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FOREX TRADERS

Interview with Jason Stapleton

CEO and head trading coach at 4xTradersLive

Jason recently turned $250.000 into $940.000 in 90 days during the Varengold Trading Challenge 

forex-traders-interview-jason-stapleton

Jason Stapleton explains to FX Trader Magazine the reasons why he decided to participate in a trading challenge: to provide evidence, as CEOand head trading coach at 4xTradersLive, of what he and the trading style he teaches can produce. 

To become a successful trader, he says, you should follow the advice of a successful trader and treat your trading as a business.

His number one advice as a coach is to stay away from chat rooms, web forums and social networks, to make sure his traders focus on a new way of thinking, of looking at the market and at themselves.

Jason explains why, once you have a system that has a positive expectancy, 100% of your success falls on your ability to trade it day in and day out, which is why he focuses a lot on psychology. Although he has a passion for economics and politics, he has developed a purely technical approach to trading and explains why there is no possible way for a private trader who hasn’t got a team of people to make educated decisions based on fundamentals.

FXTM

Can you tell us about your story? How did you get interested in trading? How long have you been trading for? What is your experience in trading?

JS

I started out managing my own investments. I started to put some money away, I was beginning to build up a nest egg and I wanted to manage that myself. I had the belief that nobody cared more about my money than me and I did not want to give it to somebody to put it into mutual funds. I wanted to be able to do the research myself. That quickly turned to “Hey, I could use some of this money to trade with!”. And I started out trading some options. I ended up losing quite a lot of money trading options. But I had the belief that I could figure out how to do it. So I continued to study, buying all the books, going to seminars, then I thought “let’s go ahead and trade stocks”. But the market was running on the short side, so I decided to have a look at futures. So I rolled from options, to stocks, to futures and had very little success. Over the course of many years of practice, trial and errors, I came to the conclusion that what I’m really doing is bouncing from system to system, from market to market and I wasn’t focusing on what the real issue was, which is: psychology. One has to get hold of the psychology of the market and their own personal psychology in order to be effective. It doesn’t really matter whether the systems are profitable or not, if you don’t have the discipline to trade day in and day out, under a set of rules and conditions that you’ve layed out, you’re not going to be successful. And the more I studied and the more I read and the more I talked to successful traders, that’s what they are saying. Richard Dennis said it the best, he said: “Anybody can create a trading system that is 80% good and is the best one ever written. The question is whether or not they’ll have the discipline to follow it.” I started to work really heavily on my psychology, being disciplined and fixing in a set of rules. Following all those rules, I began to grow and now instead of constantly losing, I’m consistently winning, which is the ultimate goal for anybody who’s trading.

FXTM

You recently finished 4th at the Varengold Trading Challenge. First, why did you decide to participate? A lot of trainers preach but they don’t “walk the walk”...     

JS

Because of my business, I get hit with a lot of people who are asking me for things like: “Show me your performance records” so, for a long time, I used to say “here is what our trading systems are producing, here is what we are doing in the live room” and what was coming back was: “How can I make sure your numbers are truthful?”, or “Let me see your personal statements”. But I’m not giving my personal trading records, those are very private. And if I provide the records, they say: “How can I validate that they are actually true?” or “you’re hiding your losses, there is no way you can be achieving such results.” So, when the challenge came out I thought “this is my chance to provide evidence of what I personally and the trading style that I teach can produce.” It’s over a set period of time. It’s third party regulated. They track the results. So I stepped in and I traded for 3 months. I used a longer term swing trading system, that I developed. And this is what I do now. I get about 10 to 15 trades a month. The system itself, with the position-sizing model that I used in the trading challenge, generated just short of 300% return over the course of these 3 months. The high water mark at that traders challenge was about 309% in 3 months, so a little over 100% a month. Should that be expected by traders who are coming in? Absolutely not. I was trading aggressively. I’ve been doing this a very long time. And we want to shoot for consistent profitability. That’s my ultimate goal for people that I teach to or work with.

FXTM

You said you started with options then stocks and futures, and that after many trials and errors, you finally found the right discipline and psychology. How did you reach that step?  How did you find your niche and trading style? Is it only a matter of experience?

JS

What I did is I went to find somebody who was successful and who had an outline of “This is how it should be done. This is how you become a professional trader”. And I listened to every single thing that he told me to do. He said “This is how you write out a trading plan”, and this is how I wrote out my trading plan. He said “This is how you test your system, this is how you strategize on a development process”. I use an “If-Then” syntax for all the strategy development that I do. And it’s very simple, for example, IF the market does this, THEN we do this. And we try to eliminate as much subjectivity out of our trading as possible. And that’s what I tried to do when I was learning to be successful. I didn’t want emotion to play any kind of role in my decision making. Once I got on the path, it took some time, it took months and months of trial and error, continuing to trade and continuing to lose money, before I finally got things thought out. I would love to tell you that I’m 100% cured of emotional response on the market now, but I’m not. Nobody ever is. But I do know how to trade now. And it came through a long process of self reflection and study, along with the help of someone that I knew was successful. 

FXTM

In your opinion, what is the difference between a winning trader and a losing trader?

JS

Winning traders treat their trading like a business. In the forex markets, brokers are making it easier and easier to open these 500$ or 1.000$ accounts. Those are price points that people used to go gamble with, on a week-end or when taking a trip to Vegas. So trading for a lot of people is nothing more than gambling. They come in, they don’t have a plan, they don’t know what they are doing and they’re taking signals without knowing why they are taking them, and all of that adds up. Winning traders have a plan. They treat their trading like a business and they are extremely disciplined in what they do. They have taken the time and the effort to develop a plan that they know is effective and every single day they focus on nothing more than trading that plan. They don’t deviate from it. It is not a game. They’re very serious about it. Those are the kind of traders that I like to see coming to me, or people who say “look I’m not successful, I’m losing money, I know I’m doing something wrong but I’m committed to figure this out and I want to do whatever is necessary to be successful.” 

FXTM

You mentioned that, when you started, even though you were not successful, somehow you had the belief that you could become a successful trader. How do you explain that conviction? Is this typical of successful traders? 

JS

I don’t know. I thought: “I’m an intelligent person. So this is not an issue of me not being smart enough to understand what I need to do, this is me not understanding what I need to do and not understanding how I need to go about doing that.” So I sought out someone to help me to figure that out. And I found out that it had nothing to do with the systems that I was using or the trading plans that I had already written out. Ultimately I could have had a million dollar strategy put together and I would have blown that strategy up! Because I wouldn’t have followed it, I didn’t have any discipline. I hadn’t spent any time working on the real issues that were causing me to lose money, which were emotional. But I knew that I loved trading. I absolutely love it! I can spend all day every day watching the market, teaching about what I’ve learned and studied. I have a real passion for it. And I had a core belief that, if I had such a passion for it, there had to be a way for me to be successful at it. So I made a decision to be successful. I don’t care what it takes. I don’t care what is costs me. I’m going to figure this out and I’m going to be successful. What you see in the Varengold Trader Challenge and in what I do now, in the trading and teaching, is a reflection of the years of hard work that it took me to get from point to point. And my goal now of course is just to cut down on the amount of time that it takes for traders to get from point A to point B. For those who want to be successful, I want to make that transition as quickly as possible.

FXTM

You’re CEO of www.4xtraderslive.com training company. Did you create the company? Can you tell us about this project and your role in it?  

JS

I was trading full time from home and I was getting lonely. I thought, “why don’t I start offering some training and open a live trading room for people to come in, see what I do and may be trade along with me”. So I put together a little and cheap website - I think we spent 2.000 dollars to put the website together - and I opened up a virtual room using a software system where I can show my computer screen to people. I just said “it’s free for a week, come on in and see what we do” and I started getting people to say “would you work with me?”, so I started building up a core network of traders that I mentored. And that has grown and developed into the business that you now see.

I think people see in our company something different from what they see in other places and especially in the Foreign Exchange world. Because forex is so unregulated. There are a lot of swindlers out there that are looking to take your money and nothing more. But I have a vested interest in seeing my clients be successful. I don’t take just anybody. People have to fit a profile, they have to build a place where they are financially solvent, they have to be ready to do what’s necessary to make the change. The course is very expensive compared to what else is out there on the market. So in return I have to give a lot of information, a lot of counseling and a lot of work. 

FXTM

What about results? 

JS

My goal is to take traders from conscious incompetence to a place of conscious competence, where they say “I understand now what I need to do to be successful and I’m working everyday with the support of you and your training program in order to become consistently profitable.” And many of them are now. I worked with a wide variety of traders, so the course in itself has been widely successful, just in the amount of people and the response we are getting from the program.  

FXTM

How much time do you think a trader should spend on training everyday? And does training really make a difference in terms of trading performance?

JS

We know scientifically that in order to break habits and reinstall new habits, it is a 60 to 90 day process. If for years you believed that the markets are crooked and that the game is squewed in the favor of large banks and institutions, it’s going to take some time to realize that all charts are the same, no matter which instrument or time frame you’re looking at, pattern formations work. And we focus 100% on technical analysis. Being part of the live trading room and of the private client group that I have is extremely beneficial to them because it helps reinforce what I teach in the program. We have to continue to reinforce these core beliefs so that we can change our perception of the markets and our perception of what success is.

FXTM

What do you think comes first: to have the right trading system or to have the right psychology?

JS

You have to have a system that has a positive expectancy and that’s maths terminology that says that “if you follow this system, over time it’s going to produce more money than it loses.” If you don’t have that, I don’t care how disciplined you are, you’re going to be disciplined to trade a losing system. And that’s not going to be effective. But once you have a system that has a positive expectancy, 100% of your success falls on your ability to trade it day in and day out. And that falls completely on psychology. My personal belief is that trading is 99% emotional and 1% technical. Once you learn the skills, once you understand how to write your trading plan, how to trade your trading system, then all you have to do is focus on trading the system. I understand that there is a lot of debate on that. Some people will say “it has all to do with the system that you have”, and I disagree because if simply having a good trading system was adequate for producing successful traders - there are great free trading systems out there, you could trade Richard Dennis’s Turtle system right now - a 21 day breaokut system - MACD Crossover produces really great results too. If it was just about the system why don’t we have 90% success rate instead of 90% failure rate? It’s because it has nothing to do with your system. It has to do with your psychology, your ability to be disciplined in the market.

FXTM

As a trainer, what is the most important advice or the one you give more often to your students?

JS

First thing I tell them is to stay away from the chat rooms and the web forums. That’s an absolute disaster. They started springing up as a way for traders to come together and learn from each other and now you see social networking groups for currency traders, and I get emails everyday from people inviting me to join their social networking group or find a way to collaborate so that I can share my knowledge and experience with other traders. I think it is a terrible place for new traders and those who want to learn to be successful to be. You don’t see these social networks and chat forums full of highly successful traders who are sharing years of knowledge and wisdom. It’s a bunch of other traders who are losing money, who are unsuccessful and complainers, users and takers, corrupting the minds of traders who have a genuine interest in learning what they need to be doing. So that’s the first thing I tell them: “You are no longer allowed to spend anytime there”. The information that you get will come from me, from our program, or from other legitimate sources. And I provide them with these legitimate sources. And that’s a condition before they sign up for my course, that for the next 3 to 4 months they are going to do nothing but what I tell them to do. Because I want them focused on a new way of thinking, a new way of looking at the market and at themselves.

FXTM

Many traders dream to become professional traders in a short period of time. When do you think a trader is ready for this important step?

JS

It has to do ultimately with money. Let’s say you open a 25.000 dollar account and you are doing very well generating 10% a month. Now you have to look at the kind of job you’re doing and the salary you’re getting. Are you a doctor making 300.000 dollars a year? The amount of capital you’re going to need to go full time with your trading is very different from someone who’s a plumber and makes 50.000 dollars a year. So that’s a very individual decision and it has to do ultimately with the size of your account balance.  

FXTM

What kind of system do you teach in your course?

JS

I have several systems to cater to individual traders. We have a day trading system that’s called “Trend Trader”, the “T Squared” system, which gets traded basically Tuesday through Thursday. Then we have a swing trading system that I call a “CTS system”, which is a countertrend divergence model system. Then we have a longer term, like day trader positions system, for those people who work full time jobs, and of course I have the system which I used in the Varengold Challenge that I show traders and that I offer them as a course of study. But it requires a very high level of technical analysis and knowledge as it uses a lot of Fibonacci and ratio patterns in order to determine price action. And because it is hard to learn, I created a private client group, where I take them every day through the trade setups, I show them how I’m drawing in the Fibonacci patterns, I show them what we would expect to see, I offer them trading calls and really give them a blueprint for success. And my goal is that, one day, they’ll be successful enough so that they won’t feel the need to use the services anymore. 

FXTM

Why do you trade Forex and what can you tell us about this market? What are the advantages and disadvantages of trading currencies?          

JS

I can tell you why I trade forex. I love politics and I’m very interested in economics, in what our Federal Reserve is doing and how that’s going to affect business. And as I started looking at my two main passions - politics and trading - one of the best outlets for me was Foreign Exchange, because not only do I get to study the politics that we are doing in the US but also what the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are  doing. How their economies are going to be affecting currency prices. 

Some of the benefits of trading foreign exchange is that it is an unregulated market. It’s a spot market. You can trade micro lots and mini lots, which means that if you only have 5.000 or 10.000 dollars you can start trading whereas in the futures market you need 30.000 to 50.000 dollars of starting capital, just because of the cost of buying the contract. So in the forex market, more people can participate.

FXTM

But do you use your fondamental knowledge and information in your trading or do you have a purely technical approach?

JS

No, I don’t use any of it in my trading. That’s what’s funny is that I read all this economic information all the time. But when I sit down at my computer, I’m 100% a technical trader. I don’t care whether everybody else in the world says that the European Central Bank is going to raise interest rates.
If my charts are telling me that I need to be long or short, that’s what I’m going to do.  I know several fundamental analysis traders, I’m not suggesting by any means that you can’t be successul as a fundamental trader, but what I can tell you is that every fundamental trader that I know has a team of people that do nothing all day long but research. But if you’re an individual trader, working from home, not only do you not have access to the information that you need in order to make an intelligent decision, but even if you did, you couldn’t go through it all.  There is no possible way, in my opinion, for a private trader who doesn’t have a team of people, to make educated decisions based on fundamentals. So what we do is that we eliminate all that subjectivity and we focus exclusively on technical analysis. 

FXTM

What do you think about fully automatic algorithmic trading?

JS

Most of the systems that people are going to run across online - these 99$ to 200$ systems - are just junk. You’re probably going to lose every single penny that you put in there. Systems can be automated and we are working on automating a couple of ours, but again it comes back to this issue of psychology. What happens if you start using a fully automated trading system and you run into a drawdown? What happens when that system generates 3 or 4 losses in a row? What typically happens is that the trader comes in and starts cutting trades short, stopping the automated trader just before it runs back into 2 or 3 winners that would have made up for all the losses. Whether you are using an automated trading system or your own trading plan, you have to be disciplined about it. I advise my traders to stay away from any automated system, simply because if you’ve got a million dollar system, there are hedge funds and banks who would pay millions of dollars for it.
So why are you selling it for 99.99$ on the internet? 

FXTM

Would you like to give any other important piece of advice to our readers? 

JS

I would just say that if you’re not a successful trader right now, but you want to be, make a decision that you want to be successful, and then find somebody that you know is successful, and listen to what they are going to teach you. That’s the best advice I can give because this is the advice that led me to where I am. Continue to learn and grow. Spend some time working on traders psychology. There is a great book called Market Wizards by Jack Schwager - it’s one of the required readings for my courses - and it’s just a list of about 20 great traders and how they became successful. One of the best things that you can do as a trader is to emulate those who have already been successful.