What’s on your mind, Mr. Nath?

Any questions, Mr. Nath?

Ya, I did have something on my mind. 

Ask.

I want to ask someone else.

Who?

Mrs. Market.

How are you going to do that?

I’ll just imagine that I could.

And, what’s the question, for the sake of discussion?

It’s not so much a question, really…

What is it then?

An observation perhaps…

…or a regret, maybe…

… not able to pinpoint exactly.

Hmmm, why don’t you just say it in words.

It’s about rewiring. 

Rewiring?

Yes. The words coming out are “Couldn’t you rewire us earlier?”

Who’s the you?

Mrs. Market.

Doesn’t your rewiring depend upon you?

Yes, that’s why perhaps it’s more of a regret.

What is this rewiring?

We are taught to win in life, and to hide our losses, if any, under the rug. That’s how we grow up. And that doesn’t work in the markets.

True. That’s what needs to be rewired?

Yes, to win in the markets, we need to get accustomed to loss, small loss, as a way of life. Wins are few, but they are big. So big, that they nullify all losses and then some. We make these wins big by not nipping them in the bud.

How long did it take you to rewire?

Seven years.

What’s your regret? A shorter time-frame would have resulted in half-baked learning. 

You are right, it’s not a regret then. Let’s just call it an observation. 

It’s a very useful observation for someone starting out in the markets. 

Let’s pin-down the bottomline here.

And that would be?

Till one is rewired, one needs to tread lightly. No scaling up…

…till one is rewired. 

And how would one know that one’s rewired?

No sleepless nights despite many small losses in a row, because one has faith in one’s system. Resisting successfully the urge to take a small winner home…

…because it is this small winner that has the potential to grow into a multibagger…

…and a few multibaggers is all that one needs in one’s market-life. 

Control

Who’s in control?

You?

Market?

Does the market control you?

Do you control yourself?

How do you answer this?

Why are these questions relevant?

Control is pivotal. 

It sets the tone for market life, and its overhang affects normal life too. 

That’s why it is essential to have such control in one’s hands, and not hand it over to Mrs. Market. 

So, how does one answer this question?

What triggers you to open your terminal?

The market?

Or you yourself, at a time and place of your own choosing?

If your answer is the former, the market controls how you act.

However, if you decide when and where to let market forces into your life, and for how much time, well, then you’ve not handed over such control. 

Bravo!

How did you position yourself to achieve this?

Primary income not from the markets? 

Not.

Don’t listen to tips?

Don’t.

Have a set time for work?

True.

Have a set place for work?

Roger.

Have a set system that’s implemented?

Affirmative.

Watch market TV?

Nope. 

Read financial news online, or in print?

Only while researching a company.

Do your own solid research?

Do.

‘K, you’ve not handed over control all right.

Sure. Hand over control and the next thing you know it’s your life you’re handing over. 

Control

Longevity.

We look for it in the markets too. 

It’s natural.

Our first instinct is to survive. 

Our second instinct is to survive well. 

In the markets, both these instincts are addressed by our definition and understanding of control. 

Are we control-freaks? 

There’s no harm in admitting it, it’ll save us from losses. 

Well, if we are, we’re better off seeking another career where control-freaking is an asset.

In the markets, it’s not.

Yeah, surprise surprise, Mrs. Market is gonna keep hitting our stops again and again and again, till we get tired of second-guessing her and just sheer quit.

Or, if we’re adamant too, she’ll just drive us bankrupt. 

Are we giving her complete leeway?

Well, then she’ll drive us bankrupt anyways, with no stops in place.

Mrs. Market works against us when we exhibit extreme behaviour wrt control.

Let’s fine-tune control.

We’ll find the median for stop-size.

Something that’s workable.

We then move with her.

If she moves in our direction of the trade, we keep raising our stop with her, from a distance, quietly.

Control, mild, unadvertised.

She’ll stop us out eventually, perhaps after some profit.

Good. 

As in, workable. 

When she goes berserk in our direction of the trade, we’ll ignore her and just let her do her thing.

Minimum control.

No definition of targets.

Stop is far away. It’s deep in profits, and being raised quietly. She’ll need to stop us out with a big swing against us. Yeah, deep in profit, we’ve kept a large leeway between stop and CMP.

We’re not micromanaging her.

Motive?

We wish to allow her to go even more berserk in our direction of the trade.

We’re daring her too, as in “come and get our stop, if you have the guts to fall this far”.

Control.

Very subtle.

We’re controlling our environment, while simultaneously ignoring her.

Very workable. 

We’ll live long in the markets. 

Less is More

Fill your plate.

Work.

Go all out.

Nobody’s asking you to work less.

Research.

Hit it with your best shot.

Do quality work.

Work with the best tools.

Enjoy your work…

…so much so, that time ceases to exist.

Yeah, that means you’ve found your calling.

However, connect less to live Mrs. Market.

Here, less is more.

Keep her away as much as possible when she’s live.

Only connect live when you really, really have to.

What are you achieving?

Minimal bogging down live market forces.

You’re away from the pandemonium, the confusion.

You’ve set your self up brilliantly, to think clearly.

Now, gather your thoughts, gather your research.

You get into the Zone.

You have a purpose.

It can be anything. A market instruction. An instrument alteration. A structural change. A query. A test. A probe. A check. Something small. Something big.

With your purpose right before your eyes, connect live.

Solve your purpose.

Disconnect.

Relax.

Let remnant market forces leave you, yeah, let them dissipate.

Do some other stuff for a while.

Then, when you’re ready, get back to your research.

If you’re not ready after a while, call it a day.

Go for a swim. Or something.

Can I Really Really Really Do Without Fundamentals?

I like to trade without a bias. 

Lack of bias means freedom… 

… freedom to think independently…

… not falling prey to another person’s opinion…

… which then allows you to listen to your system…

… trade identification…

…setup demarcation…

…trigger-entry…

…trade triggered…

…trade management…

… trigger-exit…

… exited.

That’s it, move on to the next trade. 

News gives me a bias. 

No news. 

You know what else gives me a bias?

Fundamentals. 

I don’t wish to look at fundamentals. 

If my eyes are seeing a setup in the EuroDollar, I would like to take it without the nagging thought of “what will happen if Scotland says NO or YES”.

I don’t want to care about inflation numbers, or job figures, or industrial output or what have you. 

I mean…can I just …do it?

Meaning, can I just do away with fundamentals, and focus on technicals only, which is my area of specialization?

Sometimes, I get a little unsure. 

I start looking around. 

How are others doing it? The experts, that is. 

My uncertainty gets fanned a little more, when I see experts not really ignoring fundamentals, even though they might be specialized in technicals. Hmmmm. I’m still not happy looking into fundamentals. I mean, why should I take time-out from my strong suit, and devote it to my very weak suit?

No, I decide. I’m really not going to look at fundamentals. 

What’s the worst that could happen?

Let me just see if the worst that could happen is bearable.

Ok…I ID a trade…demarcate a setup…and the trade goes against me because of the announcement of some number in the afternoon. People looking at fundamentals would have waited for the announcement of the number and then traded. Fine. 

In the world of trading, it is always good to have the worst-case scenario unwrapped and right before your eyes to see what it really means. 

You know, I can take this. 

Would you like to know why?

Firstly, I would like you to understand that we are looking at large sample-sizes here. Any sensible reasoning would only apply to large sample-sizes. 

Over the long run, and over many, many trades, Mrs.Market will go either way after an announcement of a fundamental number with a chance of roughly 50:50. 

If this is true, it is very good news for me, good enough to just kick fundamentals out of the equation. 

At times, the market reacts as per the crowd’s anticipation. 

At other times, it reacts in the opposite fashion. 

I assume that the ratio of the above two directions taken by Mrs. Market over a very large sample-size would be 50:50.

I think my assumption is correct. I don’t want to go through the labour of proving it mathematically. 

Ok, let’s assume that my assumption is correct. I then kick fundamentals, and go about my work while relying on my strong-suit, i.e. technicals. This trajectory will very probably have a happy ending. 

Now let’s assume that my assumption is wrong. 

What saves my day?

Technicals. 

Technicals very often give setups that factor in crowd behaviour and crowd anticipation of market direction. 

Technical setups get one into the build-up to an announcement. 

More often than not, one is already in the trade, in the correct direction, enjoying the build-up to an announcement without even knowing that the announcement is coming, if one is not following fundamentals. 

Technicals can actually do this for you. I’ve seen them do it. I mean, the GBPUSD has been giving short setups during the entire 1000 pip run-down recently. To have availed such a setup, people haven’t needed to know that a referendum is coming. All they’ve needed to do is to take the trade once they see the setup. 

Actually, that’s it. I don’t need more.  

I don’t need to reason anymore with myself. Everything is here. 

I think I can let go of fundamentals safely.

Even this trajectory should have a happy ending.

And…How Much Connection Time Exactly?

Well, somebody’s got to ask these questions…

Don’t see very many around me doing so, so I just thought what the heck, let it be me…

This one’s not for all you test-tube jocks in the lab, you know…

Answer’s not about the math really; it’s more about feeling, again…

Nevertheless, this is a very important question.

Answer it wrongly for yourself, and market-play will wreck your life – all avenues of your life, that is. 

And, answer it correctly for yourself – lo and behold, you’ll actually start enjoying your market activity.

The human being ultimately excels in anything he or she enjoys doing. 

This means that if you answer this question correctly, your market activity will yield you profits. 

Told you. This question is important. Answer it.

Let me tell you how I’ve answered it for myself. 

Before that, please understand, that my answer doesn’t have to apply to you.

However, for those who don’t know where to begin while trying to answer the question, it’s a start.

I detest giving Mrs. Market too much power. This was my clue initially, and I built up on this fact. 

Initially, Mrs. M used to take over my life. She used to govern my emotions. It started to rub off on my family. I knew I had to draw a line. 

I started to trade lightly – amounts which my mind could ignore. Then, I did one more thing. 

I started to connect minimally. The was the key step, and it swung the emotional tussle in my favour. Mrs. M’s days of emotional control were over. 

What does minimal connection mean?

You only connect when you have to. Period. 

When you don’t have to connect, you just don’t.

I’ll tell you when all I connect to Mrs. M.

Order-feed – 0 to once a day. Very rarely twice for this in one day. 

Connection for me is having my trading terminal on, and seeing live price-feeds face to face. 

My market research is all offline, so that’s not a connection for me. 

Squaring-off a position – again 0 to once a day. Very rarely twice a day.

Watching the live price-feed – 0 to once a day, and only if if I’m unclear about the buying-pressure versus selling pressure ratio.

That’s it. 

When I don’t identify a potential trade in my offline research, I don’t connect at all. 

When do I connect next?

Whenever I’ve identified the next trade, or a squaring-off situation, all offline. 

There can be two or even three day stretches when I just don’t connect. 

I use options, because they allow me this kind of play for Indian equities. 

Why am I stressing upon the value of minimal connection? 

Connection means exposure to the “Line”. You’ve met the Line before. If not, look up the link on the left (“The Line”). 

Connection to the Line taxes your system, because market forces interfere with your bio-chem. 

Keeping the connection minimal keeps you healthy, and you can go out and do other stuff in life, which rounds you off and refreshes you for your next market-play. 

Keeping the connection minimal detaches you from Mrs. M. You are able to detach at will. This lets you focus on your family when your family members require your attention. 

Keeping the connection minimal makes the task of swallowing your small losses smoother. 

Lastly, keeping the connection minimal helps you let your profits run. 

So, how does one define minimal?

Do the math, and come out with rules for your minimal connectivity, like the ones I’ve come out with above, for myself. 

After that, while sticking to your rules for minimal connectivity, only connect to Mrs. M when you feel the burning desire to do so, like for example upon the identification of a sizzling hot trade, or for the order-feed of a trigger exit after a profit-run or something like that. 

Yeah, you minimise even after your rules.

That’s your minimal connection.  

Connection & Disconnection

Sizzling hot stuff is best kept at an arm’s length … … something I learnt along the path … …

You reach for it at a conducive time, do what you need to do, and then you let it be. This way it doesn’t burn you. 

When you’ve let it be, you’re not thinking about it. Your mind has switched off from it. It is utilising its resources to do other stuff … … till it’s time to work with your sizzling hot stuff again. 

Now replace sizzling hot stuff with Mrs. Market.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Mrs. Market can burn you. You need to work with it in a manner that it doesn’t. 

You’ve understood that whole deal about the establishment of an emergency fund. Such a fund will render any burns only temporary. You have to have an emergency fund going first up, before you enter Mrs. Market. The income generated from this fund needs to cater for the basic requirements of your core family. Period.

Ok, good, so now you’ve got your protective gear on. Till you’re getting it on, you are absolutely disconnected from Mrs. Market.

Now let’s talk constant connection and disconnection. 

Why allow something or someone to control your moods?

No!

You are absolutely not giving Mrs. M that much power. 

Therefore, play small. 

How small?

Small enough to not lose any sleep over Mrs. M. 

Play with stops. These allow you to disconnect from Mrs. M and focus on other work. Other work is as important as Mrs. M, or perhaps more important. Yeah, show Mrs. M her place in your life. This way she’ll behave herself. Giver her any more leeway, and she’ll take over your life, and you don’t want that, right?

So, connect to Mr. M, do your work, place your stops, and disconnect. 

Don’t think about Mrs. M till you connect to her again. 

The period in between connection and disconnection is your time. Use it for any activity that has nothing to do with Mrs. M.

Day in, day out.

 

 

Learning to be Blunt

Don’t like something? Is it causing you harm? Is someone bothering you? Is something draining your energy? Are you unhappy with a situation?

Get a grip. 

Get that something or someone out of your way. Now. Be blunt about it.

It pays to be blunt. I’m really learning this the hard way, but today I feel there is a lot of truth in this. 

I’ll tell you how I’ve benefited. 

All uselessly energy-depleting people and situations are now out of my life. With the surplus energy saved, I am able to create. 

Stonewalling is for bankers, private investigators, cops, crooks and what have you. 

Diplomacy is for diplomats. Let them do their jobs. 

I’ll do my job. I wish to conserve maximum energy for activities I enjoy and which are beneficial to my surroundings. To achieve this, I have learnt to be blunt. 

Who was my teacher?

Ever wondered?

I mean, do you ask such questions?

Do you use your imagination?

Do you grow?

Are you doing justice to your incarnation as a human?

Ok, enough provocation. Who was my teacher?

None other than…

… Mrs. Market.

I take my stops.

I’m blunt about taking small hits. Very, very often. 

So often that…I’m numb to their pain. 

This puts me in line for…

… fill in the blanks…

… big wins …

… provided …

… fill in the blanks …

… what, you thought this would be a spoon-feed… ? …

… well, … provided…

… provided I let my profits run. 

How to Swallow Small Losses…

… as if nothing has happened … is one of my biggest trading goals.

You see, our society teaches us not to lose. 

It doesn’t teach us that we can lose a bit 5 times, and after that we can win big, recovering all our losses and making money overall.

No. 

It teaches us to try and win all the time. 

That’s the exact reason 90%+ of all society members actually lose in the markets. They’ve not learnt how to lose small, move on, and take the next trade.

Mrs. Market won’t budge an inch for you. You’ll have to make the adjustment. 

So how does one take a loss in one’s stride?

Only one type of loss is immediately digestible – a small one. Therefore, define your risk in the market. Cut and scoot when required. Don’t get married to your trade.

Then, once the small loss has happened, and has been taken, it will nag you. 

It’ll be there, trying to bite your brain in the background. 

Focus on your next trade. 

Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – Next Trade Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – Next Trade Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – … … [what’s the difference between implementation and entry? Well, you could be implementing the trade through a trigger, which is not equivalent to entry yet].

Don’t let the nagging bother you by keeping yourself busy with Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – Next Trade Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – Next Trade Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – … … 

Ultimately the nagging will die out, as your mind starts to revolve around your current trades. 

If you give in to the nagging, it will grow, and will slow you down. You might snap at a family member. You might go into depression. You might freeze. DON’T. Don’t give in to the nagging. Don’t let it grow. Don’t let it slow you down. Maintain your family equilibrium at all costs. Move on. 

The nagging is worst if there’s been a close below your stop, and the market is to open the next day, or after the weekend. You have to deal with this one. If you’re not able to deal with this particular situation, you’ll either need to expose your mental stop prematurely and feed it in intraday (before there’s been a close under it), or you’ll need to follow the progress of your trade from half an hour before next market open onwards.

Yes, this last one’s tough, and you need to absolutely work your way around it. 

You can do it with a bit of practise. 

🙂

A Chronology of Exuberance

The biggest learning that the marketplace imparts is about human emotions.

Yeah, Mrs. Market brings you face to face with fear, greed, exuberance, courage, strength, arrogance … you name it.

You can actually see an emotion developing, real-time.

Today, I’d like to talk about the chronology of exuberance.

In the marketplace, I’ve come face to face with exuberance, and I’ve seen it developing from scratch.

When markets go up, eventually, fear turns into exuberance, which, in turn, drives the markets even higher.

What is the root of this emotion?

The ball game of exuberance starts to roll when analysts come out with a straight face and recommend stocks where the valuations have already crossed conservative long-term entry levels. As far as the analysts are concerned, they are just doing their job. They are paid to recommend stocks, round the year. When overall valuations are high, they still have to churn out stock recommendations. Thus, analysts start recommending stocks that are over-valued.

Now comes the warp.

At some stage, the non-discerning public starts to treat these recommendations as unfailing cash-generating  opportunities. Greed makes the public forget about safety. People want a piece of the pie. With such thoughts, the public jumps into the market, driving it higher.

For a while, things go good. People make money. Anil, who hadn’t even heard of stocks before, is suddenly raking in a quick 50Gs on a stock recommendation made by his tobacco-seller. Veena raked in a cool 1L by buying the hottest stock being discussed in her kitty party. Things are rolling. Nothing can go wrong, just yet.

Thousands of Anils and Veenas make another 5 to 6 rocking buys and sells each. With every subsequent buy, their capacity increases more and more. Finally, they make a big and exuberant leap of faith.

There is almost always a catalyst in the markets at such a time, when thousands make a big and exuberant leap of faith into the markets, like a really hot IPO or something (remember the Reliance Power IPO?).

Yeah, people go in big. The general consensus at such a time is that equity is an evergreen cash-cow. A long bull run can do this to one’s thinking. One’s thinking can become warped, and one ceases to see one’s limits. One starts to feel that the party will always go on.

Now comes the balloon-deflating pin-prick in the form of some bad news. It can be a scandal, or a series of bad results, or some political swing, or what have you. A deflating market can collapse very fast, so fast, that 99%+ players don’t have time to react. These players then rely on (hopeful) exuberance, which reassures them that nothing can go wrong, and that things will soon be back to normal, and that their earnings spree has just taken a breather. Everything deserves a breather, they argue, and stay invested, instead of cutting their currently small losses, which are soon going to become big losses, very, very big losses.

The markets don’t come back, for a long, long time.

Slowly, exuberance starts dying, and is replaced by fear.

Fear is at its height at the bottom of the markets, where maximum number of participants cash out, taking very large hits.

Exuberance is now officially dead, for a very long time, till, one day, there’s a brand new set of market participants who’ve never seen the whole cycle before, supported by existing participants who’ve not learnt their lessons from a past market-cycle. With this calibre of participation, markets become ripe for the re-entry of exuberance.

Wiser participants, however, are alert, and are able to recognize old wine packaged in a new bottle. They start reacting as per their designated strategies for exactly this kind of scenario. The best strategy is to trade the markets up, as far as they go. Then, you can always trade them down. Who’s stopping you? Shorting them without any signals of weakness is wrong, though. Just an opinion; you decide what’s wrong or right for you. The thing with exuberance is, that it can exercise itself for a while, a very long while – longer than you can stay solvent, if you have decided to short the markets in a big way without seeing signs of weakness.

At market peaks, i.e at over-exuberant levels, long-term portfolios can be reviewed, and junk can be discarded. What is junk? That, which at prevailing market price is totally, totally overvalued – that is junk.

Formulate your own strategy to deal with exuberance.

First learn to recognize it.

Then learn to deal with it.

For success as a trader, and also as an investor, you will not be able to circumvent dealing with exuberance.

Best of luck!

Can We Please Get This One Basic Thing Right? (Part II)

Now that we’ve laid the foundation, we need to build on it.

The most important aspect of investing is the entry. For a trader, entry is the least important aspect of the trade.

An investor enters after a thorough study. That’s the one and only time the investor is calling the shots regarding the investment. The right entry point needs to be waited for. After entry, the investor is no longer in control. Therefore, the entry must be right, if the investor is required to sit for long. If the entry is not right, then one will not be able to sit quietly, and will jump up and down, to eventually exit at a huge loss.

The trader can even take potshots at the morning newspaper, and enter the scrip hit by a dart at current market price (cmp). There’s a 50:50 chance of the scrip going up or down. If, after entry, the trade is managed properly, the trader will make money in the long run. A loss will need to be nipped in the bud. A profit will be allowed to grow into a larger profit. Once the target is met, the trader will not just exit slam-bam-boom, but will keep raising the stop as the scrip soars higher, and will eventually want the market to throw him or her out of the trade. If the scrip is sizzling, and closes above the stop, the trader will be happy that the market has allowed him or her to remain in the trade, because chances are very high that the scrip will open up with a gap the next morning. Then the trader will take the median of the gap for example as a stop, and will continue to raise this stop, should the scrip go even higher. Eventually, the correcting scrip will throw the trader out of the trade. One or two big winning trades like this one will give the trader a fat cushion for future trades. Now, the trader will position-size. He or she will again take his or her dart, and will select the next scrip. The amount traded will be more, because the trader is winning, and because the pre-decided stop percentage level now amounts to a larger sum. The trader’s position will be sized as per his or her trading networth. So, you see here how unimportant entry is for trading, when one compares it to trade management and exit.

For the investor, there’s no investment management in the interim period between entry and exit, unless the investor goes for a staggered entry or exit. That again falls under entry and exit, so let’s not speak about interim investment management at all. If anything, the investor needs to manage him or herself. The market is not to be followed real-time. One’s investment-threshold should be low enough so as to not have the portfolio on one’s mind all day. You got the gist. Also, exit happens when no value is seen. The investor just loses interest. He or she just tells his or her broker to sell the ABC or XYZ stake entirely. Frankly, that’s not right. Proper exits are what the trader does, and the investor can learn a trick or two here. Then, again, the investor would be following the market real-time in the process, and will get into the trader’s mind-set, and that would be dangerous for the rest of the portfolio. On second thoughts, it’s ok for the true investor to just go in for an ad-hoc exit.

You see, the investor likes it straight-forward. A scrip will be bought, and then sold for a profit, years later. That’s how a typical investment should unfold.

The trader, on the other hand, likes to think in a warped manner. He or she has no problems selling first and buying later. It’s called shorting followed by short-covering. The market can be shorted with specific instruments, like futures, or options. In seasoned markets, one can even borrow common stock and short it, while one pays interest on the borrowed stock to the person it was borrowed from. Yeah, many traders like to go in for all these weird-seeming permutations and combinations in their market-play.

A person who trades and invests runs the danger of confusing one for the other and ruining both. We’ve spoken about how proper segregation avoids confusion. Another piece of advice is to specialize in one and do the other for kicks. Specializing in both will require a good amount of mind-control, and one will be running a higher risk of ruining both games. At the same time, doing both will give you a good taste of both fields, so that you don’t keep yearning for that activity which you aren’t doing.

You see, sometimes the trader has it good, and sometimes, the investor is king.

When there’s a bull-run, the fully invested investor is the envy of all traders. Mr. Trader Golightly has gone light all his life, and now that the market has shot up, he is crying because he’s hardly got anything in the market, and is scared to enter at such high levels.

During a bear-market, Mr. Investor Heavypants wishes he were Mr.Trader Golightly. Heavy’s large and heavy portfolio has been bludgeoned, whereas Lightly’s money-market fund is burgeoning from his winnings through shorting the market. Lightly doesn’t hold a single stock, parties every night, and sleeps till late. Upon waking up, he shorts a 100 lots of the sensory index, and covers in the early evening to rake in a solid profit.

When Mrs. Market goes nowhere in the middle, Lightly gets stopped out again and again, and loses small amounts on many trades. He’s frustrated, and wishes he were Mr. Heavypants, who entered much lower, when margin of safety was there, and whose winning positions allow him to stay invested without him having to bother about his portfolio.

Such are the two worlds of trading and investing, and I wish for you that you understand what you are doing.

When you trade, you TRADE. The rules of trading need to apply to your actions.

When you invest, you INVEST. The rules of investing need to apply to your actions.

Intermingling and confusion will burn you.

Either burn and learn, or read this post and the last one.

Choice is yours.

Cheers.  🙂

Why Emergency Fund?

Why do you wear a seat-belt while driving?

Why do you purchase medical insurance?

Why does one carry two parachutes while jumping off a plane?

Why do you keep your spouse happy?

So you can live in peace, right?

Peace of mind – so important…

Without peace of mind, market decisions are warped. Disturbing factors cause you to take wrong decisions.

Once faced with a market decision, it is extremely easy to go wrong. There are many telling you what to do. Some have agendas, others speak wthout an agenda, for the sake of speaking. Topping that, Mrs. Market starts playing tricks on you. She’s almost always catching you on the wrong foot. You needs to be mentally alert to identify your initial error and correct it as per your outlined strategy. If your mind-control is compromised, you step deeper into the delusive web of Mrs. Market by not being able to identify your initial error, and then the error can get bigger, and bigger, and even bigger, till it has the capability to consume you.

That’s why emergency fund!

You are not bigger than Mrs. Market. No one is bigger than Mrs. Market. You might start thinking you are, because of a few successes. As a result, you might start to play bigger. Over-confidence will first cause you to make a small mistake. Because you will not have identified the mistake as a mistake, owing to delusional conditions, the small mistake might get bigger and bigger, till it becomes bigger than you, and your market career is over.

That day, your emergency fund will feed your family.

So, firstly, make sure that an emergency fund exists for you.

It needs to be accessible, i.e. liquid.

It needs to be sufficiently large.

Its contents should be safely parked.

If it is generating some income of itself, even better, but the emergency fund should not be locked-in. If it is locked-in, you should be able to access it in a maximum of 24 hours, even if you need to pay a small monetary penalty for full and irreversible access.

Your spouse, who you’ve kept happy, should know about the emergency fund, and how to access its contents. If you’ve not kept him or her happy, he or she might access this fund anyhow, and blow it up beforehand. So, keep him or her happy and in a responsible state of mind. It is possible that he or she is just not interested in finance, right, so then what do you do? Wait for your child to grow up, wishing that he or she has an interest in finance! Anyways, someone you trust should know how to access the emergency fund. If nothing else, write out all details in a file, and inform the person you trust of the file’s existence.

Why am I being so extreme about all this?

I’m big on safety. I don’t like seeing a market player blowing up, because I wouldn’t want that to happen to myself. Have you been to a circus?

The acrobats do have a safety line, don’t they? I mean, they practice all their lives, and pull of the most amazing stunts, again and again, day after day, but at the back of their mind, they know it’s over if they make just one mistake. Unless they have a safety line. If and when a mistake occurs, their safety line will save them. The existence of a safety line allows them to perform with peace of mind, and perform well.

It is exactly like that in the markets. One big mistake, and it’s all over.

Unless there’s an emergency fund.

It’ll allow you to survive, recuperate, and get back on track. When you’re back, you’ll most definitely not repeat the big mistake you made. Also, the first thing you’ll do is regenerate the emergency fund, before you get back to proper market action.

Here’s wishing that you never need to access your emergency fund, but also wishing that it exists in the first place.

Here’s wishing that its presence gives you the necessary peace of mind to perform better.

Who Told Who So?

Nobody’s in a position to tell anyone so.

That’s the marketplace for you in a nutshell.

There are times when you’re sure a scrip has peaked, and it just keeps on going higher, and higher, and then even higher.

At other times, a scrip might show tremendous valuations, but it just refuses to rise. 9 years in a row. Just refuses to rise.

Welcome to a world where if you’re able to watch your own back, you’re good.

In the world we are speaking about, a Rakesh or a Warren are what they are because that’s what suits them particularly. What suits them might most definitely not suit you. What makes you think you can emulate someone in the marketplace?

That’s the whole point, people.

You need to carve out your own unique niche in the marketplace. Something that suits you, and just you. If you do that, you’ll be happy. Satisfied from within. And that’s when you’ll start doing well.

Your best performances will come when you start being … … yourself.

Playing someone else’s game? Well, try to. Don’t be surprised if you lose your pants.

Your biochemistry is unique. So are your reactions to subtle changes around you. Thus, your interactions and dialogues with Mrs. Market need to be unique. These need to cater to your needs, your queries, your tendencies and your idiosyncrasies.

We try to follow rules. We want to master Mrs. Market. Frankly, what a joke!

Firstly, we need to make our own rules, for ourselves.

Secondly, Mrs. Market needs to be understood, even if for short spans, and she most definitely doesn’t need to be mastered. She’ll master you rather than you her. Be wary of her, win from her, but why do you wish to conquer? Fool’s paradise. Stick to the script, pal. Take your winnings and go. Why do you bet the farm, in an effort to make a killing? You’re not proving any point to anyone. Everyone’s busy doing their own thing with Mrs. M. No one’s looking at you. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Don’t bet the farm. Stick to the script. Take your winnings and go.

So, what’s the real learning in this world we speak about?

When you go wrong. That’s when real learning begins. How do you handle yourself? How do you come back? How do you start winning again? How do you then keep winning, again, and again, and again.

That’s the learning.

I didn’t tell you so.

You discovered it for yourself.

Remember that.

Discover it for yourself.

What’re you waiting for?

Happy Second Birthday, Magic Bull !!

Seasons change. So do people, moods, feelings, relationships and market scenarios.

A stream of words is a very powerful tool to understand and tackle such change.

Birthdays will go by, and, hopefully, words will keep flowing. When something flows naturally, stopping it leads to disease. Trapped words turn septic inside the container holding them.

Well, we covered lots of ground, didn’t we? This year saw us transform from being a money-management blog to becoming a commentary on applied finance. The gloom and doom of Eurozone didn’t beat us down. Helicopter Ben and the Fed were left alone to their idiosyncrasies. The focus turned to gold. Was it just a hedge, and nothing but a hedge? Could it replace the dollar as a universal currency? Recently, its glitter started to actually disturb us, and we spoke about exit strategies. We also became wary of the long party in the debt market, and how it was making us lazy enough to miss the next equity move. Equity, with its human capital behind it, still remained the number one long-term wealth preserver cum generator for us. After all, this asset class fought inflation on auto-pilot, through its human capital.

Concepts were big with us. There was the concept of Sprachgefühl, with which one could learn a new subject based on sheer feeling and instinct. The two central concepts that stood out this year were leverage and compounding. We saw the former’s ugly side. The latter was practically demonstrated using the curious case of Switzerland. There was the Ayurvedic concept of Satmya, which helps a trader get accustomed to loss. And yeah, we meet the line, our electrolytic connection to Mrs. Market. We bet our monsters, checked Ace-high, gauged when to go all-in against Mrs. Market, and when to move on to a higher table. Yeah, for us, poker concepts were sooo valid in the world of trading.

We didn’t like the Goldman attitude, and weren’t afraid to speak out. Nor did we mince any words about the paralytic political scenario in India, and about the things that made us go Uffff! We spoke to India Inc., making them aware, that the first step was theirs. We also recognized and reacted to A-grade tomfoolery in the cases of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines. Elsewhere, we tried to make the 99% see reason. Listening to the wisdom of the lull was fun, and also vital. What would it take for a nation to decouple? For a while, things became as Ponzi as it gets, causing us to build a very strong case against investing a single penny in the government sector, owing to its apathy, corruption and inefficiency. We were quite outspoken this year.

The Atkinsons were an uplifting family that we met. He was the ultimate market player. She was the ultimate home-maker. Her philanthropy stamped his legacy in caps. Our ubiquitous megalomaniac, Mr. Cool, kept sinking lower this year, whereas his broker, Mr. Ever-so-Clever, raked it in . Earlier, Mr. Cool’s friend and alter-ego, Mr. System Addict, had retired on his 7-figure winnings from the market. Talking of brokers, remember Miss Sax, the wheeling-dealing market criminal, who did Mr. Cool in? She’s still in prison for fraud. Our friend the frog that lived in a well taught us about the need for adaptability and perspective, but not before its head exploded upon seeing the magnitude of an ocean.

Our endeavors to understand Mrs. Market’s psychology and Mr. Risk’s point of view were constant and unfailing, during which we didn’t forget our common-sense at home. Also, we were very big on strategy. We learnt to be away from our desk, when Mrs. M was going nowhere. We then learnt to draw at Mrs. M, when she actually decided to go somewhere. Compulsion was taken out of our trading, and we dealt with distraction. Furthermore, we started to look out for game-changers. Scenarios were envisioned, regarding how we would avoid blowing up big, to live another day, for when cash would be king. Descriptions of our personal war in Cyberia outlined the safety standards we needed to meet. Because we believed in ourselves and understood that we were going to enhance our value to the planet, we continued our struggle on the road to greatness, despite any pain.

Yeah, writing was fun. Thanks for reading, and for interacting. Here’s wishing you lots of market success. May your investing and trading efforts be totally enjoyable and very, very lucrative! Looking forward to an exciting year ahead!

Cheers 🙂

Finding the “Switch-Off” Button

Gadgets have a switch-off button, right?

Whatever for, have you ever wondered?

Do we have one too?

If we do, is it clearly marked, i.e. is it easy to find?

If we do, and if it isn’t clearly market, where and how can we find it?

Why is it essential to find it?

What if we don’t have a switch-off button?

First, let’s observe the Master. Sherlock Holmes. Master at the art of switching off.

Observe Holmes when the next obvious lead will take a day to obtain. Since the case is going nowhere, Holmes will take the day off. He will play his violin, trip on some coke to study its effects on mind and body (he’s Holmes), go to the art gallery, or what have you. The case at hand has gone into oblivion. Attenuated. What happens when it is time to pursue the case again? Holmes switches on. He is fresh. Alert. The switching-off really helped.

Remember the “attenuate” button on your car’s stereo?

Why do you think it is there?

So you can take that call without getting disturbed by the music. The music is still there, but upon pressing this button, it becomes really soft. So soft, that you don’t get affected by it. You conduct your business on the phone, and then press this button again, and the music comes back on in its full glory.

Same goes for the markets.

Once you are in a trade, market-forces are connected to you.

If you cannot attenuate them during off-market hours, you can ruin your evenings, nights, weekends, health and family life

Big, big price to pay.

Not worth it, so get busy and learn to attenuate the market’s connecting force once you switch your terminal off. Rest assured, it will come blaring back at you when you switch your terminal back on, but that time between terminal off and terminal on is oh so precious. That time belongs to you, and not to Mrs. Market. Don’t allow her that extra privilege. Use that time for things that you wish to do in life. Use it for your family. Mrs. M will be getting your undivided attention during the next market session anyways. Let her be content with that. Keep her in her place.

Just as any gadget needs rest, so do you.

Sometimes, the markets go nowhere, and / or are choppy. It doesn’t pay to trade. Switch off from the markets. Take a holiday. Do something else, till conditions become better for trading.

Yes, we do have a switch-off button. It is not clearly marked. It is located in the mind. One activates it indirectly. By switching on to some other relaxing activity that has the ability to grab the mind’s interest.

Switching off is a skill, and this skill needs to be developed. We don’t necessarily come with it. Most of us need to learn it. Otherwise, we’ll become tired, erratic, irritable etc. etc., scale up to commit big blunders, and then we will eventually burn out. That’s if the Street doesn’t throw us out as paupers before a looming burn-out. Also, our family lives will have gone for a toss. Our children will remember us as dreadful parents. Yes people, we need to find the switch-off button asap, and then we need to learn to activate this button at will. Essential.

And please don’t worry about not having such a button. After all, it was the human being who put such a button into all gadgets. Well, the idea must have come from somewhere. From inside our own mind, perhaps, where our own button exists?

What Exactly is a Decent Trade?

A decent trade should yield you money, right?

Not necessarily so.

Am I crazy?

No.

So why am I saying this?

Am I not in the business to be in the green?

Of course I am, so let’s delve a little deeper.

As is slowly becoming clear to you, Mrs. Market is a schizophrenic. Her behaviour is mostly looney, and more often that not, she traverses an unexpected trajectory.

In the business of trading, there lie before you a set of circumstances, and your trading decisions are based upon these.

Thus, you outline your trade.

You plan the entry.

You plan the exit.

You define the reward : risk ratio.

You draw up a trade management plan, as outlined by your system. You preplan your response to all possible movements of Mrs. Market.

Can you do more?

No.

Can you predict Mrs. Market’s future behaviour?

No.

You have an idea about what she might do, based upon past behaviour, but does that make her future path certain?

No.

So that’s it, you enter a trade offering a high reward : risk ratio, based upon information from the past and a probabilistic idea about the future. A high reward : risk means that if there is a payout, it will be high in comparison to the loss you might bear if the trade goes against you. Something like 2 : 1 (possible profit : possible loss), or at least more than 1 : 1.

So what’s going to make your trade decent?

Just stick to your systematic plan, and you’ll have traded well.

Notice, no talk of any money here.

We’ve only spoken of sticking to our system-outlined trading plan.

We are not focusing on money. We are focusing on trading well.

Money is a side-effect to decent trading.

Trade decently, do the right thing, and money will follow as a side-effect, seen over the long run.

If your trade-management plan says you are cutting the trade below point X, and if point X is pierced by Mrs. M as she moves against you, well, the right thing to do would be to cut the trade.

So what if the trade didn’t yield you money?

It was a trade well executed, AS PER YOUR SYSTEM-OUTLINED TRADING PLAN.

What would have made this trade an indecent one would be if you hadn’t cut the trade below point X, irrespective of where Mrs. M went after that.

Why would the trade then be “bad”?

Because you didn’t follow your system’s advice.

You second-guessed yourself.

That means that you don’t have faith in your trade-management abilities, and / or that you succumbed to your emotions. You begun to hope that Mrs. M would start to move your way after piercing point X during her move against your trade direction.

If you did follow your system, you actually didn’t let any hope enter the equation.

Decent.

You had faith in your system, and did not second-guess yourself.

Very decent.

Such faith in one’s system is absolutely essential, and you’ll realize that as you start to scale up in trade-size.

Let’s look at the other part of your trade-management plan.

Let’s say that you decided that if Mrs. M moved in your directon, then you would stay in the trade till you saw the scrip giving at least one sign that it was stagnating. Only then would you book profits, upon such a signal from Mrs. M.

Assume then, that after entry there’s a spike in your direction, and you are in the money.

What do you do now?

Do you get greedy, forget about your trade-management plan, and book the trade? Would such a money-yielding trade be considered decent?

No.

Firstly, you got greedy.

Indecent.

Then, you forgot about your system-outlined trading plan.

Very indecent.

So what if you made money?

Sticking to your system’s advice would have given you the chance to make more, perhaps much more.

It is difficult enough to pinpoint a scrip which is about to explode.

Then, when you land such a scrip, the last thing that you want to be doing to yourself is nipping the explosion in the bud.

You nipped potential profits, even if you took a portion home.

Very, very indecent.

There you have it, people.

Use your common-sense, and, trade decently.

Wisdom of the Lull

It’s awfully quiet.

Are you enjoying the silence?

Or are you fretting and fuming, that there’s no action?

There’s a buzz to silence. It’s charged.

And you can harness that charge.

What for?

For the storm of course. Which is to follow. Don’t you want to be ready for it?

Cycles, people. Finance moves in cycles.

In the ’00s, I used to move from market to market. Action here, action there, action everywhere. Result was, well, I became a “Jack of all trades”, and a master of none.

Well, that’s changed now. With time, I’ve zeroed in on the markets I wish to master. I stay with these markets. No abandoning.

Tell you a secret – every market has idiosyncrasies. These four words take long to find out. Lots of hits. And then one learns these magic words.

Nuances, markets have nuances. Market A will have nuance Z, and market B will have nuance Y.

To master a market , you need to stay with it. Don’t abandon it when it is quiet. You do want to master it, right? So stay. Watch. Don’t do anything if you don’t wish to, but watch. Recognize the idiosyncrasies and their patterns.

Welcome to the wisdom of the lull.

A lull gives you time to consolidate and get your action-plan ready. It allows your nervous system to recharge. You can catch up with stuff you’ve missed out on. Financially, you’re not worried, even if you’re not trading.

Why?

Because your trading corpus is giving you fixed income when its units are not being utilized for trading, silly. And, this fixed income is large enough to support you and your family and then some, remember? That was a basic tenet we had carved out for ourselves before we got into serious trading. Don’t forget the basics. Keep reminding yourself. Financially, a lull needs to give you enough income to support your family and then some, such that you are not required to pull a single trade. Trading 1.0.1. If that’s not the case, first muster up a large enough corpus that fulfills this condition, before you get into serious trading.

Why?

A lull should not have you jumping in your pants, eager to implement dozens of trades in an effort to get basic income going. When Mrs. Market goes nowhere, your trades will eventually keep getting stopped out, because of money stops or time-stops. That’s how you recognize a lull. Now you can shut shop, recharge, watch, and your corpus is still generating basic fixed income, allowing you to harness the full wisdom of the lull.

This is also a time to go over previous trading errors. Let me tell you a story. Remember Jesse Livermore? Well, Jesse was eccentric. Geniuses are eccentric. Jesse was a genius trader. Since there would be no trading action around the end of December and the beginning of January, Jesse used to lock himself up in a bank-vault during this period, stocked with ample food and drink supplies . He would then go over all his trades implemented in the previous year, trying to understand the mistakes he had made. He would come out of the vault when the previous year’s trading had been fully digested by his system. When he emerged from the vault, he was ready to take on the new year.

Why a bank-vault, you ask?

Jesse said he wanted to get a physical feel for money. He wanted to be with it for a while. Trading was too abstract, and one lost touch with reality. By living with real money in a closed space for a few days, Jesse’s system was acknowledging that trading has to do with real money, real losses, real profits.

Yeah, I’m sure the vault had a washroom. Jesse Livermore could pull any stunt with his bankers.

Jesse Livermore was the first trader to realize and harness the wisdom of the lull.

Thanks, Jesse.

The Thing with the Goldman Attitude

The Goldman attitude is making me puke.

My reaction to it is similar to that of Louis de Funes in this link.

Numbers make the world go round. The human being will do anything to bring home the right numbers.

Investment banks, normal banks, brokers…are lining up for your account. So that their company’s balance sheets look presentable, they have one thing in mind – brokerage generation. Your prospereity is no longer their foremost thought.

So, to be fair, it’s not exactly a “Goldman attitude” only, it’s fairly universal. Lately, it’s gotten publicity after an ex-Goldman employee spilled the beans.

The thing is, where does that leave you? You used to depend upon sound advice from your trusted broker, right?

Well, not happening anymore. You’re in this on your own. Sink, or swim.

The thing with successful business over the long-term is that it needs to be practised with a “win-win”
ideology. If one party loses, one time too many, it then rightly backs off from the business. Brokers and investment bankers worldwide are noticing this backlash.

Why should I be someone who grudges a broker his or her brokerage?

Nope, I’m not such a person. A broker can make all the brokerage he or she wants as long as business remains ethical. The line for me gets drawn when lousy, synthetic, losing investments start to get touted.

And now we come to the public. Frankly and ultimately, it’s the public’s fault. People want to invest their money, but many don’t know the first thing about investing. That’s when they start throwing their hard-earned money at Mrs. Market, and that’s when they make big mistakes.

How long does it take a brain-surgeon to master his or her art? A good 10 – 12 years, right? Similarly, playing the markets successfully over the long term also takes a long time to master. Markets are complicated too. The difference between brain-surgery and Mrs. Market is, that anyone can take a pot-shot at Mrs. Market without the least bit of preparation. This anyone still has a coin-flip (50:50) chance of success. Early, unqualified, lucky success lures this unfortunate person into huge and back-breaking losses later.

Why, people?

When we’ve decided to do something, why can’t we do it well? And, why can’t we take the time to do it ourselves?

Too busy, you say?

Well, there’s no excuse for lack of that minimum threshold involvement in an investment, even if it’s being handled for you by your bankers or brokers.

Let’s say someone really close to you is receiving critical medical treatment. Don’t you get involved? As in, surf the net, find the best doctor, hospital, clinic, keep yourself updated about the progress of the treatment etc. etc. Why do you not behave in the same manner when your own money goes out to earn?

What makes you hand it over to a third party blindly?

Enough said already.

The thing with the “Goldman attitude” is, that it is a wake-up call.

For all of us.

To get our act together.

So, When Does One Attack Here?

Ammunition.

Your game revolves around it.

We’re not talking war over here.

Or are we?

The marketplace is a war-zone, come to think of it.

Question is, how do you use you ammo?

Do you fire the bulk right away?

Who are you trying to scare?

This is the marketplace, people, overall, it’s not scared of your few rounds. There are just too many players, with varied interests and ideologies. Your few rounds might cause a mini-spike in the underlying concerned, but that’s about it. That mini-spike is not going to make it to tomorrow’s paper.

So, why bother? You don’t need to attack here. Straight away, that is. You can attack when the time is ripe, and when you are ripe too.

What does being ripe for an attack mean?

It means that your defences are fully in place and on auto-pilot. Your basic income is taken care of and suffices your family’s needs. Actually, let’s go a little further and say that your family is able to live comfortably on income generated by you which is independent from any of your speculative / risky activities. This is the first step. You need to work yourself into such a position, even if it takes you a long time. Without knowing that your family is safe, no matter how you fare in the marketplace, you will not be able to trade freely.

Then comes the second step in setting up your best defence. You need to have access to an emergency fund. Meaning, this kind of a fund needs to be salted away first. It then needs to be made accessible when required, and otherwise, it is to remain unused. Don’t let your emergency fund’s miniscule return bother you. In lieu of that, you are getting safety. Your emergency fund needs to remain safe, sound, and there, when you need it. This way, if and when something happens, and funds are required, a). you won’t have to tap into your family’s basic income, and b). you won’t have to tap into your trading corpus. You’ll access your emergency fund. Your family will remain financially undisturbed, and so will your trading, despite the emergency.

Now comes the final step, before you can get on with your trading, yes, even aggressively. In this step, the focus is on you. While setting up your family’s basic income and your emergency fund, you have struggled. Your health could have taken a knock. Your mind could be in a whirl. Normalize, my friend. Take time off. Stare at the wall. Get your body-chemistry back to equilibrium. Take a vacation. Take many vacations. Finally, when you are in shape, go for it.

Ok, so you’re in shape, and ripe for attack.

Now, the time needs to be ripe for attack too.

Mrs. Market has three basic modes of movement. She trends, moves in a range and then, she just plain goes nowhere, i.e. she’s flat.

Your aggression needs to be implemented only when she’s trending. Period.

That’s when it’ll yield mind-blowing returns.

Fire away when she’s flat or moving in a range, and you’ll keep getting stopped out.

How can you tell when she’s trending?

Through technical analysis.

So, study. Learn to differentiate between her three basic modes of movement.

Then, when she trends, and only then, use your ammo aggressively.

Making the Grade

It’s your convocation. From now on, you’ll be a degree-holder.

Yippeeee!

Just pause for a second.

All your life, you’ll be introducing yourself as a master’s in this or a bachelor’s in that, or perhaps even as a Ph.D. in xyz.

Have you even once considered, that your respective field will continue to evolve, long after you stop studying it?

For example, one fine day, in a Chemistry lecture to class XII, I noticed that the stuff I’d learnt for my master’s degree exams was the very stuff I was now teaching these 17-18 year-olds. That was a big realization for me. It then dawned upon me, that I had to either keep moving with the developments in the subject, or I needed to change my profession. I moved on from Chemistry in 2004.

So, for heaven’s sake, a paper degree is not your ticket to your subject for life. Things, people, seasons, subject-matter, issues at hand – everything changes. Every decade or so, there’s a complete overhaul. To stay on top, and still feel like a degree-holder of your subject, you need to be with things as they move, through the whole decade.

Does your marriage give you a licence to stay married to that same person for life without working on the relationship day in, day out? No, right?

Your degree doesn’t make you a king-pin in your subject for life either, without the appropriate ground-work everyday. Let’s please digest this truth.

The worst-case scenario of whatever I’ve said above happens in the markets. It is a worst-case scenario, because you enter the markets with some finance degree, thinking that the degree has taught you to play the markets successfully. Nothing is further from the truth. Here, you have a piece of paper that gives you false confidence, and you see your balloon bursting after your first few live shots at Mrs. Market.

Financial education in colleges and universities lacks two basic factors. The thing is, these two factors are game-changers. Get them wrong, or don’t know much about them, and your game becomes a losing one.

What are these two factors?

Everything and everyone around us teaches us not to be losers. We are taught to shove our losses under the carpet.

Cut to reality: winning market-play is about losing. Losing, losing, losing, but losing small. To be successful in the markets, we need to learn how to lose small, day in day out. It’s not easy, because our entire system is geared up to win, every time.

Then, everything and everyone around us teaches us to seal that win and post it instantly on our resume, on facebook, on twitter. Modern society is about showing off as many wins as possible. Losers don’t get too many breaks.

Cut to reality: winning market-play is about winning big, very big, every now and then, amidst lots of small losses. That can’t happen if we immediately book a winner. We need to learn to nurture a winner, and to allow it to win big. Again, that’s not easy, because as soon as a winner appears, our natural instinct tells us to book it and post it. So bury your “win it-cut it-post it” attitude. Instead, win, let the winner win more, and more, and when you feel it’s enough, without getting greedy, cut it, and then keep quiet, bring your emotions back to ground zero, and move on to the next winning play.

The reason, that most teachers of finance in colleges and universities don’t know about these two factors, is that their own money is almost never on the line. They have almost never felt the forces of live markets through this “line”, day in, day out. The line one puts on is one’s connection to market forces. Only a regular connection to these forces teaches one about realistic, winning market-play.

One could argue that the case-studies examined in finance school are very real. Well, they are very real for those protagonists who actually went through the ups and downs of the case-study in real-life. They got the actual learning by being exposed to live market forces. You are merely studying the statistics and drawing (dead) inferences, devoid of first-hand emotions and market forces. Whatever learning you are being imparted, is, well, theoretical.

Theory doesn’t cut it in the markets. Theory doesn’t make the grade.

So, what makes the grade?

I consider a seven year stint at managing your own folio a basic entry requirement into bigger market-play. What happens during this time?

Each body cell gets attuned to real market forces, live. You get to know yourself. You build up an idea about your basic risk-profile. Your market-strategy takes shape. It is fine-tuned to YOU.

During this stint, money needs to be on the line, again and again, but the amounts in play need to be small, because you are going to make many, many mistakes.

And please, make whatever mistakes you need to make in this very period. Get them all out of your system. Make each mistake once, and never repeat it, for life. Point is, that after this stint, money levels in play are going to shoot up. Mistakes from this point onwards are going to prove costly, even devastating. The kinds, where one can’t stand up again. You don’t want to be in that situation.

Once you are comfortable managing your funds, and don’t get rattled by Mrs. Market’s constant action, her turnarounds, crashes etc. etc., your market decisions are such, that you start applying your knowledge of money-management successfully. You have now become a practitioner of applied finance.

Applied finance is advanced level market-play. To win at applied finance, your money-management basics need to be fully in place and rock-solid. You can define applied finance as Money Management 2.0.

Winning at applied finance is self-taught. You don’t need a degree for it. In my eyes, a degree here is in fact detrimental, because you then spend a long time unlearning a lot of university stuff during real market-play. You actually see for yourself, that most of what you learnt applies only in theory. The stuff that makes winners, where is that? Why wasn’t it taught? Well, you’ve got to go out there and learn it for yourself.

Let theory be where it belongs. Respect it, but leave it in its appropriate world. The world needs its theoreticians to make it go round, but you need to go beyond theory, to win big.

Put on your practical shoes when you put your good and real money on the line, and be ready for anything.

Let your mistakes teach you.

Keep making the grade, day in day out.

Long after society tells you that you’ve made it.