A Bumpy Road to Success: Real Stories of Traders

A Bumpy Road to Success: Real Stories of Traders

What prompts people to get into trading? What kind of mistakes do they make, what kind of bumps along the way? What motivates them and keeps them from giving up? Probably everyone who is already a trader or just studying this profession is interested in the experience of colleagues. The real experience of others like them, who are not yet Larry Williams or Jesse Livermore, but who are persistently climbing to the top.

Admittedly, you are also interested to know how other traders are doing and - let's be frank - compare yourself to them. Learn something useful. Get over obstacles with fewer bumps. Maybe somewhere to skeptically sneer, somewhere to envy. And in the end not only to satisfy curiosity but also to boost motivation. Because nothing inspires like the stories of those who are passionate about the same thing you are.

So we decided to collect a few stories from different traders. These are, as they are called, living people. Their stories are sometimes rambling but purposely published without editing.

All the stories are based on a set of questions:

  • What is your trading experience?
  • How is your trading going?
  • What mistakes have you made?
  • What conclusions have you drawn?
  • What are your goals?
  • What has trading given you?
  • Why did you start trading?
  • How much time do you devote to trading?
  • What do your friends/family think of trading?
  • If only 2% reach the pinnacle of success, are you ready to keep going?
  • What motivates you and helps you not to quit?
  • What were you doing before trading?
  • What pushed you into trading?
  • What does trading give you?

This article contains all kinds of stories of people who decided to plunge into the world of trading and achieve success. Sometimes they are surprising. Some are quite short on points. Occasionally - dramatic. Few are funny. Often - fascinating. And mostly inspiring!

Story #1

Kenneth, Netherland

Hi everyone!

What is your trading experience?

Experience is different. There was even this: a friend gave me his laptop on account of the debt of 200 dollars. It was back in 2009. The laptop was sold for 400 and a little extra bought shares of AT&T. A couple of years later sold the shares and enough to fly to the sea with my girlfriend and friends for a couple of weeks and relax.

Then I had a break in 2012-13 and then crypto and bitcoin. Not much funds, not much loss. The second trip to crypto was in 2017. Here I was already more beaten up. I entered on a solid volume. It became uncomfortable that there was not enough knowledge and I was losing, so I started digging for information. YouTube, courses, telegram channels. In general, I traded oil futures and sometimes dollar, shares are sometimes traded. I`ve tried robots and manual trading both on crypto and stock in 2 years. I`ve been trading mostly intraday.

How is your trading going?

I trade differently, now I'm on pause for a while. I have withdrawn almost all deposit and accumulate resources to enter the market seriously.

What mistakes have you made?

Hasty decisions. Self-confidence with no experience. I started straight into algorithmic trading, not understanding the mechanics of the market. In general, crypto is a complete mess. I believed in the credibility of some gurus, although in fact, they don't really care about your results.

What conclusions have you drawn?

If you're not sure, stay away. Knowledge and experience are the most valuable acquisitions. Take your constitution and perfect it all the time. No blind faith, run everything through the system and the filters of the constitution of the trade.

What are your goals?

To pump my business and invest in trading to cope with the illness of my loved one.

Why did you start trading?

It's the most exciting thing I've tried. The pulse of the market is such that you have to be very good at controlling yourself. It's a challenge.

How much time do you devote to trading?

Watching the charts daily, trading one oil futures contract. I am training.

What do your friends/family think of trading?

When I succeed, my eyes sparkle, that is enough for my close ones. My friends started to trade too, sometimes they swear because they struggle with the market.

If only 2% reach the pinnacle of success, are you ready to keep going?

I'm already going and I'm ready to keep going.

What motivates you and helps you not to quit?

The market is a direct reflection of me. I can get better by reading myself in how I trade.

What were you doing before trading?

I was an employee, then I built my own company, and produced metal constructions. Now I'm building my own logistic company and occasionally trade.

What does trading give you?

Motivation. I can see how I can do things, and this expands my opportunities. A few years ago I could not even imagine that I could make a couple of three percent to the deposit for a couple of minutes on the oil news. And the news every week. Or that I could generate sufficient return on the crypto market. I'm glad that I've found an option to see how I can do the same X's in a normal, highly liquid market. It's a bit selfish to get burned on everything you can and to lose a significant amount of funds before you start to get into it and then do it. But this is experience, and everyone pays the price for his experience.

Story #2

Steven, Australia

Good afternoon!

I've been dreaming about exchange trading since the 90s, but I've been really trading for a bit more than a year, on Bitmex cryptocurrencies, as I feel like a free man during such trading. In parallel I am engaged in special steel production, I've been working on the technology since 2003, so now I'm competing with the Chinese accumulating forces.

I lost my deposit 7 or 8 times, the biggest loss was $50K. But with every loss and not without the advice of more experienced comrades, quality increases - less risk. The strategy developed and pulling up the second, I believe that trading on the stock exchanges is mine, something like steel trading.

My wife does almost all the metalwork, I am there only as a coordinator, I do 70% of my work time in trading. I used to get a lot of pleasure from life in the form of alcohol, cigarettes, and other various delights. Later on, I gave it all up and am building up my willpower. In trading it is the same - nothing will work without self-discipline and work. I work on my emotions and stick to my system, it almost works, but you have to work on it all your life. So everything is more and more interesting ahead.

My wife supports me in everything, but my friends do not understand me, I stopped to say something about it, and I even closed it completely for all the people around me, except my wife. If according to statistics there are only 2% of survivors in trading and I do not have enough space in this 2% I will just correct the statistics and it will be 2.0000000001%. It's just mine. I do business in Europe and it's a very stressful business. By trading on the exchange, I eliminate a lot of hassle (minus employees, overhead, and lots of oversight), and I start to feel like a free man. I have a bright future ahead of me, although my past was not dark.

During my experiments in working out my steel technology, I had big failures too, like losing the whole deposit. In general, I am immune to stress. What you are doing is very helpful to me, I understand everything you are writing about, it coordinates me and leads in the right direction, I KNOW it.

Story #3

Christian, Spain


My first acquaintance with trading was a few years ago: Forex, MT4, and all kinds of courses on technical and fundamental analysis. The idea of potentially unlimited earnings with limited risk was tightly fixed in my head and I had to search for more and more information. Despite the simplicity of the MT4 platform and seemingly easy to understand technical analysis, Forex for me was still quite an incomprehensible beast, and the conflict of interest between the dealing centers and retail traders did not inspire confidence.

My focus shifted to the U.S. stock market. This was facilitated by my acquaintance with a forex company. At that time they were training and recruiting people to their staff. I saw in it an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience from real traders and without thinking twice moved to one of the cities where their office was located. After the first 3 months of training, I worked as a prop trader for about a year. Daily trading on NYSE and Nasdaq helped me form my discipline and get rid of any illusions about the ease and speed of unlimited earnings. During this time, I more than once tested the ability of my nervous system, going through the protracted down strings and successful trades, which the whole office used to watch.

For myself, I have realized that successful trading cannot be a job or a hobby, although from the outside this activity can look like one of them. Blind pursuit of wealth without systematic self-improvement is not the essence of successful trading, and not of a successful life in general. For me to be a successful trader means to have full self-control, to accept that the result, no matter what it is, is 100% your responsibility. This is what attracts me to trading. In my life, I really appreciate being able to make my own choices and take responsibility for them. I do not know how long it will take me to succeed in trading, but I know for sure this is my path and I will not turn away from it.

At the end of a year of work, my result was about zero. I had no capital to live on and I went to work, continuing to trade in the evenings. There was no result in such a schedule, so I decided to step back: build up my financial cushion and continue working on my trading only when I could devote all my time to live trading. For several years I built my career in IT, including projects on developing trading platforms. I have started a small business in e-commerce. The work completely absorbed me, and the time flew by very quickly. And then I came across a Telegram channel, where the man regularly posted trades with an impressive risk/reward ratio. And I, as a trader (with little, but experience) realized that I am in a comfort zone, from which I need to get out quickly. Such results are really sobering and make me work.

I read articles about trader's psychology in the author's presentation in the same breath and with each new material I am convinced that the author has many years of work on himself and tons of information absorbed. Now I have opened an account on NinjaTrader, am testing different trading systems on historical data with NinjaScript, and am preparing to go to full-time trading in the near future.

Story #4

Alex, Poland


I am a general practitioner by training. Still consulting patients. I've been in trading for about two years. I used to keep looking into it, but I didn't dare. I have a slight regret that I did not start earlier, but it may be that now my time has come. I am sure all life events are not coincidental.

I have never lost my account, but I do not consider this an advantage. I tried different systems and sort of found my own.

I realized that trading is not a hobby or a game and requires a serious approach to studying both maturity and psychology. Definitely not for the whiners, the weaklings, or the beggars. I had to change and change my attitude toward many things in life, which I am very happy about.

Trading, like any serious business, requires investments. And financial, emotional, and mental. The most valuable thing that is spent is time, but one cannot master trading in months.

Psychological training brought me into contact with interesting people. I have stopped getting nervous and arguing and understood that it is just a useless waste of time and that you need to communicate with people who share your values and who are on the same wavelength as you. But I willingly help those who are looking for help (not for free) in obtaining new knowledge, if I can be of any help.

In this regard, I do not distribute to friends and family what I do, so as not to provoke unnecessary questions and emotions. My wife is certainly aware of this but shares my goals because she is my companion in life. In general, I often see the joking advice of experienced traders that one should not share his successes even with a cat.

I am sure I will succeed in trading. As one of my meditation settings says - Success is my motivation. Success is my purpose. And I know it is attainable.

Trading has already changed my life for the better and I don't want to go back to the same old nonsense. And the most interesting and buzzing is that this is just the beginning.

Story #5

Santiago, Portugal


First time I got to know the market was about 13 years ago. I traded European stocks. I had no system at all. It was interesting, I watched and understood. I traded haphazardly, from time to time. I did not earn much, but I had a good side income.

About 9 years ago I moved to Prague. After some time I became acquainted with the American stock market. I took some training, and for about three years I traded American and news stocks. I saw the numbers indicating cash, but I could not take it. I was in a hurry. I lacked patience. My backside now understood - when I was not trading I saw everything - where to enter, the exact moment to enter with a short Stop. Observation without getting into the process. But the process takes more time and when you trade, you are in the process. And when inside, you can't see the big picture and you accumulate losses. And when you're not trading, you are looking at it from outside and you understand what's going on. That was the problem - to look from the outside and wait. At the time I did not fully understand that.

Later, I read in somebody's book, that the best trades are made with the following attitude: "I am not going to trade today, I just want to have a look". I started to work as an employee, after which I ran out of finances and got tired of fruitless work. In parallel, I tried to lend funds to management: total rubbish. I gave it to some private individuals and some companies. I trusted some guy with American stocks, but he lost lots of deposits because something went wrong in his head and he lost a lot of it, although he had been trading well before that for many years. Forex companies - these are nonsense - they are limited by the law and, as I understood, they cannot sit on the cash bags. They should always stay in shares, even if they are falling. In general, I do not give more to the management.

After that I tried to trade American stocks several times in parallel with my work - it was hard, I got extremely tired, my efficiency decreased at work, and I was not attentive to the market. I have stopped trading. A year ago I started to study algorithmic strategies. This excludes the problem described above. I have been trading robots for European futures. I am observing the market. There is a plan to bring the algorithms in Europe to some acceptable level of success - so far not very good with the lucrativeness. I am trying and building robots and seeing how they work out in small positions. The third quarter of last year was pretty successful, about 30% to the deposit. It was a loss in the fourth quarter of last year, but only oil was moving well there, and I do not have oil in my portfolio yet. The last quarter was slightly negative, but almost everyone who trades robots and who I know was negative. As a result, I'm about zero now. There is a lack of diversification by instruments and algorithms, but it's a matter of time. I think by the end of 2022 I will have a decent portfolio on European futures.

After futures, I wanted to work on the CME algorithms. So far I'm confused by the price step and the required deposit.

I am eager to begin manual trading. So I'm thinking of putting another monitor at work and start to trade at least in the hourly chart - not constantly staring at charts - maybe it will help me to solve the problem described above.

Looking back - how much time and finances have been spent in trading - in training, in lost deposits - I really want to get a result. I am afraid to give up everything and start trading only, taking into account my previous unsuccessful periods.

I am currently working as a chief accountant, and before trading, I was a chief accountant. I had my accounting firm before I moved to Prague. Accounting is lame - it is not an interesting job at all. This job is one of the most boring. That is one of the reasons why I hold on to my trading for so many years. Interesting.

Story #6

Elias, Germany

What is your trading experience?

I don't have much trading experience, although I started trading a long time ago, in 2003. In that distant year, when I was a student at the University of Economics, I came across an ad for the first proprietary trading firm in the city, which was recruiting potential traders for trading stocks on the NYSE. The company selected candidates based on intellectual testing and interviews, after which it offered a three-month training course and, if they passed the examinations successfully, employed them and provided them with the initial capital. The course, to put it mildly, was not very informative. The material was insufficient: the mechanism of quote operation was explained, and a couple of indicators and the basics of the classical technical analysis were given. Trading did not cross the time of studies at the university, because the trade was carried out in the evening, taking into account the U.S. time zone.

In general, fate was almost always favorable to me: I went to a good school, I entered the university on scholarship from the first attempt, and in general everything in life went according to plan. And this time I successfully passed all the stages of selection, after which I was given the capital (buying power) of $10,000 with very strict limitations in terms of risk management ($20 - daily Stop Loss). At first, like everyone else, nothing worked, and somewhere on the horizon was the possibility of being fired. In that "pre-hybrid" era (experienced traders will understand) the volatility was extremely low - the consequence of a series of crises (the Asian crisis in 1998, the dat.com bubble burst in 1999, and the events of September 11, 2001, in the USA). The basis of success at that time was reading the feeds and tracking the big players on the OpenBook (in the specialist's book, where the orders of buyers and sellers were reflected). At some point (after 9 months) I mastered these skills! I won the title of the most stable trader in the office (showing a series of 70-80 days "in the plus"). I felt like an oracle and refused to understand why some of my colleagues were still failing. The future seemed beautiful. At 21, I was making $10,000-12,000 a month (with a 40% take-home pay cut) - at the time, that was a lot of funds! In a very short period, I solved all of my fundamental problems: I bought a large apartment (which was affordable at the time), married my girlfriend, bought a car, and built a nice cushion for my rainy day. And so it lasted until 2007.

And then came the "hybrid" market: the mechanism of buyers and sellers has been fully computerized, and the people (specialists) responsible for this process have sunk into history. At the same time, a great number of HFT algorithms appeared in the market - high-speed robots having a lot of advantages over people (read the book "Flash Boys" by Lewis). Scalping, which is what we were doing at the time, was becoming very difficult. Reading the feed became virtually impossible, and OpenBook finally lost its function as a harbinger of moves. The algorithms were circling us in every way. Starting from the second half of 2007 I did not earn a single dollar, and this way until the mortgage crisis of 2008. The last significant returns were obtained in the fall of 2008, on the falls of the American giants (AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup). After that, I again stopped earning anything in the market. The "cushion" gradually dried up, and I made an emotional decision to quit the market! I am a very emotional person!!!

I submitted my resume to a major oil company, and 5 months later I was called in for an interview. Thus began my journey as office plankton, which unfortunately continues to this day. The earnings there are less than they could be in trading, but they are high enough for our country. I quickly climbed up the career ladder to the chief specialist, for, in my opinion, after trading my work in any other sphere seemed to be child's play. Ironically, it turned out that my manager was also interested in markets and invested all his savings in American stocks. He and I developed a purely human friendship on this basis, which played a role in my career development.

But, as many investors say, trading is the strongest drug in history, and I never gave up the idea of trying again. The company I worked for nurtured some very successful traders. The guys adapted to the new conditions and began to earn incredible sums, but I was afraid to go back there - I was afraid of another failure. A family and children bring a different level of responsibility and new fears.

In 2015, I decided to try my hand at the market again. By this time I had read a lot of literature and seemed ready for a new battle with the market. I opened a $10,000 account with a prop-controller with a 1:30 margin. The first weeks were very successful, but by the end of the third month, I had lost 80% of my capital. I tried to do the same thing I did in 2006 - I scalped American stocks and tilted a couple of times.

In 2017, with the support of my brothers - successful traders - I gave myself a chance again. We were supposed to be swing trading American stocks. No day trading, let alone scalping. At first, it worked... But because the overnight margin was much smaller, the capital growth was too slow - I couldn't take much volume. At the time, the guys were generating huge returns trading imbalances in the premarket (a couple of hours before the main session). Temptation took over! I broke all the agreements and tried to do the same thing without any experience. Out of the $20,000 deposit I lost about $15,000 in a couple of months. Depression, nerves, undermined health... And again a pause in my relationship with the market.

In 2019, on vacation, one of my brothers told me about CME futures. The following advantages were voiced: low margin requirements, low commissions, high liquidity, more "technicality" of movements than in stocks, and trading for almost 24 hours on the Globex. I decided to try micro-contracts with a small deposit to gain experience. I ran to deposit $5 000 to my account with Ninjatrader. The experience I already had in the stock market played into my hands: I began to withdraw small amounts from the market. I could not stop thinking about a 10-fold yield increase in case of trading the full E-mini contract.

How is your trading going?

I tried to trade a full contract and made $1-2 thousand a day a couple of times. Restored my faith in myself! Then I got tilted again, lost my confidence, and had another failed deposit. I am currently depressed and am thinking about depositing my account again, but I do not dare.

What mistakes have you made?

Took unnecessary risks. Lack of discipline. Complete inability to take a loss - I just cannot close the day in deficit. Excessive emotionality. "Tilt" - this is the main reason for all my losses. Desire to earn big here and now. Inability to relax (I watch the market for about 18 hours). Obsession with the market - does not care about anything but the market (family, children, and otherworldly pleasures).

What conclusions have you drawn?

I have to work on myself in terms of discipline. The technique must be, but in the absence of discipline, all attempts to earn anything  are doomed!

What are your goals?

To keep on fighting. To try to achieve a stable result in my trading and to make it my major source of income. I have business with my friend, but it is still at the stage of formation and does not bring any return. I dream of quitting my job in a corporation, but it has not worked out yet.

What has trading given you?

Start-up capital at 19, which allowed me to solve a bunch of problems and become self-sufficient. "The green days in trading give me personally an inexpressible feeling of confidence and happiness. "Red" days have the opposite effect)

Why did you start trading?

To earn lots of cash!) When I was 16 I read "The Financier" by Dreiser and dreamed about exchange speculation. As soon as I got the chance I did not hesitate and started trading.

How much time do you devote to trading?

All the time, all my free time, to be exact! A friend deals with the general business, only occasionally asking for advice. The rest of the time, including weekends, is the market).

What do your friends/family think of trading?

I react very emotionally to the drawbacks of trading, so their attitude is mostly negative. Being worried about me they don't want me to trade.

If only 2% reach the pinnacle of success, are you ready to keep going?

To this day I haven't stopped moving. And I think as long as there is a financial opportunity, I will continue. Until the last drop of blood, as they say.

What motivates you and helps you not to quit?

Lots of examples of successful traders among my friends and brothers. The opportunities which the market provides.


As you can see from all the given stories, there is one thing uniting traders - they haven't given up after the first loss. Despite all the obstacles along the way, they managed to analyze the mistakes made and kept learning, and all of them are still looking for different ways to improve. Consequently, the only way to succeed here is to do your due diligence and go on.