Success in any profession can be broken down into a number of critical factors. Trading is no different. Does your trading tick all 6 boxes or are there any areas you need to work on:
1. Do you have an edge? Trading futures is a zero sum game - you must have an identifiable edge over the other market participants. Have you identified a high probability pattern that can be exploited time after time? Remember though, the only constant in trading is change - you will have to constantly evolve your trading edge to stay ahead of the crowd.
2. Disciplined Execution. There is no point in identifying an edge if you can't execute the trade. Measure your trading success against your trading plan not the actual outcome of the trade. If you make a loss but you executed your trade exactly according to your plan than pat yourself on the back, don't beat yourself up over it.
3. Money Management. If your risk per trade is too aggressive then you run too high a risk of blowing your account, too conservative and you will not optimize returns from your system. It is essential to establish the maximum expected draw down of any system and set money management rules accordingly.
4. Have a Trading Plan. A trading plan will dictate what you will do in any given situation during the trading day. When the market is open you do not want to have to think - just concentrate on executing your plan. When the market is closed you need to be preparing for the next session to ensure you have a clear plan prepared.
5. Accountability. You are responsible for every trade. Ultimately the decision to put on a trade is yours. If your stop is hit and the market immediately reverses then you are responsible, not the 'big boys' gunning for stops - it happens, move on. If you get huge slippage on your trades then does your trading plan account for it or is your plan unrealistic for the market you are trading?
6. Commitment. Trading is not like a regular job, you don't pick up a pay check at the end of the month even though you did no work and spent the whole month surfing the web and emailing your friends. You must be committed to placing every trade according to your plan, even through the losing periods where every trade seems to end up a loser. Trading seems to throw up extremes of good times and bad times, you must not get over confident during the good times and you must not give up in the bad times - remember it is all part of the plan. You must set aside adequate time every day to compare your actual performance against your trading plan. You must be committed to continuous testing of new ideas and regular monitoring of your existing plan. Research into future ideas is essential - remember the only constant in trading is change.
Tim Wreford runs Online Futures Trading, a website that provides information and resources for traders. Tim also provides a free day trading system, the results of which are updated daily on the site.