Sunday, July 03, 2016

Finding Our Greatness: Three Best Practices of Trading

We can learn a great deal by studying our successes and the success of others.  Here are three trading best practices that I've found to contribute to trading performance:

1)  Morning Preparation - Look at any successful sports team and you'll find they spend more time preparing for competition than in actual competition.  On a college basketball team, a single weekend game would be preceded by drills, conditioning, and practice each week day; video review of our most recent performance to identify areas for improvement; video review of the opposing team to reveal areas of weakness; and practice of offensive and defensive strategies to maximize our advantage over the other team.  By the time we walked on the court, we knew we had an edge; we had done our work; we knew our opponent; and we were prepared with our strategies.  I typically wake up between 3 and 4 AM on market days and begin my day's preparation by watching how we traded in Asia, how Europe is trading, and how different markets are behaving relative to one another.  I review my spreadsheets of market data and run studies to identify any possible areas of edge.  By the time NY opens, I either have a clear game plan for the day's session or I don't trade.  The quality of that preparation time is highly correlated with my subsequent trading performance.

2)  Evening Preparation - The trading day doesn't end when the bell sounds.  The trading day ends when you've reviewed performance for the day--market performance and your own--and figured out what you did well and what you'll need to improve the next day.  It's also when you step back and update your understanding of market behavior.  In other words, the trading day doesn't end when trading ends; it ends when you've learned from your trading.  That learning in the evening consolidates overnight and becomes perspective you bring to your morning preparation.  Evening preparation keeps us goal focused, keeps us working on our game.  After a military maneuver, officers and troops conduct after action reviews.  They plan the battle; they review the battle; they keep learning, developing, getting better.  

3)  Quality Time Away From Markets - Day after day, week after week, mornings and evenings:  if you're trading well, it's easy to burn out.  If you're going to leave everything you've got on the field by the end of the game, you're going to need to renew that energy.  Just as important as the quality of your market time is the quality of your time away from markets.  That includes quality time with loved ones, quality time in physical activity, and quality time immersed in meaningful personal pursuits.  Quality time is time spent that gives you energy, that inspires you, that fills you with joy, a sense of meaning, energy, and love.  Without positive emotional experience energizing us, our focus is diminished.  That takes a toll on our pattern recognition and makes it easier for biases and impulses to color our decision making.  It's not enough to relax after a market day; we need to refresh and renew.

Whether in business or in trading, great outcomes come from great processes.  The sad truth is that the majority of traders don't succeed because they don't do the things needed to earn success.  You can have a relaxed, balanced lifestyle or you can challenge yourself, change yourself, and pursue a performance path.  The greats don't push themselves to succeed; they are pulled by goals larger than themselves.

Further Reading:  Trading With a Solution Focus