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TST Combine Journal

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  #91 (permalink)
Birmingham, AL
Posts: 1,065 since Apr 2012

I'm grateful to those trading buddies I've developed at futures.io (formerly BMT) that dropped me a line lately to encourage and offer support. I'm grateful to @Big Mike for creating and nurturing a place in which these people enjoy being. Thanks.

I have come to a few realizations over the weekend.

1. I need to get my entire life more balanced. I put everything I have into trading, every single day. After the fund not working out as planned, I stepped up my already tremendous work ethic to a whole new level. I am neglecting things like eating, exercise, my faith, friends, family, girlfriend, hobbies, sunlight, etc. By the time I get up from the chair at night, I have nothing left to give, and I nearly immediately fall asleep in mental exhaustion when my head hits the pillow.

2. I'm inspired by @AttitudeTrader in the way that he has embraced Mark Douglas concepts and is literally applying them to build a solid, important, base for trading. He can them methodically build from this base once it's built. I am a good trader, I have proven this time and time again... the problem is that I did not build the proper mental framework on the front side as he is doing, therefore I am running into these cycles and problems... ultimately not reaching my trading potential.

3. I am taking what I know about the markets and boiling it down to as mechanical of a system as I can possibly muster up. This is related to point #2, and it will be an exercise in building a base/foundation of a) learning to trust myself that I can execute a plan without hesitation, fear, or other variables getting in the way, b) learn to think of trading as not analyzing everything for a trade and wanting/needing some self-justified response from the market to give me an "i'm right" feedback. Basically learn to truly accept risk, embrace it, and think MORE in line as I would when I play blackjack. When I play blackjack, I truly truly believe that each individual hand is random; that I only have (with proper strategy) a 48.5% chance or so of winning that specific hand. I use a martingale method (yes I know I still don't have a long run edge, but hang with me here)... I use the martingale betting method because I believe in the random distribution of winning and losing hands. I double my bet each hand that I lose, and I know going in that I have a pretty good chance of not having 6 or 7 losers (my loss limit) hit. I win money at a casino most times I've ever been with this method. The point is that when I'm trading, I DO NOT VIEW EACH TRADE THIS WAY... as random.... as a toss up. I'm going to start to do just that, it may take time to fully develop. I currently view trades as a very intelligent, analysis based, near certainty. I need to view them more like a gamble with a clearly defined risk. This may sound odd to some of you, but I know that for me, it will help.

4. I've discovered a pattern in my life all the way back to the 7th grade. The 3 things that I'll point out that it encompasses are tennis, poker, and trading.

In tennis, I was quite good. Above average for sure, D1 potential from a young age. I ended up only being D2 quality by the time I was a senior. Why? It was not a lack of hard work, nor a lack of natural talent. It was mental. I wanted to have more fun playing tennis with a style of big, flashy shots, big winners, big 127mph serve, etc. I WANTED TO PLAY LIKE THIS MORE THAN I WANTED TO WIN. In tennis, as in trading, 80% of the points are LOST not won. I refused to accept this, and cared more about keeping it exciting. I DID NOT WANT TO WIN MORE THAN I WANTED TO ENJOY MY STYLE OF PLAY.

In poker, you can probably already guess what I'm going to say. I have a decent mathematical head on me. I could calculate pot odds on the fly, and knew exactly what the best move was to make based on odds. I read tons of books on poker (mainly limit poker because you can control odds better there, its' all about math, where no-limit is more about reading people). The problem with my poker playing? Mental. Once I really found out what the game was about, and how to successfully draw money out of people that didn't play as disciplined and with the odds... I was no longer interested. That way of playing was not fun. I wanted the thrill of raising, just to try and bluff because I wanted to enjoy that aspect of it. I DID NOT WANT TO MAKE MONEY MORE THAN I WANTED TO ENJOY MY STYLE OF PLAY.

In trading, I have probably over traded my entire trading career. I have a great pattern recognition, analytical mind, sense for orderflow without even looking at a dom, etc. I am, for the vast majority of the time, buying when it really is the best time to be buying, and selling when I should be selling. The problem? I overtrade, and more importantly, over manage trades, I also have, at times, over sized. I, as the pattern continues from tennis and poker, want to do things in a style that are enjoyable for me, and exciting. Can trading be "fun" if I really buckle down and stop believing that I can "be right" on most every trade I take from my "great analysis"? Will it cease to be what it is now that seems to fulfill me completely? DO I WANT TO MAKE MONEY MORE THAN I WANT TO REALLY ENJOY THE ACT OF TRADING? Time will tell.

Another thought... (based on some thoughts I had regarding a post Big Mike started about the goal of trading, money, life, retirement, etc) For me, trading is the goal. Yes, I like to travel. Yes, I like to be able to eat nice meals. But... I'm a simple country boy that really fell in love with trading. The act of trading, live or sim, makes me happy. What other job could I have that gave such a dynamic challenge every single day? It's never the same, it's always forcing me to grow as an individual, and it is down right stimulating to my core to analyze PA. Maybe there is a problem with this in some way? Maybe the fact that I have no real desire to be a billionaire like most aspiring traders I've ever heard talk about these things. I know there is some positive to it, I never let dollar figures get in the way of trading. I simply let the desire of BEING RIGHT on an individual trade, or BEING RIGHT on an individual session get in the way of executing proper trading behaviors. I guess I answered my own question here with this stream of consciousness. It's not a big deal whether I do or do not really want to be a billionaire. My personal issue that's holding me back is a simple desire to be right all the time.


So in summary, I'll be focusing entirely on building the mental foundation I need to be more consistent in my trading. I'll be trading a mechanical methodology over periods of 20-trade samples. If I ever want to tweak anything about this method, I can tweak ONE thing at a time AFTER a 20-trade sample size. This is not to increase profitability or to trade the most brilliant mechanical system ever devised by man; it's to build a mental framework of trusting myself to be able to execute a plan flawlessly without fear or hesitation, and to trust the nature of markets to be random, and to build a belief in the fact that I am operating in an uncertain environment where an edge is only a higher probability of A over B.

I'll also be working on getting my life back in balance. Eating consistently, exercising consistently, and not spending every bit of my time and energy on trading.

More specific steps on how I'm going to implement plans to meet these goals will be posted in the future.


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  #92 (permalink)
Site Administrator
Manta, Ecuador
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Big Mike's Avatar
Posts: 49,061 since Jun 2009
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Glad to hear it Merritt. You cannot simply will yourself into being a better trader. It is more than that. I am glad you are addressing surrounding items which have an effect on your physical and mental well-being, they will translate into accomplishments as a trader as well.


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  #93 (permalink)
Birmingham, AL
Posts: 1,065 since Apr 2012

So much to talk about.

Firstly, there was no live recorded trading webcast today. It's not that I had two bad days thursday and friday. It is the fact that those losing days, coupled with some massive realizations, have led me to implement new things, and the last thing I needed on my plate this morning was knowing that 30 people were watching me trade live. I think you understand.

So, as mentioned. I'm getting back to the basic, fundamental building blocks of trader development. Going back to the start, if you will, to fill some psychological holes in my trader mindset.

I will go ahead and cut myself a bit of slack. I tried to get all this together by this morning and have a solid plan for what I was going to do; I'll admit I needed just a little more time, but today was still a great exercise. I just had a few conflicting moments when I realized there was still a bit too much discretion in my method, and I don't need that right now for what I'm trying to do.

What am I trying to do? Build a proper mindset. This is all based on Mark Douglas's "Trading in the Zone". I'm now trading as mechanical as I can (as I said that's a bit of a work in progress to fully mechanize) in order to learn to trust myself to execute flawlessly, develop a real belief in the uncertainty of the markets on an individual/micro level, and learning to think in terms of probabilities which is a real belief in the certainty of the markets on a 20-trade sample size/macro level view.

It's a process in building self-discipline. This is not what I used to think the definition of self-discipline was. In this context, it's simply a mental technique to redirect, as best we can, our focus of attention to the object of our goal or desire, when that goal or desire conflicts with some other component (belief) of our mental environment. Self-discipline is a technique to create a new mental framework, not something some people are born with.

I'm working to objectively define my edges, predefine the risk of every trade, completely accept that risk, act on my edges without hesitation, pay myself fairly systematically as the market makes money available to me, and continually monitor myself for susceptibility for making errors.

Speaking of making errors, at this point in the process, I am being completely objective about the errors. I'm simply noticing them, not judging myself, and taking note of them in my journal. These things simply point the way where I need to focus efforts to improve yourself.

I'll split to the next post to go over exactly what happened in today's session. Just wanted to give an overview.

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  #94 (permalink)
Legendary Market Wizard
Georgia, US
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Posts: 5,466 since Jan 2011
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Sounds like a good plan Merritt. Accepting the uncertainty of an individual trade sounds so easy, but is so hard.

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  #95 (permalink)
Dallas, TX, USA
Experience: Intermediate
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Broker: IQFeed
Trading: 6E
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Posts: 358 since Oct 2009
Thanks: 6,868 given, 867 received

@indextrader7 ,

Wow! All I can say is impressive and inspiring.


"Is it hard? Not if you have the right attitude. It's having the right attitude that's hard." - Robert Pirsig
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  #96 (permalink)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Posts: 563 since Jan 2013
Thanks: 33 given, 375 received

indextrader7 View Post
So much to talk about.

Are you still planning on starting the Combine this week? If so, I would advise to change to a lower one, like the 50K. Your confidence just got a shot through the heart, there is no point in trying the hardest Combine with such a mindset. If you pass the 50K, you can still try a harder one later with a boosted ego and positive experience, but if you fail the 150K, your confidence is even going to be lower...

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  #97 (permalink)
Tulsa OK
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Posts: 162 since Jul 2009
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indextrader7 View Post
Speaking of making errors, at this point in the process, I am being completely objective about the errors. I'm simply noticing them, not judging myself, and taking note of them in my journal. These things simply point the way where I need to focus efforts to improve yourself.

Nice, perfect attitude for course correcting yourself towards your goals.

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  #98 (permalink)
Birmingham, AL
Posts: 1,065 since Apr 2012

Again, ignore some of the crazy fills. S5 told me they are having problems with CL sim fills at the moment. I don't really care other than for keeping stats, but I can adjust them for proper trades.

I didn't take 20 trades today, but I will refer to trades in 20-trade samples.

Trade 1/20: Valid scalp entry long, profits taken (+10, +4).

Trade 2/20: Valid entry short, valid scalp profits taken (+9), rest of position remains. Did not take scalp entry setup; happened too quick once I realized, but I hesitated (missed 10 ticks). Did not take second scalp entry; was too afraid (missed 15 ticks) . Out of remainder (valid) an hour later (+22).

Trade 3/20: Valid entry long, valid scalp profits taken (+9), rest of position stopped out (-10).

Trade 4/20: Valid entry long, (phantom target hit??) re entered just to have the position back on, because that fill wasn't correct, trade stopped out. (-10)

Trade 5/20: Valid entry long, stop hit. (-6)

Trade 6/20: Valid entry short, stop hit. (-9)

Trade 7/20: Valid entry short, scalp exit taken after windfall profit (+35), remainder of position held. Added to position via scalp, added position stopped (-18) VIOLATED STOP PLACEMENT RULES HERE. I thought I knew things would go in my favor since there was such a sharp move in my favor. This exercise is not about "knowing" about PA. This exercise is about knowing exactly what my edge looks like, knowing exactly how much I need to risk to find out if an edge is going to work, knowing that I have a specific plan for taking profits if a trade goes my way, but that's ALL I'M ALLOWED TO KNOW. Scalp add again, profits taken on add (+6). Scalp add again, profits taken on add (+13). Scalp add again, added position stopped(-8). Full position exited (valid) (+34).

Took a short break after that marathon trade (for me), regrouped, came back to some nice PA.

Trade 8/20: Valid scalp entry short, profits taken (+6, +9)


Two full pages of notes in the journal today DURING trading. Most sessions, my journal is not touched until after the session is over. Quite a massive collection of words like:
- emotions
- doubt
- uncertain
- quite confused
- just realized
- almost forgot
- seems strong compared to expectations
- such a strong desire to exit
- conflicted
- what exactly defines this

... and that's just the first page, I won't go on. You get the idea, this was not an easy task for me, which shows how much work I have to do before I can trade from the same perspective a casino operates from. No care about individual outcomes.

I will give myself some slack; I am a very subjective trader, and it has been very hard for me to mechanize what I do. There were a few situations today where I did not have a black and white answer. I'm working on reducing those grey areas in analysis right now.

Errors today: I missed two scalp entries (I'm supposed to take them all) and I violated planned stop placement once. Both were nice winners with little to no MAE.

Again, I'm working hard to boil down what I do from an subjective level as a trader to totally objective rules. It's not perfect yet, so I'm having to do some clarifying.

Overall, today was amazingly difficult, but amazingly liberating at the same time. I have a lot of work to do yet. But, as bad as I may have made it seem, most of the uncertainty and whatnot was due to the lack of TOTAL objectivity with my trading rules, and nuances I hadn't considered beforehand. Most all of the uncertainty and problems were from this. I did not have much trouble following the more basic, black and white rules (other than the one hesitation on the exit). Mark Douglas talks about how people have trader's mindset lines of "code" like a program. He compares traders that have tons and tons of flawed code, versus those that have only a few lines that need work. I would say (at this point IMHO) that I only have a few lines to correct, and that feels pretty good to know. I don't that it will take considerable time and mental effort to fix those lines though; I do not underestimate that.

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  #99 (permalink)
Birmingham, AL
Posts: 1,065 since Apr 2012

Today was more difficult than yesterday, psychologically speaking. I became frustrated today, and I've analyzed it.

As you may know, CL stayed in a tight range today. As you also may know, my mechanized method mostly looks to take advantage of continuations in trends. So it was a challenging day at best, until this most recent large up move.

Here's the analysis: I still have beliefs/mentalities that I want to be right on every trade. Beliefs that I am a good analyst and can "know" what is going to happen. Being forced to suppress my intuitive trading and trade the mechanical system that isn't working as well = frustration starts to build. The frustrations led to me eventually, late in the day, violating some of my mechanical rules. If I continue to pour energy into molding new belief systems about uncertainty and consistency, I can overcome this frustration.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit upset with myself, but it is only a bit. I am continuing to stay objective and simply notice what I think, say, and do as best I can.

The trade analyzer for today's session here: It may look like I should take profits more often; like I'm leaving too much on the table, but that is simply the effect of today's action in CL. A tight range didn't give me the sustained moves I look for. My system is not designed to profit from such an environment. I pretty much broke even today, and that's a good thing. But this is all side conversation, it's not what my development is about right now.

Today's trades are continuing in their count of trades out of 20 from yesterday.

Trade 9/20: Valid entry, scalp taken (+13), remainder trailed out (+16)

Trade 10/20: Valid entry, although a bit confused. Invalid exit (-2). I couldn't accept the risk, so I exited.

Trade 11:20: Valid entry, scalp taken (+10). Position trailed out (-3)

Trade 12/20: Invalid entry, did not wait for candle close. Stopped (-9)

Trade 13/20: Valid entry, stopped (-12)

Trade 14/20: Valid entry, scalp taken (+14), trail hit rest (+11)

Trade 15/20: Valid entry, scalp taken (+10), grey area exit, will need to clarify before tomorrow (-2)

Trade 16/20: Valid entry, scalp taken (+10), remainder trailed correctly (-5).

Trade 17/20: Valid entry, no scalp taken as I THOUGHT I KNEW that price would run farther, invalid exit at breakeven (0)

Trade 18/20: Valid entry, stopped ..hesitated on stop loss which cost a few more ticks .. (-13)

Trade 19/20: Valid entry, invalid move of stop to breakeven, stop hit (0)

Trade 20/20: Valid entry, stopped (-11)

These remainder of the trades for the session will be included in this sample size, to more group psychological sessions.

Trade 21: Valid entry: stopped (-8)

Trade 22: Valid entry: scalp taken (+13), scalp added to position, scalp taken off (+6), remainder correctly trailed (+1)

Trade 23: Invalid entry, anticipating. Stopped (-9)

Trade 24: Invalid entry, anticipating again. Stopped (-6)

Trade 25: Valid entry, scalp taken (+16) remainder trailed (+37)

Trade 26: Invalid, jumped the gun before candle close, stopped (-10)

Trade 27: Valid entry, scalp taken at (+10), remainder trailed (+17)


Next post will be a thorough review of the completion of my first 20-trade sample size.


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  #100 (permalink)
Birmingham, AL
Posts: 1,065 since Apr 2012

Mistakes on entries:

-23 of the 27 trades were valid entries. Of the 4 invalid entries, all of them were due to anticipating/jumping the gun on an entry. These 4 trades cost me -34 ticks (-136 ticks on 4 lots).

Mistakes on exits:

-Two hesitations to take a loss. These two hesitations cost me -14 ticks (56 ticks on 4 lots).

-Three exits because I absolutely couldn't stand to allow price to retrace and give back profits. These three decisions saved me a lot of ticks. The problem is that I'm supposed to follow a specific trail for the remainder of my position.

Other mistakes:

- I should have reversed my position (and didn't do it) five times. Nearly all these would have been profitable.

- I did not add to positions twice, both would have been profitable.

- I did not take partial profits on initial positions twice. This cost at least 20 ticks (80 ticks on 4 lots).


I came out profitable on the whole for the test. 50% wins and 1.4 win:loss ratio. Here's the individual trade P/L and the cumulative P/L (including an hypothetical $5/rt commission rate):

Frankly, I'm fairly pleased to see that it came out in the green, despite the errors I made and largely despite going from a totally no-rules trader to nearly totally mechanical. It was not an easy task.

I will say that the market was not in optimal condition to really profit from this method the past two days. So it's nice to see it above breakeven despite the less than optimal conditions. I didn't really get the winners that it is capable of.


This exercise's purposes were:

1. To lean to trust myself to carry out a trading plan and flawlessly execute it. I failed.

2. To learn to think in terms of probabilities, to trade like a casino operates. I made improvements, but failed.

3. To not have fear and/or not see market information painful or threatening. I failed.

4. To truly accept every trade outcome as uncertain. I failed.

5. Take complete responsibility (not ever root for the market to fulfill my hopes). I failed.

6. To not need to be right. I failed.

7. Accept the outcome of trades without emotional discomfort. I failed.

8. Develop a thinking strategy in which I am not trying to get anything from the market, or avoid anything. I failed.

9. Believe strongly in the fact that ANYTHING can happen at any time. I PASSED.

10. Consistently predefine my risk on every trade. I PASSED.

11. No attempting to pick and choose which edges you think will work or not work. I failed.

12. Observe myself objectively without harsh criticism. I PASSED.


While I failed at most of these, there were small improvements made. The most important thing, however, is the fact that I am taking the right steps; the fact that I am putting considerable mental effort into re-structuring my mental framework.

I am not ready to move on from this exercise. I will repeat it until I am.

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