Imagine I strapped you into the driver’s seat of a Formula 1 car. The engine’s running, the crowd’s roaring, and you’re in the front row of the starting line.
Millions of dollars are on the line. The world’s best drivers surround you. The odds of a crash are uncomfortably high. And your only experience racing is from a go-kart track.
Safe to say, you’d be a little nervous. You don’t have the experience you need to succeed at such a high level.
In my experience, the same goes for trading…
You have to work your way up before you can hang with the world’s best traders. But you don’t have to – and shouldn’t – do it alone.
Let’s revisit the same scenario from above. Same car, same crowd, same stakes.
Except this time, you’re wearing a headset with Michael Schumacher on the other end, one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers ever. He’s giving you turn-by-turn advice for each curve on the track. You’d feel a little more comfortable with such an experienced mentor.
Becoming a trader is like anything in life. If you want to be really good at it someday, you have to take that first step. You won’t have decades of experience to rely on right from the outset.
And if you want an edge, there’s no better place to start than by learning from someone who’s already paved the way.
In today’s essay, I’ll share the story of a trader who opened my eyes early in my career and put me on the path to where I am today. And I’ll share the specific advice he gave which turned around my brokerage account…
The Key Thing a Mentor Provides
A good mentor provides, first and foremost, a methodology to follow.
Most traders struggle because they have no real methodology. They take positions willy-nilly, with no real concern for position sizing or an exit strategy. It’s a make-money mentality… but with no firm plan.
To be a successful trader, you have to be able to deal with the finality of a loss on the downside… and know when to take profits on the upside.
Taking a loss is one of the hardest things in trading. But, when you take that loss, you’ve now locked in that loss and have to make it back. If you don’t believe you can make that money back, you’ll never get out of a losing trade.
That’s a crucial piece of discipline that’s extremely difficult to just figure out on your own.
Having a mentor to show you how to execute trades, when to get in and when to get out, and control your emotions, will help you develop the ability to take a loss and move on.
I’ve had a few mentors throughout my career. But one sticks out… because he saved my career.
How I Found My Mentor
When I started on the trading floor, it was common that most floor traders didn’t go to college. They just learned everything on the floor. So, while I spent four years in college, my colleagues had the advantage of four years on the floor over me.
I was practically blind coming in. I had no idea what was going on.
But as I continued to grow, I was drawn to the traders who were outliers… The one or two guys who were really good. They consistently grew their positive P&L (profit and loss) and put on larger position sizes.
One of those guys was Larry LoVecchio. I worked under him at the firm Spear, Leeds & Kellogg. He was the best mentor I ever had, and a lot of it was due to his wisdom and age. I was just 27 or so at the time, and he was in his mid-30s.
He taught me the discipline that I never had. I’d watch him and be in awe of not just his performance but how calm, measured, and unemotional he was…
Meanwhile, I was like a wild stallion that was out of control. I had the “it” factor, aggressiveness, and the will to win… but I didn’t understand how to make it all work together.
LoVecchio was really aggressive but also incredibly disciplined. He knew when to take risks and how big of a risk to take. He didn’t overleverage his trades and never let his emotions get ahead of him.
That’s why I say he saved my career. Before I met LoVecchio, I was just throwing all of my money into one trade, swinging for the fences… and usually missing.
It’s not easy to bounce back, time after time after you’ve lost it all. And in my early days, I lost it all multiple times. I might’ve wound up quitting had LoVecchio not pulled me under his wing.
The critical thing he taught me was the importance of position sizing. Where at first, I would throw too much money into trades, hold on to losers too long, and stagnate, I was taught to cut my losses early.
Then, after booking some wins, I could size up to bigger and bigger levels comfortably (something I came to start calling “earning my risk.”)
My advice for any new trader is to be eager to grow and know your limitations. That’s the key to trading.
I didn’t start out doing 50–70 trades per day as I do now. I started with just one trade per day. My position sizes were extremely small, meaning I put a very small percentage of my overall capital into each trade.
Then, I started to get better. I started accumulating one small win after another, adding more trades each day, and sizing up my positions.
But of course, I had to watch someone else do it to learn that. I had no other experience to draw from.
I say all this to show you something important: you don’t have to go it alone when you’re learning to trade. Find someone whose performance you find impressive… whose ideas you agree with… and find a way to learn from them.
Then, find a way to execute those ideas in a way that’s uniquely yours. That’s the difference between traders that quit when the process gets too hard early on and traders who stay in it for the long haul – and the big profits.
Editor, The Opportunistic Trader
P.S. During my career as a hedge fund manager, I made over $274 million in profits for my clients. In fact, I enjoyed a 20-year win streak without a single losing year.
Aside from my mentor, I give credit to another factor… It’s a rare event that happens just four times a year. The next one is right around the corner. All told, more than $1 trillion is set to change hands – a large portion through just one ticker.
To help prepare regular investors, I’m hosting a special presentation TONIGHT at 8 p.m. ET. There, I’ll reveal the one ticker you need to trade the event and how it works. Just click here to reserve your spot now.