One Question to Identify a Profitable Trader

Questions for traders to determine profitability

If you’ve traded for any length of time you’ll quickly realize that there are a lot of traders that give the appearance of robust profitability but when you scratch the surface they don’t quite live up to what they outwardly project. This is especially true on Twitter where would-be traders start with a flurry of activity and then fade away as time goes on.

This reality makes it difficult to find other successful, creative traders to collaborate with. As Mike Bellafiore said in this tweet, “Networking is a trading skill.”

So how do you find other serious traders to collaborate with and share trading ideas? Building trust with other traders takes time and effort, so you need to choose wisely.

Imagine you’re at a networking event for traders where you don’t know anyone. There’s not enough time to have in-depth conversations with every attendee, but you can ask everyone individually a question they’ll answer. (Like speed-dating.)

What’s the ONE question you ask that you believe gives you the best odds of finding the successful traders in the group to spend your valuable time conversing with?

I sent this scenario to my newsletter subscribers a few weeks ago and got some great responses. Here they are:

How much was the borrow? – Anonymous

It’s easy to conveniently forget to include borrow costs when looking at your trading performance. The answer to this question would tell you a lot about how transparent someone is about their trading track record and how sophisticated their strategy is.

What broker do you use? – Isaac H.

I wasn’t sure about this question at first but the more I thought about it the more effective I think it would be. These responses would give me an indication of the type of trading they do:

  • a prop trading firm
  • Robinhood
  • Interactive Brokers
  • Schwab
  • Cobra
  • Multiple brokerage accounts

Do you rely on your trading income to live? – DMactrades

Trading for a living is surely a good indicator. Perhaps not as effective as it used to be prior to Covid when remote work was rare. I suspect the rate of serious part-time traders worth collaborating with has been increasing over time.

What is the one thing you can do this month that will have the most impact on improving your performance? – Mike Bellafiore

This is a very direct question that gets to the heart of long-term success. The best traders are ALWAYS improving. Your answer to this question should be well thought out and change from month to month as you implement your improvements.

What do you look for in your Grade A setups? – T. S.

I like this question because it gets to the heart of how traders should be thinking about their trading systems. I encourage traders to not think about every setup in their trading system in the same way. The biggest leap I made in my trading was to go from a binary yes/no thought process to thinking in ranges. That is, to what degree do I think this trader will be profitable relative to other traders in this system? Great question!

How do you avoid losing trades? – Anonymous

The answer to this question will tell you a lot about how someone thinks about their strategy and whether they have one at all.

Do you use a trading journal? – Dave Mabe

This is the question I’ve had in mind ever since my StockTickr days. It was clear that if you’re not keeping score, you’re just not going to be successful. I remember discussing this with a well-known poker coach in Las Vegas a few years ago.

He said the correlation is 100% – for all poker players he came across if they aren’t keeping track of their sessions then they simply aren’t profitable. At that time he knew of no exceptions. I’m pretty sure the same goes for trading. Do you keep a journal?

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