Real Time e-mini S&P Trading, plus contrarian commentary on all the markets, all the time
Thursday, November 10, 2011
be content with what is possible
This post is about the frustrations that market fluctuations generate for a trader and how to deal with them. My message is a simple one: be content with what is possible.
I have been in this business full time for nearly 30 years now. I have known many traders. The majority of them were only in the business a relatively brief time. Most of these left because they lost money but some left because, even though they were making money trading, they couldn't stand the constant frustration traders experience.
Markets move up and down, sometimes quite violently. People tend to evaluate their trading performance not simply in terms of profit and loss but also in terms of how much money they could have made had they been able to catch a substantial part of most of the market's up and down swings. In fact, I have known profitable traders who were constantly frustrated and unhappy because they felt that they had left so much money on the table.
Put simply, this is crazy behavior. What basis do you have for thinking you can catch a substantial part of the market's many swings? Sure, in hindsight everything is obvious and we can see how we might have become gazillionaires.
But we cannot trade the past. We can only make profits betting on the future. And people who bet on future price fluctuations must necessarily rely on very, very cloudy crystal balls.So as a practical matter you should count yourself fortunate indeed if you consistently capture a small part of any given market swing.
What does this mean for you? It means that you should be focused on one thing and one thing only when evaluating your trading record.Have you been making consistent profits or not?Forget about how much you might have made - those sort of calculations are not in the realm of what's possible. What's possible is steady, month-by-month, quarter-by quarter profitability. Some people can achieve higher rates of return on their capital than others, but so what? Don't worry about what other people do. Focus only on what you can do based on your market knowledge and trading skills.
I had a friend who was a member of the Chicago Board of Trade and later a member of the Singapore exchange. He had a profit goal he aimed for each year. When he reached it he stopped trading for the rest of the year. It didn't matter whether it took him two months or six months or eleven months to reach his goal. When he reached it he stopped.
For him trading was just a way to make a good living, not a test of his value as a person or an affirmation that he was smarter than everyone else. This is an example of sane behavior in a business where various forms of insanity are the rule, not the exception.