The Trader Drift, the Consequences, and the Solution

There is a plague that permeates around a big group of traders. It mostly shows up with newer traders and traders who seem not to be able to turn the corner despite multiple efforts or attempts at it. The plague is known as THE TRADER DRIFT.

What is the Trader Drift?

It is a state or feeling of “not fully knowing”. It often shows up in a trader as overwhelm, confusion, and frustration. Most traders don’t know they are ‘drifting’, but they are drifting nonetheless.

In this blog I am going to discuss the causes of Trader Drift and the consequences associated with it, as well as, the solution.

There are 4 primary causes of Trader Drift

The first cause is when… A trader is unaware…

  • a trader is unaware what his or her real goals are for their trading. On the surface it may be to hopefully make some money at some point, but it is often so vague that it makes a trader unaware what it is they are doing and are their efforts even moving them in the right direction or the wrong direction. Without a clear goal, almost any activity will seem like progress.  The challenge is that activity without a clear goal is meaningless. In other words, Activity does not always equal Achievement.
  • a trader is unaware of the dangers of trading. Most traders focus on the potential upside of trading without fully recognizing and appreciating the potential downside of trading.
  • a trader is unaware of the inherent risks of trading. It is easy to get excited about future rewards, but if a traders forgets about the risks of trading, it can become a disaster quickly.
  • a trader is often unaware of their beliefs about trading and the market and why in many cases their beliefs are inaccurate. What makes people successful in other ventures in life rarely work when it comes to trading.

​The second cause is when…A trader gets distracted…

  • a trader has little or no focus.
  • a trader gets caught up in tunnel vision in the perceived excitement they link to trading the market.
  • by the multitudes of vehicles, strategies, and indicators available to us.
  • a trader gets frustrated as to where to begin their trading journey and education.
  • a trader jumps from one strategy or indicator(s) to another believing there is a magic one that will lead them to riches.
  • a trader spends the majority of their time focusing on minor things and unknowingly omitting the major things of trading success.

The third cause is when… A trader gets overwhelmed…

  • a trader takes on more then they can realistically handle.
  • a trader attempts to learn everything about the market and trading.
  • a trader is not able to break through the fear from moving from virtual to real money.
  • a trader is not able to make consistent profits.
  • a trader does their analysis and yet a trade or trades don’t work.

The fourth cause is when …A trader gets deceived…

Trader deception comes from within each trader. At the beginning of each trading journey, a trader believes they will make money and improve their financial picture. If this were not the case, no one would embark on this journey. 

The challenge comes when the results one starts to achieve does not match their initial belief or expectation, they start to doubt if that result is truly possible. They get discouraged, and often some get desperate. If this way of thinking is not caught and remedied early enough, it most often leads to a disastrous end. 

Trader Drift is real.

There are serious consequences associated with trader drift.

Let's break down the dire consequences of these 4 causes. It is important for a trader to not only know the causes but also to know the consequences of each.

There are 5 primary consequences to Trader Drift.

  1. Confusion
  2. Expense
  3. Lost Opportunity
  4. Pain
  5. Regret

Let’s break down each consequence in order. 

Consequence 1 is Confusion.

Most traders embark on their trading journey without a concrete plan. Most wing it and hope that trading the markets will better their financial well-being. Unfortunately, this path will never lead to long-term consistent profits.

A trader will sometimes get lucky and have a big winning trade, just like a gambler in a casino may get lucky from time to time. The disconnect is any luck or random short-term success only adds to a traders confusion, especially when those gains are quickly evaporated and given back to the market.

Trading the markets requires a concrete plan with a specific set of rules that are easy for a trader to follow. The market has too many unknowns for any trader to master fully. The more a trader spends time attempting to master the impossible, the more confused they get and the more their trading suffers. A concrete trading plan is the solution to break free of confusion. It requires some upfront work for sure, but it will save a trader years of confusion and poor results.

When a trader has a detailed trading plan, they have an EDGE that 90% of traders don’t have. To get the results you desire, you must join the 10% and run away as fast as you can from the other 90%. I will address how to construct a plan in my next blog on this topic. 

Consequence 2 is Expense

Trading can come with an enormous expense and not just the financial expense. Of course, there is a financial expense, even for the most successful traders. These are all the typical financial expenses that traders face. 

  • The expense of funding your account.
  • The expense of purchasing the appropriate hardware and software to trade.
  • The expense of education to gain a basic understanding of the market and trading.
  • The expense of hiring a trader coach to rapidly increase your equity curve.
  • The expense of commissions to enter and exit trades.

Many traders try to cut their expenses by not getting educated upfront or by not investing in a trader coach, only to find out that their attempt to cut costs actually cost them more in overall losses. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts in trading. My trader coach informed me of this fact early on. He said you either invest (pay) in your trading education or you pay the market, but make no mistake you PAY one or the other. Thankfully I chose to pay for the former which prevented me from continuously paying for the latter.

In addition to the obvious financial expense of trader drift, there are other expenses that may not see more obvious or real, but they are real nonetheless.

There is an emotional expense to trader drift.

When a trader struggles to make progress with their trading, often measured by monetary results, it can cause emotional distress. Nobody wants to spend a lot of time to not see any measurable progress. If someone wants to get in shape, they can simply just start to walk each day and then jog, and eventually, they get faster and more fit.

In trading, you can spend countless hours and sometimes years trying to get profitable, only to never get there. This can cause someone massive emotional pain.

There is a psychological expense to trader drift. 

When a trader drifts along without a clear goal and without a clear plan to move them towards their goal, it will cause psychological damage. A trader’s poor approach to trading the market will wear them down and eventually make them believe that making consistent money is not possible. This is second biggest reasons most traders quit this business. The first of course is they simply run out of money.

Consequence 3 is Lost Opportunity

When someone chooses to engage in trading the markets, whether full time or part time, they willingly choose to give up something else in their life. The truth is that everyone only has 24 hours in a day. There is no more time available to anyone. If you choose to spend 3 nights a week to learn the how to trade, that time is taken away from doing something else. Now of course to learn anything new, a commitment must be made.

The disconnect is that some people get some consumed with trading that it causes them to let other areas of their life (and almost always more IMPORTANT) areas suffer. Most traders spend all their time attempting to make their trading work but do so without a plan that gets them from their starting point to reaching their goal. They start to deceive themselves into believing that they have “time on their side” to get it right. 

The truth is you need a clear plan to get there or else most find themselves not making progress and just repeating the same unsuccessful steps over and over again. If you feel like this sounds like you, then the BEST way to interrupt this pattern is to make a decision to RESET their trading and start fresh. 

Consequence 4 is Pain

Some pain is unavoidable-this is life, but most traders bring unnecessary pain to their trading life. Like most areas in life, no plan equals poor results. It is simply IMPOSSIBLE to make consistent money trading the market by trading randomly or by luck. 

Consequence 5 is Regret

The probably saddest part of trading is finding yourself down the road in your journey, having experienced all the pain, the lost opportunities to do it right, and the expense it cost you, plus all the confusion, frustration, overwhelm and regret, only to realize that all of this, you ended up with a worse financial picture that you dreamed. More losses than gain and time spent that you can NEVER get back. How PATHETIC? 

Your mind starts to search for answers to all the what if questions you are asking and the if I only did this or that.

  • What if I started this venture with a concrete plan?
  • What if I just focused and mastered one simple trading strategy?
  • What if I got really serious and hired a coach?

Sadly these 3 empowering What if questions at this point may be too late. Before you get to this point, you need to look seriously at your trading and see which of those 3 do you need or do you need all of them?

Make no mistake that making consistent money trading is possible. The challenge is in the willingness of a trader to be different from the majority who attempt to do it but never get there.

Now, let's talk about the SOLUTION and simple steps you can do right away to break free from the masses and join the elite 20% of profitable traders.

What is the solution to Trader Drift?

I believe there are 3 simple steps a trader can implement to break free from the masses of those who don’t make it. When followed, these steps allow a trader to move massively towards their outcome – which is to dramatically change their financial picture for the better and to make MONEY.

The 3 simple steps to overcome Trade Drift are:

  • Fully adopt a new way to think about your trading and the markets.
  • Create a detailed yet simple to follow trading plan which has an EDGE.
  • Invest in hiring a successful trader as a coach.

Let’s break each step-down. 

Step 1: FULLY adopt a new way to think about your trading and the markets.

The truth is, the stock market cannot be beaten. No one has ever done it, and I am here to inform each and every one of you that you will not be the first no matter how much you attempt to do it.

If the market cannot be beaten, then how does anyone ever achieve consistent profits as a trader? The secret to the success of the 20% of consistently elite profitable traders lies in how they think and approach their trading and the market.

They have developed a mindset and an empowering belief system that allows them to trade from a place of confidence, probability, and without fear or becoming reckless. The process to get to this point requires some advanced thinking and understanding.

The uniqueness of each trade is profound. There simply is no way to know if a trade is going to work or not. This is true even if a trader did all their required analysis and/or has a specific strategy they trade consistently AND this particular trade has all the same elements and pattern as the previous ones.

The sobering truth is that no two trades are alike. 

There are too many unknown variables constantly at work that prevents two trades from ever being the same. Once a trader understands this AND fully adopts it, then he or she can act in a way that protects him or her from the unknown. 

The 20% of elite traders place no expectation on whether a particular trade will work or not. In fact, they make a reasonable assumption that it will not, so once they enter a trade they first and foremost consciously protect themselves by knowing this trade may not work. They accomplish this by immediately becoming a risk manager once they enter a trade. 

There is no novice thinking of… “this trade is going to make me money” or “I am so right on my trade analysis that this one must work” or “I hope this trade will work” or any other similar thought. Once a trader starts to believe they are right OR this trade is going to work, then at that moment they start to become reckless in their thinking. 

If each trade is unique and there is simply no way to know if any trade will work or not, then how can a trader have any confidence in trading to make consistent profits?

It requires an understanding of probability and a trader’s edge over a series of trades. It is the same way all casino owners think and run their casinos, which allows them to consistently profit in such a random environment as the gambling industry. In trading, if a trader can fully adopt this same mindset, then a trader will become consistently profitable. 

The majority of folks, however, trade randomly. This offers them no EDGE. They have no consistent way to determine what their trading EDGE is. If someone cannot easily identify their edge then how can they ever trade in a manner that allows the proven power of probability to work? This is the major disconnect for struggling traders. They trade randomly with no EDGE and do so simultaneously in an environment where each trade is unique and independent from every other trade. It is a recipe for a negative equity curve in their trading account.

Once a trader breaks free from this flawed thinking and starts to think like a winning trader, then they can finally devise a trading plan that offers an EDGE and allows them to fully experience the power of probability and starts to move them rapidly towards that rising equity curve.

Step 2 : Create a simple yet easy to follow trading plan that has an EDGE.

Before moving on to the second step, be sure Step 1 is first mastered. Otherwise, you will not follow your well-constructed and crafted trading plan.

This is IMPORTANT to recognize. You cannot just jump to step 2 without first committing to master Step 1. I know this is not what most traders want to hear because step 1 does not involve charts or actual trading or the excitement that most traders want to feel or experience. I can appreciate that. However, the small groups of elite traders who make consistent money, have mastered Step 1 while the rest have not. It is that simple.

You have to decide what side of the pendulum you want to live in. I chose the smaller elite group.

Which one will you choose?

If you chose the elite group, then once you master Step 1 you can move onto Step 2.

The term trading plan brings many different things to mind. Most assume it is the entry and stop and target for a particular trade they want to take after they have done their analysis. While this is surely part of a trading plan, it is just a small part. Also, a trader who first randomly analyzes a stock to come up with an entry and stop and target almost always performs that task in a way, which removes the power or probability (more on this later). 

The first thing a trader must do with regards to their trading plan is first to envision what their future looks like as a trader. Without an empowering vision that includes your goals and why you want to achieve them, it rarely leads a trader to greatness. Most want to just get busy trading without a powerful vision of what that looks like for him or her.

As I said earlier, each person’s trading plan is specific to him or her. You cannot just cut and paste someone else’s and make it yours. It won’t have the power and pull than if you spend the time thinking and writing one yourself. I do realize though as both a professional trader and coach, some students get stuck on where to begin, so I thought I would provide a few pieces of my plan as a guide to hopefully inspire and guide you in a powerful and awesome direction. 

Some questions you want to consider before you write your envisioned future are:

  • What type of trader are you?
  • How much money do you want to make (be specific and realistic)?
  • How are you going to achieve that success?
  • Who do you have to become to achieve it?

Here is my envisioned future in my Trading Plan:

"I am a consistently profitable day and swing trader. I am free to enjoy my life and days because I am clear about my trading goals and why I trade. I consistently earn between 20-25K per month trading less than 3 hours a day. I achieve this success because I trained myself to think and act like a profitable trader and because I self-discipline myself to do all the boring tasks that I don’t necessarily want to do but MUST do achieve the results I want. I enjoy the freedom I have, and I remind myself of this daily to keep my mind focused on the right disciplines. I am always grateful for what I have in my life right now." 

What is your envisioned future for your trading?

No one achieves an awesome future unless you know what it looks like, but also why you want it. Without reasons and a purpose, most will drift along without taking the necessary action steps to make it a reality. Some questions you may want to answer before you write out your purpose are…

  • Why do you want to reach your trading monetary goal?
  • What will you do and how will you feel when you meet your goal?
  • What will it cost you if you don’t meet it?
  • How will your life change if you do meet it? 

​Here is my PURPOSE in my trading plan:

"My purpose is to earn my desired monthly goal so I can massively contribute to the financial well-being of my family. To be able to send my kids to private schools, to experience adventure filled vacations with them. To be able to be home every day when they come home from school. To be in a position to bless others who are less fortunate."

Without compelling reasons that answer your why you almost always fall off into a drift at some point and never reach your goal.

What is your purpose for trading?

To make sure you are always moving towards your envisioned future rather than away from it, there are specific commitments you must make to keep you on track. Some questions you want to answer before you write out your commitments are: 

  • When do I have time to trade and learn?
  • What is going to be size of my trading account to start?
  • What is my one or two trading strategies?
  • What is my daily or weekly goal?

Here are some of my specific commitments from my trading plan:

  • start each trading day reading my envisioned future and purpose
  • write down 3 things I am grateful for in my life
  • quickly look for any stocks that may be gapping on earnings or news
  • quickly rate them as significant gaps or not
  • quickly review top 5 trend movers
  • identify top 3 for potential morning trading
  • mark those charts at real support and resistance
  • write out pre-plan for each stock (to be ready to pounce)
  • set alerts to be fully ready to trade opportunity if presented
  • ensure trade matrixes are set to correct settings based on the priority of stocks
  • Daily Goal today - do my job and earn $1,000.00

What are your specific commitments for your trading?

Despite the power of a clear vision and purpose and even specific commitments, there are obstacles that show up. Mostly these obstacles show up in our old way of thinking. (before mastering step 1) They show up mostly through fear or temptation. It is vital you know what these are for you so you, don’t drift into the abyss and start to deceive yourself into thinking in your old novice ways. 

Here are some of the obstacles I face that are in my trading plan:

  • the temptation to increase the # of stocks on morning focus list (fear of missing out)
  • the temptation to take entries before a trigger or after it already triggered (fear of missing out)
  • the temptation to get reckless by thinking this trade will absolutely work (fear of being wrong)
  • the temptation to not get paid when at target (fear of leaving money on table)
  • the fear of losing money (false expectation because I already defined my maximum risk)
  • the temptation to trade to be right rather than get paid


What are your fears or temptations that often move you away from your trading goals?

Now comes the actual mechanics of your trading plan and the action steps required to move towards your goal. I thought I would share a few pieces of one of my 2 trading tactics of my core strategy. This is by no means my full plan but a snapshot to move you in the right direction. 

Strategy: I am a Location Trader. I trade stocks at real price support and demand or real price resistance or supply. I buy where big money already bought before and likely will buy again. I strive always to be on the side of big money and run away from how the retail trader thinks and trades. I am an income trader and therefore I trade, to get paid. This applies to both my day and swing trading. What good is it to be right and not get paid? 

Tactics: I have two trading tactics for my location trading strategy. I specialize on Significant (Professional or Amateur gaps) or stocks in confirmed up or down trends

Indicators used: My only indicators are simple and straightforward. I utilize red/green candles, volume (w/average), 3 simple moving averages on daily/weekly chart (20,40,200), 1 simple moving average on hourly chart (20), and on smaller timeframe intraday charts (just VWAP). These indicators apply to both my day and swing trading.

Tactic 1 - (partial from my trading plan)

Stock MUST have following for Day and Swing Trading

  • Significant gap (pro or amateur that meet all 4 gap criteria mentioned above) within last 5 trading days
  • Stock price between 10 and 150 dollars
  • Must have significant trading void to next level of supply or demand (> than 60 cents)

Stock CANNOT (in general) have for Day or Swing Trading

  • > than 5 cent bid/ask spread for day trading and > than 10 cents for swing trading
  • less than 1MM average daily volume over last 6 months ** (see last page of plan for one exception)

Entries and Stops and Target (s) Tactic for Break of Premarket High Long Day Trade: (partial from plan)

MUST have:

  • Basing at or near pre-market high
  • Price opening at or just below VWAP
  • Price drops quickly below VWAP within first 2 minutes then forms bottoming tail with increasing volume

WOULD like to have:

  • market acting in a similar fashion

CANNOT have:

  • > 3 cent spread
  • < 60 cent potential trading void

How to enter:

  • If 1st candle closes with bottoming tail or wide range bar and increasing volume, then can enter in next candle right above the close of the 1st candle as long as it doesn’t open lower than the prior candle close AND trades below the low of the tail of 1st candle. If that does not occur, then buy above the close of 1st candle (1000 shares)
  • Stop is 20 cents or low of entry candle, whichever is less
  • Target is taking half trade off at 25 cents and trail have to 60 cent target
  • Trade must occur by 9:36 am or not valid within these rules

If both targets achieved, I would profit $415 net which is 41% of my over daily income goal. 

The above strategy/tactic plan is a partial piece of my own trading plan. This particular trade setup (break of pre-market high) is not my first choice for entry from my location strategy.

Step 3: Invest in hiring a successful trader/coach as your coach.

One of the most impactful things I did early in my trading career was to hire a coach. I wanted to find a coach who was also a successful trader. I wanted to find someone who was getting the results I wanted to get. I wanted to learn how to think like a profitable trader, but I also wanted someone who already mastered that part of trading and was successfully applying it to their own trading. 

I knew that hiring a great trader coach would cost me money, but I looked at it as an investment to step up and get my trading to the elite status I wanted to achieve. I wanted someone who would assist me in thinking big and not just to trade so I could pay off some bill or something. Also, I was already not making money after 1 year of trading; in fact, I was losing money so any decision other than to hire a coach seemed like a dumb one. 

If I did not change the way I was trading, my results were not going to change. I did not want to trade for years and not make money. The pain of that pathetic existence was awful, so I decided to make an investment in my trading. I chose to accelerate my trading education and to invest in a trader coach. This was the most obvious way to accomplish my envisioned future.

One of the main objectives of a coach is to dramatically assist their client or students fulfill their potential. Often the client is so involved in whatever task he or she is trying to achieve they cannot see that certain actions or thoughts that are impeding them or slowing down their progress.

Coaches often call these areas blind spots. A great coach can assist the person in not only identifying blind spots but also have a simple set of steps and tools to breakthrough them. Another area a coach helps a person is to move them to get from where they currently are to where they ultimately want to be (their envisioned future). 

Wrap Up:

As I discussed earlier in this blog, most traders start out without any real vision for their trading. The mistake activity for achievement rather than chancing their actions into what is most important. 

Over the last 3 years, I expanded my career to not just my personal trading but also in helping others change their trading with coaching. Each month and each student I find my coaching continues to get better, and I see my students achieving better results faster than ever before. 

If you want to seriously change your trading and get to the level of elite status, then you MUST hire a trader coach. Find one who you know, who is both a great trader and a great teacher, and walks his talk every day. 

As I always say, someone can always make more money, but no one can recapture time. When I teach or coach or blog, I always strive to make certain the time someone took out of their day to listen to me or read something I wrote, was worth their TIME. I don’t waste a day or an hour on anything that does not bring massive value to my life, and so I hope that this blog exceeded any expectations you had.

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