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Since the world’s No. 1 terrorist was recently crossed off of the Most Wanted list, there’s been an extraordinary interest in the crack commando team that executed the mission: the U.S. Navy SEALs. For those who don’t know, “SEAL” is an acronym that stands for Sea, Air, and Land. These elite professionals, along with other special operation teams around the globe, are usually the first to be called upon to get the bad guys in any environment, under any condition, and at a moment’s notice. Their typical day at work could involve strapping on 200 lbs. of gear, jumping from a plane at 30,000 ft., swimming a few miles on to a beach, and climbing a cliff just to get to the task at hand. Needless to say, not a job for the weak of mind or heart.

In a way, consistently profitable traders are the “Navy SEALs” of the financial world. Of course, there isn’t the physical stress of endless running, freezing cold swims, or obstacle courses for us to grind through, but the psychological stress of having to perform in an ever-changing environment is there. For both SEALs and market speculators, there is a constant “unknown,” so thorough preparation is crucial as the consequences for lack thereof can be severe. As the saying goes, “the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”

So, what separates those who make it to the elite level and those who don’t? In his book, The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228, as Dick Couch followed a BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal) class of wannabe warriors, he asked the same question to the training instructors. They responded…

“…most classes break out something like this: Perhaps 10 or 15 percent of those who arrive simply do not have the physical tools to make it through the training or Hell Week: they cannot meet the performance standards or they break down physically. There is another 5 or 10 percent who, unless they break a leg or are otherwise seriously injured, will make it no matter how much they get beat….But the other 75 to 85 percent are up for grabs. If this large percentage of trainees can find it within themselves, or are properly motivated, they can make it…”

I believe the same numbers apply to newbie traders. The majority have the mental capabilities to learn and execute proper trading skills (e.g., risk management, chart analysis, position sizing, etc.), but the ones with the best chance of making it to consistent profitability are those who are mentally tough and disciplined enough to stay focused and get better despite fear and adversity.

The harsh reality is that traders will constantly get beat up in the markets, just as BUD/S trainees get beat by the cold surf and relentless instructors; often to a point where the psychological pain is unbearable. At that point we ask ourselves, “Do I really want to do this? WILL I do what it takes to live the life of an elite performer–constantly learning, preparing, and practicing every day–or do all I have is the image and romance of being a profitable forex trader or Navy SEAL in me? “

It comes down to one thing to achieve the life of an elite performer: a true passion for what you do. Whether it’s the life of a trader, a commando, a musician, a doctor, or whatever you want to be, if you do have that real passion, then the motivation to never quit when the going gets tough will always be there inside of you. And with countless hours of deliberate practice, you will develop a set of skills that will change your life, and hopefully others, for the better.

So, it’s time to ask yourself, “is this what I really want to do?”

And since I think they deserve more than a day, Happy Memorial Week to all who serve and sacrifice for their country!