Sunday, November 25, 2012

The journey to trading success

It is a well known saying that 90% of traders fail, quite often within a few months of starting. They are seduced (quite often by glossy marketing) into thinking that traders can generate significant amounts of money with little or no background knowledge, and dream of becoming millionaires, quitting their 'real' day jobs, and a life a plush houses and fast cars. The reality is very different.

There are three components you need to have in place to ensure success. Even then, you will still suffer periods of losses or drawdowns. These are:

1) You need to find a system or method in which they are comfortable and compatible. There are also some external factors that can influence this, such as the amount of time a trader has available to follow the markets during the day, the amount of equity at their disposal etc. But in essence the aspiring trader needs to have an idea of what style of trading they THINK they believe in, whether it be trend following, scalping, swing or intra-day trading.

2) From there, they need to determine their basic risk parameters - how much equity they will risk each time they trade, as well as any overall risk parameters should they desire to trade a portfolio of instruments, and hold several positions at once. Again, this is a discretionary part of your overall trading plan. Everyone has a differing opinion as to what is aggressive or conservative, but I would try to err on the side of conservatism. You need to be able to stay in the game, and ensure you do not increase the 'risk of ruin' resulting from a series of losing trades.

3) Only then is a trader in a position to be able to construct a series of rules, around those first two points. These should cover which markets you wish to trade, the entry and exit signals you will follow etc.

I would also say that you will find keeping the correct mindset becomes an awful lot easier when your risk levels are under control.

Most people approach this in reverse, focusing on the entry and exit signals, and find that psychologically they cannot follow the signals given, or accept the periods where there are losing trades and a loss of equity, either from a psychology point of view, or because they do not have sensible risk parameters in place.

They also can find that having only 2 out of these 3 aspects in place will still ensure that you do not succeed. The analogy I use here is likening it to a 3-legged bar stool. If one of the legs is missing, the stool will fall over.

Regardless of what trading method you are interested in using, I can guarantee that the majority will not be able to replicate anywhere near the returns projected or achieved, or within a few months they will have ditched the system and on to another method, searching for the 'holy grail' that doesn't exist.

I have spent a good deal of time this year talking to other traders interesting in trend following, who are eager to learn.Yet the majority do not last the course. Coaching or mentoring can help novice traders through losing periods, assist with dealing with the psychological slings and arrows, and help tailor any system to your requirements but the overall parameter that will ultimately determine your success or failure is YOU, as only you has the power to decide whether to religiously follow a system and all its rules with sensible risk control, and accept the potential risks that go with trying to achieve the potential rewards.

The harsh reality is that I could give a seminar to 100 people tomorrow, and probably only 10 of those will do well using the same or similar strategy, or will have had the wisdom to have found a basic method that suits their mindset, got their risk parameters under control, and ONLY THEN would have looked at tweaking the parameters if they desired to ensure they are fully compatible with that they are doing.

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