One thing I have learned from teaching Forex workshops over the last six years is that attendees seek out training for different reasons. And, after the workshop they trade with different results — depending on what they do when they get home. Having observed many cases, I can categorize people at my workshops into several groups. These categories probably apply to any person who is trying to learn from any format — workshops, reading books, going through online courses, etc. I have written this article with workshop attendees in mind, but these ideas probably apply to anyone trying to learn anything. Depending on the category you fall in, your personal benefits might vary a lot from someone else who is learning the same topic.
Workshop Participant Categories
Some traders attend workshops but they never even try to trade the systems once they get back home. Others try trading them at home, but don’t really follow the rules. Some follow the rules, but get easily frustrated by hurdles whether those are mental or physical. Some will follow the rules almost exactly — until they develop enough experience as a trader to adjust the rules to custom-fit the system to themselves. As you might guess, the trading results among these groups are very different.
I think I can differentiate 8 categories of people who attend workshops. The further down on the list you find yourself, the higher the probability that you will be able to trade the systems profitably after your attendance. Here are my eight types:
The first 3 categories account for probably about 20% of attendees while the last one, the Novice, makes up around 15% alone. Most of the people though — maybe 65% — fall into categories 4, 5, 6 and 7. My experience has shown that categories 4-8 benefit most from additional support after the workshop (so I offer it). Usually I do not hear much from attendees in the first three categories after the workshop has ended.
Let’s have a look at each of those categories.
Category 1: The Window Shopper
This person likes attending different workshops a lot in order to learn various systems. Often this is a Novice trader who is searching for a system that fits him. This is generally a good idea, except when it turns into a years-long exhaustive search that costs a considerate amount of funds. This person risks becoming identified with his search and remaining in a state of confusion and frustration. “Nothing really seems to fit” — so the search continues and maybe the Holy Grail system will be found just around the corner at the next workshop.
Recommendation: Be aware of the drawbacks involved and prepare mentally to choose a system that resonates with you, sooner better than later. Once the decision is made, you should focus your attention fully on becoming an expert in that system.
Category 2: The Fine Tuner
I always have at least one person of this type in my workshop. Usually this is trader who is already profitable or someone who has a nearly complete trading system designed. I was this type of trader myself for some time and like the last category, there is nothing bad about this state (that is true with every category). Once I was in the later stages of my system design and business development, I still attended trading workshops. I benefited a lot meeting other traders who taught their systems and against whom I could compare myself, my systems and my thoughts. All of these observations and evaluations gave me confidence in my own capabilities as I began to know that “I was on the right track.” Most of all, I learned something of tangible value from every workshop I attended (including various technical workshops at the Van Tharp Institute). Regularly, I was able to incorporate improvements in my systems’ rule-sets. For example, I remember one workshop where I was able to optimize and fine-tune my exit algorithm after hearing about exit rules that worked well with a similar trading strategy.
Recommendation: Once you trade a system with an edge, then you can focus your search on certain areas of value at a workshop — be it the trading process, the pre-trade preparation, the setup rules and indicators used or the exit algorithm. Be clear about what you want to learn and be open to lessons you might not have considered.
Category 3: The Rule Tweaker
The Rule Tweaker comes to a workshop having either attended many other workshops or having done extensive prior research. This person comes with an already firm set of beliefs of what works and what does not. Obviously the rules I teach (or any other trading instructor teaches) can never fully match the belief set of the Rule Tweaker. Although he might be fully convinced of the edges of the systems taught, his own set of beliefs will overwrite some beliefs. This results in the person changing the rule-set in many possible forms – replacing indicators, changing the parameter set, altering entries or exits, etc. Changes will affect the systems’ performance but this kind of trader always reminds me of Van’s saying — “You can only trade your beliefs!”
Recommendation: The Rule Tweaker benefits most if he comes with an open mind. The systems only work profitably if the underlying belief-set is accepted. There is nothing wrong in trading several systems with different belief-sets so keep that in mind as you learn. The Rule Tweaker might want to enjoy the journey of developing his own system.
Category 4: Lost In Space
This is a typical phase in the early stages of a trader’s development. There is so much trading information available on the internet that it is very easy to get confused and over-loaded. In addition, you do not know who just wants your money and who is a marketing genius instead of a great trader. Often people in this category become Window Shoppers. I know this feeling of “being lost” myself and I thoroughly enjoy helping traders get out of this state. Trading does not have to be very difficult — what can be difficult is finding the right path early on and properly understanding the major impact of your mental state on your trading results.
Recommendation: If you find yourself in this unpleasant state, do yourself a favor and move out of it quickly. To trade well, you need to be confident in the system you trade. Even more, you will need to develop confidence in yourself that you can trade a system profitably.
Category 5: Stuck in Frustration
This can be a typical “intermediate stage” of trader development. You might believe that you have found a system with inherent edges but you are not yet in the position to reap its benefits. You might understand that you need to work on yourself, your psychology, the trading process or just custom-fit the system more to your needs and abilities. Frustration with a system has led some to drop a system prematurely — a system that they have been trading for as long as 6 months. Traders in this category risk becoming a Window Shopper — looking out for a Holy Grail system. Finding a group of like-minded and competent traders that are, or have gone through, the same phase can be very helpful at this point.
Recommendation: Be aware that once you commit yourself to master a certain system, you will probably still need to endure some frustration at times. That’s naturally part of how a human brain learns and grows. You are going through a phase where the ego has to let go so you can move towards more useful states of Self-reliance and Satisfaction. Be aware that the Holy Grail is not “out there”. Instead, it is inside — right between your ears.
Category 6: The U-Turner
This kind of workshop attendee is rather rare. Often, he is very motivated and puts a lot of effort in developing himself into an excellent trader. Some Clingers (below) can develop into U Turners if they are not careful. Finding a U Turner for the very first time was a stunning experience for me. For a year after the workshop, he was working very hard on studying the Forex market, following the systems’ rules and developing beautifully as a trader. Maybe 3 more months and he would have become a consistently profitable trader. With the finish line in sight, however, he decided to drop the systems and try out something else.
Some sports coaches have seen something similar — competitors can develop an unconscious fear of actually winning an event at the finish line. Allowing yourself to win might be a condition that’s hard to overcome. Surely, winning will change things. While I can understand this happening, it leaves me with some regret.
Recommendation: Look at other experiences in your life to become aware if you tend to be a U Turner. Have a clear set of goals — including what you will do if you start wanting to deviate from your plan. Have a set of rules beforehand specifically for conditions in which you might want to make a “U Turn”. What will allow you to actually make a U Turn and what conditions will prevent that? Making a U Turn is not bad and needs to be done at times, however, if it becomes a habit and hinders your success, then it limits your potential.
Category 7: The Clinger
People who are very goal oriented and efficient in their approach fit in this category. Without any resistance, this kind of person readily accepts system beliefs, system rules, as well the trading process suggested by the instructor. Without struggle he can move forward quickly. One can say that he is driving on the left lane of the Autobahn — the fast lane. Often, this is someone relatively new in trading who shows a lot of trust. He unconsciously understands that searching for the Holy Grail is a search in vain. He is open to suggestions and learns & grows quickly by receiving outside guidance.
Recommendation: This person will benefit most from guided education. You are very good in accepting and implementing good advice. Play to your strengths. You might move faster than any person in the other categories.
Category 8: The Novice
I like having Novice traders in my workshop. They are very special to me because they have the biggest potential of learning & growth. They do not need to go through some of the traps laid out for them by the trading education industry. Even still, in full learning mode, the Novice may tend to struggle during the first day or so of a workshop.
Recommendation: Communicate that you are a novice to your instructor well in advance. There are always additional preparations you can make prior to a course that will bring you up to speed. Enjoy the learning and growth. If there is any live trading event related to a trading workshop, try to attend so you can learn how to put your learnings into practice in the live markets. Usually a Novice will feel that he is not yet ready for a live event but go for it as otherwise you might risk getting stuck at home.
If you have attended a workshop or are considering it, in which category do you think you fit? If you want to be in another category, where do you want to be? How can you achieve this? Come mentally prepared to any workshop and plan accordingly! Knowing about yourself and coming with the right mindset can lead you to great success.
Check out Part II of Learning Types:
“How Your Learning Type Determines Success”.