Sunday, July 08, 2018

The Power of Why

I'll be speaking on Tuesday, July 24th at the Traders Expo event in Chicago, and one of the things I'll be covering is how we really know we have an edge in markets.  I'll also share with the group some of the edges I am currently pursuing in my own trading.

In a broad sense, there are two forms of knowing:

*  Predicting - Being able to anticipate future events;

*  Understanding - Being able to explain events.

We can predict without understanding.  We know to anticipate changes in weather without being able to explain the chain of events by which these occur.

We can understand without being able to make specific predictions.  We might understand reasons for a market's behavior without being able to predict when and how the market will move.

This is a bit of a simplification, but a good deal of what we call technical analysis seeks prediction.  A good amount of fundamental analysis seeks understanding.

The vulnerability of much technical analysis is that it finds patterns that appear to be correlated with price changes, but cannot explain the nature of that relationshipAs the video explains, if we look at enough patterns, we can find something that appears to be predictive.  Indeed, with a large enough search space (thanks to powerful computing), we can find things that work in sample and out of sample that still are random!

The principle that makes sense here is that we don't *truly* have an edge unless we can clearly explain why this edge is present.  Prediction without understanding is a frail basis for risking our hard-earned money.  

If we can explain the basis for a predictive relationship, we possess true understanding.  Real conviction and confidence in trading comes from understanding the basis for what you're doing.  

A person with a purpose in life has a "why"--a considered set of reasons for doing what they're doing.  That person is most likely to travel in a coherent direction.  Without a "why", we wander through life.  That's the difference between having a year of experience versus one day of experience repeated 365 times.

So, too, with trading.

Trading psychology is much easier when we have a genuine "why" underlying our actions.  Too many people are pursuing trading because they can't figure out another way to work independently and make enough money to support themselves.  This is understandable, but invariably ends badly.  People setting themselves up as gurus are all too willing to exploit the desire to make a living from trading.  A great question to ask about any idea advanced by a guru is, "Why?"  If you--and they--can't truly explain why an idea works, how do you know you actually have an edge and not just another pattern fit to market data?

Further Reading: