A lot of people come to me for trading advice and I do the same to countless others. I’ve spoken with and learned from a huge range of traders, educators, and long term investors. Whenever someone comes to me looking for help, I always find myself recounting a short anecdote about something my trading mentor once said to me when I was struggling to learn how to day trade. This was years ago now, but despite the terrible grammar and seemingly angsty, juvenile delivery, the words he spoke still stick with me to this day and I found them prophetic. They showed me that profitable trading takes humility, persistence and self-reflection:
“ur own mouth and ur brain is ur worst enemy”
I often feel that people think I’m embellishing this story in order to make some kind of point, or maybe they think I’m exaggerating how heated he was to give myself an excuse to talk like an asshole to my own students/trading buddies in some quest to be recognized as the guy who provided “tough love” when it was needed most, but I assure you I’m not. I actually saved the conversation because I was so pissed about the whole situation … I don’t know, maybe I thought I was going to come back at him later with some indisputable, perfectly conclusive epigram that would make him see that I was right and he was wrong … or something (spoiler alert: he wasn’t wrong).
Here’s a little background: I was one of Kunal’s earliest students. This was back before the bootcamp he does today really even became a thing. Back then we were just a bunch of guys (and one girl) in a chat room talking about stocks and the bootcamp was still in its infancy. I was in the chat room and having a shitty trading day. I’d been bugging Kunal to answer some questions for me about a trade I was in because I didn’t know what to do with it and was losing money. In hindsight I should have had a plan anyway, but hey, I was an arrogant newbie and knew everything so it must be his fault I was losing since he wouldn’t answer my damn question!
So, long story short I lost a chunk of cash on the trade – what was a big chunk for me – and decided to message him privately on Google Chat to give him a piece of my mind. I blamed him for everything. I told him he should have answered my questions faster, if he had answered I wouldn’t have lost money, he should be paying more attention to me, and a bunch of other whiny bullshit. After ranting at him for a good ten minutes with only a few scattered responses (note the time of day by the way), I received back this beautiful, angry, typo-riddled masterpiece of a rant (complete with passive-aggressive asshole response from me in the middle of it all):
Man, what a fucking jerk right?! I was so mad…I paid this guy a boatload of money to teach me everything he knows and that’s how he responds to me!? I should call the Better Business Bureau or something! I was pissed. But let me tell you something before you get the wrong idea: this 9 minutes of what at the time I viewed as angry internet tough guy bullshit, comprised the entirety of the worth of every penny I paid to learn to trade stocks. Those lines, “Your mouth and your brain are your biggest enemies … Think before you speak … Recognize your own weakness.” are three of the most fundamental aspects of my trading (and my teaching) to this day. Bottom line, he was right. I was an arrogant asshole back then and thought I knew everything. I expected trading to be easy like everything else I’d ever tried, and when it wasn’t I wanted someone else to blame. So who better to blame than the one I was supposed to be learning from?
Here’s the point: when you’re a trader (hell I’d even venture to say this is true in most facets of life) there is no one out there responsible for your losses or your shortcomings except YOU. I see people all the time blaming everything under the sun except their own brain. Blame the market! Blame the evil HFTs and market makers! Blame “they” because “they drove the price down right to my stop and then back!” (who are “they” anyway?)
We all want someone to blame, but in the end we can blame only our own worst enemies – ourselves.
I learned years ago – after this conversation – to blame myself, to recognize my own weaknesses, and to adapt or perish. These themes shine through in my trading today and have helped me to become consistently profitable, as well as to become a more successful entrepreneur and educator. So now, for anyone who’s ever heard me tell this story, you know I’m not exaggerating. This really happened and it really did shape my trading. My students today know that if I react like my mentor did back then, it’s in their best interest to listen because I’m reacting that way for a reason. Sometimes as traders we need some tough love. We need someone to tell it like it is. Bite the bullet. Need help? Hire a great mentor. Heed their advice, and adapt or perish!