As an official patron of the Polish edition of the High Performance Trading, Comparic.com had opportunity to interview the author of the book – Steve Ward. We invite you to read and familiarize yourself with the silhouette of the popular psychologist and coach.
Could you tell us how did your psychology adventure start? We would be very pleased, if you could give some backgrounds of the early career.
My psychology adventure started in sports and performance psychology, working with elite athletes and teams in over 30 different sports across the globe, as well as doing some work with corporate clients on peak performance, performing under pressure and developing high performing teams. I was fortunate enough to work with people at international level, world champions and Olympians and really enjoyed working with such highly motivated and committed and determined people.
More than twenty years of experience makes a great impression. You started your coaching and training career as a sport and performance psychologist, focusing on athletes training more than 30 different sports disciplines. What caused, that you decided to give up all of that and focus on trading?
A random encounter! In 2005 I met someone on a sports psychology course I was running who was the head of performance and development for a very large proprietary trading group based in London, Chicago and Miami, and he asked me if I would be interested in teaching my sports performance strategies and techniques to his traders. At the time I knew very little about trading but was curious so said yes. My first visit to the office was on Non-Farm Payrolls day and I can still remember very quickly the deadly hush and anticipation before the data came out and then the hussle and thriving of activity after. The atmosphere was electric – not unlike in a sports game. I delivered some group session and did some 1-1 coaching and was soon there 3 days per week. From there, largely through word of mouth I did more and more work in trading, before giving up my sports work after the 2006 Winter Olympics.
As a traders trainer, which centers on proper mental preparations of your clients, are you a pure theoretician or an active investor trading on his own account?
I have traded myself, stock indicies and FX, but did so to gain an understanding of the world of trading and to experience it first hand not as a profession. My passion is performance and helping people to develop there performance, at the moment in the trading world. Traders don’t hire me for my trading expertise…they hire me for my performance and psychological expertise. Having said that, I think they appreciate the fact that I have traded, and also the fact that I have acquired over the last 10 years a pretty deep and intimate understanding of the trading world.
Since when have you been connected with High Performance Global and how the whole project started?
High Performance Global is my own company. I started it in 2009 evolving it from an earlier company I ran that I set up in 2002. I went self-employed to allow me the freedom to develop my own programs, and to work with the people I wanted to work with. I love being my own boss, and having my destiny in my own hands.
Your book titled “High Performance Trading” was officially published in Poland – what would you like to tell our domestic investors to interest them in that position?
Yes, it’s great to have the book published in Poland as I have been working with traders here very heavily for the last three years. The book is designed to be a practical guide to ways in which to develop your trading performance and psychology. It covers 35 key themes, and gives insights and practical techniques and strategies to overcome the many mental and emotional challenges that traders face such as cutting winners short, running losses, over trading, not pulling the trigger, stress, emotions, negative thinking and poor discipline.
How you will address the popular opinion that an effective trader should be emotionless? Emotions actually hinder everyday trading, or are they indispensable part of it?
Over the last few years we have learnt through neuroscience that emotions play a key role in our decision process, and we cant make decisions without them, so they are an indispensable part of the process, and I teach traders to embrace their emotions and work with them. Emotions at an extreme can definitely interfere with a traders decision process and so being able to manage and regulate them is a key skill and there are some practical tips for this in the book.
Can you tell us, that 35 strategies that you described in “High Performance Trading” refers only to the investment world? Or they can be used in other life’s areas (goal setting, self-discipline, action under pressure, etc.)?
The brain is the brain and the nervous system is the nervous system so essentially what happens to us in trading at a neurological and biological level is similar to experiences that we may have elsewhere, example the feelings of stress or fear, however the triggers to those experiences and the contexts they occur in will be different. Many of the strategies in the book can be applied more widely to sport, life or business, whilst many are also quite trading specific in terms of their context – for example how to deal with losing money.
In your honest opinion, person have to be born to trade? Or perhaps a set of necessary characteristics and predispositions can be achieved with the process of proper education and gaining experience?
This is a question that many people have asked, including Richard Dennis in his famous ‘Turtle Traders’ experiment. I believe that trading has a set of skills – technical, tactical and mental – that can be taught and learnt, and through practice people can become successful traders, if they are willing to commit to the required levels of effort, time and focused practice. I also believe that there are some people who may have some natural attributes – either genetic or learnt – that when they start their trading journey may play a part in their success above and beyond the practice they do. Some people for example have a great feel for the market, others are very good at spotting patterns, others have a natural discipline, some have courage or resilience.
“High Performance Trading” says that each trader is different. Therefore, do you think that universal Holy Grail of investing does not exist? Everyone must look for their own solutions?
The Holy Grail of trading or investing is not a magical strategy, indicator or approach. You only have to read any of the Market Wizard/Hedge Fund Wizard books to see that. Each individual is different in their make-up, motivations, situation and therefore needs to find the blend of market and strategies/approach that best matches these – they need to find their niche, or sweetspot. Once traders have learnt the basics of trading, often in a standardized way, the key next step is to individualise it. The closer a trader trades to their niche the easier it will be, the more disciplined they will be and the more profitable they will be. Trading in ways which don’t suit you, your motivations or your situation stack the odds against you before you even get to your desk.
How the average trader can develop his mind-set on a daily basis, to achieve significantly better market results?
A traders mindset is a representation of how they think and feel so to develop an improved mindset you have to practice the mindset you want to have. One of the key first steps is gaining an awareness of your current mindset by perhaps keeping a trading journal and looking for patterns in your thinking and feeling. Traders can also take time to identify their beliefs and perceptions, assess which are useful or not, and work on changing the ones that may be getting in their way. I do a lot of work with mindfulness based approaches for traders and I think that this is an excellent and practical way for traders to develop their mindset and train their brain for enhanced performance. Also, strategies such as relaxation techniques, visualization techniques and attention training can be very helpful.
Investors and personas that you cited in your book give very general advices (perseverance, achieving goals, proper capital management, etc.). In your own perception such simple advices are actually sufficient to achieve trading success?
Advice alone is never sufficient to achieving success. Success comes through a consistent commitment to practicing and developing your trading skills, improving your knowledge, creating a winning strategy and mastering your own self. Advice though can help people to realise what they need to practice, and why it is important, and I think it is good to hear a different voice other just what Steve Ward thinks!
And now for something completely different – what do you know and think about Poland and how would you encourage polish investors to read “High Performance Trading” of your authorship?
I have been coming to Poland regularly for the last 3 years to work with traders in Warsaw, Lodz, Krakow, Posnan and Gdansk, and probably spend about 20-25 days per year in Poland in total so have a working knowledge of the country, its culture and some of the sites, but because I am always on a heavy work schedule I haven’t really had time to fully appreciate it as a tourist might be able to do. I would encourage the Polish investors to read the book with a curious and open mind, and with an understanding that ultimately their success or failure in the markets could be down to their psychology, and that by working on a few simple things they could help to stack the chances of success more in their favour.