What do CTAs do when they don’t know any prospective customers? The first thing to do is assess if this thought about not knowing anyone is true, and whether it’s useful. Often, the thought is untrue, and never is it useful. Listen to this episode to learn why.
Welcome to The Profitable CTA, the only podcast that helps commodity trading advisors grow their businesses and boost their bottom lines. I’m Kelly Hollingsworth and I’m very glad you’re here because CTA profitability is suffering, and in this show we talk about how to fix that. In every episode, we discuss a common problem that undermines CTA profitability, and if I had to point to the biggest problem for CTAs and their profitability, I’d have to say that it’s difficulty finding customers. So today we’re embarking on a series of several episodes that discuss how to solve this global problem, and to begin, we’re going to start with the threshold question of where to find customers. What I hear from CTAs far and wide is this: “No one I know is in a position to allocate to a CTA.”
What’s going on here? Is it truly that there are so few people in the world who can allocate to a CTA that we just can’t find them? They’re like needles in haystacks? Or is it something else? Well, it can only be one of two things. If you have this problem of no one I know is in a position to allocate to a CTA, what’s happening is one of two things. Either you do know people who could open an account—you just don’t think that you do—or you truly don’t know a single person who could invest in your trading program. This is rare, but in theory it could happen, and today we’re going to talk about both of these scenarios and what to do about them.
You Get What You Think
As a backdrop to this conversation about whether you do or don’t know any prospective customers, the first thing I want to say is that you get what you think. This is a business principle that all CTAs would do well to live by, in all aspects of their business and trading lives. I say this because over my entire career, my wealthiest clients, those who have the kinds of businesses and earn the kind of money that make other CTAs green with envy, routinely credit the idea that you get what you think as the reason for their success.
Why is this the case? Because everything that is created is created twice: once in the imagination of the creator, and once in the real world where the creator brings the imagined creation to life. The creation gets out of their head and comes into the real world. In the movie Hidden Figures, for example, which is about the USA’s race to get to the moon before the Russians did, they decided they were going to the moon. They created that vision of getting to the moon in their minds. And then, even though skeptics thought it was impossible, they made that vision happen in the real world. They made it come true. Harry Potter was created first in the mind of author J.K. Rowling, that’s another example, and then she did the work of taking the creation out of her mind and building it, page by page, word by word, in the real world.
The comedian Vir Das calls this imaginary creation in our minds, before it exists in reality, the beautiful lie. Some would call it a delusion, but those who believe the beautiful lie or the delusion are those who create amazing things. This includes CTAs who create amazing businesses.
What about people who don’t create amazing things? They suffer from a similar type of belief or delusion that I’m going to call the ugly lie. The ugly lie is what happens when your brain latches on to some counterproductive idea that’s often not even true, but because your brain holds the delusion so tight, it seems true. In fact, it seems so true that your brain can’t see anything else. And then, instead of holding a delusion, a beautiful lie, that moves you forward, you have a delusion, an ugly lie, that holds you back.
Here’s a non-trading example so you can see what I’m talking about. Have you ever walked around your house, keys in hand, thinking that your sunglasses were lost and getting more and more frustrated, only to realize they are right on your head? This is typically how it works with the “I don’t know any prospective customers” lie. They could be in your immediate vicinity, perhaps even in your immediate household, but you don’t even notice them because your brain is blocked.
What is the blockage? It’s the thought, “I don’t know any prospective customers.” And here I know that if you’re suffering from this blockage right now that you don’t know any customers, you may be getting a little irritated. You’re probably thinking, “Listen lady. In my case this thought isn’t a delusion. It’s the truth. It is 100% the truth.”
We make our beliefs come true
So now I’ll give you another example of how blockages like this work, so you can see how they work in a different context. The reason I want to show you an example in a different context is that it illustrates how we make our beliefs come true. That’s why we think they’re true. This example relates to a similar lie I call, “I can’t possibly trade my own account.” Rarely, this is true. A CTA designs a trading system with a $20 million-dollar minimum. In that case, he truly might not have the money to trade his own account.
But mostly, 99.99% of the time, this idea that the CTA doesn’t have money to get his or her own track record going is just that: an idea, and it’s a false idea. Frequently I speak with CTAs who tell me that they don’t have the money to get started with trading in their own account even though their minimum account size and margin requirements are very low. If you’ve listened to the show thus far, you know this is something I emphasize, because trading your own account is the seed that grows a successful CTA. It’s the first crucial step in almost every case, and so if you’re not doing this, there’s really no point doing anything else.
So what happens? Some would-be CTAs take this advice to heart and they trade for themselves and they grow successful CTAs. But other CTAs, struggling CTAs, don’t, and when they don’t, the reason is, “I don’t have the money to trade my own account.” When they say this, it feels completely true for them. It feels impossible for them to come up with the money. But this thought is the block. The thought, not the reality, is what makes this fictitious money shortage feel so true for them and creates the feeling of impossibility for them. If you think it’s impossible, it’s going to feel impossible.
But the reality shows otherwise. Often you don’t even have to scratch the surface to see this. CTAs who tell themselves this lie about, “I don’t have the money to trade for myself” almost universally have directed their money to other things. Needless things. They have the money to register, very prematurely, I might add. They have the money to take the Series 3. They have the money for office space and websites and graphic design and all kinds of things that, without a track record, just don’t matter (and even with a track record, just don’t matter).
So what’s going on? When they think, “It’s impossible for me to trade my own account,” their brains literally become blinded, due to the mental block, that it is entirely possible for them to trade their own accounts if they weren’t spending the money elsewhere. We know it’s possible because all the money that goes to needless things could instead go into their trading accounts and generate even more money plus a track record to get their businesses started.
So notice something critical here. When they think, “I don’t have the money,” and then they go on and spend the money on needless things, they create the reality that they don’t have the money. This is why we all think our thoughts are the truth. We make our thoughts true through the actions that we take when we think those thoughts. You probably know people like this. They think, “What’s the use? I’ll never be out of debt,” and they spend themselves into oblivion. Or they think, “What’s the use? I’ll always be fat,” and they eat themselves into oblivion.
You get what you think, my friends, so now let’s get back to the thought, “I don’t know anyone.” Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, CTAs who think this thought actually do know people, often many people, who could allocate to a CTA, and who would allocate to a CTA if they even knew this opportunity existed.
It doesn’t matter if the thought is true. What matters is if it’s useful.
But let’s say that you’re the rare CTA who truly doesn’t know a soul. If this is you, here I want to emphasize that the point of talking about this isn’t to get into an argument with you about whether you actually know people with money or not. The point is to look at what your thoughts are getting you. So for the sake of discussion, let’s assume the thought is true. You really do not know a soul who has money to invest with a CTA. Let’s even take this concept of, “I don’t know anyone,” to its logical extreme, and let’s imagine you’ve been in solitary confinement for your entire life. Not just your adult life, but your entire life since the day you were born, and all you were able to do in this solitary confinement is learn to trade. And now, you’re amazing at that. When you trade futures or forex contracts, money is very predictably the result.
So you have the requisite skill, and on your 35th birthday or your 45th birthday or however old you are, they release you from solitary. For the first time in your life, you have access to other people, and you truly do not know another soul in the world. Let’s imagine even your food was delivered by a machine through a door. You don’t even know the person who brought you food, and you’re thinking the thought, “I don’t know anyone,” and it’s verifiably true.
A very useful tool in business, any kind of business including the CTA business, and perhaps especially the CTA business, is to ask yourself, whenever you think a thought, is not, “Is this true?” but “Is this useful?”
“I don’t know anyone” generally isn’t a useful thought, because it blocks your brain. “I don’t know” always blocks your brain, because what happens when you tell your brain you don’t know something? It shrugs and gives up. This happens because your brain has two jobs: keeping you alive, and conserving energy. Your brain is the highest calorie-burning organ in your body, and in “I don’t know” scenarios, it’s off the hook and that’s a place your brain enjoys hanging out in.
So here’s what you have to know to succeed as a CTA in finding customers. There’s exactly one thing your brain loves more than being off the hook, and it’s answering questions. Even if you don’t know a soul, you don’t know one single solitary person on the entire planet who could possibly allocate to your CTA, if you ask your brain to figure out how to get to know some people, if you put your brain to work on that puzzle, it will do it for you. It will enjoy doing that work for you if you approach the question in the right way.
To illustrate why, notice how different these two thoughts feel. Think to yourself, “I don’t know anyone.” How do you feel when you think that thought? Most CTAs feel, as I said, earlier, frustrated, resigned, and powerless with that thought in their heads, as if this situation is fixed. Not just now, but forever, they don’t and won’t know people who could become customers.
Now notice what happens when you tweak a thought just a little bit. If instead of thinking, “I don’t know anyone,” you shift your thought to, “Who do I know who would want this?” or “I wonder how I could meet some people who would want this?” Asking your brain a question opens it up to possibility, instead of shutting it down before you even get started.
So to hit this point on the head one more time for good measure, it doesn’t really matter if your thoughts are true. What matters is if they are useful, and if you’re struggling, I can promise you, it’s because you’re thinking thoughts that are entirely not useful. They are the opposite of useful.
But in most cases, the distinction between true and useful isn’t one you ever need to make, because the other thing I can promise you is that 99.99% of the time, your useless, counterproductive thoughts are also untrue. When you think, I don’t know anyone who could possibly allocate to my trading program, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say it is not true. It is just a thought that’s blocking you from seeing your possibilities. And this isn’t unique to you, it happens with all of us, but as it relates to today’s topic, please notice that recent drawdowns in the stock market notwithstanding, as I’m recording this episode, we are riding high on the longest bull market in history. Unemployment is at an all-time low. The economy is going bananas. People have more money than ever in the history of human kind. If you think they don’t have money to allocate to your trading program, my guess is there’s something else going on in your brain, and it’s that you’re thinking it’s not appropriate for them to allocate to your trading program.
This thought, that it’s not appropriate, we’ll discuss in the next episode. For now, I’ll close by saying that managing your mind is the most important thing you can do to achieve success. If you’re thinking it’s impossible to find customers, it will be impossible for you to find customers because your brain will be blocked. If you’re having trouble, any kind of trouble, in your business, I can promise you it’s because of something that’s going on in your head, and this is something I can help you with. If you’re struggling with anything about your CTA business, email me to let me know what’s up, firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can go to profitablecta.com where you can access my calendar and set yourself up with a free session to chat with me. I hope to talk with you if you need some help, and I want to say thank you for joining me today. I look forward to talking with you next time.