Overcoming Fear and Trading Indecision

12/19/2011 11:45 am EST

Focus: STRATEGIES

Sam Seiden

Chief Education, Products and Services Officer, Online Trading Academy

In trading, and in life, those who are not afraid to push their abilities to the limits in order to continually learn and improve—even if it means experiencing failure along the way—achieve the greatest success.

Speculating in markets is a difficult challenge that can test your emotions more than you can imagine; there is a reason for this. From birth, we gravitate towards things that make us feel good and run from things we fear.

If you take this instinctual action in trading, you will lose. Meaning, if you buy when the news and charts look "good," you’re buying when price is high. If you sell when the news and charts are "bad," you’ll be selling when price is low.

Buying high and selling low equates to a short trading career. Traders on the other side of your trades will love you, but you will end up broke. In other words, everyone is taught to do this backwards. You must understand that the mindset for proper trading is not easy, and you don’t want it to be. If it were easy, everybody would be making money, but that is just not the case.

The people who do well over time are the ones who understand that the path of learning and practicing takes time and is often a bumpy road. The key difference between those who fail and those who stick it out and succeed is that the successful ones embrace the bumps in the road. In other words, they are not afraid to fail, and they are not paralyzed by fear.

They realize that the bumps are needed failures that allow them to grow. You see, when you experience failure, it is really success letting you know that you have identified a flaw that needs to be corrected or removed.

Fear of losing in trading is certainly an issue. I am not suggesting everyone has to go through a long period of losing in order to profit from trading. Make sure you understand how markets really work. As I said above, everyone is taught to buy and sell in markets backwards from a very young age. People are conditioned to buy stocks, for example, when it’s a good company with strong management, a healthy balance sheet, very strong earnings, and when the stock price in a strong uptrend.

Well, when all of these things are true, where do you think the price of the stock is: low or high? Exactly, it’s high and at or near retail (supply) levels where we want to be selling, not buying! Make sure you understand one very important thing before you put your hard-earned money at risk in the markets: how you make money buying and selling anything in life is by buying at wholesale (demand) prices and selling at retail (supply) prices. Still, fear of trying to succeed at something new, no matter how much you understand it, is very normal.

See related: 3 Ways to Cope with Trading Fear

I grew up playing hockey at some of the highest levels. When I was very young, I would watch other players in practice and admire the ones who never fell down. As a kid, no one wanted to fall down, lose the puck, or make a mistake in practice. However, very soon I realized that the kids who fell down often ended up being the best players at the end of the season.

I always worked hard in practice, but began to understand that the only way I would fall down is to work harder and take myself out of my comfort zone, which naturally can be scary. That set off a chain of events that helped shape everything in my life and always will.

I would skate harder and harder in practice and make sure I fell down almost every practice. As long as I was falling down, I knew I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone, which meant I was growing and getting better.

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I then took that thought into games and realized that I had better change my way of thinking there also. If I focus on the other team as the opponent, the best I will ever be is a little better than they are. If I focus on myself as the opponent, I will never stop growing and improving. Instead of being afraid to fail, I now understood that success is impossible without some failure.

Most people are afraid of failure in any part of life, especially trading. You have to understand that failure does not happen to you, it happens for you. It is an opportunity to grow. When you shift your mind and think this way, you will smile with each failure, knowing that you have just identified a flaw that needs to be corrected or removed. Adversity is scary in the moment, but it is always when we grow the most. How wonderful adversity and failure really are if you think about it.

Again, what keeps most people from the process of "growing" and "achieving" is fear. Fear is debilitating; it divides people. Think of the worst decisions you have ever made in your life. They were likely fear-based decisions.

Fear makes people run to lawyers when they are likely not even necessary. Fear not only divides people, but also divides entire countries, causing leaders to spill the blood of sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. Why? Most of the time, it’s just fear.

It is fear that most often keeps people from enjoying the great adventure called life. These days, money is getting tighter and tighter for the average person. The US still has a housing mess, certain countries in Europe are on the brink of bankruptcy, and even China is taking drastic economic measures to reverse the significant slowdown in growth.

As I write this article, I am in Mumbai, India. While parts of India are beautiful and the people are some of the nicest in the world, poverty is like nothing you can imagine if you have never been there and seen it.

To sum up the past few months, fear is on the loose. As I give lectures on trading to people all around the world, I look out into the audience and see fear around the room. There are wealthy people who can’t sleep at night because they are afraid they are going to lose all their money. There are poor people afraid of bankruptcy and losing their homes. There are older people terrified of dying, younger people who are afraid that they will never meet the right partner, never find a good job, and never be able to afford a house. There are very beautiful young people scared that they are going to someday lose that beauty (and plenty of others that kind of hope they do—just kidding!). There are people holding deep secrets that are afraid they will someday be exposed. Fear is certainly on the loose.

Can you imagine living a life without fear? One of the best antidotes for fear is love. Love conquers fear, in my opinion. When love is at the center of your life, it tends to flush out fear and give you the strength to climb any mountain, no matter how high.

See related: Support Items Every Trader Needs

Why don’t many people truly love? Most of the time, it’s unfortunately because they are afraid. If you are one of many who are in the middle of the bumpy journey toward self-empowerment through market speculating—or anything else—stay encouraged. You will make it to the peak if you realize that the valley is not a permanent residence.

Timid people don’t change the world; they hide when the pressure is on. Never forget, to become a butterfly, you must want to fly so bad that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar. Growth and change always go hand in hand with failure and fear.

By Sam Seiden, instructor, Online Trading Academy

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