The year was 2004. I was in my second year of college at University of Oregon not knowing what I wanted to do, let alone study. A few years prior my brother moved to Chicago in his beat up Subaru to pursue his dream of trading and making millions. My sophomore year came to an end and I decided to make the same move when a trading position opened at one of the largest firms at the time, Kingstree Trading. I was 20 years old.
I bought a one way ticket to Chicago and shipped my computer along with my other belongings. I had no money but was happier than I’ve ever been. Moving from a small town to the center of the trading world was more exciting than I thought it would be, despite having to sleep on a twin mattress on the floor and having nothing more than a few changes of clothes and a $50 desk I purchased from Good Will.
The first day at Kingstree was overwhelming, meeting with the owner and top traders was intimidating to say the least. I had zero trading experience, but that’s not what they were looking for. They wanted traders who could adapt, learn quickly in a competitive environment and show consistency. All of these things I already knew I could do.
When we were in the process of choosing what market we wanted to trade, I remember being asked if I knew I could be profitable trading spreads in the Bond market vs the unknown in the indexes, what would I choose. I answered I’d still trade the indexes. I wanted the challenge, the excitement and more specifically, the huge upside potential I thought was so easy to obtain. When I went live with my massive 1 lot maximum, reality started to hit in. Turns out it wasn’t as easy as I had thought it would be.
But I persevered through the consistent losing days and continued to stare at the markets to try and figure out what I wasn’t seeing that so many successful traders were. Trying different things, working on risk management and absorbing as much knowledge as I could to hopefully one day turn the corner and make money.
Looking back it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. I eventually was consistent and chose my trades with more precision. My 1 lot cap turned into 2, then 5, going all the way up to being able to trade 100 lots in the mini S & P. I was 21 trading along side some of the most successful traders in the world. It was the best feeling in the world at the time.
As time went on, my perception of what “trading” was completely changed. I always had the idea that anyone involved in the financial markets were people that wore suits to work, maintained a professional composure and firms only hired the “smartest”, best educated people possible. But when I saw Harvard graduates leave the firm because they couldn’t turn a profit while other traders walked in with flip flops and stoned 20 minutes after the open, only to leave 2 hours later up $400,000, I started to question what “trading” really was.
There was no rhyme or reason as to why someone succeeded and someone didn’t, at least at the time. It was baffling to see. It went against all the beliefs I had of you have to work harder than the next guy, or be smarter than others, or come to work with your best foot forward. It completely warped my reality. MY reality. I say it like that because that was only my thinking of what made someone a good or poor performer in whatever they did. But that wasn’t THEIR reality.
From that point on trading turned into a journey of personal realization and awareness. It turned from who knows the markets the best to, who knows themselves the best. How does someone react to situations when real money is on the line. How SHOULD someone react to market conditions when real money is at risk. I quickly realized that the best traders are the ones that know themselves the most, not the markets.
While my time at Kingstree was just about a year and I could easily say it’s where my trading career started and ended, my trading journey really started when I left. Because trading is more about yourself than it is the markets or anyone else. It’s about being in a mental state that allows you to absorb information objectively and without emotion. It’s about trading the same way you would if you’re down as you would if you’re up.
There’s no question that I learned a ton about the fundamentals of the markets, what to look for and things that work and don’t work. I was fortunate enough to be in an environment that encouraged high frequency trading. It wasn’t abnormal to make 150 to 200 round turns a day, and while that was ultimately what ended many careers for traders during that time, it also built contrast for the future.
My posts will be covering my journey back into trading with my exact strategies and completely transparent results using the tools and strategies I’ve developed for nearly 20 years since then. Not only in the markets, but more importantly personally and mentally, because where the truly successful traders are made.