The Mind of a Master Trader: WD Gann’s Five Pieces of Advice for Trading Success

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Trading can be exciting, but it’s also tricky. It’s like a roller coaster – big ups and downs can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Legendary trader WD Gann discovered the secrets of making money on Wall Street.

Gann learned that success in trading is not about luck or random guesses. Instead, he relied on developing specific skills and following a carefully planned course of action.

advice from WD Gann for trading success

In this article, we will examine the five essential pieces of advice from WD Gann for trading success.

These pieces of advice from Gann will help you improve your trading psychology, whether you are a beginner or an experienced trader.

Remember, trading is a journey, not a race. Be patient, learn from your experiences, and most importantly, have fun on your trading journey! So let’s get started.

Knowledge – The Foundation of Success in Trading

WD Gann: “I cannot say too much about the gaining of knowledge. You cannot get knowledge without spending time in study. You must not look for a quick and easy way to make money in the markets. When you have paid in advance with time and study and gained the knowledge, you will find it easy to make money. The more time you put into gaining knowledge, the more money you will make later. Knowledge is not enough. You must put into use what you learn to benefit. You will learn by doing. Action and execution at the proper time bring profits”.

Becoming a knowledgeable trader involves countless hours of study and analysis.

There are no shortcuts, magic formulas, or get-rich-quick schemes to succeed.

Instead, success requires a commitment to continuous learning, a willingness to invest time and effort upfront, and the discipline to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world trading scenarios.

It is worth mentioning that Gann stresses the importance of gaining knowledge through hands-on practice and experience. Simply reading books or articles isn’t sufficient – putting what you’ve learned into action is essential.

That involves creating a trading plan, testing different and unique trading strategies, and analyzing the results to refine your approach. It’s a process of trial and error, learning from mistakes, and adapting to market conditions.

The more time and effort you dedicate to learning, the better prepared you’ll be to take advantage of opportunities and overcome challenges. With each trade, analysis, and market change, your understanding deepens, your instincts sharpen, and your confidence grows.

Patience – The Art of Timing and Discipline

WD Gann: “This is one of the very important qualifications for success in trading. First, you must have the patience to wait for an opportunity to determine a definite buying or selling point. When you make a trade, you must have the patience to wait for opportunities to get out right or to make a profit. You must determine a definite change in trend before you close a trade to take profits. This only results from study of past market movement and from acquiring the proper knowledge”.

Let’s take an analogy to understand Patience’s role in trading.

Imagine you’re playing a game of chess.

And so, While playing, you wouldn’t move your pieces randomly, right? You’d think carefully about each move, waiting for the right opportunity to attack or defend.

Trading is similar. You need to be patient and wait for the right signals from the market before you make a move (trade).

Being patient doesn’t mean passively waiting on the sidelines and blindly hoping for the best. It’s an active effort, a conscious choice to wait until the market reveals the right opportunity.

Once you have entered a trade, Patience becomes even more critical. It becomes essential to resist the temptation to take profits too early due to fear of a reversal or to hold onto a losing position in the hope of a quick recovery.

As Gann says, “This requires discipline and the ability to resist emotional reactions like fear or greed.” By staying disciplined and sticking to your trading plan, you can make rational decisions rather than emotional ones. In short, Patience is super important for making money in the markets.

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Nerve – The Courage to Act Decisively

WD Gann: “A man can have the finest gun in the world, but if he hasn’t the nerve to pull the trigger, he will never kill any game. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you haven’t the nerve to buy and sell, you cannot make a profit. Knowledge gives a man nerve, makes him bold and enables him to act at the right time. When a man fails to buy or sell at the right time, the result is that he becomes afraid. Fear is a detrimental influence. When he has too much nerve and buys on hope at the top, he is guessing. When influenced by hope alone, he cannot expect profits.”

Knowledge and Patience prepare you, but the nerve ignites your actions and leads you to success.

To explain this simple idea, Gann used a powerful analogy to describe the essence of nerves in trading: “A man can have the finest gun in the world, but if he hasn’t the nerve to pull the trigger, he will never kill any game.”

Just like a hunter needs the courage to pull the trigger at the ideal moment, a trader needs the nerve to enter or exit a trade when market conditions align with analysis.

Having knowledge is only half the battle.

But without the courage to act decisively based on that knowledge, profits remain elusive. Knowledge empowers you to identify high-probability trading opportunities, but nerves allow you to grab them.

Of course, knowledge is the foundation of nerves.

The more you understand the markets, the more confident you become in your ability to make sound decisions. This confidence, in turn, fuels your courage, allowing you to act decisively when opportunities arise.

Gann also recognized the flip side of the coin.

Just as too little nerve can leave you paralyzed by fear, too much nerve can lead you into trouble. That highlights the importance of striking a balance between courage and caution.

It’s about making informed decisions based on a sound trading strategy, not unrealistic optimism. A courageous trader is not afraid to take calculated risks but also understands the importance of risk management and the need to protect their capital.

Developing nerves is an ongoing process that requires both knowledge and experience. Remember, as Gann said, “Knowledge gives a man nerves, makes him bold, and enables him to act at the right time.”

Good Health – The Unsung Hero of Trading Success

WD Gann: “No man makes a great success in any business, unless his health is good, because a brilliant mind cannot work successfully with a weakened body. You will not have the proper patience or enough nerve, if your health is impaired. When you are in bad health, you become despondent, lose hope, have too much fear, and will be unable to act at the right time. I have been through the game through all of these years. Anything that could happen in the future in trading has happened to me. I have learned through experience. I have tried to trade when I was in bad health, always resulting in failure, but when I am in good physical condition, I act at the right time, making a success. If your health gives away, the most important thing is to work to get your health back in perfect shape, for HEALTH is WEALTH”.

Staying healthy is extremely important for performing well in the market. A sharp mind and a strong body are necessary for making sound trading decisions.

Think about it: if you’re feeling tired or unwell, it’s not easy to concentrate. You might become irritable and make mistakes.

However, when you’re healthy, things are different.

You have the Patience to wait for the right opportunities, the courage to make tough decisions, and the focus to stay at the top of your game. When you feel good, you think clearly, and that’s extremely important when dealing with money.

Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you’re feeling drained or overwhelmed, take a break and recharge. Step away from the screen, go for a walk in nature, spend time with loved ones, or do something you enjoy.

So, if you want to be a good trader, take care of yourself. A healthy body and mind will help you make more informed decisions and ultimately help you achieve your goals.

Capital The Fuel for Your Trading Journey

WD Gann: “When you have acquired all other qualifications for making a success in trading, you must, of course, have capital, but if you have KNOWLEDGE and PATIENCE, you can start with small capital and make large profits, provided you use STOP LOSS ORDERS; take small losses and do not OVERTRADE”.

Think of your capital as the fuel that powers your trading engine.

Just as a car needs gasoline, you need capital to enter trades and potentially profit from market movements.

But having a full tank doesn’t guarantee a successful journey.

You also need to know how to drive efficiently, navigate the terrain, and avoid running out of fuel along the way. That’s where Knowledge, Patience, and the other rules discussed come into play.

They guide you toward profitable opportunities and help you avoid mistakes. With a solid understanding of market factors and the discipline to wait for the right setups, you can make the most of your capital, regardless of size.

Let’s summarize each of the Five Pillars of Successful Trading

Knowledge forms the foundation of successful trading. Understanding market behaviour, technically and fundamentally, and risk management is crucial. Knowledge is acquired through continuous learning and practical application, not overnight.

Knowledge transforms patience into a guiding light. It empowers you to wait for the right opportunities, resist impulsive actions, and make calculated decisions based on your analysis.

Knowledge and patience form the foundation, but nerves spark action. Trusting your analysis, implementing your strategy, and taking calculated risks takes courage. Nerve, driven by knowledge and balanced by patience, enables you to seize opportunities and overcome market challenges.

Good health is a critical factor in trading success, although it is often overlooked. A healthy body and mind provide the energy, focus, and strength needed to make wise decisions under pressure. By prioritizing your well-being, you ensure mental clarity and emotional stability to deal with market ups and downs.

With knowledge, patience, nerves, and good health, you’re well-equipped to utilize the power of capital. Effective capital management is crucial whether you’re starting with a small or large amount. Capital is a tool, and like any tool, it’s most effective when used wisely and strategically.

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About the author

Divesh Jotwani is an active and full-time trader in the Indian markets. He has spent over 20+ years researching and discovering WD Gann's methods and applying them daily in the markets.