The Incredible Power of Having a Losing Mindset

Boris Schlossberg

Trading to Win.
The Winner’s Attitude.
Five Ways to a Winning Mindset.

Trading blogs are littered with advice about winning and while their intent is noble, they couldn’t be more wrong and their advice is actual poison to your success.

Take a step back and think about any competitive human activity. It is basically a study in failure and losing. In FIFA 2018 World Cup Croatia took 115 shots on goal -- the most of any team in the tournament. Care to guess how many actual goals they scored? 14. That works out to an 88% fail rate. Croatians, the Cinderella story of the summer only succeeded 12% of the time.

In American football, Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs is considered to be the most accurate passer of 2017 season. His completion rate? Just a bit better than half at 56%.

In poker, Phil Hellmuth is one of the greatest players of the game. He has been playing professional poker for 30 years. Each year there are at least 50 WSOP tournaments which means since he started playing there have been more than 1500 events. He holds the most bracelets of anyone who has ever played the game. How many? 15. How many times has he been at the final table? 58 times. Basically, he fails 97% of the time.

The biggest winners in the world lose. They lose a lot. And if we want to have any chance of being like them, we need to understand that losing is not just part of the game. It IS the game.

Yet when it comes to trading we suspend all rational thinking and approach the market with the ridiculous expectation of winning every trade. Or 9 out of 10 times. Or at worst 8 out of 10 times. But even if we had a great trading system that won 80% of the time, the reality of probability means that we could have 100 trades where the win rate was only 50% and another 100 trades where the win rate was 90%. We could go on for months underperforming the win rate percentages by 20, 30 even 40 percent and not be doing anything wrong. Despite that reality, most retail traders will they stop trading the system if they hit 3 losers in a row. If they hit 10 they quit altogether.

Developing a winning mindset does little to fix this problem. In fact, it hurts you immeasurably. A winning mindset creates the false expectation of a win, so just one or two losses completely destabilizes your psyche. You double up on the position. You pull you stop. You punch your screen. In short, you lose control, not because your execution is bad, but because your expectation is completely at odds with market reality.

Now imagine if you approached each day expecting to lose money. Let’s say you are day trading. You set a total risk budget of 50 pips while trading positions with 15 pips stops and every trade you take you FULLY EXPECT TO LOSE.

What happens then?

Well for starters you let your strategy be. You don’t second guess every pip of adverse movement and close out positions too early. You TRADE TO PLAN because you have given yourself the permission to lose. You are not annoyed, angered or frustrated. Your mind is actually clear and calm which means you can analyze the next setup with a much better attitude. If a winner comes, it’s a pleasant surprise, rather than your God-given right and you can continue to look for the next trade and work on improving your process.

Think how much better it is to have a LOSING MINDSET. You are unfazed by a losing day, a losing week or even a losing month. It all becomes part of the job and it allows you to stay in the game much longer than the average retail trader, which in the end is how winning is really done.