Saturday, May 24, 2014

Some people you cannot help

Occasionally I receive emails or phone calls from traders looking for advice or guidance on how they can improve their own performance. I enjoy trying to help these people - even if they are not specifically interested in using a trend following approach, the other elements of risk management and trading psychology are critical factors that deserve more attention than they get.

Generally the people who are the best students or learners are those who are willing to listen, embrace new ideas or different way of looking at things, and have an appreciation for the importance of risk. They are also willing to put in the time and effort to improve themselves as traders, and to work on any identified weaknesses (be it in their system, risk management or mindset). In the vast majority or cases, these people have demonstrated these characteristics.

Unfortunately though, there are some traders that I (or anyone else for that matter) would struggle to help. These generally fall into the following categories:
  • Those who are simply looking for hot tips. My own rather crude way of thinking here is 'if whoever they follow gets run over by a bus tomorrow, would they know what to do?'. I'd rather a trader learns the mechanics of a system, combined with using proper risk control and developing a good mindset, rather than rely on someone else to make buying and selling decisions and blindly follow them. This also gives these people a cop out, in that, should a trade end up being a loser, they can blame someone else for it.  
  • People who are looking for an easy ride, without expressing the desire to learn or the willingness to put in the time and effort. They want to jump straight to the end result without working for it. My own preference is to help people learn so they can stand on their own two feet. As the old adage goes:  "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time."
  • Those who drift from one system or approach to another, without sticking to one style for any length of time. These people are continually on the lookout for the holy grail system. They can't make their mind up what is their preferred timeframe, or what their overall approach to the market should be. One week they are trend following, the next they are day trading, and the week after that they are all sorts of indicators. 
  • People who are unable to avoid second guessing a system or the signals it generates.  They say they want to learn, but are not prepared to listen. They do not want to understand the reasons why a system has been developed in the way it has.
  • Those who think they know better. This applies to anybody who comes along and shoots a profitable trader down in flames. They have blinkered, preconceived notions about what won't work, and are too quick to discount a method.
  • Those who are unable to acknowledge or accept that, just maybe, the reason they are not successful is down to them. They fail to take to take responsibility for their own actions. They dismiss the notion that a poor mindset can be a major barrier to trading success.
  • Finally, those traders who are unwilling or unable to control the urge to risk too much. Without good risk management, any method of selecting entries and exits becomes worthless.

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