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McJackson's Journal - developing healthier trading processes + mindset


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McJackson's Journal - developing healthier trading processes + mindset

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  #1 (permalink)
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Advanced
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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Posts: 24 since Mar 2014
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Aaaaaaalrighty then. Hello folks!

I'm one of the those "long time listener, first time caller" types. Hoping to change that now and get more active. Maybe even provide some value!

My background:
I've traded on and off for the last 12 years. Started off swing trading forex and slowly moved to day trading futures. I've balanced trading and business ventures (highly do not recommend that)...My career progression is similar to many others I've heard - early success, hit a wall, and eventually some steady development.

I hit my "wall" about the same time I joined this forum - 4 years ago. The combination of the other business slowly dying, a relationship falling apart, and increasing money trouble....they all sort of fed into each other. The period after that was a little nutso - I bounced around a couple of countries, ended up on a little island in the Caribbean and sort of went off grid. Think Tom Hanks in Castaway, but with a better beard and no volleyball friend.

Since that little freakout, I've built another "other" business and sloooowly came back to the trading desk.

But I haven't fully gotten rid of the yips. I'm close, but the anxiety comes out in a very specific way. I know because I've been through the Topstep combines many, many times. I've been funded twice, and immediately blew the live money account. I'm talking about months of consecutive green days --> funding --> not a single green day.

I think I'm a pretty good analyst and a decent trader -- with a big fat glaring problem I can fix. This journal will be my way to share with you all, open myself up, and create some external accountability. As much as I love trading, I also know I simply do better around other humans where I can get things outta my head a bit.

So, with all that said....

How I trade:

Contracts:
CL, NQ, 6E.

The CL market changed so much in the last 2 years. It used to be my only focus, but I've increasingly moved to the NQ. Very different beasts, so there's some adjustment that needs to happen between each contract.

Time Frames:
Daily and H1 for big picture context. The 1m is my trading time frame, with the 200 tick chart for management and the 5m for shorter term context.

Strategy:
To keep things really simple, I'm watching as few things as possible, and keeping my levels as specific as possible. S/R is absolutely a zonal thing, big picture, but I'm a big believer that certain specific price levels can generate enough reaction as to be tradeable.

I'm looking at opening ranges, premarket H/L's, prior day H/L's, and longer term swings of obvious significance.

My trade ideas are built around price action at those levels. Bob Volman's material on "buildup" is extremely useful, imo. I trade traps and the occasional breakout, depending very much on volatility, timing, and preceding context.

My stops are extremely tight....and I'm very ok with that. I'm generally looking for 5R+ on a winner....so I'm not quite a scalper and not quite not a scalper either.

I'm happy to get much more detailed than that....there's a little more nuance and I do a lot of talking to myself through the trading session about who's doing what where. But I think I've already banged on enough and I should let the charts do the talking.

Let's talk about the crazy elephant in my room, to mix metaphors: daily loss limits.

Once I build the account up $500+, the loss limit will be -$200. For now, though, I'm keeping it at -$100. I'd usually be more focused on ticks than dollars, but with these Combines I've found it best to keep things very $ focused at the beginning in order to meet their rules.

If it's not clear already, I am trading a Step 2 $50K Combine. I traded today and took a small loss, within my limits (-$50). I'll post charts/results tomorrow evening.

Other Stuff
I'm mildly obsessed with performance, pressure, and "change".

I was an athlete through my teens and played my sport at a high level until midway through high school. I'm 33, so while I'm not exactly old, I think back to my mindset at 15/16 and see much healthier mental practices.

Since that little freakout adventure I mentioned above, I've seen some universally excellent traits in people around me who are highly skilled at their respective crafts, from trading to business and even philosophy. Some of it's mindset, some of it's routines...all of these are process-based behaviors. I am going to do my best to integrate these deeper practices/lessons into my trading, and I'll share that as well here.

This is what I believe is the core of how I will develop in the coming years. Your strategy is vital, of course, but at the same time almost any strategy will work if applied correctly. It's also why a successful strategy with one person can be a total failure in someone else's hands.

I'll leave you with what I feel is an appropriate quote from "Zen in the Art of Archery":


Quoting 
What stands in your way is that you have too much willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.


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  #3 (permalink)
Legendary Strat Enthusiast
Chiang Mai Thailand
 
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I was the same as you, a serial lurker. Best thing Ive done for my trading in a while was starting a public journal. Hope it works for you too.

Looking forward to following along and learning more about the way you trade.

Good luck


Marcus Aurelius
"Not to assume it's impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it's humanly possible, you can do it too"

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  #4 (permalink)
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Advanced
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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Posts: 24 since Mar 2014
Thanks: 29 given, 107 received


ninjus View Post
I was the same as you, a serial lurker. Best thing Ive done for my trading in a while was starting a public journal. Hope it works for you too.

Looking forward to following along and learning more about the way you trade.

Good luck

Thanks much! I'll post some charts later today and get into the nitty gritty.

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  #5 (permalink)
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Advanced
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
mcjackson's Avatar
 
Posts: 24 since Mar 2014
Thanks: 29 given, 107 received

Here's Friday's session.

Results: up about $30 on NQ overall, down about $90 on a set of frustrating CL trades.

You'll see I exceeded the DLL by $27, but I'm not worried. It wasn't really until I wrote yesterday's post that I wrote down and committed to the -$100 (moving to -$200 later) limit.

Moving forward I'll only trade CL at the most important of levels. Much more emphasis on NQ.

Chart Setups: I have two screens, one with 1m/5m/H1.....the other screen with the tick chart. On days where I drift into overtrading (Friday was on the edge), my attention shifts to the 200tick instead of the 1m/5m.

Fewer trades = better days.

This is a good Day 1 for the Combine and this journal because it's super middle of the road. Couple good trades, couple not so good trades, alright trade management....

Premarket levels work like a charm, and Friday was no exception. I was looking for price to probe the premarket low, scoop, and then bust upwards. A few minutes before the open, though, there was a little mini-fake right at the bottom of the premarket range (circled on the 5m chart). I still expected a test of the premarket low -- that's the basis of the first trade sequence. 2 shots, proven wrong, stood aside. Once it started moving the other way, I was just looking for small stalls/pullbacks to get in with the momentum move. The rest of the trades were trading around the premarket high, and not particularly well -- but I controlled my risk mostly OK.

I'm working on adjusting my reactivity to the SPEED of the market. Once a move starts to explode, I'm pretty good about reading it and getting in with the move.

But, as soon as the momentum dies down...I find it a little harder to slow ME down. A lot of my overtrading comes from trying to trade a slowing market the same way I trade a speeding up market. A couple of minutes difference, but it's a totally different experience and needs to be respected.

Looking forward to Monday.

I've also been reading The Inner Game of Tennis, which I highly recommend. I took this little gem from it:

"The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human incliniation to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad....When we unlearn how to be judgmental, it is possible to achieve spontaneous, focused play"

---> working on this, getting better every session.

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  #6 (permalink)
Elite_Member
Wiltshire, United Kingdom
 
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mcjackson View Post
I'll leave you with what I feel is an appropriate quote from "Zen in the Art of Archery":

I read that a number of years back, before being interested in trading, and enjoyed it too.
About three years ago my brother took up archery as a hobby and I gave my copy to him but for a while I have been wanting to read it again.
Good luck with the journalling, Step 2, and Other Stuff development.

Trading, ideally structured, is a vehicle for expanding consciousness, not damaging it. - Brett Steenbarger
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  #7 (permalink)
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Advanced
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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Posts: 24 since Mar 2014
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matthew28 View Post
I read that a number of years back, before being interested in trading, and enjoyed it too.
About three years ago my brother took up archery as a hobby and I gave my copy to him but for a while I have been wanting to read it again.
Good luck with the journalling, Step 2, and Other Stuff development.

Thanks!

It's definitely the sort of book you can go through multiple times.

Also, great Steenbarger quote you've got there in your signature! I recently went through his The Daily Trading Coach - another book I find good for multiple reads.

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  #8 (permalink)
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Advanced
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
mcjackson's Avatar
 
Posts: 24 since Mar 2014
Thanks: 29 given, 107 received

I thought I'd share a little story that I find pretty analogous to trading development.

A few years ago I was working on a software product and joined a few other software entrepreneurs for a group Hangouts session on Saturday mornings. It was great - structured conversations, everyone talked about the past week, ups downs, whatever. The last 20 minutes of the call was "hotseat" time - one person would be put on the spot and the others would ask him deeper stuff and try to solve specific problems he was facing.

Early stages, great. My background is non-tech - so things like sales, fundraising, networking, etc were all in my wheelhouse. When it came to literally BUILDING the thing, in any version, I was relying on someone else.

A few months into this process, most of the other group participants had all built prototypes of various levels....but basically, most had a clickable version of what they wanted to build.

I didn't. I was keeping myself busy with those things I mentioned above, because they were in my comfort zone. Managing developers....was not. So I kept finding excuses to either do low-value work and/or avoid driving my team to a clear deadline and clear series of developmental goals.

Also, I should note, I was coming off of another stalled+failed tech project from several years earlier. And the group knew about this.

So.....eventually, it was my turn on the hotseat during prototype phase. The group started grilling me, and it was very different than previous hotseats I'd been on when I could talk about presales and leads etc.

I started doing something I'm really good at -- bullshitting. Deflecting, dodging - seriously, I should be a politician, or a pro sports coach during a press conference.

But just as I was getting rolling, there was one dude on the call who hadn't said anything. This was a Hangouts call, so I was watching 9 faces looking back at me, 8 participating and 1 silent.

The quiet guy had been through multiple exits, came to the US with nothing and built something big.....that type. Real sharp, real calculated, and also really nice and polite.

When he spoke up, though, the real nice and polite guy disappeared.

"So hold on a minute. Did you finish your prototype?"

"[insert my BS answer]"

"No no no. Do you or don't you have a prototype?"

"[uhhh]"

Then he just laid into me. I mean, hard. I remember my jaw literally dropped...it was intense.

One of the several things he hit me with:

"If you're not prototyping, you have nothing to fail with, and you have nothing to improve on. Even it's a P.O.S., at least you've accomplished something. A P.O.S. prototype is 100X better than empty talk. That's why you failed last time, that's why you don't know WHY you failed last time, and that's why you're setting yourself up to fail now".

I usually don't respond well to criticism (that's a whole 'nother can of worms)....but this was different. It was like a giant, blinding light bulb + smack in the face. It was probably the most important moment in my career.

--------------------------

So what in the world am I doing talking about this on a trading forum?

I'm sure we've all dealt with setbacks in our trading development - I certainly have.

It's what happens after those setbacks that determines whether they turn into crushing failures or lessons that improve us.

Hippie dippy, feel-good nonsense?

No. Not at all.

Structured journaling allows you to identify specific mistakes and behaviors that are causing under-performance.

Without that process, you'll never objectively know what's holding you back.

Without that process, you'll never create a clear path of development for yourself.

Using your journal as tool to create positive feedback loops, where you can focus on improving one "red flag" at a time....that's where I believe the trading (and any other activity) holy grail is to be found.

And I actually have a specific moment where I connected my trading "insanity" (repeating negative behaviors you know don't end well) to that entrepreneurship story.

Maybe I'll save that for a future post since I've already blabbered on quite a bit here.

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

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  #9 (permalink)
Legendary Strat Enthusiast
Chiang Mai Thailand
 
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mcjackson View Post
Maybe I'll save that for a future post since I've already blabbered on quite a bit here.

Keep on blabbering man. It's good stuff.


Marcus Aurelius
"Not to assume it's impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that if it's humanly possible, you can do it too"

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Damn you @ninjus, stole the words right out of my mouth lol... nice job @mcjackson, enjoying your journal and back story, looking forward to following along on your trading adventure

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