Think Like A Trader Blog

Thursday, 7 December 2017

If I Were Starting Again How Would I Set My Targets and Expectations With Trading?

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If I were starting over again with trading, how would I set my targets and expectations?

It can be very difficult as a beginner to know what you should be aiming for, so I am posting this as a type of roadmap. I should warn you, it is unexciting, and it follows a cautious, manageable route. It is EXACTLY what I would do. There are no expectations of wild gains or shoot from the hip ‘all or nothing’ trading (gambling). I am presuming you want to approach this as a career, with a long-term view on something that can serve you well into the future.

I am writing this in terms of day trading, as that is what I mainly do, but the content can relate to whatever type of trading you do.

We are going to start from the period when you find or build the trading plan that you want to use to move you forward. 

The First 3 to 6 Months

Everything is exciting and new. You see large moves on charts and you start to place yourself in the position of catching the bottom of the bullish surge, £50 a point all the way up, making more than you do now from a month of sitting at your desk, in less than one day.

The truth is, you don’t know shit.

I say that in the most loving way possible. I say it thinking back to myself in that initial period, imagining the huge profits as soon as I could get a grasp on support and resistance. You really, truly, do not know anything about trading during this period. The most important thing to do at this time is to learn, and to do it in a safe way.

Right now, you want to make a demo account your best friend. Your focus should be on learning the technical side of trading like the back of your hand. Find strengths and weaknesses in what you do and make adjustments accordingly.

The demo account phase should be at least 3 to 6 months. It is all about building an understanding. This is the foundation to what will come later. If your foundation is solid, it becomes easier to build. If it is half-assed and weak, everything you try to build upon it will be similarly flawed and unlikely to last.

Make yourself stand out from 90% of beginners here. Do it right at the start and do it correctly. Decide to learn and build for the future.

6 Months to a Year

Time to get moving, right? You’ve mastered this thing! Let the money start rolling in!

Well… You still don’t know shit.

Again, I say that in the most loving way possible. Too many people think that success on a demo account naturally transfers onto a live account. I have seen it countless times and sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

On the demo account, you were learning the technical side of things. On a live account, the psychological side of trading comes crashing in like a ten-ton truck blindsiding you.

Work with minimum position size and your aim should be very simple – tread water. Over the long term (month to month), your account doesn’t need to grow. You are just trying to maintain it. Having one long period of overall breakeven.

During this time, you will make mistakes. You will make so many more than you thought possible. Demo account trader will be left wondering what the hell has happened. You will abandon your rules at the slightest breeze of difficulty and will sit back from your computer after an hour of emotional trading wondering what demon slipped into your head and took control. This is the sort of thing you are now working to get a grasp on and learn to control.

Don’t beat yourself up. Understand that you are still learning. Address the mistakes as they appear. Work every single day on ironing them out. Keep a diary of your trading day and look for the warning signs. When they appear, pounce on them with as much vigour as you can manage. This is you starting to test the foundations and it needs to be done in a thorough way. If you lie to yourself here or brush over the mistakes you make, you are again setting yourself up for failure.

Just look to maintain the account. I cannot stress this point enough. You are not looking to make huge profits here. You are still learning, this time trying to get to grips with the psychological side of things. The good part is that you have already spent long enough on demo account trading that you know what to do every step of the way. Trading responses are ingrained in you. Now you just need to learn to follow them ‘under fire’, so to speak.

Undetermined Timeframe – 3 to 6 Months of Consecutive Consistency

This part takes as long as it takes. It is important you do not rush it or try and skip a stage. If you do not make sure everything lines up properly in this period, you WILL suffer much larger losses and will likely fail as a trader.

During your initial venture into live trading when you are using minimum position sizing, look for consistency. A minimum of 3 months, preferably closer to 6. This is your signal that you are ready to move on.

The important thing in this stage is not to kid yourself. Anyone can throw together 3 months of profitability. But you are shining a spotlight on your progress and are looking for good, solid advancements.

During the months of consistency, you do not need to have all winning trades. You do not need to be making huge profits. What you are looking for is a solid ability to follow your rules. To the letter.

You didn’t move your stop 5 times to make sure you didn’t take losses.

You didn’t revenge trade to make back some money.

You didn’t take a few trades that weren’t part of your plan, ‘just because’.
Again, if you are not honest with yourself here, and instead just say to yourself, ‘I made lots of money over three months’, but that money came from poor trading, I can 100% guarantee you that you will blow your account when you move on. It may take a while to do, but it will absolutely happen.

Look for the consistency. Evaluate yourself and make sure you are happy with what you have been doing. Check your trading diary and look for the warning signs. If you see them, reset and start looking for three months of consecutive consistency once again.

Up the Account and Start the Consistency Search

Now you do know shit. You have started to prove to yourself that you can manage both the technical and the emotional side of trading. VERY few people get to this point, so well done first and foremost. Give yourself a pat on the back. I am serious. Well done. You are already ahead of the vast majority of ‘traders’ out there.

Now you start to up your risk. Instead of trading minimum position size, you can risk 1% of your account per trade, whatever that may be.

For goals, you should have a relatively modest one. I would be looking to finish the months with around 1.5% of gain on account.

That sounds boring, doesn’t it? Like a very small amount.

I don’t care. It is a realistic expectation at this stage. And as long as you continue following your rules and working hard, this is when things start to move forward in terms of monetary return.

Again, look for this to happen for three consecutive months. Again, it MUST come from good trading. If you spot poor trading in your trading diary, it is vital you correct it and once again start looking for the three consecutive months of good trading whilst returning 1.5% per month.

Next Stage

Once you have seen that consistency, then you start pushing yourself a little harder. Again, continue to risk that 1% of account on trades. But now, we are looking for between 1.5% and 3% per month return.

This may not sound difficult, but if you can do this, you are starting to see professional results. Only a minute portion of everyone who comes to trading manages this. Plenty of people throw in large returns each month, but it is always over the short term, and then they crash. You will already be up to 9 months of consecutive, solid trading when you complete this stage.

I would say on average, as a day trader, this means ending the month ‘up’ by 2 to 5 trades. It is achievable and although difficult, it doesn’t put undue stress on you. Again, you are looking for a minimum of 3 consecutive months doing this, all the time making sure you are trading well.

Final Stage 

The first thing to say here is that you do not need to follow this stage. Returning between 1.5% and 3% on your capital month to month is fantastic. However, this is exactly what I would do, so I want to keep going and be as honest as possible.

I would then increase my risk.  I would increase it to 2% of my capital per trade, rather than 1%. For me, this is still well within risk tolerances for good money management.

In terms of what I was looking for each month, it wouldn’t change at all. I would continue looking to be ‘up’ by 2 to 5 trades per month. With the increased risk, this would now equate to between 3% and 6% return per month.

Those are professional results. But it doesn’t mean I would stop trading if say I reached 6% gain on a month. On some months, you will not have a great month and will perhaps make less. On good months (usually one or two per year) everything you touch will work out and you will make much better returns. That is all part of trading and when you have one of those fantastic months, there is not really any better feeling (I know, us traders are a sad lot!)


That is the way I would do it guys. It is the way I advise beginners to approach trading. It isn’t exciting, and it may seem protracted, but I promise you, by giving yourself time and taking the pressure off of your shoulders, you stand a much greater chance of making it in this industry. Plenty of people will ignore the advice, thinking it doesn’t make them money fast enough, and I know from experience that in a few years they will still be where they are, searching for the ‘quick fix’, not realising that the long-term approach would actually get them where they want to be.

I would say at a minimum, getting to the ‘Final Stage’ is a two-year process. It may take longer, and there is nothing wrong with that either. If you can’t learn to speak a foreign language fluently in less than two years, there is no way you can expect to master managing your money better than most of the professionals out there in less time than that.

Just remember, the time is going to pass no matter what. Your choice is to decide how much you want to have changed when you reach that future point.

I hope you’ve all had a great trading week!

James Orr

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Stop Letting Fear Control Your Life

Reading Time - 4 Minutes


This blog post is somewhat reactionary, in that it has come about after some of the emails I received this week. I will not get into specifics on an individual basis, but the current running through these emails was the same –

People were peppering the emails with reasons to avoid doing something that they want to do. Small, strategically placed sentences that essentially said, ‘I want to do this, but because of ABC I don’t know if I can, or if I should.’

The actual excuse again is not important. Although, writing the word ‘excuse’, I come to the conclusion that it is perhaps the wrong word. An excuse tends to lean toward the imagery of someone who is lazy, and that is not the case. Instead, I would say that what was sprinkled through these emails was fear. I see it all the time, not only in trading, but in every aspect of life.

The truth is that fear is going to hold you back. It is going to stop you from trying, wrapping you in a fiend’s embrace, whispering ‘There, there, you’re safe here, don’t put yourself out there and risk failing and everyone seeing you aren’t worth a damn.’

And let me tell you something – I used to allow fear to control me. I was frightened to try new things for fear of failure. When I did try, that voice in my head made it ok to give half assed effort. I didn't want to push myself in case I then DID fail. That would mean that I wasn't capable, that I wasn't good enough.

My teenage years and my early twenties were dominated by that fear. I failed at lots of things and I passed up opportunities that I knew I wanted to pursue, but just didn’t have the courage to grasp. And those aren’t cute words to pad out this blog post. That is the truth.

Do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing.

And I mean that in terms of growth. I didn’t go anywhere. I was in the same place year after year, all of the ideas in my head locked in the cell of fear. There was a part of me that believed in myself, but it was almost completely drowned out. The excuses were there front and centre, always ready to chime in and make it ok to do nothing.

Living like that IS ok. A lot of people in the world do it. I would say the vast majority of people do it. They stick within the lane of their life, they try to keep their eyes focused on the road and they never look to deviate.

But I’m going to take a guess that you aren’t one of those people. If you’re reading my blog, then I can safely assume that you are the furthest thing from a ‘lane walker’ that there is. Even if right now you’re trapped in that lane, you’re here because you want to break out of it. Because for us, being stuck in that monotonous lane feels like we are being ripped apart.

You can get out of it. You can embrace the fear and take the risks you want to in life. Even if no one has ever told you before that you can. And what you will find is that although it is difficult and there are no sure-fire ways to succeed at whatever it is that you want in life, when you start hitting those excuses head on, they start to shatter on impact.

Make the choice to stand back and say ‘Ok, I have given it everything I possibly can and it just hasn’t worked out. But at least I tried’, rather than throwing in the towel through fear before you even start. Because the more things you try, the more effort you give, the more likely one is to 'stick'. Every successful person in any walk of life first started by taking the risk to try, and to give it everything they had. You might just surprise yourself.

When things started to change for me was when I decided to start pushing my writing. I was in my mid-twenties by then and had been writing for fun for a long time. I was the only person who ever read it. My reasoning was that if other people read it, they might think it was a lot of rubbish. I had literally hundreds of short stories on my laptop and I hadn’t shown them to anyone.

But I decided that it was the fear that was holding me back rather than my abilities. At that point, it was simply my fear that people would reject the stories as garbage. My reasoning was that at least if I tried, I would know for sure. Failure after giving all your effort is ok. Failure before you even try is not. Because failure before you try isn't verified. At best it is a biased opinion.

So, I set to work. I picked two short stories and I edited them. I started sending them out to literary magazines and sites. I braced myself for rejections and sure enough, rejections came my way. What was most surprising was that they didn’t really have an impact on me. It didn’t dampen my spirit or cause me to feel like a failure. I simply read the rejections and then tossed them in the bin.

A couple of weeks after I started sending them out, both were accepted for publication. One was taken by a literary magazine and the other by an online publication.

Suddenly that fear that had been holding me back seemed downright stupid. I had allowed that fear to control my actions, all the time thinking it was keeping me safe. I had already passed up on so many opportunities because of it, and here was the evidence in those stories being accepted that it wasn't keeping me safe, it was in fact holding me back.

After that I realised that even if I failed at something, it didn’t matter. I always had to first try it, and approach it with as much determination and focus as I could. You simply push through the fear and understand that the fear is the walls keeping you in your lane in life. For me, there was nothing worse than being restricted to that lane. Failure was easy to take it if meant I could break out of that lane.

Fear is there to stop you getting eaten by a predator when walking through a jungle. It is not there to stop you from trying to achieve your goals. So, stop with the bullshit excuses and get moving.

I hope you’re all having a great week!

James Orr

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Demo Trading Benefits and Drawbacks. Is it Useful?

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The short answer to this blog would be – ‘Yes’. However, there are also a lot of pitfalls in regard to demo trading that people don’t consider, and they can end up doing a lot of long term damage.

First thing first – I didn’t use a demo account when I got started. I consider that to be a huge mistake, and one that I paid for with lots of losses. I wandered around the markets in the dark, bumping into random things, throwing more money at it and hoping something would work. It was stressful and in all honesty, it was stupid. I made the fatal mistake of looking at demo trading as a wasted opportunity. My idiotic mind-set was that I could be making real money rather than pissing around on a demo. Of course, the markets had a very different idea. I ended up losing lots or real money, rather than demo money.

In this blog, I am going to outline both the benefits and the limitations of demo trading.


The Benefits of Demo Trading

1) If we start at the very core of what a demo account should be used for – learning – then we are off to a good start. No matter how many videos you watch, courses you take, or books that you read, when you first try and start trading, you don’t have a clue what you are doing. You may know all the technical terms and when to go ‘long’ or when to ‘cover’ positions, but you have never actually done it before.

The trading platform you use will take some getting used to. You will need to learn how to place orders, how to set stops, how to calculate position sizes etc. This all takes time. A demo account is the perfect place to do that. You can press any of the buttons you want, you can move things around and experiment with different order types, all the while safe in the knowledge that you aren’t risking any real money. Do you really want to calculate your stop incorrectly on your first live trade and end up losing double what you meant to risk? Play it safe and spend a couple of weeks learning how everything works.

2) The next huge benefit of demo trading is in terms of perfecting a trading system and how you execute it. The market has more variables and will produce more situations than you can consider. The only way to pinpoint these is by executing a trading plan in real time. Back testing is great, but it will never give you the ‘full-picture’. I can honestly say that no trading system I have developed whilst back-testing ever remained the same after I started trading it. You watch the markets and you learn. You adjust.

It doesn’t matter if you developed a trading plan or if you bought one. Once you start trading, there will be issues you need to figure out.

‘X happened today when I was in a trade and I didn’t know what to do. So, I now need to go back and look at the course and figure it out/look at how I can adapt my trading plan.’

‘I was looking for X today and Y was my sign to skip the trade. However, a Z appeared instead and I didn’t know what to do. I took the trade anyway and suffered a loss. I need to figure out if what I did was correct or if I need to adjust my approach in those situations.’

Note what we are doing here. It is nothing fancy, it isn’t using the demo account to find the holy grail in trading, it is simply allowing ourselves to learn in a safe environment. When learning to box, you don’t get thrown in a ring with a professional boxer and told to hold your ground on your first lesson. Instead, you start working on the basics by yourself, shadow boxing and on pads. Mistakes are identified, weaknesses corrected. You build up slowly until you know exactly what you are supposed to be doing at any given moment.
The more of the technical side of things you can master on a demo account, the easier it is going to be when you switch to live trading. Like building the muscle memory of throwing a jab as a boxer over and over again whilst in training, you want to build a solid understanding of your trading plan, so it is almost automatic when it comes time to make decisions.

The Limitations of Demo Trading

Now you have read everything above, let me hit you with a hard truth. When you first step into live trading, the market is still going to kick your ass. There is no escaping that fact. Let’s look at the main drawbacks:

1) Although you have prepared yourself as much as possible by using the demo account, it in no way prepares you for the emotional side of trading. So many people read that trading psychology is the most important aspect of trading, over and over again and then go right ahead and discard it. Don't let that be you!

I don’t care how well you now know your system, or how much you have convinced yourself that ‘I am imagining my demo money is real money.’ None of that is going to matter. You are going to panic, you are going to make mistakes, you are going to revenge trade.

This is the area where most people really struggle. Almost no one believes it is going to be an issue for them, and when it does appear, they put their head down and run straight into a wall.

That is why it is so vitally important to first master your trading on a demo account. That leaves you with the job of mastering the psychological side of things when live trading, and the 'ABC' technical process is already ingrained in your mind. You are lifting some of the weight off of your shoulders.

Can you imagine not knowing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing in terms of your trading plan AND suffering through emotional trading? Well, you don’t need to imagine. It's exactly what I did, and believe me it isn’t a fun experience.

A demo account can’t prepare you for the psychology of trading, but it can help you build as much as possible before then. Think back to the boxer – they know what to do at every stage. They know their plan, they have sparred with people and understand how to react. But the first time they get into the ring for real, emotions are going to be tearing through them. And the first time they get punched in the face, it suddenly becomes incredibly difficult to remember the plan, let alone follow it. However, the better they know the plan, and the more they have practiced, the easier it is going to be.

2) Cockiness. I would say this is the biggest issue that comes from demo trading and it is a dangerous one. I see it over and over again. I warn people about it as soon as I detect it through speaking to them, and in probably 90% of cases I am ignored.

The very real truth is – Profits in a demo account do not translate to profits when live trading!

This relates fully to the first point. You have not built up an ability to manage the emotional side of trading. You are not risking real money. It is a completely different experience.

The problem is that on a Demo account, let’s say you have £10,000 or £100,000. You follow good risk management and you watch large amounts of virtual money roll in. It seems easy and you get flooded with dopamine so that everything in the world seems rosy and you’re safe in the knowledge that you’re going to be a millionaire in short order.

When you move to a live account, you should now be looking to risk minimum position sizes. It should be about experiencing and then tackling the emotional side of trading. You should be taking baby steps and building very slowly. But you have that demo experience. You KNOW how to do this and suddenly when you see a £10 profit for a perfect trade, your mind chirps up with things like ‘Only £10. What is the point in risking so small? You KNOW what you’re doing.’

Invariably people up their risk. I have even seen people plop thousands on a credit card in order to swell their trading power.

It ends in disaster. Always.

Think of moving to a live account the same was as learning to ride a bike and taking the stabilisers off. Yes, you now know what you’re doing, but cockiness will still invariably lead to a spill.

So, to answer the question – Is Demo trading useful?

I absolutely recommend that beginners use a demo account. It is invaluable. However, it must be approached with caution (just like everything else in trading). Don’t allow it to inflate your ego and cause long-term damage. Take baby steps and build solid foundations for your future.

I hope you’ve all had a great trading week!

James Orr

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Most of you Wont Make It

Reading Time - 6 Minutes 

Most of you won’t make it as a trader. That is the cold hard truth of it. Maybe not what you want to hear from a blog post, true. But by getting down to the root of it and blowing away all the shiny shit that so often wraps around the trading community disguised as bunting, it may just harden the resolve of some of you that can make it in this industry.

Trading has a huge failure rate amongst retail traders. It is unlike other careers in that you can’t hide in the background and get by doing the bare minimum as some low-level employee. As soon as you start falling into that trap, the market will instantly beat you over the head, remove the wallet from your pocket and take everything that you have.

A lot of people (I include myself in this category when I first got started), don’t even know that they fit the bill of the person looking to do the absolute minimum. They come at it with good intentions, but they look for the easy road, the simple ‘secret’ that will help them become a trader, the ‘fast-track’ method that means they can leave their job in a few months and be making serious income. The market welcomes them with open arms. The embrace quickly becomes a suffocating crush that saps the life out of you.

But it won’t necessarily do it in a way that makes it obvious to you. Oh no, trading has a way of toying with you, keeping you on the wrong path, and it is only as you watch your last pound drain from your account that you get the hint that something isn’t right. Because people looking for fast cash can have it with trading, and many of them do… but it is only ever possible in the short term. A small account can grow by a thousand percent and people can see huge amounts of money coming at them. But it is not sustainable. The bad habits that are there –

Bad money management
Emotional Trading

- and eventually they catch up with you and bye-bye goes the account. The problem with it working in this way is that now those traders have had a taste of the fast cash. They want it back. They don’t want to make a slow crawl up the mountain when they have already seen the helicopter that can get them up there. And so they rinse and repeat, over and over again, their nerves being torn to pieces as they grow to hate trading and sitting at the computer without even realising it. They don't seem to remeber that the helicopter in fact crashed into the mountain, destroying itself and everything on board.

Let me hit you right in the gut with some of the hard truths from possible fast-track ideas:

Buy a Course 

This in no way means you are going to be a successful trader. I don’t give a damn what people tell you, or that the course page says you will be financially free in a few months. It isn’t true. That is simply appealing to the part of you deep down that wants it to happen quickly.

I see people charging astronomical amounts for courses. I got an email recently from someone who said a company had offered him a course for $4,000. For that kind of money, I would want to be in a classroom for intensive training face-to-face for at least a fortnight! And even then they would have to drag me and my suitcase out of there at the end of it, because I would want to live in the office for a further month!

A course, if it is a good one (and there is a LOT of garbage out there), can act like a set of rails. Instead of wandering around aimlessly, jumping between multiple methods and half-researched plans you spent a night developing, a good course can position your wheels on the rails and keep you moving in the right direction. It can give support when you struggle and the teacher offer guidance when you find yourself hitting roadblocks.

But it WILL still take blood, sweat and tears. You won’t be able to make progress unless you fully commit and show a determination like you wouldn’t believe. And it will take you AT LEAST one year, and more than likely two years or more before that consistency comes.

Join a Live Room 

‘Hey, maybe I can just let someone else do it since it’s so hard!’  

Let me ask a very simple question here – Do you know one single person who has left their job because they found a live room that makes them consistent money? I don’t mean the people in the testimonials, I mean one person YOU know? What about this one – would you EVER leave a career to rely on someone you don’t know to make you money?

I can guarantee the answer to both is 'no'.

I would say a live room can be beneficial if you are also learning alongside it. However even then I would say I am stretching. Because you never learn to work through the emotional side of trading if you are just relying on someone else to do it.

I have been in live rooms where the results in no way match what the trader ‘made’ at the end of the month. I have seen losses explained away and mysteriously disappear. And the worst are pump-and-dump traders and rooms. Those guys lead their students to the slaughter and get fat off of all the meat.

Even if you find one that profits… you’re back to the main question – are you going to rely on this stranger to look after you for the rest of your life?

You absolutely must develop the ability to be self-sufficient.

But Look How Much He Made 

My teacher just made X amount of money, surely I can do the same if I just follow what he says?

Lewis Hamilton can get himself around a track pretty quickly. Do you think if he sends you a PDF explaining what he does to go that fast, you would be able to go out, jump in a car and do the same?

Of course you wouldn’t. You get to watch him on TV every week, doing exactly what he does. And you still can't go out and expect to get anywhere near to him!

It would take you lots of time and practice until you developed the experience to even attempt to get close to what he was doing. No matter how much information you have at your fingertips, the brain can only learn so fast. You absolutely need to be willing to put the work in.

This blog post may come across as negative, but truly that isn’t my intention. Instead I am looking to put out the cold hard facts of trading for those who are interested in pursuing it. I don’t think wrapping people in cotton wool is at all helpful in life, and with trading it is likely to lead them to untold hardship.

But there are those of you out there who want it enough. You’re hungry, driven and determined. You are willing to put in the work and will go to any length to achieve your goals.

It is to you I am speaking. The rest probably stopped reading as soon as I said it would take them two years to achieve it. Fight off the urge to follow the lazy part of your brain. Understand what you need to do and the commitment it is going to take.

Keep working, improving and correcting any mistakes or bad habits that appear.

Become one of the ten percent who turn the charts into something you can sit and watch each day with a coffee in your hand, wearing your warmest hoodie at your desk while everyone else is stuck in gridlock traffic on their commute.

I hope you’ve all had a great trading week!

James Orr

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Just Do It

Reading Time - 4 Minutes


Let me start off by stating that I do not represent or work for Nike (Nike employees, feel free to send me free stuff!) But I love the power in that simple phrase that they managed to coin and make their own – Just Do It.

There seems to be a dangerous predisposition toward excuses rather than action. I am first to hold my hand up and say that yes, my initial response, that little voice that chirps up in my head when the going gets tough, is to give up. It’s normal. We are, for the most part, lazy. We don’t want to take the hard road. We want things handed to us on a plate, or else we just can’t be bothered with it.

This seems to be wholly accepted in the main part. We now have ‘participation medals’ in schools and rewards for what is, when you get right down to it, nothing more than mediocrity. When people give up at things, we pat them on the back and say, ‘not to worry, it just wasn’t for you.’ It’s as though we enjoy people reverting back to that ‘mean’ of laziness. They step out for a while, a chick taking a step out of the comforts of the nest, but we don’t encourage, instead we wait to usher them back inside.

Our excuses are endless, repetitive chirrups in our heads, nothing more than a soothing hand to pat ourselves on the back and help us believe that ‘better luck next time,’ is a mantra to live our lives by.

And that one phrase gets down to the root of the issue and blows away all the bullsh** in three simple syllables – Just Do It.

There are an infinite number of excuses in the world. People look to self-help books to ‘fix’ the problem, they go to seminars and search desperately through a litany of information in search of that ‘fix’, because the searching is easier than admitting that they already know the problem and how to fix it.

The problem is that they are being lazy.
The solution is to – Just Do It.

We’re approaching January at an alarming rate, the time of year when people set themselves resolutions, when they did into the depths of their brain and pull out the things they really want to achieve but have been hiding from themselves in a mountain of excuses for most of the year.

The January resolutions tend to be the big ones, the goals that people really want. We plan how we are going to do it, we promise ourselves that this year is it, we’re going to smash through the obstacles and get to where we want to be.

And come January of the next year, we are one year closer to our goals, correct?


The most likely outcome is that we follow through with our resolution until around mid-February.

Let that sink in.

The goals we set ourselves in January, the ones we really want to achieve, we spend less than 60 days working toward before we throw in the towel.

Then it’s back to self-help books. It’s back to the sofa where we say it was just too cold to go for that run; our back was too stiff to go to the gym; you didn’t want to give up smoking this year anyway; you’ll start saving next year; learning a foreign language just wasn’t for you.

You give up. You revert back to the mean of laziness. You want that quick fix.

Well the quick fix is right in front of you –

Just Do It.

Whatever it is that you want, it’s on the other side of your excuses. You don’t turn your alarm clock off in the morning and ignore the hour of study you were going to do before work because you haven’t read the right self-help book yet. You do it because you have allowed the voice in your head that makes excuses to win. The only way to avoid it, to stop it from happening, to climb out of the nest of comfort you have built around yourself is to –

Just Do It.

Choose not to let excuses and mediocrity control the majority of your life. If you slip and turn that alarm off one morning, understand that it was your fault and your choice. It wasn’t too hard, it wasn’t something you just couldn’t do, it was that negative, lazy side of yourself winning out that morning. Accept it and then the next day get back on track instead of letting it snowball.

Whenever you find yourself making mistakes or wandering away from the road that leads to your goals, the ones you really want to work toward and achieve, realise that you always have the power to turn yourself around and point yourself in the right direction again.

Just Do It.

I hope you’re all having a great week!

James Orr

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Is Stubbornness Holding You Back?

Reading Time - 4 Minutes

This is a phenomenon I have noticed over the years, and it has helped me improve as a trader by seeking out similar behaviour in myself. It is worthwhile taking a look at your own approach and identifying if it is present.

Through Decisive Trading, I get a lot of emails from traders. Quite a few of them are struggling traders, and all they are messaging for is some advice and maybe a bit of encouragement.

I’m focusing on the emails here from people who are struggling and asking for advice. The emails all differ, but they have a common theme. They say things like:

‘I have lost a lot of money trading, my trading plan is ‘X’, can you offer some advice?’

‘I am trading on ‘X’ market and have been for two years. I have lost lots of money and I just can’t figure out what is going wrong. Can your course help me?’

‘I am using a system where I wait for a moving average cross. I learned it from an old trading guru I met in a bar who only ever shares his secret once every thirty years. It isn’t working. What should I do?’

All of these threads are different, but they are basically asking the same thing.

I am doing ‘X’. It isn’t working. Can you offer some advice?

When it comes to specific trading plans, I don’t offer exact ideas, because for me to understand the plan, I would need to study it, thoroughly back-test it, and then trade it. Unfortunately, I simply don’t have the time to do that for every email I receive. What I can and do often point out, is the obvious steps they should take in relation to what they have told me. So, for each of the above, it may be something like:

-       ‘Reduce your position size. Stop trying to make the money back and first learn how to protect your account and build your trading abilities.’
-       ‘If you take the course, my advice would be to switch markets. Treat it as a fresh approach so you don’t carry bad habits over with you. After you become consistent, then you can trade whatever market you like.’
-       Consider that the system doesn’t work or isn’t suited to your trading personality.’

And here is where this phenomenon come in, the one that I am simply calling stubbornness. I would say 90% to 95% of the replies to this type of email question and then response is the same. It is so common that it is what I expect when I see the name pop back up in my emails.

They say – ‘Thank you. But I think I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I’m sure I can make it work.’

So they are emailing me because they are failing, and are in a place of desperation, they pretty much highlight the issue in the email, and I simply point it out to them. But when I do that, they pull back, as though I was some sort of pariah that was trying to harm them and their child.

It’s stubbornness. The equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall, asking someone how to stop making it hurt, and then when they tell you to step away from the damn wall, you instead say nah, I think I’ll keep doing this, I’ve been doing it for too long to quit now.

At first it used to boggle my mind and I would invariably reply, trying to point out that they themselves had already highlighted the issue in their initial email. But I found that by that time, the heels were already dug in (stubbornness) and anything I said would fall on deaf ears. Now, I just wish them well and hope that they figure it out, or at least don’t lose too much more money.

The refusal to change your opinion or come around to a new way of thinking has something to do with ‘self-affirmation’ and ‘cultural cognition.’ I don’t want to get too much into the meanings, because they can pretty much be summed up by the word I’ve already been using – STUBBORNESS.

Once I started to realise what was happening, I wondered if I was acting in a similar way? I must admit, it took me a while to link the common responses to myself, but once I realised that such a high portion of the replies were similar, it made sense that maybe, just maybe, I was also stubborn and didn’t even realise it!

It’s worthwhile looking at your trading and digging into what it is you do in order to find weaknesses and then ways to improve. You should be doing this all the time, and not only in relation to stubbornness. It is easy to grow bad habits, and unfortunately, if you don’t identify them quickly, the market will do it for you by taking your money. This is all part of trading and you should be aware of it.

So, I had a look at what I was doing. It took me a while to identify the specific areas where I was being stubborn, but sure enough, they were there:

-       My main one was that I went into certain trading days with a bias in terms of the trend. And throughout the day, even if the market was telling me that I was wrong, I clung to that bias and looked for trades that fit with it. What it resulted in was unnecessary losses and a lot of frustration on my part when these days showed up. It told me that I needed to work on my acceptance of being incorrect and my willingness to change my mind quickly.
-       The second thing, which was closely linked to the first, was that I had a hard time accepting strong trends. I always expected them to end, and was looking to sell into the bullish rallies or buy into the bearish ones. Again, this resulted in frustration and unnecessary losses.

The simple act of thinking about these things helped me greatly. I knew I was doing them on a subconscious level, but I was being stubborn, and because of that, I had never really addressed the issues. It’s almost like someone standing you in front of the answer written in six-foot letter on the way in front of you, but you instead chose to close your eyes. By specifically looking for that stubbornness, it was like opening my eyes and giving myself the permission to read what was right in front of me.

It helped me a lot and I am sure if you search out the stubbornness in your own approach, it will help you also. Don’t be afraid to be wrong as a trader, but be terrified of not addressing and correcting those mistakes.

I hope you’ve all had a great trading week!

James Orr

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Is Your Idea of Success Hindering Your Happiness?

Reading Time - 10 Minutes


As I sit in Sainsbury’s café writing this blog post, I can’t help but wonder if I am slowly morphing into an airy-fairy hippie. I seem to drift further away from what I used to think of as ‘successful’ in my youth as each year passes.

Now let me point out two things quickly:

1) I am only 31. That is still young (fingernails grasping desperately to my youth as well as my ever-receding hairline)

2) I should have said a Hilton Café, not Sainsbury’s. I’m a trader after all, and I should be steeped in luxury at every second. In fact, I am drinking a latte in my Lamborghini with my dog next to me in her chauffeured Rolls Royce… with a Ferrari support vehicle behind.

Now for most of my life, all the way up into my late twenties, I ascribed to the fairly accepted notion of ‘success’, and I was determined to work toward it. What that meant for me was: to earn lots of money; to live in a big house; and to have fast cars. I was basically the poster-boy for capitalist trappings.

I have always been someone who works hard and puts in the hours, and I had no problem working myself into the ground trying to chase that dream lifestyle. It didn’t occur to me that I was spending so much time in pursuit of that ‘success’, that I wasn’t doing a whole lot of living. I kept doing it, even though I was unhappy. I had blinkers on. I was focused always on ‘the next step’ and not really paying attention to anything else along the way.

I didn’t really know anything different. You are brought up that way – work hard. Make money. Work harder. Make more money. We are bombarded with the images of ‘success’ almost every minute. On the TV, in magazines, on billboards and now, all over our phones. It is never ending. I think you can see what this has led to most if you pop onto a social media platform and look at the polished, filtered images that people portray of themselves to the world, determined (desperate) to push out the idea that they are living it, that they have found ‘success’. Everyone is happy and accomplished on social media.

But, I noticed something over the last couple of years. Perhaps my receding hairline has allowed air to my scalp and it is acting as a cooling fan for my brain, allowing it to work more efficiently. Nature’s very own sunroof.

What I noticed was that, for me at least, when I thought about what I actually wanted, the word ‘success’ could be interchanged with ‘happiness’. I was pushing forward on this journey of life looking mainly for happiness and contentment. And I had allowed myself to believe that I would find it when I had more money and a bigger house, because that was what had been shoved in my face my whole life. Every time I did upgrade onto the next rung, I started to believe that once again, that success/happiness was again just around the corner, on the next rung. I was almost going through life as though it were a computer game, trying to level up, desperate to become that better character, one that was more fulfilled. And when I got there, everything would magically fall into place.

This reminds me of a quote from Bob Marley –

‘’Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.’’

As I entered into my thirties (thirty is the new twenty!), I really started to think about what I was doing. My income had grown exponentially, and to the outside world I was becoming ‘successful’. However, I still wasn’t satisfied, and I still wanted(needed) more. I wasn’t happy, and it pissed me off. I had been doing everything right – working hard, buying fast cars, flying business class all over the world and partying…a lot. But nothing had changed. I wasn’t becoming that completed article where it really mattered – in my own head.

That is about the time I started to think I was approaching things in the wrong way. The other stressor was that, because I still wasn’t happy and because I thought I just needed to ‘level up’ again, I was failing to appreciate what I had done and achieved so far. I was chasing this idea of life and ignoring what was going on outside of my thin idea of what that meant.

Just take a minute and consider if you are in the same boat. If you are, stop and just think about your own growth for a minute. How far have you come in the past few years? What adversity have you overcome? How much have you learned? And are you still in that position of thinking you need to go further to achieve that success/happiness? Is it still just out of reach, on that next rung?

It was the realisation that I wasn’t taking stock of what I had done and that I was chasing something that in reality would never have an end that made me re-evaluate. At the time, I was looking at new houses with my girlfriend – big, expensive houses. I wasn’t looking at the fact that it would come with a tasty mortgage and that I would then be working for twenty-five years more to pay it off, giving over large portions of my income so that essentially, I had a roof over my head and nice sized rooms. I was focused on the ‘image’ behind it. A bigger house meant more success (happiness) after all.

So, I stopped, and I had a mid-life crisis (impossible at such a young, young age, I know). It really hit me hard, more so the realisation that I just wasn’t happy and I was killing myself putting energy into filling my bank account in order to try and find that happiness. I had never considered that the happiness hadn’t really increased alongside the income. I just presumed I wasn’t quite ‘there’ yet. Have you ever heard the definition of insanity? It is doing something over and over again and expecting different results. Yeah, that was me. In reality, I think it fits the bill for a lot of people.

I decided then and there that I was going about things the wrong way. I was feeding into a system more concerned with growing an already overinflated economy, rather than helping myself. What I valued most was free time and a release of the burden of being forced to increase my income in order to increase my life.

This was again driven home for me at last year’s Decisive Trading seminar. I spoke to a lot of great people, all of them looking to improve their life, not necessarily to become rich, but rather to give themselves more freedom (I don’t think one person mentioned ‘getting rich’). I remember one conversation in particular, this after the seminar when we were all having a drink downstairs in the hotel lobby. I was asking everyone why they wanted to trade, and one person said:

‘I want to have more free time to spend with my family.’

Now this guy was still relatively young and he was wearing a Rolex and was well dressed. The indications were there of ‘success.’ However, he wanted to change in order to have more free time. He told me that he had a good income, but the hours were very long and he had to travel a lot. It sounded like he was right about where I was in terms of the realisation that something wasn’t quite right with the predefined road map for life.

I have now come to think that the accepted definition of ‘success’ is warped. The more I look at it, the more it appears to be designed to ensnare you into a life with less free time, more stress, and although a bigger income, also bigger bills. However, I have also found it increasingly difficult to turn away from that ‘level up’ attitude. Even though I realise that it is not serving me, I struggle to allow myself to look at a different path. ‘Why would you go against the grain?’ my brain asks. Look what everyone else is doing. I think the world has it figured out better than you do.

The reason for this blog is really to get my thoughts out, but also to hopefully reach some people who are in the same situation. Us slowly revealing ‘hippies’ who are starting to detach from the cumbersome and restricting definition of the life plan we have been fed.

When you start to stick your head up for air, you get the chance to look at things in a different way. When I really thought about it, I noticed something peculiar. I have had the opportunity to do a lot of travelling. And throughout life I have also met a lot of very wealthy people. Now, you would expect that the richer the person, the happier. And the poor, especially from the third world countries, would be the unhappiest. That fit with the Western ideology of success, so it had to be correct, right?

Well, I have found that for the most part, the complete opposite is true. Even whilst I was in Peru, helping with disaster relief after a devastating earthquake, the people were happy and friendly. Most of them had lost everything and were living in tents. And yet they would come out to see us every day just to chat, thank us, and help out wherever they could. And more than that, they were often trying to give us what little they had. They would come out with the last of their food or some Coca-Cola for us to drink. They were always smiling and joking around. Now on the flipside, I would say that a large portion of the ‘successful’ people I have met were stressed and tied to their phone. There was also an overwhelming sense that they knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t figure it out – they just needed to get to that next rung. They were pouring their life into jobs and businesses at the expense of everything else.

So, this hippie (a very young one) is forcing himself to look outside of that readily accepted definition of ‘success’. I hope there are some more of you out there. If not, I hope you at least consider that more money and a bigger house, levelling up, isn’t going to suddenly bring you to the door of happiness. Let yourself be happy with what you have already achieved, whatever that may be. Be happy with what you already have – if people in Peru who have lost everything can do it, then so can you.

What does it mean for me? Well, I certainly don’t have everything figured out. I still struggle to have my washing done before I run out of clean clothes, never mind everything else. But I am still young (yes, I am!) But I am trying to slow down and to take stock of how far I have come. I also constantly remind myself that more money isn’t the answer to whatever question life poses. Instead of that big house, I spoke to my girlfriend and explained that instead, we could stay where we are and be mortgage free in a year or two. To me (and she agreed), that seemed incredibly freeing. A different approach. One that isn’t dictated to me by advertising and social media.

PS This does not mean that future Decisive Trading meetups will be conducted in a field surrounded by cow shit, holding hands and singing Kumbaya!

I hope you’ve all had a great week.

James Orr


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Forget the 'Victim Complex' and Focus on Improving

Reading Time - 7 Minutes

I used to get pissed off with people. The ones who just seemed to ‘get’ things and were naturally good at what they tried. You know the type – the ones who always understood what was going on in class and rocked their exams; the person on the football team who was able to play circles around you; the one at work who never seems phased by what’s going on and takes on a larger workload, swimming through promotions like a knife through butter.

I used to think it was unfair. I’ll happily admit now that I had a ‘victim complex’. I was annoyed at what seemed like a bias in the very nature of life toward some people - the successful people. At the time, I didn’t really do anything about it other than feel annoyed, mope around, and trudge through what I thought was my lot in life.

But there were a couple of things that helped me out along the way. The first was that I loved to read. The second was that I am naturally competitive, so no matter how much I tried to ‘accept my lot’, there was always a voice in my head telling me to figure out what the hell was going on and learn how to shift the deck of cards in my favour.

I discovered a couple of things, and both the discovery and the change that it brought about has helped me ever since.

First of all, I found that there are certain people who are just naturally good at things. There are those who don’t need to study for an exam, and there are those who get a football at their foot and it’s as though when they were born, they should have come out wearing a pair of Nike football boots.

There’s no real reason for this, they’re just ‘lucky’ in that way. However, when I started paying attention, what I discovered was that the ‘lucky’ people were of the minority. It wasn’t as regular an occurrence as I had led myself to believe. In succumbing to that ‘victim complex’, I had casually pushed everyone who was better than me at something into a heightened state of being, giving their talents over to genetics and a special sprinkle of something in their brain at birth.

But the rest of them? The majority of those who were better than me at the things I was trying?

They were outworking me.

The realisation was so simple and yet so profound I didn’t actually accept it fully for a long time. They were simply putting more hours into practice, were studying more, and had been doing it longer than me.

I can also still remember the first time I really put that theory to the test.

I had a close friend who was very good at running. Whenever we went running together, he would always be able to set a faster pace, he would always be able to go further, and he would always have to end up waiting for me as I lumbered to a walk to catch my breath.

I used to think I was just sh** at running in comparison to him. I assured myself that it was just something else I wasn’t very good at.

But then I really started to look at it. And I realised that this friend had been running fairly consistently, since he was a kid. He knew about breathing techniques, stride setting, and how to push through the initial wall that runners often hit. He used to run for the school athletics team.

Could it be that I wasn’t actually bad at running, that I wasn’t a victim of life, but that I simply wasn’t putting in the work to get better than him?

So I started training. I went out running by myself at least once per day. I ran so much that I started to get strain injuries in my knee. I figured out how to combat the strain, and I started running again. I went from running two miles per day to ten. I slashed my pace from ten minute miles to seven and a half minutes. And believe me, it’s easy to squash what I did into a paragraph here, but in reality, it was a hell of a lot of hard work. It was running in the snow and running when all I wanted to do was lie in bed and watch TV. I would practice sprints until I was ready to pass out. I did it for months and months.

All the time in my head there was the doubt that what I was doing wouldn’t work. I still had that niggling feeling that I simply wasn’t good at running and that my friend was better (more natural talent).

We then did two things:

We joined one of those Ultimate Warrior style events that was a 10km circuit of obstacles and running through hills. And we also joined a fitness class.

The fitness class came first and I can still remember at the end of the class we were to sprint back to the instructor. I was next to my friend, we were both already at the front of the class, and we both went for it. Around halfway back I could see my friend look over at me. There was a surprised realisation on his face. He wasn’t pulling away. He tried to put on another burst of speed and again, surprising myself, I easily matched. It was a shock to me when we arrived back at the instructor, but also to him because he actually said to me, ‘When did you get so fast?’

For the Warrior event, we were around 6 or 7km into it when he started stopping and walking. I felt like I could have upped the pace and wasn’t even ready to slow up.

So why is this important?

Because it means that no matter where you are in your life, if you want to improve, then there’s a way. There is no ‘victim complex’ that cannot be overcome. The first time you discover that you have this power, it will be freeing and invigorating. If you put in the work, you will come to the point, like I did, where you outwork the competition, or where you study so hard that the impossible task starts to seem manageable.

The other bonus I have in my corner is that I love reading. Books are one of the best conveyancers of knowledge, and I don’t mind one bit sitting down and working through a stack of them. And not only books, but online. You have literally the information of the world available to you through google searches. And if you don’t like reading, there are audiobooks and countless videos online now that can help you.

Now I dedicate at least 10% of my income to learning and I give it as much free time as I possibly can. It has become a part of my life. It doesn’t matter what I think is too difficult or that I am not good enough to do. I simply throw myself at it. I didn’t think I would be able to trade, but I just sat my ass down at the computer and started to learn.

And what you’ll find is that if you hit against a rock enough times, eventually it will start to crack.

Make it a constant process. Because no matter how hard you study initially and how far you go, if you begin to settle, the world will catch back up to you. Things change and you should be adapting and changing right along with them. Keep pushing and improving.

So, if you ever think that you can’t do something, or that you’re not good enough for it, try focusing your energy not on the negative, but on the positive prospect of learning your way to what you want. It’s not easy, but if you want it enough, you will get there.

I hope you're all having a great trading week!

James Orr