14 Characteristics of Highly Successful Option Traders

There are many lists out there detailing what makes people successful in life. If we want to become successful option traders, these 14 specific characteristics are needed to succeed.
Kirk Du Plessis
Jul 5, 2021

During my time working with Deutsche Bank and BB&T, I had the opportunity to learn from, observe, and be coached by some highly successful traders which helped me to understand the essential characteristics for success. When I started coaching people to become successful options traders, the experience only reaffirmed my view on the qualities and features that make someone a a successful trader.

  1. Be Disciplined - It is not possible to be disciplined up to a certain point. That is just a cop out. Discipline is an all-or-nothing character trait, particularly when it comes to being a successful option trader. Either you are going to become a successful trader, or you are not. If you are, you will need to exercise discipline within your trading behavior all the time to be successful. This doesn’t mean you have to focus 100% of your day on trading alone – that would be crazy. It means that you are 100% committed to becoming better over time.
  2. Learn From Losses - Every trader loses money, and you need to be able to accept this as a fact of your newly chosen life without panicking. Everyone in this field loses money, but the character trait that separates bad traders from successful options traders is the ability to keep going and to learn from the loss. Use the loss as a learning opportunity, to see where you can move or adjust your strategy to reduce the risk.
  3. Always Be Willing To Learn - The markets change every day, and there are always new trends, strategies, and ideas springing up from across the industry. You need to make sure that you keep up and are adaptable and willing to learn new things on a daily basis. Make sure you are signed up to relevant news and blog sites so that you always have the latest details at your fingertips about the market place. Successful options traders are always learning.
  4. Be You - Your trading will reflect your personality – don’t just follow what everyone else is doing. Take time to understand the market, look at your personal trading goals and aspirations and your willingness to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone. If you don’t match your personality to your trading style you are unlikely to be happy or to succeed.
  5. Make Your Own Trading Decisions - You need to learn to think for yourself in your trading career. While it’s good to know what’s going on in the news and media, you need to make sure you are making your decisions and not being influenced too much by anything around you. You need to learn for yourself and take responsibility for your choices and actions. Learn as much as you need to be able to make personal decisions and reach your conclusions. That’s what marks out the really successful option traders.
  6. Follow Your Own Trading Plan - It is important to create your own trading plan that you understand and trust. If you use someone else's ideas or strategies you won't be able to recognize what is going wrong during inevitable downturns. Take time to thoroughly think out a trading plan that matches your personality and trading style, write it down, and stick to it.
  7. Backtest Your Strategies - To have confidence in your trading plan you must understand its historical performance. Take the time to do proper research and analyze the data to determine how and why each strategy works and you will be less inclined to jump ship when the inevitable drawdown occurs.
  8. Be Proactive, Never Just React - Successful options traders understand that their greatest enemy is their own emotional state and they understand just how dangerous it can be if they overreact and make quick decisions without thinking. A real character trait for success is never letting emotions control your activities in the market. You should always follow your trading plan and make logical decisions. Be proactive and understand the market through your learning, rather than just reacting to it.
  9. Broaden Your Learning Scope - Don’t just stick to one aspect of trading, Make sure you are opening to learning about options and futures and stocks and forex as that will help you to become a better overall trader. You need to understand how the markets all work together and affect each other to help make the most appropriate trade decisions for your portfolio. Don’t dismiss any aspect as too hard, or not relevant. The more you learn the more armed you are for any trading situation.
  10. Take Your Time and Be Patient - A successful options trader will be quick to take losses and slow to make profits. Beginners take profits quickly because they’ve never had them before and fear to lose them. Wealth isn’t built in a day or a week – it is slowly accumulated with consistent trading strategies. Take your time and be consistent and patient, don’t rush in and don’t panic. Just follow your trading plan.
  11. Avoid the Ego Trip - This is a characteristic that applies throughout life and to any profession but the most successful people are not full of ego and a sense of self-importance. Take that dedication and discipline you are using to trade well, and remain a respectful and humble person.
  12. Keep Accurate Trading Records - Having the right records to refer to will help you avoid making wrong decisions and also making losses. Keep accurate records of your trading book to learn from and to show your earning/losses if you need to for tax purposes.
  13. Trade to Live, Don’t Live to Trade - The ultimate goal of any trader is to make money and be financially independent but that should never mean spending every waking hour watching the stock market movement on the screen. Get out there and enjoy life as well.
  14. Develop These Character Traits for Yourself - If you’re serious about trading for a living, working to incorporate these traits is a step closer towards your goal. Starting small and determining why you want to become a trader in the first place will help drive you through the tough times as they are inevitable. Just as I mentioned in #1, the determined and disciplined trader will always make it in the end!
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