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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)
 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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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)
 ninjus 
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
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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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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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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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Posts: 33 since Mar 2014
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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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 matthew28 
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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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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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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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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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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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 ninjus 
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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 Rrrracer 
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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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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
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You know the difference between knowing something vs acting on it?

For example:

1. Smoking. I don't smoke, never have, not interested.
2. Diet. Uh....different story. If junk food makes it into the house, I act like an addict. I don't want to, but it always seems to happen.

So, what's this got to do with trading?

I've been driving myself nuts with two things: OVERTRADING and DAILY LOSS LIMIT.

I've tried different tactics, written out plans.....I've tried pretty much everything but kept repeating the same patterns.

I've watched myself back on videos where I've gone into tilt, and it's like listening to a different person.

2 weeks ago I spoke to a friend of mine about mental paradigm shifts....the idea is that your behavior is largely based on your identity.

Let's say there's a cupcake on a table in front of you.

If you believe you're an athlete, you're probably not going to eat the cupcake. It's just not something athletes do.

If you believe you're ______ (trying to be diplomatic)...let's say "unhealthy". You're probably going to consider eating the cupcake.

My friend's point - and I think it's a valid one - is that changing chronic behavior requires finding ways to completely change your reference points, and maybe even your identity. Easy, right?

I can't remember if it was Al Brooks or Brett Steenbarger, but I'm pretty sure one of them talks about how he received a diabetic/pre-diabetic diagnosis. After years of struggling with yo yo dieting habits, he suddenly had no trouble changing his eating. Why? Because it was life or death, and he pictured missing his daughter's wedding (if memory serves..).

So, for the first time, I sat down and really had a look at my IDENTITY as a trader.

More hippie dippy BS, maybe.

But anyway.

I started looking at trading behaviors I'm unquestionably consistent with.

Numero Uno is my risk per trade. I've NEVER had trouble sticking to my stops. The thought of widening them? Nah, it's totally antithetical to how I approach this business.

To be so consistent with my risk per trade...is great. I'm a great risk manager (per trade).

So why...WHY...would I create this crazy scenario where I struggle to manage my risk on a slightly bigger level?

It's the first time I went from thinking "Hmm, I should change this. Maybe I can change by setting this limit, maybe try this tactic"...............to thinking, "this is ridiculous, this isn't who you are".

I'm not sure this comes across effectively in my writing, but it's one of the more profound moments I've experienced in my trading career.

I don't think my problems are suddenly magically solved....but this is a more important step than any of the "tactics" I've tried.

If you've got habits or chronic problems, I genuinely encourage you to dig through some of your deeper convictions about yourself. We're all here because we believe in our abilities to succeed at this business....there are positive qualities deep down that you hold about yourself that are more powerful than any dumb behavior you think you're struggling with.

Alright, I'll get off my soapbox now. Hope you're all having a great night.

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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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Alright folks....Some charts for a change

Going chronologically:

A) CL

I've been looking for reasons to get short based off the H1/D1 big picture. The 5 hours leading up to the open got me itching for a strong move. We got it, but I sorta screwed up the entry.

I chased price a bit and quickly went up +12 ticks, but ran into the prior swing. Should have cut and run because it was already a chase out of the opening range and oil has a lot of trouble blasting off without the news or clear volume. Instead I ended up +1 tick scratch. Fine.

I missed the big move later because I was already away from the computer. I've only got a limited window to trade in, though I'm considering setting alerts with tradingview or something (I don't really love Ninjatrader's alerts).





B) NQ

First few sequences I need to be entering/exiting earlier. In the future when I'm up a little more, I'll be entering with 2 lot and scalping half very early. For now, either stop trading this early in the session or get more aggressive with the exits. You'll see in the early sequences I'm always up +5-10 ticks before it spins back and knocks me out.

The second sequence was just trade #5. I was looking for a breakout above HOD, but tried to get in early. Naked attack on the level was liable to need confirmation, so I tried to get in before any of that. Not a great idea, to be honest, and it's something you'll see a little later in the day.

Third sequence was GOOD, almost GREAT. First shot knocked me out, but got in quickly and doubled up as the move pushed. Slight chase, but I had major conviction here. The problem came when I tried to split my targets into separate orders...I mistakenly move BOTH to my eventual exit. I wanted to keep a runner, because I thought here we could have gotten a real collapse. Ended up missing 40-80 ticks, which was annoying.

Fourth sequence was 2 revenge trade / FOMO whatever you want to call it.

Fifth sequence was a decent entry testing if the move was going to keep going south. Quick loss, but good trade.

Sixth sequence was a problem. My general rule (that I should formalize) is 2 shots, then stand aside. In this case I ended up taking 5 shots, 5 losses. The last 4 were way too close together and drew me back down quite a bit.

Seventh...here's where I actually waited for the breakout + confirmation. That's what I was trying to get into with all those quick losses, I was just going too early. In this case I'm glad I got in and I'm quite happy with the covers. In the past I'd try to hold this for a big breakout past high of day, but I'm becoming more friendly with this crazy contract.






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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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So, full disclosure...I've done it again and hit the max loss in one day.

I might reset and try again, but not making any decisions until Monday. I think the money/effort might be better placed in my personal account, and use Ninjatrader's automated DLL limits set around a hard, small number.

I can list several reasons I came to the computer in a less than optimal state this morning, but end of the day the thing that killed me is not respecting that initial DLL number. Once I blow past that...good things don't happen.

Couple of observations:

1. On days where a major move has broken a premarket range just ahead of the open, I tend to do badly.

2. I can get too attached to a premarket idea, and then get really stuck trying to trade against the trend.

3. My style involves a small stop and big winners. That's great when it's working and you can maintain a win rate over 30 or 40%. But getting past a certain size drawdown (let's say $200/contract), I start holding winners longer than I should, in the hope that a big move comes and saves the day. When you're up 30+ ticks and watch price snap back to take you out for +1 or -5 ticks...it messes with my head and with the session's P/L.

Tough day.

Not going to repeat this behavior again.

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 Scalpingtrader 
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My personal experience is that I reproduced the same bad behavior trading my own money as while trading combine money. I even repeated it with my own money after having stopped doing so in the combine & the subsequent funded account.

Breaking my own limits live was MUCH more expensive than all combines I ever took combined (no pun intended) btw.
So I personally will not recommend losing your own money before you stopped losing theirs. ;-)

All the best to you, whichever route you take.
ST

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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
Platform: MT4, Ninjatrader
Trading: CL, NQ, 6E
 
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Scalpingtrader View Post
My personal experience is that I reproduced the same bad behavior trading my own money as while trading combine money. I even repeated it with my own money after having stopped doing so in the combine & the subsequent funded account.

Breaking my own limits live was MUCH more expensive than all combines I ever took combined (no pun intended) btw.
So I personally will not recommend losing your own money before you stopped losing theirs. ;-)

All the best to you, whichever route you take.
ST

Thanks @Scalpingtrader, I appreciate the feedback. I took a look at your journal from earlier this year and I can see you had some similar experience, so your advice is extra valuable.

I asked TST about setting automated DLL's, and the answer I got was basically, "Look, if you can't control your DLL yourself, you probably don't have the discipline to be a trader".

It's not a crazy answer, by any means.

But at this point, I see it as my single biggest issue that I struggle with. I'm thinking about putting a very small amount of money in a live NT account, like $750-1000, and ask for a DLL of $100/day.

Either that or reset TST. Definitely one thing I took from your journal was the difficulty focusing on 2 accounts, especially when they're not split by style or instrument.

Thanks again for the advice, I will give it serious consideration this weekend.

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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
Experience: Intermediate
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This felt somehow appropriate for my actions today:



So, this being a journal and all.....consider this an intervention to myself.

I've got a problem (DLL violation) that I keep repeating.

The effect is:

1. Financial. I don't like spending money on TST monthly Combine fees and $99 resets.
2. Emotional/Psychological. It really brings me down. Not as dramatically as a few years ago, but it's still heavy.
3. Strategic. I'm questioning parts of my strategy, and I'm not sure if that hurts, helps, or wastes time.

Those are objective truths. Doesn't help to call myself names or have a nervous breakdown.

What actions can I take to make this a genuine catalyst for change? (not just learning, but actual CHANGE)

1. Financial. Pay the monthly fee when it kicks in soon, but don't reset until the rest of the plan is really in place. Don't invest in another personal account either. I've realized it just creates more $ pressure.

2. Emotional/Psych. Today sucked. I've been down all day. So, I'm doing my best to record this awful feeling. I'm doing it to remember, so that I don't lead myself down this path again. It hurts that it's me doing this to myself, over and over again....and when I'm "in the moment", I don't really think about how much it's going to hinder my progress and ruin my day/days.

For specific action #1, I'm going to return to recording my screen and making videos. Talking myself through the trades seems to create a little more responsibility.

For specific action #2, I'm going to keep several visual cues up on the wall in front of me, or on a post it note on my tick chart screen.

For specific action #3, I'm going to return to an old method of taking my emotional temperature (inspired by Steenbarger). I'll use 4 different colored coasters....sounds nuts but it does seem to help slow down my actions a bit.

For specific action #4, I'm going to check in here with you all on a daily basis and post my actual journal. It's an excellent process I've created over the years....and yet I've strayed from it since the early part of 2018.

3. Strategic. I'm not going to mess much with the strategy. By committing to the comprehensive journal, I'll be able to eventually see where I can optimize and improve various elements of what I'm doing. But for now, I just want to build at least a month of sticking to my risk rules.

I've never had as much confidence as I do now, I've never been more committed to this business, and I genuinely think I know what I'm doing.....I just need to take control of this aspect. I've been at this long enough to know that you can't fool yourself into thinking you've MADE IT as a trader if you hit a $ target or nail a few trades. But I must MAKE IT PAST this behavior.

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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
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mcjackson View Post
This felt somehow appropriate for my actions today:

For specific action #1, I'm going to return to recording my screen and making videos. Talking myself through the trades seems to create a little more responsibility.

For specific action #2, I'm going to keep several visual cues up on the wall in front of me, or on a post it note on my tick chart screen.

For specific action #3, I'm going to return to an old method of taking my emotional temperature (inspired by Steenbarger). I'll use 4 different colored coasters....sounds nuts but it does seem to help slow down my actions a bit.

For specific action #4, I'm going to check in here with you all on a daily basis and post my actual journal. It's an excellent process I've created over the years....and yet I've strayed from it since the early part of 2018.

3. Strategic. I'm not going to mess much with the strategy. By committing to the comprehensive journal, I'll be able to eventually see where I can optimize and improve various elements of what I'm doing. But for now, I just want to build at least a month of sticking to my risk rules.

I've never had as much confidence as I do now, I've never been more committed to this business, and I genuinely think I know what I'm doing.....I just need to take control of this aspect. I've been at this long enough to know that you can't fool yourself into thinking you've MADE IT as a trader if you hit a $ target or nail a few trades. But I must MAKE IT PAST this behavior.

See those "specific actions"?

I haven't posted here, so I haven't really followed through on #4, but that's alright. I'll get to posting as things progress.

Steps 1-3, though, have helped me immensely in the last couple of weeks.

Some deeper journal examination and a look at my W/L times revealed some pretty interesting stuff. Namely, I'm great at trading the opening move and/or opening range breakout. A huge % of my losses occur once that opening range breakout runs out of steam and goes into chop mode. Especially with my tight stops, any chop on NQ is a killer.

CHANGE #1: So by trading a little more actively at the open, I've bumped my W% up by almost 2x. That small change has made a big difference. It also helps stave off the emotional crazy crap that leads to gambling crap that leads to blowing my risk rules for the day.

CHANGE #2: I'm trading around much more defined "scenarios", rather than "moves". I'm looking at:

(a) opening drives
(b) opening range breakouts + fails
(c) premarket high + low (honestly, this drives everything in the NQ...highly suggest looking at action around them)
(d) daily high + low

Those levels really drive the action as I see it. Prior day H/L, pivots, and other tools are important for adding confluence but not standalone trade ideas for me anymore. For the NQ anyway.

CHANGE #3: I'm covering trades a little earlier. The journal exposed a shocking number of times I allowed price to move 30-50+ ticks and allowed to come back to breakeven. The emotional toll was enough to mess with my head.

So with all that said, I'm up close to halfway through another Combine Step 2 after 3 trading days. While that's not exactly new, the underlying stats are a lot more comfortable. No more -$800 days being masked by an intraday comeback. And my trade by trade Win % is way up.

Feels like I've made a small step forward, now many more to go. And hopefully no BIG steps back.

Hope you're all up for the week and trading well!

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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
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I disappeared since the last post - guess I'm still not great about the whole forum thing.

It's about a year and a half since my last post, I think. Thought I'd add an update with a couple of thoughts....

I recently jumped through the Topstep hoops again and am funded (thought there's all sorts of restrictions in the current wacky market environment). My personal account is also in better shape than it's been in years. Nothing really dramatic, just less BIG freakouts, if that makes any sense.

There's been 2 big things I've been working on since that last post.

#1) I built an alternative income stream.

I cannot stress how much this has affected me. I was really driving myself bananas with "extra" financial pressure. About a year before I started this thread, I went through a pretty major business loss and.....it was definitely still with me on several levels.

After an exchange with Lance Beggs, I went back to the drawing board and beefed up my consulting business to a good enough level to pay the bills and offer basic stability. Again nothing dramatic here, but it's been a huge weight off my shoulders.

#2) I pretended I was writing a book

I spent part of 2018 and all of 2019 looking up sports psychologists, athletes, music teachers, pro sports coaches, etc.....anyone with a skill-based profession. And I interviewed them, saying that I was writing a book applying their concepts to traders like myself.

I never wrote any magnum opus, but I did end up taking a ton of notes and rejiggering my journaling. It's by no means perfect, but it's SO much better than where I was previously.

Plus, frankly it's been good to have some sort of "other" thing to focus on.

A few years ago I took that trader psych test on Van Tharp's site and I remember one of the warnings for my personality type was "a lot of creativity" (lol sounds like my mom huh). in all seriousness though, his point was if you feel a need to get creative, you'll get bored easily with a trading system and mess around with it....now THAT sounds familiar.

Having this external book project has helped channel that extra energy into a productive thing I'm interested in, happy with, etc.......without messing with my trading focus.

There's been a few more changes that I'll probably try and make note of in the near future.

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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
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Thought this'd be a good place to share a quote that's been on my mind for quite a while.

It's one of the few "check-in" tactics that actually work for me. i.e. if I start getting worked up during the session or during a trade, reading this quote has helped pull me out of the red zone and back to better decisions.

It comes from John Hoagland, one of the coaches and main dudes over at Topstep. We had a call a while ago and he closed off with this (I'm paraphrasing):

(context: I kept ruining consistent gains with one big bad day)


Quoting 
"This can be a great career. You can build your castle, brick by brick, day by day.

But if you keep doing this, guess what you'll have?

Nothing but a pile of fuckin bricks.

Which one do you want? The castle or the pile?"

That really stuck with me, to the point where I've written down in a few places including on a post it note I've stuck to the wall behind/next to my screens.

I've got a few other physical tools I have around me during the trading session to keep myself in check. This is an area I sort of made fun of for years.....but I'm learning to eat my words and buy into small marginal gains in my processes through the day.

Hope you're all staying healthy and doing well these days!

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 mcjackson 
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I just listened to an interesting podcast - Tim Ferris interviewing Josh Waitzkin, the author of "The Art of Learning" (which is a great non-trading book for traders, btw).

One point that Josh makes is the idea of challenging your biases and frameworks.

His example is - "if I were to look back at myself 10 years ago, what are the things that I just assumed to be true/correct? What if they weren't?" (bad paraphrasing here).

That got me thinking about my trading career and I've pulled out a few big differences from 5-10 years ago. Thought this'd be a good place to get it off my chest

#1) "Meditation is BS" .........nope. I still don't like doing it during the day, but it's been a huge help in getting to sleep at night.

#2) "I can + should trade as many markets as possible"...........nope. Pretty much either NQ or CL on a given day, and only for the first hour.

#3) "Coaching is BS"........nope. If you find the right personality fit and a good teacher, I think coaches can be great.

#4) "I *need* to profit every day".........really struggled with this one, but working past it.

#5) "Distractions are my problem. If ANYONE makes any noise in the house, it's your fault I had a bad day".......obviously nope. Accountability is actually a real thing!


I've come a full 180 on each of those in the last few years. Thinking back, I really believed these points to be true....and they're really not. There's a lot of anxiety and externalizing blame I see when I review my old journals.

The next step in Waitzkin's point was to take your current assumptions and probe a little bit. What if ____ (thing you think is true) is actually totally false?

These are the 2 big points that came up for me:

#1) Psychologists are BS. Maybe I'm wording it incorrectly, but I've had several people I really admire tell me that seeking therapy was pivotal in their success (entrepreneurs and traders). I don't think it's necessarily an if-->then causal relationship.....but it's also a little weird how much resistance I have to the idea of going myself. Hmm...

#2) Some personal health stuff where I hold a weirdly militant stance. Again, it's weird how much I'm stuck on this position - almost like I don't want to be wrong

These aren't clear black/white issues or crazy positives/negatives. I guess I'm trying to learn to review myself with some more thoughtful, calm neutrality instead of the angry-sports-dad-sorta-voice in my head.

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 mcjackson 
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Hello folks! Almost 6 months since my last post.

I connected pretty much every major issue I've had to not having a daily loss limit. Or, being really bad about sticking to it .

Over the last few months, I stopped fighting my nerves and just automated a very tight DLL.

On my personal account, that just meant emailing NinjaTrader and asking them to set it for me. Easy.

On Topstep, that was a little trickier. You've got to dive into R Trader's settings and manually set up your "Auto Liquidation" level. If you're looking for it, here's how to find it:

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

1. Log in and click "Trader Dashboard"

2. Right-click on your account name and select "View Risk Parameters"

3. You'll get to a page with 3 tabs. It defaults to the "administrator" tab, but you want the tab on the far right, "Risk Parameters set by the Trader". Click it.

4. You'll get to a blank sheet with your account name and a list of the products you're allowed to trade. Next to the account name, you'll see Auto Liquidate, Auto Liquidate Criteria, and Auto Liquidate Threshold (plus a few more options).

5. Here's what to set up:
Auto Liquidate --> Enabled
Auto Liquidate Criteria --> Loss Limit
Auto Liquidate Threshold --> (the dollar value you want to set)


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

I know there's a prevailing opinion out there that says "well you shouldn't have to do this, you should have the self control to not hit these limits". (that's what Topstep told me)

My response is....sure, that's a great goal to shoot for. But then why do we bother with having stops on individual trades? Adding another layer of risk control isn't a bad thing, in my mind.

Hope you're all well!

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 matthew28 
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Good to see you back.


mcjackson View Post
On Topstep, that was a little trickier. You've got to dive into R Trader's.....................

Just in case another TSTer reads that. It will work for Rithmic data accounts, but not CQG as R Trader is Rithmic's platform. So not possible on TST's other main platform, TSTrader.


Quoting 
I know there's a prevailing opinion out there that says "well you shouldn't have to do this, you should have the self control to not hit these limits". (that's what Topstep told me).

My response is....sure, that's a great goal to shoot for. But then why do we bother with having stops on individual trades? Adding another layer of risk control isn't a bad thing, in my mind.

I agree with your response.
If some platforms and brokers allow the user to set a DLL they should all go that way. (In TST's case a "soft" DLL that doesn't cause a sanction if hit, inside of their "hard" DLL).

Trading, ideally structured, is a vehicle for expanding consciousness, not damaging it. - Brett Steenbarger
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 mcjackson 
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Yes good point matthew28 thanks for pointing that out.

I've not used Tradovate yet but I'd imagine there's a solution there too (and also that they won't make it easy for you to find it).

I like a lot of what TST does, but this particular point feels pretty shady. If you're REALLY there to help traders succeed, you should absolutely not hide the risk controls that exist.

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 bobwest 
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mcjackson View Post

Over the last few months, I stopped fighting my nerves and just automated a very tight DLL.

On my personal account, that just meant emailing NinjaTrader and asking them to set it for me. Easy.

On Topstep, that was a little trickier. You've got to dive into R Trader's settings and manually set up your "Auto Liquidation" level. If you're looking for it, here's how to find it:

...

I know there's a prevailing opinion out there that says "well you shouldn't have to do this, you should have the self control to not hit these limits". (that's what Topstep told me)

My response is....sure, that's a great goal to shoot for. But then why do we bother with having stops on individual trades? Adding another layer of risk control isn't a bad thing, in my mind.


matthew28 View Post
I agree with your response.
If some platforms and brokers allow the user to set a DLL they should all go that way. (In TST's case a "soft" DLL that doesn't cause a sanction if hit, inside of their "hard" DLL).

Good information to get out into the world.

If anyone actually has the idea that "you shouldn't have to do this, you should have the self control to not hit these limits," I disagree.

It is part of your job as a trader to manage your risk and your losses. If you do have the "self control," congratulations. If you don't, why should you not use any available solution, whether supplied by your broker, your software -- or your mother, for that matter?

I hope anyone who struggles with these kinds of problems (which is all of us at one time or another) finds a solution as simple as this one. Good work.

Bob.

When one door closes, another opens.
-- Cervantes, Don Quixote
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 matthew28 
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mcjackson View Post
I've not used Tradovate yet but I'd imagine there's a solution there too.

There is an easy solution in Tradovate for DLL, along with WeeklyLL and maximum number of contracts, as the platform already has the functionality for the user to set those limits
( https://tradovate.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360035750553-How-do-I-set-a-Daily-Loss-Limit-on-my-account- )
Unfortunately @TopstepTrader have not carried those functions across in to their TSTrader labelled version of the same platform.

I know TST used to allow funded traders to apply to set their own 'soft' DLL on the TST risk management system, which if things went badly would be hit before the TST DLL, thus saving the account. I don't know if they still have that option.

Trading, ideally structured, is a vehicle for expanding consciousness, not damaging it. - Brett Steenbarger
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 mcjackson 
Colorado Springs, CO
 
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I don't want to drum it up too much, but this whole thing about setting an automated DLL has really helped me over the last 6 weeks.

Since adding this automated stop out, I've:
  • slowed down in general
  • slowed down after losing trades
  • gotten back to "actual" journaling, which has literally FELT good again
  • realized how much big losing days (and blowouts on Topstep Combines) really stayed with me.
  • overall felt much more self-aware as to when I'm in sync with the market vs "off". I also feel like there's another big win waiting for me on this point, it's like I'm around the corner from really being able to identify better windows/setups/contexts (whatever you'd like to call it).

I also hit the funding goal for Topstep (for the 4th time, I believe). I have a couple of days to go before it's official, but I'm not concerned. And for the first time, I feel a little more confident about *not* blowing it right away.

I haven't been trading my personal account much over the last month or so but the couple of days that I did trade felt pretty good. For the DLL on my personal account, I just emailed NinjaTrader and asked for an automated stop out if I hit the max loss - the only difference here is that it won't automatically stop you out of a live trade once you hit your limit. Instead, it'll wait until you close a trade that takes you past your DLL, THEN it locks you out until the next day. Not a big deal, but worth noting in case you think it'll just close you out automatically.


I've got a lot more that I'd like to blabber on about, but I'll save that for a future post.

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