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The answer, simply, is yes. Day trading is profitable. How long does it take to become profitable? That seems to vary. For me, it was one of internal suffering, despair, hopelessness and then a grace I can not describe. Then I started to become profitable.
I want to preface that before I started day trading, I worked in healthcare for 12.5 years as a Mental Health Technician (grunt work, nurses aide work, taking care of the mentally ill, helping people with physical disabilities, lots of physically demanding aggressive people who are suffering horrible illnesses, etc). So I don’t come into this field from a related field. I never made much money at all, close to 15hr. It motivated me to look for something better.
That’s when I started pouring over books online about day trading, swing trading, position trading, etc. I started in sim accounts, I failed, then started to do well. When I got comfortable enough with my successes with regular stocks, I started to swing trade individuals stocks with little success and losing some of the little money I had. It’s different with your own money. When you don’t have a lot of it, you get very protective of it. This would be my biggest weakness.
I also learned that trading individuals stocks was dumb, for me. I read that lots of people have success doing it, but I was not finding success with it. That’s when I started learning about the futures markets. THAT is a day traders environment.
Fast forwarding ahead here: more sim account trading, reading, forming my own risk management plan, etc etc etc. I started trading live. After much prayer and talking with my wife (a woman who I do not deserve and I am forever grateful for) we decided that I would embark on a totally new full time career: day trading.
I lost almost all of our money within 3 months. Loss. After Loss. After Loss. Some gains that made me feel euphoric and hopeful, that my ‘luck’ had changed. Only to go from 30k starting to 900 dollars left. What took me almost 15 years to accumulate, gone in 60ish trading days. You can not imagine the pain and suffering I felt, because I kept this to myself. I couldn’t bare telling my wife, my in laws, my parents and siblings, my friends, etc that I had failed so miserably.
I broke down in tears in my basement office of my house, panic like you have never felt in your life. I was broken, beaten, humbled, desperate and cast down. I prayed and begged Christ for help and guidance. Mostly, I asked Him to give my wife understanding and my emotions and mind peace. I felt this was still what I was suppose to be doing, even though I failed. Christ never took that drive for me to keep doing this.
Then something happened within a couple weeks that I can only contribute to Christ’s answer to prayer: through patience and thorough testing of what I was doing, I developed a plan that started to become profitable. I took the 900 I had left and started using my strategy in the micro-forex markets. I was astounded at the success of the plan (as long as I followed it!) and I burst into tears of thanksgiving to God. Eventually, I moved back into trading the ES, NQ and I totally avoided oil forever!
I don’t want to make this a story of redemption, but I can’t do it without that story. Now to your question: Yes. It is profitable. For me (and many other independent traders, for I am not alone with my story) it took significant loss to find gains. The discipline of failure is the single greatest teacher. Let me move from the spiritual aspect of my journey to profitability to the secular and technical one.
Keep your charts simple. If it looks like someone threw up trend lines, moving averages, entry/exit signals, clouds, oscillators, etc on your screens, you are doing it wrong.
Learn about volume. It is the single most important confirmatory piece of technical analysis that gives truth to the movement of price. That is my opinion.
Learn about order flow. This is as (or more) important as volume. Because order flow shows you what the buyers/sellers are doing in real time. You can see the contracts above and below being added or taken away. You can see the difference between buyers and sellers competing on the movement of price. It’s more of an art than science.
Accept that losing is extremely common: like foul balls, strike outs, missed Minnesota Vikings field goals, net ball serves, etc. it is part of the ‘game’. You will have losses. The market will always move in the direction that will cause the most amount of harm to the greatest amount of people. But YOU get to decide how much harm and loss you will take.
Don’t trade just to trade. Don’t trade just because you are at your trade desk (or home office, or whatever you call your trading area). This was hard for me because my ADHD and impulsiveness put me into some bad trades, still does.
Set a daily loss limit in your software that stops you from trading anymore that day when it’s hit. One of my biggest mistakes (and I still do it sometimes) is ‘revenge trading’. It’s when you have a loss or two, big or small and you feel like you want to ‘get it back’. This will destroy your account and success.
Don’t chase. This was hard for me to do. My plan would trigger an entry for long/short and I would miss it, and see it running and I start to think, “That’s 3 points of movement I just missed! There has to be more in it.” And then you enter and it moves against you. This will kill your account.
Don’t listen to anyone else but yourself. Once you start letting other people’s opinions influence your already thought out plan, you start to doubt yourself and lose confidence in your own decision making. I am a naturally insecure person so this continues to be a challenge for me, but it’s not as bad anymore.
You are not alone, so don’t be alone. Find a trading coach or peer group. There are fantastic groups to join with the most humble people you will meet and help with education, support and validation of your struggles: TopStepTrader community chat, futures.io, FT71’s youtube, etc.
Take care of yourself physically. The body fuels the mind. I suggest strength training over cardio. I say this because strength training is the practice of lifting heavier and heavier weights with the sole purpose of failing, so that futures higher weights lifted are yesterdays failures you’ve over come. It is the perfect analogy for market movement: any resistance that is met with ease is indicative of little effort. When your lifting becomes easy, you’re not trying hard enough. When prices move easily, the participants are not trying hard enough.
God bless you all and I pray you find success, wisdom and peace in your day trading. It is the most fun I’ve ever had, the most freedom I’ve ever had and the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
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