Essence Of Trading: Value Of Time


Many traders who learned to trade by themselves often glue themselves to the screen watching every single trade, every bid and offer updates on the markets they trade until they are so tired that they either fall asleep or cannot do it any more because their eyes are burning in pain. They thought this is dedication to learn the art of trading. The truth is that they are wasting their time.

Not All Screen Time Is Equal

There is no information to be analyzed from the price movement of a market if it is in waiting mode as traders from both sides are mostly staying on the sideline waiting for an important announcement.

There is no information to be analyzed when most of the participants are not participating or monitoring the market at all when they cannot be there for various reasons – holidays, major communication or infrastructure breakdowns, or for a lesser degree like lunch time.

There is also not much information to be analyzed after a major market shock as many unprepared traders are likely wiped out.

Spending time monitoring these quiet periods are usually counter productive. Trading opportunities would be rare and many trading setups would be less reliable. Imagine you spend all those time instead into studying historical data and analyzing price patterns, etc. I am sure you will gain more insight into the markets you trade than just staring at the screen when your senses already numbed by the inactivity in the market.


Essence of Trading: The Three Pillars of Critical Thinking (Part 3)


… continue from part 2

"Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn"

– Benjamin Franklin

Stop Associating Common Terms With Market Conditions Until You Can Understand What They Really Mean

The first most common mistake I have seen is that someone telling everybody that a stock (or whatever that thing is) is very cheap to buy and will go much higher. Yet, the word cheap is not defined clearly in the statement, nor the projection of going much higher is defined. The words cheap and  going much higher is used casually without substance. At best they are just comforting sound bites.

Further investigations into this kind of claims usually result in the discovery that the person has already bought the stock. Digging deeper you will find out there is no proper money management (What? What is stop loss? Cheaper the better and I will buy more!) This risk of losing all the money throw at the stock may not be acceptable to that person but the possibility is never part of the consideration in the first place when the stock was bought.

Trading is not gambling if you choose wisely. If you like buying "cheap" stocks, figure out exactly what conditions are necessary to make a stock "cheap", something that will give you positive expectancies should you bet on that consistently. I use the word bet very carefully here. Bet in this context means you are not sure if the outcome will be in your favour but you know that because the exact conditions are met, you are likely going to make money off the bet. In another words, it is not gambling. You are similar to those people who count cards and (in the words of the casinos) loot the casinos consistently.

The big difference here is that casinos can ban you from placing your bets with them (usually after you extracted significant amount of money from their operations) while the regulated financial markets around the world cannot (most of the time).

Like Learning A New Language

Learn to stop speaking jargons to yourself until you have acceptable meanings for them. It is the very first step you can transform yourself to become more objective in evaluating the market conditions you are facing. Every time you find that you do not have an exact meaning to a term you use to describe the market, you have homework to do – write it down and investigate. All these accepted terminology without clear definition in your mind is an obstacle to your ability in handling the market you want to make money from.

This process of relearning the language you use on the markets is not easy. It is also not straightforward as you are filling in the gaps of your understanding of the markets, you will keep finding more holes in your knowledge of trading. It is normal that you feel overwhelmed in the beginning.

Remember that it is alright to not understand something because there may be nothing important to understand.

During your quest for clarification of your knowledge, some terms is simpler to learn because they are just definitions you have not heard of while some other ones will require your use of logic and statistic inference to define the concepts. It is the same as learning a foreign language. As your set of clarified concepts keep growing, you will be able to define and understand the more difficult ideas over time.

Clarity Comes From Rigorous Study

Some people will simply give up the approach as they could not do it without feeling uncomfortable. It is as if they are strip naked. It is exposing yourself to your own ignorant side. There is no need to resent this. Everyone have something they do not understand. No one is an expert in everything. Trading is very likely not your domain of knowledge or expertise because there is no such training from standardized education. There is no shame to accept this fact.

During this discovery (knowledge acquisition) period of the vague concepts in your mind, there are two common techniques to achieve the goal – direct and indirect approach to learning.

You can focus on using statistics on historical data and events to guide you. The collection of statistics and analysis through the lens of  statistical method is an indirect learning experience, meaning that it requires acceptance of statistics as your ultimate decision making tool which is often difficult to do.

Knowing the subject of statistical analysis well has nothing to do with the ability to use it as a tool to acquire new knowledge. That is the reason why we see a lot of programmers and engineers who try their hands on trading and writing all these codes to study the markets, failed miserably in trading. They are just not the type of people who can accept new knowledge from indirect learning experience.

Personally I cannot solely rely on statistics results either. I always confirm the findings from both visual inspection of the new biases I obtained and also tracking them in real-time until I am comfortable to integrate them into my trading.

Direct learning experience means using hands on approach to learn new things. If it works better for you in the past, or it is how you learned your best skills, it is likely the better choice for you. For the purpose of trading, it translates into learning by rigorous visual inspection. First, you print out your charts, mark them with the important events, price patterns, etc. and then examine the charts or raw data closely. Bar by bar, one chart after another, you will start to feel natural with your interpretation of the information for each specific concept you have doubts about.

The clarification achieved through direct learning often cannot be quantified or explained exactly in words. You are just trained. It is very similar to our experience in learning to ride a bicycle or drive a car. We cannot explain how to do what we do exactly but we can do it.

There is no good or bad method to clarify your understanding of price actions in markets. Both methods I described above get the job done. Several of my mentors who highly specialized in specific trading methods (first techniques popped into my mind – point and figure, channel drawing) learned their chart reading methods the direct way. They have every single trading day of the markets they trade printed out with all kinds of notes, marking, etc. on their charts. When you treat trading seriously and understand your learning of chart reading is an important step towards your success in trading, you would do the same.

Notes: The discussion on Objective Evaluation went a bit longer than I expected as I have to cover various topics related to the mechanisms of learning. Hopefully I have explained the concepts clearly.

Essence of Trading: The Three Pillars of Critical Thinking (Part 2)

facts… continue from part 1

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”
– Confucious

Objective Evaluation Is Difficult

To observe and collect evidence from something physical is quite different from doing the same on abstract data. Physical evidence like a kid who got a black eye after school is easy to identify that his eye was hurt and it is not a usual school day. Further investigation into the matter will tell you more, whether the kid has hurt himself in an accident or from a fight. Once we have the facts on hand, it is easy to make better judgement after understanding what really happened in the situation.

A market moving higher (or lower) has no visual indication whether it is rising too far too fast (or dropping too quick too deep). It is up to the person who is tracking the market to identify the condition alone. That makes it very difficult to even get to the point with the facts straighten out as we do not have a scientific framework to start with. Do not get me started on how bad classic economic theories are from this pseudo science that tainted the name of science for centuries.

All Boils Down To The Study Of Price

To put the market condition in context, majority of people tend to guess and valuate the situation with superficial personal imagination, borrowed experience from other life experience, reading from trading books in a rush, and worse of all accepting mainstream media reporting. All these actions lead to bad observations as the classification or explanation obtained from these means are not scientific nor reasonable. Accepting these observations as your own is no difference from telling yourself you are standing on the ground now so it must be alright to leap forward where in reality you are standing at the edge of a cliff where you will face sure death should you jump forward.

In short, a framework of price behaviour has to be ingrained into yourself first so that it is possible to allow you to grow your knowledge of the markets internally to the point that you can proficiently observe and make dispassionate judgement of the current market conditions without being interfered by others. Due to the fact that there is no evidence from the past on how the markets behaved outside of their historical price data (with bits and pieces of news event schedules), it is obvious that the first viable solution is to study the historical data.

Hence, the study of price behaviour, or chart reading, is the only logical path to follow.