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“I need to learn how to trade and I need to know how many months will it take to learn?”

This, verbatim, was in my email this morning. I wish I could tell you exactly how many times someone has asked me this in an email or over the phone over the course of my 32+ years of trading. It is a fair question, but I admit it annoys me on a number of different levels. I’ll explain.

I have been trading 32+ years. I am still “learning to trade”. I traded for years before I had the slightest clue that even though I had spent years attempting to trade, that I knew absolutely nothing about it. It was only at that point that I began, slowly, putting the pieces together.

The path to successful trading is a path full of false turns, misleading landscape, steep climbs then rapid descents to back to where one began, or even below. False turns come in the guise of leaning on bad, invalid information about markets, how they work, why they work the way they do and the idea that there is a magic secret that if only uncovered will unlock an easy path to riches. False turns come in the guise that there is a special indicator/software program/charting platform/super secret set-up/star wars trading platform that is going to make all the difference in the world and be THE key.

These all prove to be a chimera and rob the would-be trader of the most precious of all resources – time. As the trader dives into one rabbit hole after another he is not acquiring useful experience that justifies the time spent in a cumulative fashion of stacking useful knowledge. What the trader is doing is spending the same year over and over again chasing magic and things that cannot work because they are flawed at their basis. At the end of five or six years (and in many cases much longer), what the trader has in experience is one year, replayed five, six, seven times, over and over and over – similar to the movie Groundhog Day.

Central to this affliction is the idea that is perpetuated by the entire trading industry that trading is different from other worthy professions – those professions that ultimately lead to the highest incomes, such as medicine, law, engineering, or, owning a successful business. No one would ask how many “months” is required before a physician is considered competent enough to practice medicine, much less really begin to earn a living. No one would ask how many “months” it takes to become an engineer and how long after that one might begin making an above average living at it. No one starts a business expecting it to make them rich, or in most cases, break even after “months”.

But people have the temerity of thought that they can sachet into trading and in a few “months”, somehow outwit the person who is buying what they are selling, or selling what they are buying and extract large profits from the markets. Uh, no. I have many physicians of various disciplines as clients that will tell you unequivocally that trading is not “easy”. My clients that are lawyers, engineers and business owners will tell you the same; trading is not easy.

So, how does it take to learn to trade? The learning curve can be shortened by beginning with a valid understanding of how markets actually work, and why they work that way. There actually is ONE reason markets do what they do and it has nothing to do with magic, mystery or conspiracy. Only after acquiring an understanding of how markets work can one slowly begin to put the pieces of a Trade Plan together. These pieces include, among many other things, knowing when, why and where to trade. When that knowledge begins to take shape one can then, and only then, begin to test the ideas drawn from the knowledge acquired. If the trader gets this far in the process they are very likely to succeed at some level. Most never get this far because the majority stop when they first see, hear, read or realize trading isn’t easy. More drop out when trading becomes, well, work. Trading is work.

The single common characteristic that differentiates the successful trader from the non-successful trader at this stage is the willingness to do the work. Methodically learning how markets work and why, and then using that knowledge to put together a Trade Plan and then testing refining and testing again until the Trade Plan has been  rigorously vetted to the point one can be reasonably confident it can be followed to yield positive results, is hard work. It can also be one of the most satisfying accomplishments one can experience.

Like all professions, it takes some longer than others to reach the minimum level of proficiency required to consistently be a profitable trader. I have never seen a single person reach that level of proficiency in “months”. Not one. Sorry, truly; I just “ran off” 95% of the people that find my work and inquire about my services.

On the other hand the one or two of you that are reading this that I may have resonated with are very likely to become long-term clients. I don’t have a lot of clients, but the ones I have are among the chosen few of those that are either successful or solidly on the path to become successful. Because of my message I will never have a lot of clients, but the good news is that affords me the time to get to know the ones that want or need my help and I can work with them personally. In the process of that over the past thirteen years I have made many friends from all over the world. It continues to make me a better trader and more importantly, a better person.

In closing, in an attempt to give a direct answer to a direct question, expect it to take at least a year, maybe two, to learn the material I teach and then to learn how to put it together, then to learn how to test it, refine it and trade it. This is as close as I can come to a direct, honest answer. If you would like to discuss your personal situation with me email me and I’ll be happy to set up a mutually convenient time to chat.


Tom Alexander