Trading is being young, imperfect, and human – not old, exacting, and scientific. It is not a set of techniques, but a commitment. You are to be an information processor. Not a swami. Not a guru. An information processor.
Participating in the markets can only develop your trading skills. You need to become a part of the markets, to know the state of the markets at any given time, and most importantly, to know yourself. You need to be patient, confident, and mentally tough.
Good traders offer no excuses, make no complaints. They live willingly with the vagaries of life and the markets.
In the early stages of your trading career, pay attention not only to whether you should buy or sell but also to how you have executed your trading ideas. You will learn more from your trades this way.
Never assume that the unreasonable or the unexpected cannot happen. It can. It does. It will.
Remember, you can learn a lot about trading from your mistakes. When you make a mistake – and you will – do not dwell on the negatives. Learn from the mistake and keep going.
Never forget that markets are made up of people. Think constantly about what others are doing, what they might do in the current circumstances, or what they might do when those circumstances change. Remember that, whenever you buy and hope to sell higher, the person you sell to will have to see the same opportunity at that higher price to be induced to buy.
Traders who lose follow one of several typical patterns. Some repeatedly suffer individual large losses that wipe out earlier gains or greatly increase a small loss. Others experience brief periods during which their trading wheels fall off: they lose discipline and control and make a series of bad trades as a result.
Wise traders make many small trades, remain involved, and constantly maintain and sharpen their feel for he market. For all of their work, they hope to receive some profit, even if it is small in terms of dollars. In addition, continual participation allows them to sense and recognize the few real opportunities when they arise. These generate large rewards that make the effort of trading truly worthwhile.
At the end of the chapter he lists specific observations that have a high enough probability of reoccurring he considers them rules:
- If you find yourself holding a winning position, adding up your profits, and confidently projecting larger gains on the horizon, you are probably better off exiting the trade. The odds are that the trade has run its course.
- When entering a trade with a market order and your fill is clearly better than expected, odds are it will end up being a losing trade. Good fill, bad trade. Get out!
- If all your ‘trading buddies’ agree with your expectations regarding the next big move, it probably will not work out. If everyone’s conviction level is as strong as the consensus, do the opposite.
I”ll confess to being mostly skeptical about these quasi-deterministic genetic trait studies — circumstances generally matter so much more — but there is a new study claiming a genetic basis for some aspects of decision-making in risky situations.
Research published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B1 is a step towards a more nuanced understanding of how variants of the gene MAOA — which specifies an enzyme, monoamine oxidase-A, that breaks down neurotransmitters such as serotonin — affect financial decisions.
The gene variant MAOA-L is associated with lower production of the enzyme and has been repeatedly linked to risky behavior. Previous studies suggested that carriers of MAOA-L are more likely to lash out when provoked2, for example, or to be more prone to aggression when raised in high-stress environments3.
More here, including a summary of the research, which appears to have been the usual test of a sure versus a gamble for higher gains.
Reading Nassim Taleb’s newest book Anti-Fragile really got me thinking about how traders are broken.
Traders can become fragile and be broken in several ways:
- They can quit because they believe that trading successfully is impossible.
- They can lose half their account or all of their account and just give up.
- They can become emotionally traumatized by one huge loss or a string of losses and just not be able to trade any more due to the pain going forward.
- A trader can lose faith in them self as a trader.
- A trader can lose faith in their system.
- A trader can trade too big and blow up their account, they want to trade, they believe they can make it back but have no money.
A trader can become anti-fragile they can benefit from adversity at times by:
- Having 100% confidence that they will be in the 10% percentile of consistently winning trades, it is just a matter of time.
- They do not give up after losing the majority of their very first account they just accept it as paying tuition and start again this time with faith they will win.
- The anti-fragile trader trades small, their emotions do not bleed into their trades, each trade is just 1 of the next 100. They risk 1% of capital per trade.
- The successful trader identifies themselves as a successful trader, losing trades do not change who they are.
- The trader believes that time is on their side and draw downs are just temporary, short term losses do not change the trader’s belief in long term success.
- Successful traders know that their trading account is their life blood, guarding it against big losses is their #1 priority.
Fragile traders are inevitably broken, anti-fragile traders are not only not broken but benefit from circumstances by learning, growing, and becoming more resolved to win. Adversity makes them stronger.
News events in particular cause traders to make incorrect decisions, because they play on emotions. The urge to follow the crowd is normal. It is comforting. And in a strong bull market, it may just be correct.
But in most circumstances, letting emotions push you into making trading decisions costs traders money.
There are two kinds of traders.
1. Those who make emotional decisions based on any of the above.
2. Those who make money off of those who make emotional decisions.
Never under any circumstances reveal your trading positions to anyone. Your mind must be in complete harmony with your trading positions. When you reveal your positions to someone, they will immediately start to question the trade and start to erode your confidence and concentration in the trade. You will then be a less effective trader and eventually lose.
Where else but in the markets can short term memory loss be both beneficial and profitable?
John Kenneth Galbraith, an economist, says the financial markets are characterized by…
“…extreme brevity of the financial memory. In consequence, financial disaster is quickly forgotten. In further consequence, when the same or closely similar circumstances occur again, SOMETIMES IN A FEW YEARS, they are hailed by a new, often youthful, and always extremely self-confident generation as a brilliantly innovative discovery in the financial and larger economic world. There can be few fields of human endeavor in which history counts for so little as in the world of finance.” [emphasis mine].
1. “Accept everything just the way it is.”
= accept the market reality in front of you.
2. “Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.”
= don’t trade for pleasure
3. “Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.”
= don’t jump or out of trade on shallow half-baked impulsive feelings.
4. “Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.”
= don’t take your trading skills too seriously, take the ability of market to surprise seriously.
5. “Be detached from desire your whole life long.”
= make money, but don’t let money make you.
6. “Do not regret what you have done.”
= smile at your mistake, laugh off your profit.
7. “Never be jealous.”
= what you’ve got is good and enough and incomparable
8. “Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.”
= a loss is never final. it either stays back as lesson or returns as profit.
9. “Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself or others.”
= accept the reality, keep the power with yourself by not complaining.
10. “In all things have no preferences.”
= don’t measure your profit or loss, just measure them by the lesson or experience.
11. “Do not act following customary beliefs.”
= dare to think!
12. “Do not collect weapons or practice with weapons beyond what is useful.”
= a handful of tools are enough if you are willing to submit.
13. “Do not fear death.”
= do not fear unforeseen loss.
14. “Do not seek to possess either goods or fiefs for your old age.”
= don’t trade under pressure to accumulate profit. if you remain alive, markets will always be there. just keep learning the game.
15. “Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help.”
= respect luck, acknowledge god’s blessing, but don’t drag them in the market.
Placing a trade with a predetermined stop-loss point can be compared to placing a bet: the more money risked, the larger the bet. Conservative betting produces conservative performance, while bold betting leads to spectacular ruin. A bold trader placing large bets feels pressure or heat from the volatility of the portfolio. A hot portfolio keeps more at risk than does a cold one. Portfolio heat seems to be associated with personality preference; bold traders prefer and are able to take more heat, while more conservative traders generally avoid the circumstances that give rise to heat. In portfolio management, we call the distributed bet size the heat of the portfolio. A diversified portfolio risking 2% on each of five instrument & has a total heat of 10%, as does a portfolio risking 5% on each of two instruments. Our studies of heat show several factors, which are: Trading systems have an inherent optimal heat. Setting the heat level is far and away more important than fiddling with trade timing parameters. Many traders are unaware of both these factors. COIN FLIPPING One way to understand portfolio heat is to imagine a series of coin flips. Heads, you win two; tails, you lose one is a fair model of good trading. The heat question is: what fixed fraction of your running total stake should you bet on a series of flips?
The capacity for rigorous thought; the flexibility and resilience to adapt to changing circumstances; the love of disciplined risk-taking; the hungry intellect: perhaps successful speculators already display those qualities in other life domains and then learn to apply them to markets.