How do you know you're making progress on the road to successful trading? There's one obvious answer: Check your financial results. There is little doubt you're doing well if you're booking consistent profits.

But raw capital production may not be the best way to judge your growth as a trader. The road to success has many detours where profitability isn't the best measure of results. For example, we all go through phases in which introspection and skill development are more urgent than short-term profits. So let's look at 10 ways to know you're making solid progress on the road to market mastery:

1. Money management becomes your lifeline, and all your trading strategies start to revolve around its core. Risk control becomes a key aspect of every position you take. You accept that controlling losses has a far-greater impact on your bottom line than chasing gains.

2. You develop your own trading plans and strategies rather than relying on books, gurus or other people's opinions. You notice how you're finding more opportunities than you have time to trade while looking through your charts. You look forward to the trading day with a growing sense of confidence and empowerment.

3. You feel more like a student than a master. You learn new things every day and can't wait to apply them to real-life trading scenarios. You listen closely to everything you hear, trying to pick up hints and concepts that will improve your performance. You expand your studies into everything market-related, including economics, fundamentals and balance sheets.

4. You stop visiting stock boards and chatrooms, because they don't add anything to your trading goals. You realize that everyone in those places has ulterior motives. You develop a healthy skepticism about companies, market-makers and even other traders. You realize that no one is really interested in your success as a trader, except for you.

5. You become more private in your discussions about the market with family and friends. You learn to keep your opinions to yourself, because they're just idle discussion. You never talk about open positions or ask others what to do with them. You recognize that opinions count only when they're backed up by cold, hard cash.

6. Trading starts to feel like any other successful profession. Your average profits get bigger while your losses get smaller. You experience fewer drawdowns that drain your capital and undermine your confidence. Your trading day starts to get a little boring, but you prefer the lack of emotional highs and lows.

7. You grade your performance each day and recognize when your actions did not meet your rising standards. You notice how certain times of the day are particularly dangerous or rewarding for your trading style. You keep a written diary that describes your strengths and weaknesses in stark detail.

8. You never cut corners in your market analysis, no matter how tired or exhilarated you feel at the end of the day. You set aside time to review your daily results, download fresh data and uncover themes for the next session. You don't trade at all when nonmarket matters keep you from finishing your nightly preparation.

9. You watch all types of markets, even those you're not trading at the time. You realize the next opportunity could come from anywhere, and you want to be prepared. You also understand that your trading interests will change over time, so you want to be ready for the next big thing.

10. You keep detailed trading records and update them on a nightly basis. You look at both profits and losses with complete detachment and a keen eye for self-improvement. You don't "conveniently" fail to include those trades you'd rather forget about.


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