Don’t try to follow a straight line, it never happens that way in life. It’s a process of elimination. The more things you try, the more you will learn about yourself and the faster you will find your true passion.
Matt Choi is the founder and chief strategist of Certus Trading, a trading education company with a mission to help traders and investors achieve consistent profits with stocks, ETFs, options, commodity and financial futures, and FOREX. Matt has over 16 years of experience in trading the markets and is also the author of The Winning Way, a book that highlights the importance of a winning psychological mindset for successful trading.
Where did the idea for Certus Trading come from?
It actually comes from a deep tie to my personal journey as a trader. We are a trading education company. We teach students how to become successful traders and how to become consistent and make money that way.
“Certus” is actually the Latin word for certainty. In my early trading days, I always tried to be perfect. But, eventually, I realized that’s not possible.
There is no certainty in the market. There is no holy grail. And the approach I had to trading was wrong. That’s because there are so many participants in the market that things can change on the dime. It’s not just me. I’m not the only person who is trading and there is no way we can predict the market with 100% certainty.
My approach to trading has changed. What we are looking for instead is an edge that repeats itself over and over again — repetitive patterns, this is the way we trade. We are going to be wrong, and I realize that. So the word “certus” serves as a constant reminder to me and to my students about how we need to approach trading in order to be successful.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get up in morning and have a quick workout. I then cook breakfast for my son and take him to school. When I get home, I review my personal trades and see if I need to take any actions. I check what happened in Asia the night before and if it looks like it will be a normal day, then I actually won’t look at the markets again until the afternoon.
A lot of traders are glued to their screen, but I find that to be very counterproductive. There is a lot of noise throughout the trading day that affects traders. Unless you are a day trader, there is really no point, no need to stare at the screen all day long.
In the mid-morning, I will reply to emails and email students to help them with their trading and I will schedule my coaching calls with students. I only do a few calls a week, so that I can be focused while I am coaching my students.
During the day, I work on the business of running Certus Trading. We try to find new traders who are suitable and qualified to learn my trading approach and we spend a lot of time making sure that our students are set up to be successful. We also have meetings and conference calls with our partners, our tech team, and our customer service team to make sure we are delivering our goals.
After the markets are closed, in the late afternoon when things are quiet, that’s when I look for trading set-ups and opportunities. After that, it’s family time. My wife is a great cook, so I help her out and I find a wine that we want to drink that night and spend some quality time with my kid. We talk about the day, what happened at school. That’s very important. After that, my wife and I get our kid ready to sleep, read to him, give him a bath and then I send any trade alerts to my students and get ready for my own trading the next day.
If we have time after that, we catch up on sports. That’s pretty much a normal day. To me, it’s very productive, we get the work done quickly and I get to spend my time with the family as well.
How do you bring ideas to life?
That’s a very interesting question. I’ll start with this, I am a rule-based trader, which means I develop a strategy that makes sure that if A, B, and C happens, then I will pull the trigger on a trade. So, finding that A, B, and C is the key. Each strategy takes a long time to test and develop, but once it passes the test, once I have used it myself for awhile, the strategy is in the playbook forever.
As an educator, it’ actually pretty straightforward. I only teach what works for me and then I ask questions. Is this teachable? Can I communicate this idea and and strategy to my students? Is it something that they can understand easily or is it just too complicated to teach?
If I think that can be done, then the next step is to move to the business side of things. Can we sell this? Can we attract the right people to come and learn this? How do we market this education? I think if people follow this genuine framework and try to help people, it creates a business that is sustainable and helpful.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In general, I think a big trend that people keep forgetting is data mining. Data mining has been around for a long time, but it has always been limited to the large corporations and the elite; the people with money to buy this data.
But, now technology and access to this technology has increased so much that anyone can access a tremendous amount of information very easily and cheaply.
As a trader, this is a dream come true because I can build my strategies from hard data, data that I couldn’t get before.
As a business owner, we can market our service and education with precision. Look at Facebook and Amazon, Google and YouTube, they’re all collecting data on everyone. Basically, if you know who you are targeting, you can find those people and it doesn’t cost a lot to reach those people.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
This actually came about pretty recently. I would say in the past year. I never thought this would be so important and it is as simple as this: get enough sleep. I used to work so many hours, thinking that hours worked is equivalent to productivity. That can’t be further from the truth.
Now I get 8 hours of sleep a night. The way I see this is, your sleep is the beginning and end of the day. I notice now, when I sleep well and sleep enough, I am super productive during the day. I can stay laser focused and my powers are stronger than when I don’t get enough sleep.
Recently, my son was sick and we had interrupted sleep. You have no idea how that affected me. I still see traders who don’t sleep enough. They’re not productive during those hours. It’s not the number of hours you work that counts, it’s the work during the hours that matters.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The biggest thing I have, growing up in a more traditional family in the 70’s and 80’s, is that when you feel something is not for you, when you don’t have the passion for it, rather than just continuing and finishing it, don’t be afraid to stop doing it and try something else.
I’m not saying that you give up. Rather, it’s about finding a passion, finding something you love. I grew up in a family where my mom and my dad would say, “you have to finish what you started”. But, it has to be something you have a passion for. My dad is a physician. As a kid, he would tell me why becoming a doctor is good. And I always just thought I would be a doctor. I went into university thinking I was going to earn a science degree. I hated it. It was the worst in terms of subject matter.
However, when I started earning my business degree and started trading, I was so happy. I have so much passion for it. It didn’t require studying, it was natural.
Don’t try to follow a straight line, it never happens that way in life. It’s a process of elimination. The more things you try, the more you will learn about yourself and the faster you will find your true passion. You may not need passion to be successful and make money, I think a lot of people will agree with that. But, you need passion to be happy at what you do. My advice is to try as many things as possible and move on when you don’t see the passion in it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This is something I encounter every day. A lot of people I talk to, including my students and family and friends, they all believe media outlets, CNBC, Fox News etc., that their news, particularly financial news, is based on fact. But, that’s not the case. They are stories. They have to make sure their ratings are high and they need to create interesting stories and provide a reason or rationalize why the stock market moved up or down. In reality, those are stories that are fabricated to fit the events. It’s not the other way around.
What matters are the facts. There is a lot of data that explains movements in the markets – those are hard facts traders can make decisions on.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
This is near and dear to my heart. You need to find good, honest people you can learn from. You can’t stop doing that. This can be in the form of a formal education or in the form of a mentor or coach. I was lucky to have been mentored by good people.
I’m also a member of two mastermind groups, one being a trading mastermind group. In this group, four or five fellow traders meet on a regular basis and we talk about trading. I always try to learn from people who are better than me and who have accomplished more.
As far as advice, I encourage everyone to join these kinds of groups or mentorship opportunities. I think this is one of the best ways to achieve growth.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I think it has to be scalability. I would consider that to be a strategy. Everything we do at Certus Trading needs to be scalable. I only have so many hours a day and I’m the face behind the business. So I need to spend my time wisely in order to help as many people as possible. You look at doctors and dentists, they work one-on-one, they only attend to one patient at a time.
We are in a different business obviously, so we need to structure the business in a way that is scalable. That’s why we deliver our education through emails, webinars, live coaching and group coaching sessions. This way we can help 10 people at the same time, while maintaining the quality of our education.
We also automate our student acquisition process. I do a lot of live talks, events, and webinars, but to maximize our reach and to reach people internationally from different time zones, we pre-record a lot of our training material for potential clients.
These training materials do two things: one, it instills trust within our students about the quality of education they are receiving; two, it screens out potential students who aren’t serious about bettering themselves as a trader.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When we first started Certus Trading, everything was on me. I had to be a part of every aspect of the business. And though our intentions were good, we put out a program and we basically sold too much of it to the point where I was not able to help everyone. People were angry because I wasn’t responding on time and training wasn’t structured properly. It was a complete failure in the sense that our customers weren’t happy. That should be the measuring stick with any product or service. If the customers are not happy, it doesn’t matter how good the product is — you failed. That’s how we came to emphasize scalability and since then we have done a much better job.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think there is a huge potential with social media management. There are a lot of small businesses out there that just don’t have the time and expertise to create a proper social media presence and maintain it. I think once you start being on social media and you need to monitor the feedback and comments and questions that come in and be able to reply to it in a timely fashion, that’s a full-time job.
I think one business idea, especially among millennials who are looking to become entrepreneurs and who are so familiar with social media, is to leverage this need and create a business around social media management. If you have a passion for it, you can create content. The entry barrier for a business like this is so low you don’t need huge capital to get in besides a decent social media software. This can easily become a 5 figure a month business from the get-go.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I am looking at it right now. It’s a personal one. I bought a nice water bottle. It’s an insulated 1-liter water bottle made by a company called Healthy Human. A lot of times, I’m at my desk or on a conference call talking to my students and I feel dehydrated. Now every morning I fill this with 1 liter of green tea and in the afternoon I do the same thing.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
We are a business-to-consumer company, so customer service is the key. Right now, the best piece of software we are using is from Desk.com. It’s a customer service software that manages emails from students, clients and potential sales leads. It’s all stored in one place, so very accessible. It provides is a history. So if a customer has a question, I will look at the history and then work with them accordingly and solve it as quickly as possible, even if I have to get involved. To me, this simple software is vital in terms of having a history where anyone can step in and look at the history of that customer. We also get a lot of testimonials from our students as well, so this software also great for sharing success stories from our customers with my team.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The one book that was transformational for me was The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. I think it was published in 2006, and it really taught me to do things differently than the crowd. The book talks about how if you focus on the long tail, that’s where all the specialties are, where the money is, that’s where people will pay to access that specialty information. It taught me to be as specific as possible and to not follow the crowd.
From a business perspective, if you are seeing everybody’s website looking the same, then it’s time to do something different. It’s about standing out and being different from the rest of the crowd. Interestingly enough, being a contratrian and not following the crowd is a big part of my own trading philosophy, so this approach has contributed a lot to both my trading and entrepreneurial successes.
To bring this home, we are living in a world right now where companies like Amazon, Google, even Walmart, have the mass market cornered. Small businesses are failing because they can’t compete with them. So if you want to stand out as an individual or business, you need to dive deep. Otherwise, you will be drowned out by these mass marketers because they can do it so much quicker than you can. So this book taught me to keep doing what I am doing and keep being me, keep being special and providing a unique service to your customers.
What is your favorite quote?
“Done is better than perfect.” My background is in logistics, so you can imagine the perfection in me. But, that hindered my growth as a trader and entrepreneur. I was always looking for the perfect strategy, the holy grail in trading. That never happened and I wasted a lot of time.
Now I see things differently. What I realize now is that you have to get your product or your service or strategy out there quickly and tweak them until they work. You can spend a little money, get it out there fast and then improve from there.
In building my training strategies, if I was to test 100 ideas, I can guarantee that 99 of them will fail. Just imagine me trying to perfect every one of them — that’s not going to work out. So now, I get them out there and I trade them. I spend $100 or $200 to trade them, so I can get a real feel for how they work or not work and guess what? All I need from those 100 ideas is one that works. That’s going to go in my trading playbook and now I can confidently put $10,000 or $20,000 behind each trade, and I will be using that strategy for years to come. The key is to try many many different things, and so “Done is better than perfect”, and don’t let perfection hold you back.
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