I had just started reading David L. Caplan’s book The New Option Secret: Volatility. But today I merely want to share two powerful images from the book that might make it easier for beginning option traders to understand the impact of time on their position. More experienced traders can empathize.
Let me quote Caplan.
“The short premium trader thinks like a troubled adolescent who cannot wait for the time to pass, and move on to the next stage of life. . . . Each day presents the possibility of a major tragedy. The adolescent thinks, ‘When will it be over?’
“The long premium trader worries like an old man who has not yet left his mark on life, but is still trying to. He knows his days are numbered. . . . He says to himself, ‘If I only had more time.’”
There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?” A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”
Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”
Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck?
“Sun Tzu said if you sit by the river long enough, you’ll see the bodies of your enemies float by. The key is “long enough.” If you live long enough, you have to be the survivor. When I was a kid, we didn’t have the video games you have today, so we used to listen to comedy records. One of the greatest ones was Mel Brooks doing the 2000 year old man. Carl Reiner says to him, “how did you get to be the world’s oldest man?” And he says, “Simple. Don’t die.” How do you get to be the world’s oldest investor? The answer is don’t crap out.
“So if you look at distressed debt where we started in 1988, I could tell you who our number one competitor was in every year through 1995 and not one is a main competitor today. And it’s not because of what we did; all we did is perform consistently. They crapped out. It sounds simplistic to say, but the first requirement for success is survival…”
– Howard Marks
What steps do you take to ensure survival as a trader? (more…)
You have to be aware of what is going on around you, the levels, the moves, etc… part of the basic essentials of trading:
Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
– Kung Fu (TV Series)