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iqgod's TopstepTrader Combine Journal


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iqgod's TopstepTrader Combine Journal

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This is my official TopStepTrader Combine Journal.

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This journal is an honest, brutal, mercenary, contemplative, brave, unfettered and a very very personal attempt to describe my private activity of trading. I try to pretend that have no idea why this journal exists here, since most of the prose is of a nature more suited to a private diary, where it would well serve the purpose of improvement in my personal context and where I would not think twice about laying bare my shortcomings, driving myself hard, making confessions with uncompromising honesty - in short all the benefits that only a private space could offer.

Yet this journal exists, no less, on the internet.

Why?

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." - Maya Angelou

Journaling is a prerequisite to stay sane, composed and confident enough to trade another day. Simple.

A journal provides success and failure in measurable terms, instead of as possibilities and figments of fertile trader imaginations.

My trading within the rigid framework of parameters of a TopStepTrader combine began in August on a wet rainy Friday afternoon, yet what follows is not a tamed down Disneyfied story from the Hindsight Fairy.

The past tense ends here! A trader stays in the present and hence this journal is in the present tense!
Simply put, focusing on present tense is purposeful and intentional, and for practical reasons, not symbolic.

Mistakes Were Made!

The above line is dead passive voice, which is just a way of saying that something was done without revealing the whodunit. Good for news headlines obtained “from reliable sources” but not good enough for a trading journal. A trading journal involves a responsibility-taker, a buck-stops-here attitude – be assured that such a position does not allow third person prose! Though drama and intrigue are out of scope, they end up in a trading journal nevertheless. However the focus of this journal is not the emphasis on the drama which is unavoidable anyways , but on the action of trading.

The passive voice ends here with this sentence.

Also, while a chart marking trades is an important component of a journal, my focus is not on charts. Charts are useful because they highlight what was done and what was not done, but should have been done, but are moreo f a “storefront” - good for system sellers, but the really useful parts for aspiring traders like me are in the prose.

Also, the brutality honest parts are there for the reason that those are the ones that will improve my trading, and if perhaps the some of them may appear illogical and senseless, I would urge you to hang on tight, as always.
So I would like to begin my journal with the sentence (though it is already way down, and not the beginning any more):

Trading is foremost a mental game.

You get your strategy, you put it into practice. Once the basic strategy has been proved, you discover that you yourself are the enemy. What ultimately matters is your mental game.

I reached here, a solid place, after a long journey, and I failed earlier because (note that these also form recurrent themes in this particular journal, I am not above fallacies and never will be):
1. I changed strategies when I was losing, or at least lost faith in my current strategy to start cherry-picking.
2. I traded plain badly when I was down to don’t care size, placing stops way off limits permitted by my MM strategy.
3. Stopping trading when I was winning in a big way.
4. Getting feelings of ‘being a failure’ when I had a losing trade .
5. At times thinking that I had cornered the market and ‘knew’ every outcome.
6. Whining. Getting depressed. Feeling ready to quit. All forms of avoiding responsibility for my actions.
7. Getting big sometimes, increasing size “one time”.
8. Holding when I should have folded and then holding more because ‘I can’t give up NOW’.
9. Marrying concepts, trades, ideas. Then sticking to a failing marriage, which makes the marriage fall apart even more.

I am a price action trader. My emotions assist me and I never ‘block my emotions out’ while trading. They are my messengers and I am grateful for having them.

This journal, then, is simply about identifying my A-game, consistently playing close to my A-game and improving my A-game.




So here we go… presenting the chart of Day 1 Trade 1:



What did I do right?

I jumped into an uptrend by buying the first break at the 20 EMA, which seemed a ‘golden opportunity’ to go long (1.3355).

What did I do wrong?

I ‘knew’ that the right play was to place my stop one tick below the low of the setup i.e. stop at (1.3352). Did I?

No.

Reasons?

Because this is the inaugural trade of the combine it HAS to be a winner. Great. Flimsy one at that.

So did I allow it to be a winner?

No. Nada. I held and held (and held). Through all the range. Then I panicked and sold at the bottom of the range. As is clear from the chart so did everybody else in my predicament whose ‘holding pain point’ had been reached. This made the market shoot up for a ceiling test of the earlier range I had got long in. It would have been a 0 pip scratch trade at the best but I stared at 6-pip loser.

Why did I do this?

Because I had been losing in my real trading – facing loser after loser after loser. I wanted to win at least here, in sim, in a combine. ENTITLEMENT. Note that I have marked the trade with this keyword hence it is in caps.
There I was: I felt I was improving , I was in control, but as you may have read in my earlier journal I lost a wad of real money for whatever reasons (out of focus) and had realized that I needed to do more work no matter what I thought. Perhaps I had realized that all along but I had been lazy about doing “the work”.

What would I do better if I had to trade this again?

Place my stop correctly and not freeze up. Practice until this reaches a level of unconscious competence.
Let me state that in third person: Freeing himself from the outcome of a trade, @iqgod proceeded throughout 2013 to relieve himself of The Hecklers, namely the three idiots of 1. the need to be right 2. the emotional attachment with the outcome of a trade 3. avoid fighting reality that can’t be changed, or using trading to escape reality.

It is important for me to be honest about my range of skills. While stating the list of fallacies in past tense seems okay, yet these are the fat tails of my game – to be ignored at my own peril. These are all the mistakes I should not be making now, but still do – journaling is part of the improvement process, the other part being the work and practice to effect that improvement. IMPROVE_WEAKNESS. This is an action item marker. The journal is a comparison tool to help me decide if I have actually improved or its just hot air.

Another thing I was lacking?

Preparation/ warm-up.

Chart before I traded:



The habit of deep, slow, relaxed and mindful breathing and getting into “The Zone” (emWave2), look below for an excellent example session (this was not done before beginning Day 1 unfortunately):

The learning is: Haste and greed play. Entering the arena before proper preparations is an outcome of greed (no time to waste – let me go make money instead!)

A good time for reviewing mental issues too. Like re-reading this and earlier journals.

Moving on….

Trade 2:

Figure for trades 2,3,4,5




Here I bought the ‘breakout’ finally thinking the market would go up up up.

Why was that a bad idea?

Because of resistance to the left of the chart. Prices stalled right into resistance and yet I held held held.

Why did I do that?
Not wanting to lose a second time. I wanted returned what the market had taken from me.

Why did I exit at the same darn point with price same as the last time?
I panicked.

Preparation has to happen beforehand, much like homework.

Corollary: If I do nothing and do not prepare in advance, the beginning of the session is the ‘preparation’. The futures market is no place for ‘preparation’. I should have been focused, instead I was ‘warming-up’ which is a setup for making mistakes (diversion of energy).

Evaluation of my A-game needed to happen post-session but here I see it being analyzed in-situ which lead to this trade for which the marker is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Focusing on the process is what is the most important thing, instead I focused on ‘Oh, I lost for no reason!’ leading to this emotional roller coaster of trades.

The note in this note is: I have to focus only on the factors that I can focus hundred percent on: like my stop-loss tipping point when a trade is invalidated. Trade No. 2 was invalidated after prices came back to the EMA then tried to make a new high but failed and returned to EMA again (1.3352). Instead I waited (HOPE marker) and exited in panic at (1.3349).

Trade 3:

… was a knee jerk reaction BUY and then SELL without much pre-planned thought and is bad scalping. UNPLANNED label which is what eats up the bottomline.

Trade 4:

The trade was taken in the belief of a downward block break of the range in a downmove but instead turned into a double bottom at which prices reversed.

The trade was a risky short to begin with and I was the emotional roller-coaster trying to make myself whole.

Trading always has to be process based and not knew-jerk like this. Various forms of tilt combined, however my stop was at the correct level though it was taken out and the market reversed. However, the trade itself was wrong (shorting at the bottom of a ranging market).

Trade 5:

This was a mirror image of trade 4: I went long at the top of a ranging market and then covered at the bottom.
INTERNAL_ISSUES: This is a personal label, however this meant I WANTED TO LOSE THIS COMBINE.

Trade 7:




By this time, as I took another long at the top of a ranging market (1.3349) it was clear that I was not trading setups, but I was simply loosely anticipating that the market would move up because it just had made a giant upmove and would eventually be breaking out of the range to the upside. This is a GAMBLING label and is really bad because this meant I had not mathematical edge backing my trading anymore.

Trades 8 and 9:



These are simply bets that the market was going to go up at some random future point and do not need elaboration. What needs elaboration however is that the loss limit was near and I should have booked ANY profit at all yet I comfortably ignored three-four ticks that went favorably towards my side and wanted a full 10-tick target. While this seems like good discipline it has to be combined with patiently waiting for proper setups and only then waiting for the 10-tick target in an overall disciplined manner.

Trades 10 and 11:



… are excellent examples of overtrading.

Trading in my mental A-game is not and never will be a random attempt here and a random attempt there yet they are prime examples of me trading all over the place without detailing out why I was taking trades in the first place.

The best advice to myself and all aspiring traders: All trades must be based on sound logic. There is no magic, no luck, no praying, no know-everything-now, no ‘allowed deviations’, no ‘this one time’.

Why don’t I practice what I preach?

It is a feedback loop. I will get to a level where I keep practicing till I do.

Note: The market eventually sold off hard presumably to take out all the stops of badly timed longs like me.
After which it was free to go up and prove in the most painful manner to the early entrants that they were right after all.

In trading smart timing is everything. It separates the traders from the wannabies and analysts.

Interesting statistics:

Trade Report:



Postion Report:



Account Report T4:



Fills:




Official Report:


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Here is why I used to fail earlier.

I would be busy seemingly in "managing myself" as @josh had warned (here, the trend was DOWN and I wanted to BUY BUY BUY) and would usually end up ignoring the market's overall picture:



Here I entered a breakout trade to the upside which immediately died out like a flame (a failed breakout!).

Rinse and repeat a few times in the same direction and here we have it plain out in the open why today was another losing day:








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This day I waited TOO MUCH and then FINALLY entered an uptrend in its blowoff stage.

The chart says it all:






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The evils of an early entry: by the time price completed the formation and was ready to break out here I go exiting instead of scaling in!






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Day 5 was marked with extreme impatient, extreme scaredy-ness, and extreme overtrading.

No wonder it turned out like this:











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[placeholder]

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The trading was "reactionary" instead of proactive which is what is exploited by those who are more adept. Hence it was a mediocre day.








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