Speculation has always been a part of the market and always will be.

It was the spring of 1976. Investors were still licking their wounds from the severe bear market of 1973-74. Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, an investment bank, was hosting a conference that matched two investing legends onstage at the same time — Ben Graham and Charles Ellis.

Ellis, moderating a Q&A, asked Graham why the mid-1970s were such a disaster in the stock market for most investors. Graham replied that, “most investment professionals, although possessing above average intelligence, lacked an overall understanding of common stocks.”

As told by Robert Hagstrom in his book Latticework: The New Investing, here’s where Ellis and Graham picked up after the conference:

After the seminar, Graham and Ellis spent some time together, and the conversation continued. The problem with our industry, Graham insisted, is not speculation per se; speculation has always been a part of the market and always will be. Our failure as professionals, he went on, is our continuing inability to distinguish between investment and speculation. If professionals can’t make that distinction, how can individuals investors? The greatest danger investors face, Graham warned, is acquiring speculative habits without realizing they have done so. Then they will end up with a speculator’s return — not a wise move for someone’s life savings. (more…)

Tomorrow is Too Late

Trading has many ups and downs and can easily cause us to feel defeated.

However, defeat can only be disastrous if we classify it as disastrous.

Losses, defeats, failures, etc. have been a part of history for every person who has reached high levels of success. The difference with the successful people is that they analyze the situation immediately. Those that tend to fade away are those that wait until tomorrow or maybe never to review and discover why the results were not what they expected.

To be successful we must accept every result as a part of our growth and to apply those findings today. Don’t wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow may be too late.

Top Ten Reasons Traders Lose Their Discipline

Losing discipline is not a trading problem; it is the common result of a number of trading-related problems. Here are the most common sources of loss of discipline, culled from my work with traders:

10) Environmental distractions and boredom cause a lack of focus;
9) Fatigue and mental overload create a loss of concentration;
8) Overconfidence follows a string of successes;
7) Unwillingness to accept losses, leading to alterations of trade plans after the trade has gone into the red;
6) Loss of confidence in one’s trading plan/strategy because it has not been adequately tested and battle-tested;
5) Personality traits that lead to impulsivity and low frustration tolerance in stressful situations;
4) Situational performance pressures, such as trading slumps and increased personal expenses, that change how traders trade (putting P/L ahead of making good trades);
3) Trading positions that are excessive for the account size, created exaggerated P/L swings and emotional reactions;
2) Not having a clearly defined trading plan/strategy in the first place;
1) Trading a time frame, style, or market that does not match your talents, skills, risk tolerance, and personality.

My Favorite Passage

It is interesting to observe the way most futures traders play the futures game in relation to the possible ways that money games can be played:

1. The most effective approach to the objective of maximizing results is to play a favorable game on a small scale.
2. Less desirable, but still providing a reasonable chance of success, is playing a favorable game on a large scale with enough profits coming early in the game to avoid ruin.
3. A basically unfavorable game may yield profitable results (presuming that one insists on playing unfavorable games) if one plays seldom and bets heavily.
4. The only road that leads inevitably to disaster is playing an unfavorable game continuously.
The trader who trades on impulse or uses some other invalid method of making trading decisions is following the fourth route, which is crowded with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

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