What do Steve Jobs, Henry Ford and Mark Zuckerberg all have in common?
The same thing that Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood, James Cameron, George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Steven Spielberg all have in common…all of these famous and successful people were either college dropouts or never attended college at all. The list goes on and on: Abraham Lincoln, Ben Franklin, Frank Lloyd Wright, and a lot more.
Since the days of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, many business leaders got their starts without the benefit of degrees, including Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple, Larry Ellison of Oracle, Bill Gates and Paul Allen of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz of Facebook, Michael Dell of Dell Computers, Brian Dunn of Best Buy, Anna Wintour of Vogue, Barry Diller of IAC, John Mackey of Whole Foods, David Geffen, Ralph Lauren, Ted Turner, Richard Branson and more.
So what does this have to do with trading you might wonder? A lot. Many successful traders, investors and entrepreneurs that I know, including myself, never finished or went to college. The common thread amongst myself and other college dropouts who have achieved success relatively early in life is that being a self-driven person with unrelenting passion and motivation will lead you to success no matter what field you choose.
The “red pill” or the “blue pill”?
Successful college dropouts are people who think outside of the box, risk takers, but also people who have unrelenting drive and determination. Many people don’t have these qualities. Most people just go with status quo, almost sheepishly doing what everyone else in society does just because it’s the “normal” thing to do; these are the people who struggle at trading because they are just part of the mass of people who are afraid to change how they think. Most people are afraid to take the “red pill”…if I may use a metaphor from The Matrix, and most people fail at trading…there’s a connection there. If you look at the profile of any of the successful college dropout that we discussed above, they were not afraid to take the “red pill” and had no interest in the “blue pill”.
I have always been a “red pill” kind of guy. Wanting more out of life than just the “norm”, and not wanting to follow the rest of the herd into college, I got really interested in trading when I was about 17 years old and still in high school. I actually started my first business even earlier, it was a car detailing business that I ran around my neighborhood…whilst my peers were out playing sports and going to parties, I was running my little car detailing business and sitting around thinking about how I could improve my knowledge of business and trading. This is how I’ve always been, and I purposely avoided swallowing the “blue pill” of “normal reality” because it always seemed very boring and confining to me.
I believe there’s a common mindset or thread shared between people who achieve success early-on or who don’t worry about societal norms like finishing college and having a “white picket fence house”. Being a successful trader is very much a “red pill” profession. Indeed, if you say to your parents at 18 “Mom and Dad I’m skipping college to become a Forex trader”, they are probably going to have some criticism for you to say the least, at least most parents would. It’s because being a professional trader is not “normal” it’s not status quo, and similarly, the mindset needed to become a professional trader is not status quo either.
There’s mounting evidence that a college degree is not as easy of a road to financial success as it once was. As Kathy Kristof points out in her article The Great College Hoax on Forbes.com, the rising cost of college combined with the crushing debt left over by student loans causes many college graduates to be stuck in mediocre paying jobs while having huge college loan debts to repay. This is not to say that college is pointless, certainly having an education is a very valuable tool, I’m just saying that it might not be for everyone and that people should research more before they dive head-first into loans and long-term commitments. Certainly, if you really want to become a full time trader, you’re probably better off skipping college all together.
There are no college courses for becoming a trader
I am an avid book reader and I have always had an unquenchable thirst to attain knowledge and learn new things. Many people go to college and just barely get by and don’t learn too much but they get a degree, because society says everyone should do that. It just always seemed a little funny to me, this notion of getting a cookie-cutter degree to have a cookie-cutter job, it also seemed mundane and very robotic. I wasn’t interested.
So, I embarked on a journey of intense self-study and self-education; especially with the internet these days, you really can teach yourself anything. If you want to get a college degree because you think it will help you in a specific field you’re interested in then more power to you. But, if you want to become a trader you’re going to have to be a very self-driven person…there is no state-certified curriculum that teaches people the skills they need to make a full-time living in the market. Most of the skills you need to trade successfully are learned in the school of “hard knocks”, indeed that’s where I forged mine.
A survey conducted by Bloomberg in 2010 showed that the school of hard knocks was the number one source (tied with the University of California) for CEOs of S&P 500 companies. Harvard was the #3 source (along with the universities of Texas, Missouri, and Wisconsin). The school of hard knocks features CEOs who never graduated from college. Of the top 400 richest Americans in 2011, 27 graduated from high school but did not attend college. Another 36 were college dropouts. The point is that you don’t need to attend or finish college to be successful, many very successful people have “made it” doing things their own way, including myself.
I am a successful trader, investor, business person and entrepreneur and I have no college experience worth talking about. Did I get some grief from some people about my decision not to attend college after high school? Yes. But, taking the “red pill” in life often leads to criticism from others, sometimes it’s out of concern / love and sometimes not. Whatever the case, taking the road less traveled is usually something that you need to a lot of mental strength and determination to do. You have to be confident in yourself and in your ability to achieve your dreams, this is what allows you to ignore the criticism and critiques from others. If you want to become a professional forex trader you’ll need these qualities as well, because you are probably going to encounter some resistance or criticism from others when you tell them your plans to become a pro trader.
Successful Forex trading requires a different skill set…
A big problem that many successful professionals in other fields run into when they try their hand at trading is that the skills they used to acquire success as a doctor, lawyer, college professor, etc, largely don’t apply to being a successful trader. Obtaining knowledge from a university and using that knowledge in a job is a very different skill set than the intense self-control, patience and mental clarity needed to succeed as a trader. You could almost say that most “common” jobs are more about dictating what you have learned outwardly, or to other people, whereas a trader has to dictate and use what he or she has learned inward, in order to navigate the markets and control their emotions at the same time. Trading really is the ultimate test of psychological control and having a disciplined mind-body connection.
This is why so many people who are successful in other professions get a big wakeup call when they start trading and subsequently lose money in the markets. They naturally assume because they are successful at their day-job they’ll be successful in the markets, but it’s not as easy as that.
The best traders listen to themselves, not to other people or their opinions. If you want to make money in the markets you have to trust your own decisions and not change your mind every time you read an opposing view on the market from someone or some website. Trading is a profession where you’re very much “inside” your own mind a lot, so for this reason it tends to attract people who take different paths in life and who don’t attend or finish college (that’s not to say people who do finish college can’t be good traders, just that it’s not required). If you can master yourself, meaning controlling your own emotional impulses as well as physical behaviors, you will have attained the “core” of what it takes to make consistent money in the markets. Everything else can be considered the “easy” part.
To clarify, I am not suggesting that any current college students should dropout, nor am I trying to dissuade anyone from attending college, the point of today’s lesson is simply that becoming a professional trader largely requires skills that are not taught in any traditional school. I also wanted to stress that many successful people in the business world and elsewhere did not take the “typical” path in life; rather they followed their gut and what they “felt” was the best thing for them to do. That’s what I have always done and I personally know many others who fall into the same boat, none of us seem to have any regrets.
There’s another key element to becoming a successful forex trader that we have not talked about yet. That is, if you consider the “status-quo” within the trading community itself, we could say that it consists of things like forex indicators, expensive trading software, expensive courses and seminars, etc. Simply put, most of these things don’t work, they are basically just gimmicks. Status-quo efforts and approaches will get you status-quo results, and that’s basically true for everything. The people who make serious money in this world are investors, risk-takers and entrepreneurs; they are anything but status-quo. There’s nothing wrong with going to college, getting a degree and a “normal” 9 to 5 job, if that’s what you want and it makes you happy. However, I wanted to stress to you today that making a living in the market is going to require a lot of very non-status-quo action and thinking from you.
For example, most traders are thinking about indicators, trading robots, “secrets” to wealth, trying to trade without stop losses, etc, I would call this more of the status-quo of Forex trading. So, after realizing all of this many years ago, I finally figured out that as ironic as it seemed, simple, raw and stripped-down price action trading was about the most non-status-quo trading approach I could find, and it also made the most sense. Thus, my very non-status-quo life to that point had led me to the least status-quo trading style, but it was the one that made the most sense to me and has worked the best since. It can be hard to ignore all the things you read and hear on the web and elsewhere about trading the markets, whether it’s Forex, stocks, commodities or anything else. But, at the end of the day, it really all boils down to how well you can control your own mind and actions in the market, how well you can read a market’s raw price action, and how much you believe in yourself. Everything else related to trading is pretty insignificant.
I hope today’s lesson has provided you with some insight and brought you closer to understanding the reality of trading and what it takes to succeed. If you want to learn more about the ‘non-status-quo method’ of price action trading, checkout my price action trading course and members’ community. You can also contact me here.