Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Cross-Talk: Trading Coaches as Whores

* You are 5'10" tall and have a vertical leap of less than a foot. You probably shouldn't try to make your living playing basketball.

* Your verbal IQ is quite high; your performance IQ is below average. You probably shouldn't try to make your living as a mechanic.

* You are not particularly visual in your way of processing information and your fine motor coordination is at best average. You probably shouldn't try to make your living as a graphic artist.

All three statements happen to be true of me, and I suspect the conclusions are not especially controversial. Truth be told, I'd make a rotten pro basketball player, mechanic, or artist. I accept those things and focus my energies in areas of strength.

Suppose, however, we take a new set of statements:

* You don't like taking risks and you're not especially disciplined in your work and lifestyle. You probably shouldn't be a trader in the financial markets.

Well, you've just touched the third rail of coaching. To even intimate the above is to incur the wrath of every losing trader who seeks advice that would justify a continuation of his ruinous path. It reminds me of couples I used to see in counseling who hated each other, made life miserable for each other, put their children through the agony of a loveless home, but who wanted help to "work on our marriage" because they didn't want to separate. Lord help you if you ever intimated that perhaps--just perhaps--they weren't cut out for each other. They could feel justified staying in the marriage as long as they were "working on it". Take away that prop and they hated you for making them face unpleasant realities.

Those situations turn counselors into enablers. Just like coaches are enablers for those who shouldn't be trading, fail to support themselves and their families, and pour their last, desperate hopes into the assurance: "I'm working on it." Maybe there's a way to make a living as a coach for the trading public without being a whore. I doubt it. It's why I steer clear of that part of the business; why I never went into the private practice of counseling and therapy. Too often, you're taking money to prop people's illusions, not to make a real difference.

Hats off to Dr. Bruce Hong for being willing to touch that third rail and open a discussion of who shouldn't be trading. Bottom line from my end: give trading a year or two, track results diligently, work daily on your skills, absorb as many resources as you can, and then see at the end of that time if you can at least cover your costs and break even. If not, consider that your greatest skills might lie elsewhere. I respect Michael Jordan for trying his hand at baseball and giving it all he could. I respect him even more for deciding to stick with his greatest strength and return to basketball.

The only real failure is to spend your life doing things you're not meant to be doing.