Specialty Skills

Successful Trading Involves Managing Your Energy

Dr. Woody Johnson

In the ongoing conversation with the Online Trading Academy students that come into the trading psychology lessons we have often discussed the importance of “energy” management.  When you think about it, energy, which cannot be created or destroyed according to Albert Einstein, is the primary fundamental essence of the Universe.  No matter how small you go into the quantum elements or to the largest celestial bodies in space; there is one thing that permeates all, that is energy.  With regard to your trading, when you “feel” focused, on task and on target along with having your attention lined up with your intention in the trade …you are using the energy that this mindset is resonating with.  Consequently, if you are in a bad mood and trying to take it out on the markets through revenge trades, in this as with the other, energy is central.  Whether you recognize it or not, this energy is best used for propelling you in the direction of your desired results; or misused in the event of doing something boneheaded as you watch your portfolio go up in smoke.  In other words you must “manage your energy.”  This could also be described as the necessity of managing your internal state.  The critical nature of this cannot be overstated because if you don’t learn to manage your energy states you and your trading are going to eventually crash and burn.  The point is also related to the notion of persistence and perseverance; the ability to keep going in the face of massive challenges and having the heart to endure being out of your comfort zone.

Trading is arguably the single most challenging venture on the planet.  It challenges your character flaws, personal issues and weaknesses at every turn.  It is for these reasons that managing your internal states by using persistence and perseverance are crucial to your ability to not only bring your A-Game to the trading platform but to sustain it over the long haul. How often have you found yourself at a “fork in the road” of your trading and faced with a choice to either go to the left and violate a rule; or go the right and use your highest and best trader to maintain attention on what matters most. Managing energy is what can make a distinct difference in following through with your plan and your rules.

The definition of persistence is basically never giving up.  Perseverance is going on despite hardships, opposition and setbacks.  Don Bennett is a mountain climber and he climbed one of the highest mountains in the world, Mt. Rainier in very demanding conditions that may have broken the average climber.  But Don went on out of sheer desire to do what he had set out to do.  When he had finished a reporter asked Don how he did it.  Don told him that he saw every move along the way on the mountain about 100 times per day.  The reporter then asked, yeah, I hear that all the time from people that they are able to imagine the goal, and that’s good, but what I want to know is how did you do it with one leg?  Don, took a breath and said, one hop at a time.  Some people do not allow obstacles, setbacks, opposition or hardships get in their way when they want something bad enough.  Don Jackson is a black man who was dyslexic in the late forties and early fifties at a time when most professionals didn’t even know how to spell the term much less what it was.  He grew up labeled as retarded in special school systems.  But, Don knew inside that he was not retarded, he had a light emanating from his Spirit into which he plugged his heart and decided that he too wanted to learn like everyone else.  When he decided to go to college everyone who knew him or read his school history tried to discourage him, most of the time thinking that they were saving him from major disappointments and pain.  But Don never gave up.  Even though it was very difficult for him to read because of his disability, he did so and remembered it well.  He passed his remedial studies and was admitted into college whereupon he not only graduated but today is a Ph.D. in education and works with young people whom society has given up on.  He managed his energy through persistence and perseverance; he would not allow anything to keep him from his burning goal.  He never lost sight of his vision.  He created solutions to his problems.  Through his vision, which provided the additional energy, he maintained his commitment, held on to patience, and understood the value of never giving up.

There are 5 critical steps to attaining and maintaining strong levels of persistence and perseverance:

First, rekindling and refueling the vision of your purpose everyday charges the emotion that sustains you.  It reminds you daily of the rewards and benefits of the goal.  If you haven’t identified your purpose for trading you’ll want to take care of this right away.  Your purpose is the starting point for successful trading.  It is where you connect the “what-matters-most” of your life to the “what-matters-most” in the trade.  It is how you infuse a passion for remaining on task to the process of your trading.  The vision is what galvanizes your strength and drives you like a turbo jet towards your trading goals.

Secondly, the journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.  You must firmly anchor the attitude by using this heartfelt statement as your own; “I can achieve anything I set my heart and mind to, nothing is impossible for me to achieve if I want it badly enough and am willing to pay the price, for no matter how much effort is involved, or how long it takes, or how difficult it is, I can and will achieve.”  This belief in self is imperative to remaining focused.

Thirdly, remember to view setbacks, losses and failures as learning opportunities – those things that hurt, instruct.  All great achievers have made innumerable mistakes and have failed, that is what provided the “experience” and the “education.”   This is necessary to manifest your trading vision.

Fourthly, always increase your market knowledge by identifying the mechanics that will help you to form a foundation in the markets that you have chosen to trade.  This can also be termed “a results orientation.”  Experiment with different approaches, perspectives and paths.

Fifthly, transform your attaining your goal into joy.  Make what you have to do, into something that you want to do.  Advancing toward your life goal shouldn’t feel like a sacrifice because it is what you want more than anything for you and your family.  As you gain more “process mastery” in your trading you will increase the “joy” of doing it well.

Now, let’s look at five ways to deal with setbacks:

1)  Don’t aim to avoid a handicap such as starting trading without capital or waiting to understand a new market despite time constraints.  If you have a challenge study it from all angles and seek to identify a creative solution; otherwise a tiny toy wrench can grow into a huge iron monkey wrench stopping your progress cold.

2)  Don’t blame others for your problems.  Successful trading requires personal accountability and self-limits.  Be honest with yourself.  Use your mentors and as well you can be your own mentor by pretending that someone has come to you for advice on that very trading issue.  How would you answer them?

3) Continue to strive and strengthen your qualities of self-discipline.  You will not make it as a trader if you can’t keep your commitments.  Setbacks that are caused by commitment implosions often can cause weaknesses in special areas, turn the weakness into strength.  Be your own heaviest critic but don’t beat yourself up – in other words, you are not a failure, you had a learning experience.

4)  Every setback or loss has a silver lining or seed of opportunity.  Find it and use it.  It may involve a new strategy, but you are getting there anyway.

5)  Take the attitude that every issue has a solution.  A problem is only a problem if you think you can’t and therefore you won’t solve it.  As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you’re right.”

The items above are some of the ways to manage your energy state and strengthen your persistence and perseverance.  In order to achieve anything that is important and valuable it takes time, energy and dogged determination.  Keep in mind that the drive to persist and persevere is fueled in part by the initial vision.  The closer you get to process mastery, the stronger the belief and clearer the vision – the more real it becomes.  As you continue to achieve, the vision fuels the goal of process mastery and the goal of process mastery fuels the vision.  With each victory, you are developing more capacity.  Perseverance, like training for a marathon, is consistently building endurance and strength to go to the next level.  Between the vision and the goal, persistence and perseverance act like a nuclear reactor and put into motion a self-perpetuating spiral of vision, belief, emotion and reality.  This self-perpetuating spiral will change your trading and your life from the inside out.  Trading success is where opportunity meets preparation. Prepare yourself and train your mind to manage your energy states.  This is what we teach in “Mastering your Mental Game” Online and On-location courses.  Ask your Online Trading Academy representative for more information.  Also, get my book, “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader.

Happy Trading

Dr. Woody Johnson


This newsletter is written for educational purposes only. By no means do any of its contents recommend, advocate or urge the buying, selling or holding of any financial instrument whatsoever. Trading and Investing involves high levels of risk. The author expresses personal opinions and will not assume any responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the reader. The author may or may not have positions in Financial Instruments discussed in this newsletter. Future results can be dramatically different from the opinions expressed herein. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Reprints allowed for private reading only, for all else, please obtain permission.