I'm asked this question regularly, most recently yesterday. My answer may be of interest to others.
Q: Hello dbphoenix.
What would you suggest to someone who wants to start from scratch, like a complete newbie? Things like books i should read, websites i should visit, things of this nature?
Thank you in advance.
A: Well, I wrote "Developing A Plan" for those who are only thinking about starting as well as those who have thought about it and want to get on with the process of cobbling together a plan.
In order to succeed at trading, you must have an edge. Your edge begins with the knowledge you gain through your research and testing that a particular market behavior offers a level of predictability that provides a consistently profitable outcome over time. Without it, one is just "playing" the market in order to have something to talk about on message boards. To get it, you have to know exactly what you're looking for and what to do with it once you've found it. This process is what the journal is all about.
The journal goes through several stages depending on where you are. Once you've decided where you want to concentrate your efforts (at this level, the journal may resemble a diary), then you begin the process of developing a system (or method, strategy, procedure, whatever you want to call it). Here the journal takes on a different character. Once you've developed a tentative/preliminary system, you begin testing/trading it, and the journal adopts a still different character.
The first step is to decide what kind of trader you want to be.
What do you want to accomplish with your trading? Is it recreational? Supplementary income? A part-time job? Do you want to make a living at it? Even the greenest of the green knows whether or not he wants to make a living at it, trade only part time, trade for recreation, trade for the action, trade to have something to talk about with other traders (for whatever reason), trade only long enough to earn money to do or buy X.
Do you have any idea what sort of trading is most comfortable? Long or intermediate-term trading? Short-term trading? Day-trading? Trend-trading? Scalping? (Note here that a short-term trader, for example, does not become a long-term trader just because his stop was hit and he didn't sell; a long-term trader doesn't become a short-term trader because he chickened out and sold too soon. Each of these approaches are selected deliberately and for thoroughly-considered reasons.) How patient are you? How adventurous? Are you a leader or a follower (most people think they're leaders)?
The second step is to decide what you're going to trade and when you're going to trade it.
Have you found an instrument -- futures, stocks, ETFs, bonds, options -- that provides you with the range and volatility you require but also the safety that enables you to relax and trade in an objective and rational manner?
Have you yet found a time (5m, hourly, daily) interval that gives you enough trading opportunities but also gives you enough time to think about what you're doing? If you want to limit your trading to the "morning", are you physically and psychologically prepared to trade all day? If not, can you shrug off whatever opportunities you may miss by limiting the amount of time you spend trading?
The third step is to develop your system.
And the rest is in the pdf below.
Websites? No. Books? About the only books I can recommend to a beginner are The General Semantics of Wall Street by John Magee (don't spend tons of money on this; try to get it from your library; you might also find a pdf of it floating around), The Nature of Risk by Justin Mamis, and How To Make Money In Stocks by Wm O'Neil (I recommend the first edition because later ones became increasingly obnoxious about pushing "Investor's Business Daily"). Avoid anything that claims to be able to tell you "how to trade". Granted the SLA/AMT offers a simple approach to trading price, but it is only one option among several that one has available to him after having gone through the process of developing a plan (one may, for example, decide after having gone through that process that his future lies with MACD divergences, in which case I'll provide him with a box lunch and my best wishes as I send him on his way).
The best teacher is the market. Study the market. If you don't know what to look at, or for, "Developing A Plan" will be useful as well as HTMMIS. If you don't understand what you're looking at, much less what to look for, you'll be susceptible to every pitch out there: the books, the courses, the dvds, the software plugins, and all the rest of it. Above all, be skeptical of everything and everybody. Only the market can be relied upon. Only the market will not lie.
Do not even think about beginning without a plan. To do so invites failure, and once that cycle begins, fear busts in and drives its hooks into your back. At that point, you've got a long, rough, and extremely difficult road ahead of you, all of which can be avoided by putting your eagerness to trade on the back burner and instead studying and practicing. As for the plan, you can put together a thoroughly-tested and consistently-profitable plan without spending a dime. Investing.com, for example, has free live charts that you can use to observe price movements in real time, though whether the feed is real-time or delayed isn't particularly important at this level as long as it's moving. NinjaTrader offers free replay functionality (which is not to say that I recommend NT as a broker; I have no experience with them as brokers; even so, replay will enable you to test out your plan).
If the study and the practice are intolerable, then you will very likely fail. They won't take forever. Perhaps, with replay, only a few months. Otherwise you may go on for two or three or five years or more without even being able to do more than breakeven, if that, and perhaps that only after having blown through several accounts. A few months of study and practice are a cheap price to pay.
I think that you have understated the importance of your first step significantly.
Firstly, most people tend to fool themselves when it comes to what they wish to accomplish with their trading. My sample is fairly small, but all of the unsuccessful traders I know always state they wish to trade for either of the following two reasons, i.e. "to make money" or "to make enough money trading to retire". I have never seen anyone say they are trading for the action or for any other reason.
However, once you look at their actual trading patterns, it quickly becomes obvious that they are trading for other reasons. For instance, if you are trading to make money, would your first priority not be to research successful systems, find out why their are successful, and see how you can benefit from that? Yet, most of those traders search for methods to increase their accuracy at prediction, methods that will allow more precise entries or exits, or methods that will increase their winning %. They believe that by getting the best indicator, they will suffer less losses and subsequently be able to trade bigger size and make more money. Some may admit it and other don't, but they really wish to get rich quick without doing the necessary hard work.
Secondly, I don't think looking for the "most comfortable sort of trading" will be of much help for traders. The most comfortable sounding arguably is scalping, i.e. take a quick profit here and there, never any overnight risk, your capital is only at risk for a short period of time, etc, yet very, very few manage that profitably. Having assets at risk is never comfortable (unless my nerves are of rubber when compared to everyone else's which are of steel), but learning to deal with that discomfort is part of what makes successful traders successful. When Richard Dennis was buying markets that were locked limit-up three days in a row, there were plenty of sellers and almost no buyers. Yet we all know who Richard Dennis is, and I can't name any of those sellers.
Also, I refer to the second last question in the Ed Seykota interview here Curated Interview With Ed Seykota From Market Wizards | Curated Alpha. Ed is spot on in his analysis. All of the losing traders I know focus on indicators, systems, etc. and always blame the markets, "them", "the stupid chat-room", etc., but never themselves. I have never heard any of them say "I traded too large" or "I made a mistake". None of them is willing to admit their mistakes and subsequently none of them are willing to do the changes necessary to transform them into winning traders.
Thus, to summarize, your first step sounds very simple when you write it, but in reality it is a complex issue that not many traders are willing to face. Unless someone is willing to address those issues head-on, I don't think they have much chance of success and the rest of the plan becomes almost irrelevant.
If this sounds confrontational, that is not my intention at all. However, I do feel that many will glance over that first step, thinking that it is unimportant, skip past the second with their already entrenched beliefs and focus purely on the third step. I don't know if it is possible to break the development down into steps like this - lately I have come to view it all as one large constant-feedback loop.
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I don't view it as confrontational at all, and I agree with everything you say. It's essentially what I've been ranting about for fifteen years.
But everyone believes that they are smarter and more competent than they are. For example, something like 75% of drivers classify themselves as better than average. Many more than 50% of the general population believe that they have above-average intelligence. I suspect most traders think that they're just great. However, few of them are willing to accept the responsibility for their trading results.
The typical trader will do most anything to avoid creating definition and rules because he does not want to take responsibility for the results of his trading. If he knows exactly what he is going to do and under what conditions, then he would have something by which to measure his performance, thus making himself accountable to himself. This is exactly what most traders don't want to do, preferring instead to keep their relationship with the market somewhat mysterious.
This creates a real psychological paradox for traders, because the only way to learn how to trade effectively is to make oneself accountable by creating structure; but with accountability comes responsibility.
People generally become interested in trading price only after having been screwed by one vendor or another or several and becoming disenchanted by all these indicators and charting formats that were supposed to make it all so easy and blowing up their account several times. This makes finding the way back extremely difficult, and few manage it. They've lost the will. But even among those who want to give it another try, few are willing to develop a thoroughly-tested and consistently-profitable trading (currently, two). This may stem from a reluctance to face the fact that, no, they may not be God's gift to the trading community. There are reasons for this, of course, and they're not too difficult to figure out. But what interests me, among other aspects of this, is that those who would never dream of entering a professional poker tournament without even knowing whether a full house beats a straight (or even knowing what a full house and a straight are) think that the market is an ATM.
All I can do is provide the information. If people want to dismiss it, or ridicule it, or ignore it, that's their privilege. Professional traders stand behind it, so it's up to the individual to follow the path that makes the most sense.
Rarely do any of us grow up learning how to operate in an arena that allows for complete freedom of creative expression, with no external structure to restrict it in any way. In the trading environment, you will have to make up your own rules and then have the discipline to abide by them.
The problem is, price movement is fluid, always in motion, quite unlike the highly structured events that most of us are accustomed to. In the market environment, the decisions that confront you are as endless as the price movements you intend to take advantage of. You don't just have to decide to participate, you also have to decide when to enter, how long to stay in, and under what conditions to get out.
There is no beginning, middle, or end - only what you create in your own mind.
Last edited by DbPhoenix; August 14th, 2015 at 09:27 AM.
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After the third discard I preferred to stop trading because at this point the price was unable to define a direction and
its movement was framed primarily under its inability to break below the ONL and above the ONH.
However In my opinion this kind of days are valuable in order to identify characteristics of non trending days
Last edited by lajx; August 14th, 2015 at 10:30 AM.
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Questions came up elsewhere regarding yesterday's "action", and my responses may be of interest to those who are exploring this.
Those who have read post 1 will of course be in a better position to understand the topic than those who haven't. Those who have been curious enough about it to actually work with it – or at least play with it – will be in a better position still. Those who have read it will also understand that the SLA/AMT is essentially an interday approach, beginning as it does with an examination of the weekly chart, through the daily, to the hourly. The examples provided employ hourly "bars", or intervals. Applying the SLA/AMT to an intraday environment requires an understanding of the difference in dynamics: there are obviously many more trading opportunities presented and therefore trading decisions that must be made employing a 1m interval than when employing a 60m interval. Examining these differences was what the previous thread was all about, hence the "intraday" in the title. However, that thread was thrown off track and is of no further use.
The basic SLA/AMT presented in post 1 is a primer. Training wheels for the beginner. Rehab for the damaged trader. The beginner will learn discipline, patience, all the good stuff below. The damaged trader will, one hopes, find his way back to a disciplined and professional approach, assuming he was ever disciplined and professional in the first place. If he wasn't, then it may provide him with a reset and reboot. A way back. The damaged trader will find it vastly more difficult to start over. But it can be done.
If one wants to be a winning trader (and who doesn't), there are certain characteristics that one must either have or acquire. Fortunately, the SLA/AMT addresses all of them.
1. Losses. One must accept the fact that he is going to incur losses, no matter what bar interval he chooses. The task is not to avoid loss but rather contain it. The SLA/AMT is designed not to prevent loss but to keep losses minimal.
2. Preparation. Doing nothing before the beginning of the session in anticipation of exciting, new experiences pretty much guarantees that those experiences are not going to be pleasant. No, one cannot know for sure what is going to happen, but he can know where he is with regard to whatever extremes are in his neighborhood, probably ranges. If he hasn't reviewed at least the weekly, daily, and hourly charts before his session, he has no one to blame but himself for what happens. If he has reviewed these charts, he will have a clearer notion of where and how far price may go, which may help him stay in a trade rather than jump out simply because price has gone against him a tick or two.
3. Planning. The SLA/AMT is its own plan. But if it isn't followed, if it's "tweaked", it can't be expected to function properly. Yes, there are minor decisions that must be made on the fly if one is truly reading price and not just being led on a leash, but as one gains familiarity with price behavior, these decisions become matter of course, like slowing down at a Yield sign. Larger changes, however, will most likely require at least minimal testing. Changing something just because "it seems like a good idea" is not likely to yield the desired result. As for ignoring the rules altogether, well . .
4. Discipline. Without discipline, whatever you do will result in failure. The SLA/AMT, however, forces you to be disciplined. If you keep fighting it, like hitting the snooze button over and over again, it will fold its arms and lean against the wall, waiting for you to pull yourself together. If you are a beginner, but especially if you're damaged, it is essential that you follow the rules. Yes, you will have to decide what, for example, constitutes a "break" of a line: a tick, two ticks, a point or two. But not five. Not ten. Not half your account (an hourly interval, of course, requires a bit more leeway than a point or two). And you must do this every single occurrence. Otherwise the SLA/AMT is no better than that trading plan you got in your mailbox from Profits 'R Us.
5. Patience. The best trades are found at the extremes, either of range limits or channel limits. If you're nowhere near one or the other, you have nothing to do but watch (and don't try to be clever and draw teeny-tiny ranges and teeny-tiny channels in teeny-tiny bar intervals to rationalize and justify your lack of patience).
Learn to use inaction as a defense against your tendencies toward impulsive action, e.g., "revenge trading", or fear of "missing it", or "making up" for that loss.
Don't get irritated or angered or feel like a martyr when waiting.
Regard patience as a central pillar of your strategy. Don't assign it a secondary or lesser role.
Don't be impatient about patience. One part of your brain is telling you to be patient while another is saying, "What's taking so long?" These must work it out and learn to live together.
Begin by being patient, but don't forget to stay patient. The important thing is not whether you are controlled and disciplined at the start of your session, but also at the middle, the end, and all points throughout. (from Zen and the Art of Poker)
One of the best rules anybody can learn about investing is to do nothing, absolutely nothing, unless there is something to do. Most people always have to be playing; they always have to be doing something. They can't just sit there and wait for something new to develop. I wait until there is money lying in the corner, and all I have to do is go over there and pick it up. I do nothing in the meantime. Even people who lose money in the market say, 'I just lost my money, now I have to do something to make it back.' No, you don't. You should sit there until you find something.
6. Record-keeping. It is essential to collect and maintain records of your end-of-session reviews (you are of course doing end-of-session chart/trade reviews). If you do not keep track of what you did right and what you did not-right and the results of each, you won't be looking at early retirement any time soon. Avoid, however, the I'm A Useless Sack drama. Focus instead on what you saw correctly, what you missed that you should not have missed, what you missed that the greatest trader on the planet would have missed, which trades were made according to plan and which weren't (along with why, so that you can avoid the same behavior in future).
I'll get back to all this later using yesterday as an example.
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