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Traders need a high level of consistency and competence to succeed

Cover of  by Steve Ward

He once compared traders with athletes who need to be at their top form to excel. But he went further to say that traders face a much more demanding environment rife with more complex and unpredictable factors that need to be dealt with day in and day out.

A former psychologist and coach to top performing athletes, Steve Ward is well placed to see and observe the similarities between athletes and traders.

?They (traders and athletes) operate in highly competitive environment and they need to maintain a high level of consistency and competence to succeed in their respective areas,? Steve said.

However, he said, ?Traders operate in a much more demanding set up. They operate in a constant and relentless amount of pressure, particularly those who trade actively. The market is a very demanding place and you?re dealing with risk and pressure from day to day.?

?If you compare that with athletes and in sports performances when there are a lot of ?known? factors, you could see that it is very demanding to be a trader.?

In his first book entitled, High Performance Trading: 35 Practical strategies and techniques to enhance your trading psychology and performance (published by Harriman House Ltd, in the UK), Steve shared some practical and easily applicable tips for traders. Whether you want to improve your trading skills and performance or you want to graduate to a higher level of your trading development, this book offers some very accessible suggestions.

Despite the wealth of knowledge and depth of insight from his years in sports and trading coaching, Steve successfully presented a digestible book. He kept the chapters short and full of practical and easily doable and relevant tips.

Steve said he wanted his book to serve as a ?user manual of practical and useful approaches, strategies and techniques.? One outstanding feature of the book that is sustained through the entire work is its positive and determined voice ? one that is constantly looking to improve, to enhance and ultimately to ensure high performance in each trader.

The reader will benefit from the book?s format, which Steve divided into three areas: Planning and preparation for trading success; Decision-making, discipline and Flawless execution; Evaluation, analysis and improving and sustaining performance. Again, this combines Steve?s background and experience from both the sporting and trading world where planning and preparation is as important as the decision making as well as evaluation and analysis.

Having worked with and coached hundreds (or must have been thousands by now) of athletes and traders over the years, Steve was upfront in stating one of the most obvious but most ignored factors in trading success ? you have to put in the hard work and do the time ? that is, you can aim and expect to succeed but it will not happen overnight.

Steve said, ?Time is a key success factor. You have to keep engaged in the activity long enough to get good at it. Time is a big factor in achieving success in all high-performance arenas, including trading.?

To emphasise this point Steve said, ?Success is not achieved overnight. Many people on the other hand, drop out through running out of personal trading capital, not being resilient enough to cope with the stress and pressure or through frustration at the difficulty of the challenges that trading present.?

Steve also challenges his readers (and every trader for that matter) to take responsibility and ownership of their trading and trading results. While he knows and he?s the first to point out at that this is not an easy concept to take on board, he believes it is critical for traders to be responsible for their trades and trading.

He said, ?Some people tend to blame everything else (e.g. the market, the computer, the broker, the weather) and anyone else but themselves for their trading results. And yet they credit themselves for winning trades.?

For those who may already have several years of trading experience but want to bring their trading a notch higher, Steve shared some high-performance techniques, particularly for those critical and high-tension days in the markets. While it may not be everyone?s cup of tea, the book also outlined a plethora of mental (psychology) exercises and stress-release techniques including breathing, centering, visualisation and blocking out negative thoughts.

?The world of trading is dynamic, results-driven and operates in a highly pressurised environment. Traders expect demonstrable results (profitability) and always demand the highest level of performance for themselves. They need to be able to deliver during those critical moments when large trading positions are at stake in a volatile and fast moving market. It is during these critical periods that traders need to be in control of all their faculties ? they need to be able to handle and manage the stress,? Steve said.

The book also openly discussed what could be one of the least talked about but one of the most important aspects of trading ? making a loss.

Steve said, ?Taking a loss is not something to be aimed for or enjoyed, but at some level you need to accept the fact that losses are part of trading. And only once you accept the fact that losses are inevitable part of trading you will be able to trade freely and without fear.?

Again he drew on his experience and several years of dealing with athletes as well as traders to come up with practical strategies on how winners handle losses including: developing positive beliefs around losses, learning to move on, not letting your losses define you as a person.

Despite its critical role in a trader?s success, risk (and risk management) is another aspect of trading that is easily be ignored and sometimes delegated to the bottom drawer for most traders.

Steve said, ?To become a trader you need to embrace risk and uncertainty, as they are an integral part of the trading world. You need to develop approaches to help you accept and manage risk in a way that enables you to make profits, and you need to learn to cope with the uncertainty that trading brings.?

Sticking to his goal of making his first book a practical manual for traders, Steve included suggestions in developing winning routines. He said it is important for traders to develop and to stick to rituals and routines the may bring a semblance of consistency in their trading.

He said, ?Because markets are largely out of control, we cannot guarantee consistency of returns. However, what we can do is to recognise those elements that are controllable by us and to focus on gaining consistency in these aspects,? Ward said.

Whether you think trading and trading performance is in the mind, this book has a lot to offer when it comes to developing a trader?s mind and performance. The book has just hit the shelves in the UK and will be available for online purchase.

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