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Success Stories

My Student Stephen Johnson’s Crazy, Unlikely Success Story

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 4/16/2022 14 min read

There are two sides to Stephen Johnson…

On one hand, you’ve got a guy who understands the importance of education and responsibility.

Early in his trading career, he joined my Trading Challenge, and studied much as 10 hours per day … He also gained a following documenting his journey on YouTube and became the co-host of the SteadyTrade Podcast.

On the other hand, he’s got a long history as a drunken degenerate who overtrades.

I literally had to tie him up once to keep him from overtrading! But even that wasn’t enough to save him from himself … and the two massive $5K losses that almost ended his trading career.

I’ll tell the truth: I’ve had moments of doubt about whether Stephen would make it.

I’m happy to say that he’s faced his demons. Now, four years into his trading journey, he’s found consistency — and profits. In April he reports $10K* in profits. And in May he reports $15K.* He’s up $23K* in profits overall.

(*Please note: These results are not typical. Stephen has spent years developing exceptional skills and knowledge. Always remember trading is risky. Never risk more than you can afford.)

So how’d he go from constantly blowing up trades and acting impulsively to a self-sufficient, consistent, and profitable trader?

Here’s Stephen’s trading journey so far … including how he got smart, what made things click, and what waves of learning led to his current stability.

How It All Started

stephen john tied
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About four years ago, Dubai-based Stephen Johnson wasn’t in the best place.

He’d just broken up with his long-term girlfriend. And he wasn’t feeling fulfilled at his marketing job. He was lonely and bored — not exactly the best combo for achieving great things. 

Then, he came across my ad online.

Like Michael Goode, my first millionaire student,* Stephen was skeptical at first. He thought I was a scam … but he wasn’t scared off.

At heart, he was a gambler. He’d been good at poker … So he thought, why not give penny stocks a try?

So he decided to dedicate a year to it. After all, he didn’t have much else going on. The way he saw it, there were two options:

  • If it was a scam, he could expose it.
  • If it wasn’t a scam, he could potentially become rich and achieve a goal.

Either option seemed pretty OK and potentially a way to do good in the world. So he joined Pennystocking Silver and started following my lessons. Then he set up a YouTube channel and dedicated his Twitter feed to documenting his trading journey.

At first, he was mainly doing it out of boredom. He kept thinking:

Is this for me … should I give up? 

But little by little, he started to develop a real interest in penny stocks.

Moving Forward

Stephen ended up joining the Trading Challenge and really started to dive deep into my videos.

“How to Make Millions” was the gateway drug for him, but he also got a lot from these too:

Even though Stephen wasn’t really making money, his YouTube updates were hilarious — and he started to get a big following.

Before he knew it, he was enlisted as a co-host for the new SteadyTrade podcast. The idea was that he would pair up with Tim Bohen, the SteadyTrade Team (formerly StocksToTrade Pro) lead trainer. They’d present trading-related topics from the respective viewpoints of a trading veteran and a newbie.

Early on, Stephen was launched into trading stardom in the penny stock world … but did he find success too soon?

The Perils of Peaking Early

Stephen’s mindset definitely wasn’t in the right place yet.

He openly admits that at first, he was trading for the thrill, the intensity, and to get rich quick.

He was also a CRAZY overtrader. I’ve talked about the dangers of overtrading … Bad things can happen to your psyche and your account when you fall into the trap of chasing too much.

I even made an example out of Stephen when he came to a Market Mastery event in Positano … I tied him up to keep him away from his laptop so he couldn’t make bad trading decisions.

Getting Real

stephen johnson and tim bohen at summit
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Stephen had passion. He had enough discipline to study. But he still kept breaking the rules.

His adrenaline-junkie ways landed him in hot water … again and again.

Then came the rock-bottom moment: a series of major losses, each totaling about $5K. They’re dissected in excruciating detail on the SteadyTrade podcast. Take time to check out these episodes — there are key lessons in both.

Stephen was on the verge of quitting. Even Bohen wondered if it was time for Stephen to take a little break.

But then some really good things started to happen.

First, he got smart about the importance of having a plan. Not just a trading plan, but a plan for his entire approach to trading. 

Instead of focusing on money, he decided to focus on discipline first.

From there, his epiphanies were fast and furious…

How Stephen Made the Switch

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He began to work on really focusing on the setups that worked for him — and being disciplined about cutting losses.

He switched his thinking from “I wanna get rich quick” to “money is the root of all evil.”

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It might seem counterintuitive, but Stephen started to think that focusing on making money is the worst thing traders can do.

Just like how I use my “retired trader” mindset to trade safer, this shift worked for him. Once succeeding became a greater priority than making money, things changed for him.

And life-changing sessions with executive coach Kim Ann Curtin (who’s now a SteadyTrade podcast co-host) helped him get in touch with some emotional roadblocks. Check out the episodes:

These were all simple changes, but they had a huge effect.

As Stephen puts it…

“It’s very, very simple. Just make a trading plan. Stick to a trading plan. Make sure your trading plan has a very good risk to reward. 

Because ultimately, the other 95% of traders are sloppy. They’re sloppy, they’re gambling, they’re emotional. 

After four years, I’ve become so much like a robot that I’m not sloppy, I’m not emotional. I’ll only trade a specific plan with a specific reward. That’s why I have an edge.”

How Stephen Johnson Trades Now

tim sykes and student stephen johnson
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Stephen started to take the reins in his career, and his confidence shows.

As he says, “I’m a casino. I make the odds, I make the probabilities. Everyone else makes wrong  probabilities but I make the right probabilities that only benefit me, and that’s how I make money.”

So how does he do it?

Stephen’s Variables

Stephen’s developed a no-BS approach to choosing stocks to trade. He’s got a specific set of indicators and conditions that trades must meet…

1. Top Percent Gainers

Is it a top percent gainer? This is non-negotiable.

2. Volume

How’s the volume? If there isn’t volume, the spike could be random.

3. Float

What’s the float? Stephen generally goes short. So if it’s low float, high volume, it’s dangerous … And if it’s low volume, high float, it could be an easy short.

Learn more about float here:

4. Long-Term Chart

How does the long-term chart look? Is there a distinct uptrend or downtrend? Is the company doing well overall?

5. Catalyst

Is there a catalyst? If so, does it have legs or is it fluff news?

6. Sector

Is the stock in a hot sector?

7. Financials

If you take a look on Yahoo! Finance or StocksToTrade, does it look like the company is making money? How are its earnings, how’s its revenue?

8. SEC Filings

Are there any signs of dilution, like offerings?

9. Intraday Chart

What are the highs and the lows?

Go Long or Go Short?

Here’s what Stephen Johnson thinks … These variables can help you make that call on whether to go long or short.

Say you’re looking at these nine variables … If all of them are bullish, it’s probably a good idea to go long. And if they’re all bearish, it’s a good indication that you should go short.

If it’s six or seven bearish variables, you might still go short, but you’d really keep a tight risk/reward…

But if it’s five out of nine? Too hard to predict … skip the trade.

Using These Variables

According to Stephen, once you understand these variables, they’re easy. Until then, it’s “a puddle of confusion.”

It took Stephen about a year to figure out these variables. Then it took another year to actually implement them.

These days, Stephen can scan through this list with any given stock in about five minutes. He also only trades for one to two hours per day, then proceeds to live his life…

But getting to that point took a LOT of work.

Early on, he’d study as many as seven hours a day on weekdays — sometimes even more on the weekends. And that’s when he was consistently losing! But it’s all part of the process that helped him find consistency.

Don’t have that much time to study? Stephen’s got advice: “Suck it up! Wake up at 4 a.m. like Tim Bohen if you want to study.”

Trading During Coronavirus

Here’s what Stephen thinks of the current market: “Just when you thought the market couldn’t get crazier, it got much crazier.”

We’re seeing stocks with volumes of 50 million, 300 million, 400 million shares traded on the day.

That’s insanity. You’ve got to be prepared in a market like this. If you haven’t seen it, “The Volatility Survival Guide” is vital viewing to help you prepare for trading through it.

Stephen’s approach has been to look for those huge gainers and filter through his variables. And since he goes short often, he looks for signs of weakness … Is the daily chart weak? Has it failed when it gapped up before? Is the volume down?

The strategy’s working for him: Stephen reports making $10K in April and $15K in May.* Check out his profit chart on Profit.ly. And you can see his Profit.ly page here.

Yeah, Stephen’s had a few awesome months as a trader … but he’s worked hard for it. His story shows that if you’re willing to stick with it and keep learning and improving, it’s possible to find consistency!

Stephen Johnson’s Advice for New Traders

If Stephen could go back and knock some sense into himself early on, what would he say?

1. Believe in Yourself

Stephen says, “Have an unshakable belief in yourself. Nobody is going to believe in you except for you.”

Your mom, your friends, your coworkers — you can’t count on them to be your cheerleaders. You’ve got to believe in yourself first. You need that passion and conviction to stick with it for the long haul.

2. Don’t Skimp on Study Time

In your early days as a trader, there will be a lot of trial and error as you figure out how to look at multiple variables in parallel. It’s clumsy at first. Take the time to study and develop skills.

3. Don’t Make the Same Mistakes

You’re going to make mistakes as a trader. But try to learn from them and not make the same mistakes over and over. If you’re hitting your head against the wall, falling down the same rabbit hole … you need to take a different approach.

4. Find a Strategy That Suits You

Stephen doesn’t trade at all like me. But studying in my Challenge was still a really important step in his trading journey. My top students also teach webinars, which helped him gain exposure to a variety of strategies.

Ready to Find Your Path?

Trading isn’t a one-size-fits-all profession. Even though I teach specific strategies, I’m a huge advocate of developing your own style.

As I always say, I’m just your training wheels. I can teach you what I’ve learned in the past 20+ years in the market. But ultimately, you’ve gotta take what you learn and figure out how to apply it in a way that works for you.

That might be following a strategy similar to mine. It might be branching out to options like Mark Croock, or going short like Stephen Johnson.

No matter what path you choose, education is the gateway. Invest in your knowledge account first!

How are you inspired by this story? What’s your favorite part of Stephen’s journey? Leave a comment!

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Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”