What is it about successful Forex traders that sets them apart from the rest? A well-known figure in the Forex world is that 95% of Forex traders fail. While no real proof of this number exists, I can vouch for the fact that it’s very close to 100%.
So what is it that puts these traders in the top 5 percent?
Successful Forex Traders Think Differently
We’ve all heard the typical reasons such as experience, discipline and fortitude. But what is it that really makes them tick? In this article I’m going to break down nine of the lesser-known characteristics that successful Forex traders have in common.
By successful I mean consistently profitable, first and foremost. But I would argue that success in anything is also measured by level of happiness and overall quality of life. Therefore, we’ll define a successful Forex trader as someone who’s trading for the right reasons and is able to achieve his or her goals through trading the Forex market.
Before we begin, I’d like to make one thing crystal clear. There’s a lot of talk out there (and has been for some time) about whether anyone can consistently profit from trading Forex. I know because I used to be the person who would search for proof on the internet. I was searching for some ray of hope that might help justify the endless torture I was putting myself through in those first three years of my trading career.
Here’s my take on it… I’m certainly part of “anyone” so the answer is a resounding “yes”, anyone can consistently profit trading Forex. Don’t ever let someone tell you differently.
You’re the only one who can determine whether you become profitable. You’re in control – you always have been and always will be.
So what’s the secret to success? Sorry to say, the only secret is that there is no secret. While there’s no true secret to success, there is a bit of advice that will absolutely determine whether or not you become profitable. It’s something that every single successful Forex trader has in common, and it’s non-negotiable.
Never give up!
The problem is that so many Forex traders struggle for years, and then just before their breakthrough moment they throw in the towel. Or they take a two year hiatus and are forced to start all over again.
I know because I hear the stories. The ones about how Joe Schmo tried for two years to make this Forex thing work, but he just wasn’t cut out for it. What Joe failed to realize is that his “ah ha” moment was just around the corner.
This applies to all ventures in life, but it’s never been more true than it is when it comes to becoming a successful Forex trader.
Now that that’s cleared up, let’s take a look at some other key characteristics that successful Forex traders have in common. This is by no means a complete list, but it does cover some of the more important (and less common) characteristics.
9 things you didn’t know about successful forex traders
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1 They Don’t “Lose”
Before the emails start pouring in, let me explain…
No Forex trader is without losses. But there’s a distinct difference between how the beginning trader loses and how the successful Forex trader loses. What is it?
To put it succinctly – mindset.
Most starting out in the Forex market view a loss as a bad thing. It’s a way of successful traders don’t losesignaling that they did something wrong. And doing something wrong is bad. At least that’s what we’ve come to believe over the course of our lives.
But the successful trader doesn’t view it as a “bad” thing. It’s not a punishment because the Forex market isn’t able to punish. It doesn’t know where you entered the market or where your stop loss was, so how could it possibly punish you?
Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes to see a trade go against them. I don’t care if you’ve been trading for one month or ten years, making money is much more enjoyable than losing money. But just because a trade doesn’t go your way doesn’t mean you should take it personally. Thinking this way will only dig the hole deeper.
The successful Forex trader has the mindset that a loss is simply feedback.
It’s the market’s way of disproving a trade setup. That’s the only thing the Forex market has the ability to do, because it doesn’t know anything about you or where you entered the market, nor does it care.
Losses can be a powerful way to learn. But just remember that even a trade that ends up as a loss can be the right decision. How is that possible? If you’ve defined your edge, and the setup met all of your criteria to enter the market, then you did all you can do. The rest is up to the market, and some days the market just doesn’t play along.
Next time you have a loss, analyze it as constructive feedback to see how you could improve the next time. Just keep in mind that even an A+ setup doesn’t always work out.
I’ve had many trade setups that didn’t work out that I would gladly take every single week. That’s because I know that my edge will win out over time and put money in my account. In fact, a good exercise after a losing trade is to ask yourself, “would I take this same setup again next week if it presented itself?” You should always be able to answer this question with a resounding “yes”. If you answer with a “no”, you need to take a step back, figure out where it went wrong and correct it for the next trade.
A far too common saying is that trading losses are the cost of doing business. While I agree that they’re inevitable, I don’t agree with the analogy. Instead of labeling a loss as a business cost, why not think of it as a business investment? Each loss is an investment in your trading business and ultimately your trading education. This is a much more constructive way of spending your money.
The money you put at risk on any given trade, whether it’s $5 or $500, is an investment with the best Forex coach in the world – the market. Keep an open mind and it’ll show you everything you need to know.
2 They Use Price Action
Every successful Forex trader I’ve ever met uses price action in some way, shape or form. This doesn’t mean they’re using price action in the same way I use it, but they are using some form of price action as part of their trading strategy.price action forex
Whether a trader is using raw price action or simply to identify key levels in the market, price action plays a major role in any strategy. That’s because it serves as a representation of the psychology within a market. It gives us some insight into the minds of other traders.
Having some idea of where buy and sell orders are in the market is critical to becoming a successful Forex trader. It can strengthen any trading strategy by providing areas to watch for potential entries as well as profit targets.
Trading Forex without using some form of price action is like trying to drive a car with one eye closed. It can be done, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
3 They Have a Defined Edge
I see a lot of talk around the internet about the need for a trader to develop an edge and define it. And if I’m honest, most of what I’ve read out there is pretty alarming. It’s little wonder why so many traders have trouble understanding the importance. So what exactly is an “edge” and why is it important?
successful forex traders have a defined edge An edge (in my book) is everything about the way you trade that can help put the odds in your favor. It’s a combination of the time frame you trade, the price action strategies you use, the key levels you’ve identified, your risk to reward ratio, etc. It even goes as far as your pre and post trade routine. How do you handle losses? What do you do when you win? These are all things that make up your trading edge.
Although there are dozens of factors that make up your edge, you don’t have to master all of them at once. Nor do you have to master all of them to start putting the odds in your favor. It’s perfectly natural to master one set of factors and then slowly expand to others to further define your edge. Not only is this natural, it’s the preferred way to learn.
Have you ever heard the saying, “jack of all trades, master of none”? If you try to master too many of these factors at once, you’re setting yourself up to become good at a lot of factors that make up your edge.
Instead, become a master of two or three factors. You’ll find this to be the fast track to becoming profitable, and much less stressful than trying to become good at twenty factors. Once you’ve mastered those three or four things, expand to others to continue stacking the odds in your favor.
For example, master identifying key levels along with a price action strategy such as the pin bar. This is really all you need to start seeing your profit curve rise. Then once you’re comfortable with those two, strengthen your trading edge by learning stop loss strategies or different entry and exit strategies.
The key is to only tackle one or two factors at a time. Using a slow and steady approach will get you on the road to becoming a successful Forex trader in no time.
4 They Aren’t Trying Too Hard
But trying hard is what it takes, right?…
This might apply to other ventures in life, but Forex is the exception. Successful Forex traders know that trying too hard is a sign that something isn’t right.
This is different from studying hard. As a new trader to Forex, studying the market to include how different currency pairs move is highly recommended. But trying to make a trading strategy work will only lead to destructive behavior, such as emotional trading.
Jack Schwager, Author of the Market Wizards series said it best when he said, “good trading should be effortless”. I’m a big fan of this book series. You can find these books here if you’re interested in a good read.
I remember when I first started trading Forex, I would spend countless hours studying setups over the weekend; and not just in one sitting. I would often come back to my trading desk multiple times on Saturday and Sunday. Then on Monday, more often than not I would end up taking a completely different trade setup only to watch the original setup move in the intended direction without me.
Sound familiar? I was trying too hard to make it work…
As soon as I stopped over-analyzing trade setups and trying to make them work, my profit curve started to rise. Now I spend maybe 20 minutes per day looking at my charts. The exception being the charts I post on this site of course.
As counter-intuitive as it may seem, learning to not try as hard was one of the things that completely changed my trading career for the better. Learn to trust your intuition and stop second guessing yourself.
Successful Forex traders have taken note of this, which is why they let the market do the heavy lifting for them.
5 They Think in Terms of Money Risked
successful forex traders think in terms of money risked
It’s often the smallest things in life that effect the greatest improvement. The concept of thinking in terms of money risked as it applies to Forex trading is no exception. It’s an extremely simple concept that can have a huge impact on your journey to becoming a successful trader.
I’ve never met a successful Forex trader who didn’t know how much money they were risking on any given trade. You may think that’s an obvious statement, but a surprising number of traders don’t think about how much money is at risk before opening a trade. This is because they’re using an arbitrary percentage to calculate risk, such as one or two percentage of their trading account balance.
Think about your last trade for a moment. Did you define the exact dollar amount at risk before putting on the trade? Or were you more focused on the number of pips and the percentage of your account at risk?
The convenience of Forex position size calculators have made it so that we never have to consider the amount of money at risk. This convenience has caused a huge oversite.
Don’t get me wrong, I use the position size calculator at the link above before each and every trade. However I’m only interested in how much money is at risk – I could care less about the percentage (within reason of course).
Isn’t it the same thing? Yes and no.
Obviously 2% of $5,000 is $100. In that respect the 2% and the $100 are essentially the same thing. However in terms of the way our mind perceives these two figures they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum.
I wrote an article a while back called, Pips and Percentages Will Only Get You So Far. In it I talk about the need to think in terms of money risked vs. pips or percentages. This is because pips and percentages carry no emotional value. So when you define your risk on a trade as a percentage, it only triggers the logical side of your brain and leaves the emotional side searching for more.
This means that when you think in terms of a percentage, you’re only defining your risk but you aren’t accepting it. As soon as you convert that percentage to a dollar amount, your mind is able to visualize what $100 looks like. This enables you to determine if you’re prepared to lose that $100. In other words, is the trade setup in question good enough for your $100?
It’s much easier to risk 2% without fully accepting the potential loss because it doesn’t carry the emotional value that money does.
Successful Forex traders know this. That’s why they always define their risk in terms of money. They may use a percentage as a threshold of how much they’re allowed to risk, but when it comes to fully accepting the risk before putting on the trade, money is the only way to think.
6 They Don’t Need the Money
There aren’t many guarantees in the Forex market. But one guarantee I can make without a shadow of a doubt is that there’s no successful Forex trader who is trading today for money he needs tomorrow. In other words, trading Forex to gain a certain amount of money within a specific period of time.
I’m not saying that you can’t generate the majority of your income from trading Forex and do it full time. I would be contradicting myself if I made that statement.forex traders don’t need the money
What I am saying is that no successful Forex trader needs a win today to pay the electric bill tomorrow. No trader can sustain that kind of pressure and become consistently profitable. That kind of environment will only foster destructive emotions like fear and greed.
This topic takes us back to the fact that successful Forex traders don’t try too hard. If you need the money from trading to pay bills, odds are that you’ll feel pressured to win. If you’re feeling pressured to win you’ll most certainly be trying too hard instead of allowing the market to do the heavy lifting.
You should only trade with money you’re prepared to lose. Don’t trade with the money you need to pay rent.
Likewise, don’t allow the money to be your sole reason for trading. Of course the desire for money is what attracted us to trading in the first place, but don’t let it become your only desire.
Embrace the challenge and focus on the journey to becoming a successful Forex trader and the money will come.
7 They Know When to Walk Away
Of course I’m talking about taking a breather, not walking away altogether. All successful Forex traders know when to walk away and take a break. Those who are truly passionate about trading Forex know how hard it can be sometimes to walk away from the market. But it’s absolutely necessary to become a successful trader.
Walking away can be especially difficult after a trade. This is because our emotions are running wild and often get the best of us. But that’s exactly why walking away at this time can be beneficial.
After a Win
After a win we’re feeling good about ourselves and our trading strategy. It feels like things are finally starting to click. Walking away at this time can feel like walking away from the TV after your favorite sports team just scored. But walking away at this time might be exactly what you need.
Taking a break after a win will allow your emotions to settle. After the win you’re feeling excited and proud of yourself, and you have every right to be. But pride and excitement have no place in the Forex market.
So the next time you have a winning trade, pat yourself on the back and then walk away. By the time you come back to your trading desk your emotions will be under control and you’ll be ready to approach the market in a neutral state of mind.
After a Loss
What do you do immediately following a loss? I can’t speak for you, but I know what I used to do. I would immediately start going through all my charts looking for a new setup. This is a trap!
If you’re doing this it means your emotions are getting the best of you. After a loss it’s far too easy to feel as though you need to win your money back.
Instead of seeing a loss as a reason to hop back in the market, take it as a signal to look at what you could have done differently. Remember, it’s just feedback.
So why is the failure rate so high for Forex traders?
Simply put, most traders haven’t yet learned how to lose. Our emotions will always try to outweigh our logic after a loss; it’s human nature. The key to becoming successful isn’t about eliminating emotions after a loss, it’s about channeling them in a way that will make you a better trader.
The successful Forex trader knows this, and has learned how to control these emotions. Often times the process of controlling these emotions begins with walking away to take a break.
One thing I’ve found helpful after a trade is to close my trading platform until the day closes at 5 pm New York time. This is when I do the bulk of my analysis anyway since I trade the daily time frame. So it just makes sense to take a breather until then. You can of course adapt this to whatever time frame you trade.
It’s a really simple, yet extremely helpful way of controlling your emotions. Although it’s simple, you’ll likely find walking away after a trade to be one of the hardest changes you’ve had to make to the way you trade. But trust me when I tell you that it can have a drastic effect on your consistency and put you one step closer to becoming a successful Forex trader.
8 They Don’t Focus on Wins and Losses
Forex traders don’t focus on wins and losses
You can’t visit a Forex site these days without seeing an advertisement for some strategy that promises a 98% win rate. Why is that? Is it because a high win rate is needed to become a successful Forex trader? Not even close!
They do it because it sells. As human beings we love to win, there’s no denying it. If you’ve ever played sports or watched your favorite sports team on TV I’m sure you can relate. The feeling when your favorite team wins is intoxicating.
Those behind the “strategy” that produces a supposed 98% win rate know this and exploit it to make money.
Nobody is going to be enticed to spend money when they see a headline that promises a 50% win rate. But what if it’s a strategy with a proper risk to reward ratio that aims for $300 for every $100 risked? At a 50% win rate that’s a 20% gain on a $5,000 account over the course of 10 trades.
Successful Forex traders know this. They realized long ago that it’s not about winning a high percentage of the time.
It’s about maximizing the amount of money made on wins and minimizing the amount of money lost on losers.
That’s not to say that all successful Forex traders use this exact risk to reward ratio. Every trader uses what works best for them. But every successful trader knows that proper risk management is absolutely critical to building a trading account, while a high win rate is usually only good for building an ego.
9 They Didn’t Give Up
Although this one is last on the list, it’s actually the most important to your success as a trader. I’ve found over the years that many people, including Forex traders lose site of this very simple fact. The only way you can fail at becoming a successful Forex trader is if you give up.
This sounds obvious, but it still amazes me how often I see this trait (if you want to call it that) left out of the list of reasons why a certain trader became successful.
Here’s a great example of one trader who never gave up and is now reaping the benefits…
I once met a Forex trader who had been trading for almost 30 years. This guy was trading the market before the internet was even publicly available. Back when you had to call in orders by telephone.
At any rate, as of 2011 the guy was trading an account size to where a profitable trade ranged between $50k and $100k. Needless to say he has been doing something right over the past 30 years.
Someone asked him what he would attribute as the #1 reason for his success. Expecting him to say proper risk management or cutting losses, he answered with four short words…
“I never gave up”
That was his only answer to the question. He later went on to say that he had been beat down more than anyone could ever believe. Even to the point where he had lost ALL of his money. Not just trading money, but every penny to his name. He was so obsessed with becoming successful that he had risked all the money he had, and lost.
Not only did he fight through it, but he went on to become a multi-millionaire. Those mistakes in his early days of trading didn’t keep him down, they empowered him and fueled his desire to become a successful Forex trader.
Cross my heart that’s a true story. This guy was a retail trader using his own money, not a prop trader (although he did have a stint as a prop trader during his trading career). However he made his millions as a retail trader.
I’m not going to mention a name (so please don’t ask) because last I heard he was retiring and wanted out of the spotlight so to speak.
Just be sure to remember this story every time you get down on yourself. The next time you lose a trade or even blow up a trading account, just remember that not giving up is the #1 key to becoming a successful Forex trader.
You will never know failure if you don’t give up, just as you will never taste victory if you don’t persevere.
I hope this article has shed some light on the lesser-known characteristics of successful Forex traders. If you only remember one thing from this article, just remember to never give up and always remain patient. Becoming a successful Forex trader is a marathon, not a sprint.