By Rob Colville on November 6, 2015 in
I can’t remember the last time I’d felt as flustered and overwhelmed as I did one trading day earlier this week. In just minutes, seemingly everything that could’ve possibly gone wrong did, and as I’ll share with you, I practically shut down completely right on the spot in response to it. Sounds like scary stuff, doesn’t it? Well, it was, and as a fellow trader, perhaps you’ve had a trading day that pushed you to your limits as well.
I’ve seen and been through a lot before, but I’ll admit that this one was a trading day like no other I’ve had before. I’m just relieved and quite proud to say that I survived without undue account damage, but only because of one conscious decision I made amidst the chaos and emotional turmoil that I felt at the time. So here’s what happened that resulted in my worst trading day in recent memory, and what I’m now really glad to have done about it.
Any students, parents, and part-time traders among us can probably relate to this, because in all of our busy lives, trading is not all that’s on our schedule with each trading day. And so, perhaps much like you, I was in a rush from the moment I woke up that morning. I was “a man with a plan” this trading day, and I hurriedly readied myself, packed up my things, and left the house bound for a key meeting. Traffic was heavy, and I was already running late when I realized I’d left something important behind, and would have to turn around to go home and get it.
I felt butterflies in my stomach and jitters in my hands and face as I raced back towards home. That wasn’t part of my plan for the day, and as I’ve mentioned before, change isn’t always a real forte of mine. In fact, I was already a little mad at myself for being forgetful—that’s unlike me, afterall—but still I remained optimistic that I could make the meeting and get on with my trading day as planned. A few blocks later, though, I heard that unmistakable and sickening rumble coming from beneath my car, and just like that, I knew that things were going from bad to worse.
A flat tire in rush hour traffic, and no spare tire to boot, would effectively fray my last possible nerve. I hit rock bottom the second I realized I had no way to fix it myself, and that my plans for the morning, and quite possibly the trading day, were dashed.
It was a couple hours before I was able to get the car towed in for service, and get my affairs for the day either cancelled or rescheduled. Even after I managed to return home, though, I realized that I was still reeling inside from what had just transpired. And so I found myself at a difficult crossroads: To trade or not to trade?
As it happens, there were set-ups I was eyeing at the time, but when I considered my then-weakened capacity to stay calm, be patient, and leave emotions out of it where they belong, I quickly decided that I would take the day off from trading, and I honestly believe that decision most likely allowed me to escape this dreadful would-be trading day without sustaining any further damage.
Just think of all that could go wrong whenever any trader, even a pro, tries to just trade through such trying circumstances: While hurriedly trying to begin the trading day hours after they normally would have, they’d tend to be overanxious and willing to take non-qualifying set-ups just to “get in the game.” Or, already full of anger and emotion, they might go “on tilt” in the event of a failed set-up or losing trade. From there, they could be prone to complacent or revenge trading, which would likely only exacerbate their losses and make what was already a bad trading day into an outright disastrous one.
For me, it just didn’t seem safe or smart to take any risk with my mind and body already in a compromised state, and I feel strongly that I made the right decision. That’s just me, though. So what do you think you would’ve done in a similar situation? Might you have tried to push through anyway in hopes that you could “block it out” and still salvage what was left of the trading day? Maybe you’ve even tried to do that before?
See related: 3 Scenarios Even Pros Do Not Trade…But Do You?
My reason for publishing this post was not to complain or beg for sympathy, mind you. Afterall, plenty of people deal with far worse things that what I did! I merely wanted to share these circumstances and what I did as a result to illustrate that just as traders can exercise complete control over which set-ups they trade, we can also do the same with whether or not we trade in the first place…and there are times when the best trade is no trade at all!
So make sure that the next time life or the markets interfere with your trading day or compromise your ability to be disciplined and objective, you remember that there’s a better alternative to forcing trades or trying to “fight through” a weakened physical and/or emotional state. One trading day this past week, I was forced to give myself the day off, and in the end, I’m extremely glad that I did!