Learning Psychology: When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Will Appear

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CategoryTrade Theory

PublishedJan 29, 2023, 3:29 PM EST

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Learning Psychology: When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Will Appear



In trading we are most often concerned with the psychology of trading itself, while mostly ignoring learning psychology.  To me that is putting the cart in front of the  horse. How does a trader progress to the point of trading psychology being important if learning psychology has not been addressed?  There is no clear cut answer for this often occurring phenomenon.

In the quest to find the best strategy, traders can often jump right into the technical recipe of a strategy without taking time to truly learn the strategy. Being receptive to learning why a level of support will hold price may give more insight than just assuming that a level of support is supposed to hold price. Knowing the why, is the difference between traders that spot the subtle differences between high probability setups and borderline setups.  These are the traders that didn't rush through the learning process to jump right into mastery of execution of a strategy.  

Some reasons why I believe that the psychology of learning is often ignored:

1. Learning doesn't pay immediately.
Learning does pay dividends in the long run, but in the moment you are deferring earnings until a later time, and depending on your learning path such as mentorship, learning may cost money.  It is understandable why traders would want to get out of the learning phase as fast as possible.

2. Pride
No one wants to be viewed as someone that lacks knowledge, not even on an internal level.  When presented with things that we don't understand we will often fake it until we make it to protect our image to others and even to ourselves.  This is not submitting to the process of learning. This is not being in the right frame of mind to accept new information or information that goes against your current belief system.  Have you ever tried to educate a 'know-it-all' about something that you have expertise in?  If you have tried this before, I think you get my point.

3. Learning isn't popular
Let's be honest, we don't see instagram posts of influencers studying forex, we see posts of them doing everything except learning.  It gives a false impression that the learning process isn't that important or that substantial and neither of those can be any further from the truth.  We do study in private most often, and like an iceberg the most substantial part of the trading process is the hours spent learning the craft that goes unseen by others.  Unfortunately, this fact doesn't sell courses in an instant gratification society where many people don't want something that will take years to acquire and pay dividends years from now.  

4. Traders mistaken learning the 'how' as knowing the 'why'
When a driver that knows 'how' to press a brake pedal on a car to slow it down drives, they drive with a sense of confidence that when they press the brake the care will slow down, but are oblivious to why the car slows down or what went wrong if the car doesn't slow down when the brake pedal is depressed.  A mechanic knowing the 'why' behind the braking system can tell the health of the braking system when depressing the pedal. Is the pedal too soft? does the pedal travel too far? The mechanic can gain insight into whether the master cylinder is failing, there is air in the brake lines, or the pads have been worn down too far just by pressing the brake pedal.  That is the difference between amateurs and professionals in any arena.  The amateur trader knows how to execute at trade based on a strategy, the professional trader knows why they should or should not execute based on knowing the mechanics behind trade setup.  Until you know the 'why', you are playing with forces that you don't fully understand.

On the other extreme, traders are more than willing to learn, almost to a fault, where they are trying to learn everything without being focused. This jack of all trades, mastery of none learning style can be just as detrimental. Spreading yourself too thin puts you in the position of being knowledgeable about a lot of things but not great at any one thing.  Until a trader shuts out the noise and makes learning the how and why of a singular topic their focus, mastery will be difficult. In this age of so called multi-tasking it may seem as the most efficient way to gain knowledge, when in fact it is probably the least efficient way.  By focusing on 1 subject, you will acquire mastery faster and then be able to leverage the mastered knowledge to help gain mastery in other areas.  Human multi-tasking is a myth, we may be able to rapidly switch back and forth between multiple tasks but we are only able to do one task at a time.  So when someone says they are multi-tasking, they are actually doing multiple things poorly that would be done much better individually if they didn't have to keep losing focus to other tasks.

The market is a never ending constantly resetting Rubik's cube of analysis and I believe in always being a student of the game.  Knowing the 'why' is infinitely more important than knowing the surface level 'how'.  Accepting that learning is the majority of the journey is the first step in successfully traversing the market.  The second part is being mentally open and accepting of learning and submitting to the process. For only when the student is ready will the teacher appear.

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