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10 major behavioural traits of successful traders. (2016)

“Humility and humbleness don’t fit the common image of ‘Masters of the Universe’. However, they are words I associate with many of the most successful traders I know.”

Steven Goldstein, Alpha R Cubed Managing Director Blog 7 July 2016.

“All traders start out with the best of intentions, however too often their focus becomes misdirected, with too much attention spent looking at achieving short-term goals or projecting themselves, and not enough focus spent looking at the process and reflecting on that.”

Goldstein then suggests traders try to develop and practice 10 key traits. Sitting at position five on his list is implementing:

Humility and humbleness: curtailing ‘ego’ and ‘pride’

“… Just about every major story of financial market excess and collapse has, closely entwined in its narrative, tales of excessive egotism and hubris. (The collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fall of LTCM, the Enron scandal, the decline of Amaranth Advisors; the largest ever hedge-fund failure.)

“Whilst these are clearly examples on a much larger scale, the twin dangers of ego and excessive pride affect most traders at some time: I have seen people’s ego and pride get them into some horrendous trading messes, and I myself have not been immune to this happening more times than I perhaps care to admit.

“The opposite of Egotism and Pride, in this sense, are Humility and Humbleness. These two traits are not ones that the common media depiction of successful traders as ‘Master of the Universe’ would have us recognise. However, these are words that I associate with many of the most successful traders I know.

“One of the greatest errors many traders commit is to allow their trading and their beliefs or views on the market to become entwined with, and an extension of, their egos. The same can be said with regard to ‘pride’, though closely related to ego, pride is slightly different, and though considered a positive emotion, excessive pride (hubris) can be a major impediment to successful trading.

“It is vital that a trader can admit they are wrong, capable of being wrong and that they have limitations and flaws. Failure to admit to being wrong, or even being capable of being wrong, can lead to traders somehow trying to exert their will over the market or holding onto positions rather than crystallise a loss.

“Helpful behaviours to support development of this trait:

  • Set aside being right or wrong, and adopt a process-driven approach to profit.
  • Listen well and be willing to seek open and honest feedback.
  • Ensure you look into and learn from mistakes.
  • Try and be an ‘optimalist’ and not a perfectionist. Admit to flaws and maintain flexibility.
  • Be mindful and conscious of not imposing your ego on people.
  • Avoid boasting and building yourself up to other people.
  • Listen to people, ask questions.
  • Avoid criticising and judging other people.
  • Practice ways to develop objective thinking and reflection.”


The other traits Goldstein identifies in successful traders are:

  • Learning from their mistakes.
  • Love of trading and a competitive will to win.
  • Developing a trading style congruent to the person’s personality and character.
  • Reducing of anxiety and stress.
  • Planning, preparation, patience and discipline.
  • Respect for risk and uncertainty.
  • Developing effective risk/money-management practice.
  • Focusing on making money, not being right.
  • Achieving balance and perspective in life.

Access the full blog here: 10 major behavioural traits of successful traders

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