Over the years we’ve noticed a remarkably consistent pattern. A very high percentage of our trainees can trade brilliantly in the simulation program; steady consistent profits, sharp entries and exits, excellent grasp of market conditions and a clear, rational plan for exploiting them
And then they start trading real money.
It’s like somebody turned out the lights. Almost immediately things turn sour; they jump in too soon, get scared out of good positions, hang on to losers and cut their winners short … the exact opposite of what they should be doing, and the exact opposite of what they were doing in the simulation program.
The only difference between real and imaginary – and between good and horrid – is the emotional impact on new traders of having real money at risk. They succumb to the two emotions that drive the market: greed and fear.
Nothing cranks up our emotional responses faster than money. And trading is about nothing else. But successful trading requires a kind of cold, calculating rationality, and any emotion – giddy joy as well as bitter despair – is fatal.
So we see trainees doing things they know are dumb:
- They jump on the long side of an uptrend because “they don’t want to miss the trade,” even as the trend is ending.
- They cling tenaciously to losing positions hoping the price will come back – an attempt to avoid admitting you made a dumb trade that usually turns a small loss into a big one.
- They pull their stops so they won’t get hit. Really!
- They become so traumatized by losing that they take excessive risks hoping to get back even.
- Finally, they quit in despair, close their trading account, burn the computer, and retreat into a dark place to lick their wounds.
None of this is necessary. All of it can be avoided. Here are some things that help. (more…)