain position size.  Once they do, they then start to change their approach.  Their methodology goes out the window.  They begin to make novice-type mistakes, and ultimately their profitability drops.

2.  Personal problems –  Many traders can focus and stay profitable while their desk is on fire, but if they have problems closer to home, it can knock them off their game.  Maybe their child is struggling in school, their best friend lost his job, or their wife is sleeping with the front line of the Philadelphia Flyers.  No matter the cause, until a resolution to the issue is found they will often struggle.

3.  Being in the spotlight – This one is my Kryptonite.  No matter how hard I try, when I put my trading in the spotlight it always suffers.  It makes me want to teach.  To show how smart I am.  To be a big swinging dick.  All to the detriment of my P&L.

4.  Running Money –  If you take a hit in your trading account and the family has to pass on the summer vacation, that sucks.  If that “hit” is prolonged and you can’t send the kids to Harvard, well, there is always community college.  If you blow your account out and lose the family house, not the greatest thing but there are plenty of rental properties out there.  If however you are the cause of those things for another family, the guilt can be overwhelming. Always having that possibility in the back of your mind for some is too much to handle.

5.  Changing asset classes –  This one is the dark horse.  Often successful traders assume if they can trade one asset class well, they can trade them all.  And some can.  But many find that different asset classes move in ways they are not used to or have greater volatility than they can handle.

Ninety percent of successful trading is mental, and a large component of that is being comfortable in how you trade.  Make sure if you attempt any of the things above that you monitor yourself for any signs that you are coming out of your comfort zone, or your trading may suffer.

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What bclund is, is the intersection of markets, trading, and life (with some punk rock, pop culture, and off-beat humor mixed in).

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  • brmr

    Great Post.
    Just Not sure about 1) Scaling. Could you please clarify a bit.

    Do you mean to say if you bet 1% or.75% on each bet and if you increase it to 1.5% or 2% on a few bets. Or do you mean to say as assets grow and the position size in terms of amount bet on each trade.

  • Nate

    Nice post Brian. So true!

    #1 is my problem. I don’t understand it. I will trade just fine for weeks and even have really profitable months. But as soon as I lever up (like if I really like the setup)I turn into Ray Finkle. Then of course I keep the same size to try and make up what I lost on what I thought was a sure setup. By the time I’ve wittled away all my recent gains I realize for the 400th time that I make more money with smaller size and promise, yet again, to never make this mistake.

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Brian C. Lund

Brian C. Lund

Great father. Good friend. Decent trader/writer. Lacking husband. Solid drummer. Sometimes funny. Often A-hole. Terrible poker player. Too smart. Punk rock. Work in an ice cream shop.

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