How Long Does it Take to Become a Profitable Trader?

09/23/2009 12:01 am EST


Tom Willard


“Tom, how long will it take for me to become a profitable trader?” 

Boy, if I had a dime for each time I was asked this question, I would have one large collection of dimes! But I think I’ve done my work well. The majority of people who have sat in on my workshops and listened to me speak over the last two years are no longer asking this question. So if you ever catch yourself wanting to ask this question, then please, pay close attention to what I’m about to share with you here. Because once you understand the poisoned thinking from which this question comes from within you, you will be thankful that you now see things from a much more useful perspective.

We are always, from an early age, comparing ourselves with others. From our upbringing and various influences on our thought processes as we grow up, we develop certain metrics and rules in order to determine what is right, wrong, fair, unfair, and unfortunately, when we are good or bad.

Stop doing it! Realize that you are unlike any other individual or soul on this entire planet, or even in the universe. So how can you compare yourself with others? It’s like comparing apples and oranges. There are no comparisons because you are simply you. You are not like anyone else. Period.

So how long it took other traders to make a good income at trading is completely irrelevant to you. And, if one thinks about it, what possible good could come of putting a standard or an average amount of time it takes out there as your measuring stick simply because someone told you it was so. There are so many fallacies at work in a statement like this that it’s ridiculous. If someone were to say it took 11 months, for example, for the average trader to make it, what does that mean? Define an “average trader.” Define “making it.” And then ask, “What data do you have to support that 11 months is the average?” Did every single trader in the world give the person making this statement specific feedback on how much time it took them to “make it?” No! It’s not possible! The very criteria that would go into such a poll is subjective and thus makes the results entertaining, at most.

Most of the truly amazing traders seem to disappear into the sunset. They enjoy their privacy. And if they are amazing traders, they will be no part of such a silly poll to help new traders provide themselves a measuring stick with which to measure their progress. They understand that this type of information will not serve any trader.

Think about that. Now, wouldn’t you feel silly if you had actually measured yourself against some standard that was communicated to you which has no way of being based in reality? And even if it was, realizing that using it for yourself as a measuring stick is like comparing apples with oranges? Worse, I know people who have quit trading because of articles like this. I was almost one of them.

What possible good could come of it? If you are just starting out, the thought of losing for 11 months before you make it is pretty daunting. So it doesn’t serve that person. If you have been trading for eight months, or thereabouts, chances are you will psychologically ruin yourself as you get closer to the 11-month mark, and I can almost guarantee that you will not make it by then simply because of human nature and the stress and pressing you will put on yourself. And, God forbid, you are past the 11-month marker already, and you will then make yourself feel like a complete idiot.

I can relate to the last statement. When I was 13 months in, I read such an article that said 11 months was the average. Shortly after reading that, I experienced the most cataclysmic loss to my account. It was a perfect storm for me, in a psychological sense. Looking back now, I appreciate and am grateful for the immense pain I put myself through, as it was a part of my personal journey, which was perfect and as it should have been and always will be. Your journey is the same for you. Everything that happens during your journey is a gift. Be grateful for it.

So do yourself a favor: Realize that you are unique and will decide when you have made it for yourself. My hope is that you have milestones and goals for yourself that you set and that you will reach them. Give yourself a timeline and stick with it. You may not hit all of them, but stay persistent. Learn about all the common pitfalls that traders allow themselves to succumb to and create that self awareness for yourself, then make those changes in your psychological programming to continually move forward.

By Tom Willard of

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