Sunday, April 06, 2014

Three Best Practices During Trading Slumps

A respected friend and trading colleague had his first big trading day in a while on Friday.  He noted the market's weakness early and pressed his advantage.  Not long before, he had noted that he was on a cold streak and expressed frustration with the pace of his progress.

Traders will often write in their journals when they are experiencing such frustration.  The really important times to be journaling are after the big successes.  It is difficult to leverage our strengths if we're not aware of them.

While it's tempting to look first at the good trading on Friday, it's what came before that set him up for that day's success.  Here's a list of best practices during trading slumps:

Keeping risk-taking down until you see markets clearly - Losing small and gaining big is what makes for excellent risk-adjusted returns.  Accepting that you're not seeing things well is half the battle.  By continuing to actively engage markets in small size, you give yourself an opportunity to regain perspective.  Trading larger or more often out of the frustration of losing is a recipe for disaster.

*  Focusing on yourself - Very often, losses occur because market patterns have changed.  Slumps occur because your mindset has changed.  By working on yourself before you go hard at markets, you place yourself in an optimal mindset to press your advantage when things line up.  Stepping back from trading, renewing your energy, getting back to core strengths--all can help create the mindset to see markets freshly.

*  Searching and re-searching - Stepping back from trading doesn't mean you step back from markets.  When times are tough, great traders double down on research and idea generation.  It's that pipeline of ideas that will produce the next winning trades.  Research and development is what ultimately keeps your trading business alive; turning the search for trades into trading re-search turns a losing period into an opportunity for advancement.

Drawdowns are inevitable.  Slumps are not.  Your job in coaching yourself is to learn from the drawdowns and use them as opportunities to make yourself better.  A drawdown only becomes a slump when it gets inside our heads and takes us away from our core strengths.  Drawdowns become business opportunities when they focus us on those strengths and prod us to expand them.

Further Reading:  The Key to Breaking Trading Slumps