Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A Useful Trading Psychology Exercise

In a helpful blog post, Michael Berkowitz expands upon the idea of making friends with your weaknesses. Many times, if you view the things you did wrong during a trading day, you'll find that the weakness is actually a misdirected strength.  In other words, when we over-utilize our strengths, they become vulnerabilities.

Being able to listen to others is an important strength that allows me to be a caring psychologist, parent, and spouse.  If I use that strength excessively and in the wrong way, I can end up being swayed by others and not listening to my own intuition.  I have made too many losing trades that way!

Similarly, I don't know of great traders who aren't greatly competitive.  But that same drive can lead them to not accept defeat and blow through stop levels, creating massive drawdowns.  Is it a lack of discipline that causes the losses or a lack of balance to the competitive strength?

Every great strength needs a great balance.  It's a very important trading psychology lesson.

A useful exercise is reviewing your worst trades during the day or week and ask yourself:  What was the strength that I drew too much upon?  And then review your best trades and identify the balancing element that enabled you to make proper use of that strength.   It is very hard to battle something we take as a weakness; indeed, the very effort reinforces the notion that we're weak.  It's much easier to activate an existing, balancing strength.

Mike Bellafiore recently linked several posts relevant to the record performance of SMB traders during the volatile month of February, noting flexible trading as one of the common ingredients of success.  What I've seen first hand is that the top performers did not hit records by focusing on their weaknesses.  One of them was drawing too much on his ambition to make money and hold positions for longer periods and so balanced that with his strength at identifying and pouncing upon shorter-term patterns.  Another found himself getting too eager and excited over the opportunity afforded by the volatility and balanced that with his ability to focus on a more limited opportunity set and draw upon his capacity for focus and patience.

In all those cases, the traders overcame their worst trading by accepting the strengths that were misdirected and balancing them with other strengths.  Note:  They had all the elements for success already; they just needed to channel them differently.

Further Reading: