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Lessons from the Market Wizards

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Peter Aling


I've previously written about the excellent Market Wizards series by Jack D. Schwager. The series covers the best traders across multiple decades and is probably one of the best arguements that it is indeed possible to beat the market. While each trader is unique and their strategies range from technical to fundamental and everything inbetween, there are a number of common principles that are cited by many. I've summarized the collective wisdom of some of the best market traders in the last 30 years into these 26 points.

Want to stand on the shoulders of giants? Start here.

  1. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach in trading. Successful traders employ a wide range of strategies, from technical analysis to fundamental approaches. The secret is to find a strategy that aligns with your personality.

  2. Strong desire and determination. Many market wizards overcame significant hurdles on their path to success. You have to love what you do to stick with it.

  3. Confidence is key. Self-belief in one's ability to win in the market is a common trait among successful traders. They often view their trading strategies as the safest investment.

  4. Discipline beats intelligence. Discipline was the most frequently mentioned quality. Staying true to one's chosen methodology is crucial, despite market fluctuations.

  5. Successful trading isn't a part-time job. It requires a significant commitment, often consuming a substantial part of traders' waking hours. The best are always thinking about the market.

  6. Don't lose money. Effective risk management is essential. This involves not just recognizing, but also patiently waiting for the right trading opportunities.

  7. Independence - the top traders avoid following the crowd and rely on their analysis and instincts.

  8. Take your lumps. Understanding that losses are part of trading is vital. Successful traders don’t fear losses; they learn from them.

  9. The perfect fit. It’s important to choose a trading style that resonates with your personality. A mismatch can lead to discomfort and poor decisions.

  10. Understand your edge. Know what gives you an advantage in the market. Without a clear edge, trading becomes akin to gambling.

  11. Commitment. Developing a successful trading method involves time, effort, and often, overcoming numerous failures.

  12. Have a trading plan. Trading without a plan is like building a house without blueprints. A good trading plan includes strategies for entering and exiting trades and managing risks.

  13. Extreme ownership. Successful traders take full responsibility for their trades, learning from both successes and failures.

  14. Stong opinions, weakly held. The best traders are continuously learning and adapting their strategies to the changing market conditions.

  15. Keep calm and carry on. Successful traders avoid impulsive decisions driven by fear or greed.

  16. Wait for the "fat" pitches. Patience is crucial both in waiting for the right trades and in staying with trades that are working.

  17. It’s important to set realistic goals and understand both the potential and limitations of your trading strategies.

  18. It's not about the money. A deep love for trading is a common characteristic of successful traders. This passion fuels their dedication and drive.

  19. Have an open mind. Successful traders are open to new information and strategies, understanding that the market is dynamic.

  20. Holding periods are subjective. The length of time market wizards hold a trade varies widely, demonstrating that there’s no ideal time frame applicable to all strategies.

  21. Never stop learning. There’s always room for improvement. The most successful traders are those who constantly refine their strategies.

  22. Risk management over method. While the trading method is important, risk management is even more crucial for long-term success.

  23. Intuition, born from experience, plays a key role in trading decisions. It's the subconscious understanding of the market dynamics.

  24. Trade to your strengths (and weaknesses). Understanding and accepting your limitations can prevent overreach and maintain focus on sustainable strategies.

  25. KISS. Often, the most effective trading strategies are those that are simple and easy to execute.

  26. Life beyond the markets. Successful traders understand the importance of balance and recognize that there is more to life than trading.

Each of these lessons encapsulates a fundamental truth about trading: success is not just about strategy, but also about psychology, discipline, and an ongoing commitment to learning and adaptation. By embracing these lessons, traders at all levels can enhance their understanding of the markets and improve their chances of success.


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