Nath on Trading – II – Building up on Basics

21). You started small, right?

22). Ultimately, you’re staying consistently in the green, correct?

23). Then it’s time to scale up. Slowly does it.

24). Why the whole spiel about starting small? You make your biggest mistakes in the first seven years.

25). Hopefully, you don’t repeat a mistake once it has happened, and once you’ve learnt from it.

26). However, mistakes are good, because they teach you. Nothing else can teach you with incorporation into DNA. Mistakes can.

27). No university can teach you. No books. No professor. Play the market, make the mistake, and learn.

28). A big break early in the markets is a recipe for disaster. More likely than not, you’ll blow up later, when it matters.

29). The best possible way to scale up is using position-sizing as delineated by Dr. Van Tharp.

30). The good thing about position-sizing is that it makes you scale down, when trading corpus goes below par.

31). Day trading takes up the day. You’re exhausted and are not able to do much else.

32). Short-term trading also keeps you riveted to the terminal, mostly.

33). However, position trading and longer time frames keep you in the line for whatever else you wish to achieve.

34). Market TV makes it a video game. Switch it off.

35). Trading with targets caps big-win potential.

36). When you trade, you trade. You don’t invest.

37). Successful trading means buying high and selling higher, or…

38). …selling low and buying back lower…

39). …as opposed to successful investing, which is buying low, not selling for the longest time, and then selling for a multiple.

40). Read points 16 to 19 again.

Going for the Jugular

It’s time.

Why…is it time?

And, time for what?

It’s time to go for the jugular.

Meaning?

There comes a time, when, after working hard, struggling, doing the whole jig, the rigmarole, you achieve your basics. 

Well done. Pat on your back. 

Then you secure these basics. 

Forever. 

If you can. 

Wonderful. More pats.

Worry factor is now out of the equation. 

Your family is secure. 

Food, safety, education, all basics intact.

Fantastic. You deserve an award. Not that anyone’s going to give you one. Frankly, nobody could care less. Never mind. You know in your mind that you’ve achieved a milestone, and that’s enough for you. 

Whats the next step…

…for you?

Jugular. 

What is this jugular?

Multiplier.

X-factor.

Call it what you will.

What does this mysterious thing do?

Better question is, what is it capable of?

You’re looking to multiply your networth. 

Isn’t everyone?

This is different.

Why?

Because it is coming as a logical conclusion, and not as a first-step with no experience and no secure basics. 

You’re keeping your head-earned basics secure. 

Nothing is touching these. You’ll be surprised at the kind of courage secure basics give you to act further. 

Next, you’ve identified an area where your skill-set can be leveraged into huge profits with minimal risk. 

Specifically in the market, these areas are abundant. 

So what exactly will you be doing?

Playing on a minuscule portion of your net worth. Let’s say not more than 2 %.

Leverage.

Stoploss.

Profit-run.

Position-sizing. Scaling up upon profits. Scaling down upon losses. 

Overcoming your demons. 

Fear.

Worry.

Hypertension.

Exuberance.

Hubris.

Complaecency. 

Going beyond. 

Multiplying.

Going for the jugular. 

Winning Marketplay, Anyone?

Two words. 

Psychology.

Strategy. 

That’s it. 

Prediction?

No. 

Prediction is not pivotal here. 

We’re getting psychology and strategy right. 

We want winning marketplay, right?

Prediction is for losing marketplay. Prediction might be wrong. That’s when strategy and psychology save you from big loss. A big loss can wipe you out. Thus, dependence upon sheer prediction brings a wipe-out into play. That’s why, prediction is almost always relegated to the bottom rank when one talks about winning marketplay.

We’ll travel with a hint of prediction, though. Just a hint. Doesn’t suffice for losing yet. 

For entry purposes. Only.

Even this hint of prediction is bias-giving, though. Once we enter, we need to quickly lose the bias. Yeah, once we enter, we only react to what we see. 

Our system has an edge. It helps us choose market direction. After that, psychology and strategy take over. 

Meaning, after we’ve entered, there’s no more prediction in play. 

So what’s in play then?

The raw trade. 

And you.

At this point, all your mental strength comes into play. 

Oh, and your strategy. 

You do have a strategy, right?

As in, if x happens, they y, and if a happens then b.

You need a stoploss too.

You don’t have to show it. It can be mental, provided you don’t fool yourself into not using it when the time comes.

You won’t execute your stop. 

Sure. 

Again and again. 

Till you teach yourself how to. 

Till you lose big. And are still left standing. To want to enter again. 

Learning to take a small hit, again and again and again – that’s winning marketplay. Requires huge psychological strength. You acquire this. You don’t have to be born with it. 

Now comes another punchline. 

That profit-sapling just emerging…see it? You will not nip it in the bud. 

You’ll still do it. 

And again. 

You’ll nip it in the bud. 

Again and again. 

Till you teach yourself not to. 

It’s not easy. 

95%+ of all market players continue to nip profits in the bud all their lives. 

To allow the sapling to grow into a tree is the most difficult of all market lessons. Learning to let profits run is winning market play. 

To want more profits, you have to risk some of your current profits. 

No more risk, no more gain. 

You want to quickly exit and post that 22% gain on your Excel sheet. Sure. Why can’t you let it grow into an 82% gain? God alone knows. That’s how the cookie crumbles. You nip the opportunity to make that 82%. 

What’s with 82?

Just a random number. 

Am trying to get a point across. There’s a run happening. In a direction. It’s crossing +22%. Fast. Momentum could see it to +102%, to then backtrack and settle at +82%. It’s a probable scenario. 

Anyways, there are some smarties that risk 12 of the 22% and stay in the trade. Soon the 22 can even go beyond 82. Lets say it does. What do you do?

Nip?

No. 

Not yet. 

You let it travel. Momentum is to be allowed free leeway, till it halts. Let’s say it halts at 102. You say to yourself that the winds might change if 102 goes back to 82, and tell your broker to exit if 82 is hit intraday.

That and that alone is the proper way to exit a winning trade. You exit it with the taste of loss. You let the market throw you out. For all you know, the market might be in the mood for 152. You want to give the trade that chance. Thus, a momentum target exit while the move is still on would be less lucrative for you in the long run, or so I think. 

Why?

Statistics are defined by big wins. These matter. Big-time. Allow them to happen. Again and again and again. 

Now add position-sizing into your strategy. The ideology of position-sizing has been discovered and fantastically developed by Dr. Van Tharp. 

In a nutshell, position-sizing means that an increasing trading corpus due to winning should result in an increasing level risked. Also, correspondingly, a decreasing trading corpus due to losing should result in a decreasing level risked.

With position-sizing added to your arsenal, no one will be able to hinder your progress.

Psychological strength that comes from experiencing first-hand and digesting learning from varied market scenarios, coupled with a stoploss/profitrun position-sizing strategy – that’s a winning combination.

Wishing you happy and lucrative trading!

🙂 

Dealing from a Position of Weakness 

When you’re losing… 

… you downsize your position. 

Why? 

To save your corpus. 

You lower the risk. 

Is risk quantifiable? 

You bet. 

Risk is no abstract entity without a body. 

In a trade, your risk is defined by your stop to stack-size ratio and the size of your one position. 

When you’re losing, you either lower the magnitude of your stop, or lower the quantity of your one position. 

Till when?

Till your corpus crosses par and then some. 

At par, you trade normal. 

Normal stop. 

Normal quantity. 

What is normal? 

Depends on you. 

What is normal for you? 

That’s what goes. 

Why the caution when below par? 

Lots works against you at this time. 

Sheer math for example. Downsizing sets this right. 

Emotions. 

Whoever’s got a remedy for those is king already. 

You. 

Your body-chemistry is affected. You’re sluggish. More prone to error. Nobody’s got a remedy for you, except you. Wait for your body to heal before trying out that perfect cover-drive, or what have you. 

Winning or losing in the markets depends a lot upon psychology, chronology, systems, strategy, application and adaptation of style. 

I like to call this “getting one’s meta-game together”. 

Let’s go people. 

Let’s get our meta-games together. 

Then we can scale it up. 

🙂 

When are you doing it Right?

There’s something called the Line.

You feel it.

It’s abstract.

You have to be its master.

Then, you’re doing it right.

Controlled, the line won’t disturb your life.

It’ll very probably add to your life, in terms of wealth.

If you let it control you, everything is finished.

Goodbye.

Life. Wealth. Peace of mind.

It pays to master the line.

How do you feel the line?

By being invested, or in a trade.

How do you master the line?

By being invested or in a trade, again and again, again and again, and then some. Simultaneously, you’re nipping your bad behaviour in the bud, while the line is on.

You control your temper. You don’t lose it.

You develop patience with loved ones.

You learn how to position-size the line, while winning or losing.

You attenuate all kinds of disturbance.

You keep going on and on like this, till one fine day, the line’s presence becomes a part of your life. Line-switch being on doesn’t change you or alter your behaviour in any negative manner anymore.

That’s when you’re doing it right.

Effects?

Trade on = like when trade was not on.

Investment? You’re not thinking about it.

You sleep well.

Good family life… not disturbed by the presence of the line.

Yeah.

Line.

Master it.

Dynamics of a Long-Long System

What if your system doesn’t allow you to second-guess yourself?

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful situation?

And you’d be right there, in the middle of it all.

What would such a system look like?

Right, it would only go one way.

Long-long. “A-la-la-la-la-long”, to quote Inner Circle!

Why aren’t we talking about a short-short system?

Theoretically, we could. Theoretically, everything is possible.

Well, a short-short system would have no limits on your potential loss, if the trade went against you. That’s the fundametal problem I have against a short-short system, without even having gone into the whole leverage discussion.

You could bring the stop argument.

Fine.

Just take a deep breath.

Think clearly.

Take a look at the average price-speeds of both directions, long and short.

The average price-speed in the short direction is far higher. Price-jumps are greater. The probability of your stop getting high-jumped over is much higher in the short direction. Frankly, that doesn’t work for me.

Also, which market allows you to set an overnight stop, barring the international forex market?. None that I know of, at least in India. No stops overnight means potential exposure to a large drawdown upon next market-opening, and here I’d like to be in a long-situation, because loss is capped.

Therefore, when we’re discussing a system that doesn’t allow us to second-guess ourselves, I will only discuss a long-long system.

What does long-long mean?

Yeah, we’re talking about a system, where you’re looking for long trades all the time. You don’t look for trades to go short in-between. There’s no shorting in the equation whatsoever. The moment you start thinking about shorting, you start second-guessing your long-approach.

What does that mean for someone applying such a system?

It means that the whole world might be crumbling apart, and one is still looking for long-trades. Yes, one could take some hits here. One just needs to make sure, that one’s consecutive drawdown doesn’t exceed a bearable level. Also, as losses might pile up, one position-sizes one’s way through. The concept ot position-sizing has been pioneered and elucidated by Dr. Van K. Tharp @ www.iitm.com.

It also means that when your underlyings start to run, you’ll be piling up winning trade upon winning trade.

The thing is, nobody knows when what is going to run. If you’ve taken all second-guessing out of your equation, you’re aligning yourself with the correct direction once things start to run. Going the other way now would mean further losses.

Then, it further means that if you lock in a big winner in a running market, your paper profits can now be used to harness even greater profits in the same trade. Such big winners provide a big boost to your trading corpus, and, in my opinion, are the difference between winning and losing in the markets. One needs to keep oneself aligned correctly when such opportunities come along. A long-long system will keep you aligned, no matter what.

You could argue about dry spells.

In any dry spell, or when markets are tanking, there are still underlyings that are going up. You just have to identify them. Today, such identification is not difficult at all.

For such identification, you need market software, a data feed, and an algorithm which defines what you are looking for. Your software then scans the entire breadth of the market you’re in to try and find what you’re looking for, and opens corresponding charts for you for underlyings that are still going up, or where there is buying interest, buying pressure, unusual increment in volume or what have you.

Don’t let the word algorithm scare you. You don’t have to learn a new programming language to put an algorithm together. Common-sense is enough. You know what you’re looking for. Let’s say what you’re looking for involves volume and price. You look inside your market software. Then you couple two algorithms together into a new algorithm which defines what you are looking for. You see, a typical market software like Metastock already uses algorithms for volume moving average, price etc., and these are visible to you. Just copy-paste and make a new algorithm that suits your purpose.

Lastly for today, decouple yourself from the market during trading hours, except when you’re feeding in the trade. Analyze your current trades when the market is closed. Intuitively, you will probably feel that your decisions during off-market hours will be better than when you’re coupled to a live market. Find out for yourself. More on this some other day.

Three Ways to Double Down

To win big as a trader, one needs to understand and implement a strategy of doubling down when things are looking good.

The difference between mediocre success and mega-success as a trader is linked to a trader’s ability to double down at the proper time.

We’ve discussed position-sizing. That’s one way to double down.

A day-trader, or a very short-term trader has the luxury of seeing one trade culminate and the next trade start off after the first one culminates at its logical conclusion. For most longer-term traders, many trades can be occurring simultaneously, because started trades have not yet come to their logical end, and new opportunities have cropped up before trades commenced have come to their logical end.

What do such traders do? I mean, they do not know the final outcome of the preceeding trades.

Yeah, how could such traders position-size properly?

Well, a trade might not have come to its logical conclusion, but you do know how much profit or loss you are sitting on at any given point of time. The calculation of the traded value for the next trade is simply a function of this profit or loss you are sitting on. Simple, right?

Well, what if you don’t like to position-size in that manner?

What if you say, that here I am, and I’ve finally identified a scrip that is moving, and that I’m invested in it, and am sitting on a profit. Now that I know that this scrip is moving, I’d like to invest more in this very scrip.

Good thinking. Nothing wrong at all with the thinking process.

You now pinpoint a technical level for second entry into the scrip. Once your level is there, you go in. No heavy or deep thinking required. As a trader, you are now accustomed to plunging after trade identification and upon setup arrival.

Question is, how much do you go in with?

Is your second entry a position-sized new trade? Or, do you see how much profit you are sitting on, and enter with the exact amount of profit you are sitting on? The latter approach is called pyramiding, by the way. Pyramiding is a close cousin of position-sizing. Normally, one speaks about pyramiding into one very scrip, when the trader buys more of that very scrip after showing a profit in that scrip. Once could, however, also pyramid one’s profits into different scrips.

When you’re pyramiding into one very scrip, you’re putting many eggs in one basket. Right, the risk of loss is higher. The thing going for you is that this risk for loss is higher at a time when your profits are up in a scrip that’s on its way up. Therefore, the risk during a downslide is higher, but the probability of that risk’s ability to result in an overall loss for you is lower than normal. You understand that you have balanced your risk equation, and with that understanding, you don’t have a problem putting many eggs in the same basket. After all, it’s a basket you are watching closely. Yeah, you know your basket inside out. You are mentally and strategically prepared to take that higher risk.

There’s yet another way to double down. I’d like to call this the “stubborn-bull trading approach”.

Let’s say you are sitting on a profitable trade. Yeah, let’s say you are deep in the money.

Now, a safe player would start raising the stop as the scrip in question keeps going higher and higher.

On the other hand, a trader with an appetite for risk could risk more and more in the scrip as it keeps going higher and higher – by not raising the stop, till a multibagger is captured. On the other hand, this trader would also be setting him- or herself up to give back hard-earned profits. Yeah, no risk – no gain.

What’s the difference between the stubborn-bull trading approach (SBTA) and investing?

When you’re adopting the SBTA, you’ll cut the trade once it loses more than your stop. You’ll sit on it stubbornly only after it has shown you multibagger-potential, let’s say by being up 20-50% in a very short time. You’ll keep sitting on it stubbornly till your pre-determined two-bagger, three-bagger or x-bagger target-level is reached. After that, you’ll start raising the stop aggressively, as the scrip goes still higher. Eventually, the market will throw you out of your big winning trade. You see, the SBTA strategy is very different from an investment strategy. For starters, your entry into this scrip has been at a trading level, not at an undervalued investment level. Undervalued scrips normally don’t start dancing about like that immediately.

Let’s be very clear – to reap big profits in the long run, you, as a trader, will need to adopt at least one of these doubling down strategies – position-sizing, pyramiding and / or the stubborn-bull trading approach.

Have a profitable trading day / week / month / career! 🙂

How Does One Position-Size?

What is the singular most lucrative aspect of trading?

Any ideas?

Want a hint?

Ok, here’s the hint. It is also the safest aspect of trading.

Give up?

Here’s the answer. It’s called position-sizing. (The pioneer of position-sizing is Dr. Van K. Tharp, @ www.iitm.com, and I have learnt this concept through him).

Surprised? I would be surprised if you weren’t surprised.

Yeah, trade selection is important too, but other things are more important while trading.

For example, trade management is more important than trade selection. So is exit. Entry might be paramount to an investor, but to the trader, entry is run of the mill. It happens day in, day out. The trader … just enters a selected trade. There’s no deep thinking involved. The trader knows this. Crux issues are to follow. The trader is saving his or her energies for the crux issues.

So far, we’ve spoken about the chronology of a trade, i.e. entry – management – exit.

Before entry, you decide how much you want to trade with, and how much you want to risk. That’s the size of your position, or your position-size. Remember, for the concept of position-sizing to make any sense, your stop-loss percentage must remain constant from trade to trade. Only your traded value goes up or down.

What does the level of your traded value depend upon?

It depends upon HOW WELL YOU ARE DOING.

If you’re on a roll, your traded value for the next trade goes up. The increment is proportional to the profits you are sitting on. Since the stop is a constant percentage, the amount risked is also higher. Return is proportional to the amount at risk, and the long-term net return of such a trade will also be higher. All this means, that the more you make, the more you set yourself up to make even more…!

Take a coin. Flip it millions of times. There will be a stretch, where you’ll flip tails 5 times in a row, or six times in a row, or maybe even ten times in a row. The 50:50 trade called “coin flip” can well result in a series of back to back losses. You are an experienced trader. Your trade selection ratio could be 60 winning trades to 40 losing trades, or perhaps a little better, let’s say 65:35. Even a trade selection ratio of 65:35 will result in back to back losses. As a trader, you need to take large drawdowns in your stride, as long as you are confident, that in the long run,  your system is working. What’s working in your favour during the large drawdown?

Your position-size is.

You see, as trade after trade goes against you, and your losses pile up, your position-size KEEPS GOING DOWN. Your stop percentage remains constant. This means, that the more you lose, the more you set yourself up to lose lesser and lesser, trade after trade. Yeah, position-sizing gives you the safety of losing less. Nevertheless, because of this safety assurance from your position-sizing strategy, you keep yourself in the market by just taking the next trade without too much deep thinking (and with no melancholy whatsoever), because your next trade could be the one decent trade that you are looking for. Yeah, your very next trade could cover all losses and then some. TAKE IT.

Now, two things can happen.

Firstly, if you keep losing, and hit your loss cut-off level for the month, well, then, you just stop trading for the rest of your month. You then spend the rest of the month reviewing your losses and your system. You tweak at whatever needs tweaking, and come back fresh and rested the following month. Position-sizing kept you in the market, ready to take the next opportunity to earn big. The auto-cut takes you out of the market for a while. That’s why, in my opinion, while position-size is still activated, it provides more safety, because it keeps you in the market to recover everything and then some, starting with your VERY NEXT trade. Having said that, auto-cut is auto-cut. It overrides position-sizing.

The second thing that can happen is that your losing streak ends before your month’s cut-off is reached. Yayyy, position-sizing is still activated! You’ve lost lesser and lesser on each losing trade as long as you were in the losing streak, and now that you are winning again, each win sets you up to win more in the trade that follows.

After many, many trades, just cast a glance at your trading corpus. It will boggle your mind!

Your position-sizing strategy has kept raising your corpus, because your system is 60:40+, and you win more than you lose. Ultimately, your corpus has become substantial. Its size exceeds your expectations BY FAR.

All thanks to position-sizing.

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.  🙂

The Concept of Satmya

This one’s from the world of Ayurveda, folks.

We’re not geeks.

We move around amongst all segments of life, grab whatever is useful, and then try and apply its usefulness into our world of applied finance.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to do with the concept of Satmya.

Imagine in your minds a first-time smoker. The first puff breaks him or her out into a coughing flurry. A new stimulus is choking the respiratory system. The body rejects it.

That’s roughly the story for any first-time stimulus which is disturbing.

Upon repeated exposure to the stimulus, the body slowly gets habituated. Ultimately, rejection recedes. One’s tissues are now not only bathing in the stimulus, they are enjoying it. In fact, they want more.

Habituation is where we want to keep it at, no further. That’s the point of Satmya. At the point of Satmya, you enjoy the stimulus without falling sick, since your body-chemistry can now deal with the stimulus without getting imbalanced.

When we put on a live trade in any market, we expose ourselves to market-forces. A gamut of emotions comes alive inside of us. The level of reaction in our system is proportional to the size of the trade. First exposure makes us erratic. Therefore, it is very important to keep this first exposure small.

Markets swing. Joy wells inside of us with notional profit. Sorrow consumes us upon notional loss. Body-chemistry now needs to adapt.

If losses are kept small owing to the usage of stops, one’s system gets used to small losses. Meaning to say, small losses don’t shake you anymore. Market exposure results in small losses all the time, provided you’re using stops. Once these don’t shake you, and your entire world is still balanced despite them, you’re not afraid to put on the next trade, even after a string of losses. This very next trade could well turn out to be a multi-bagger, so you need to put it on. If you’re afraid to put on the next trade, you take yourself out of circulation, and fail to catch a big market move.

A habituated system makes one put on the next trade.

When the market swings in your favour, your notional profit causes you to become emotionally imbalanced. The first time this happens, you effervescently go about promising everyone the world, and get into situations you can’t deliver upon later. You might even make the other mistake of booking your profit early, not allowing the underlying to yield even more profit. Why, why, why?

Get used to sitting on a profit. Let it happen many, many times. Don’t go jumping about when it happens. Take it in your stride. Let the trade develop into a multi-bagger so that it can make up for your many small losses and yield even more beyond your overall break-even point. Such a state of mind is only earned once your system is habituated with regard to profit-yielding situations.

Another big mistake we make after a profitable trade is to put on a disproportionately large position-size in the next trade. Habituate your system to not increase position-size disproportionately. Calm it down after a profitable trade. Then coolly calculate your new position-size, taking total equity and steady maximum-loss percentage into account. Only increase position-size as per the mathematics of your trading strategy, not according to how good you are feeling after a profitable trade.

Habituation will also fine-tune you while lessening position-size after a string of losses. On the one level your math proposes a new lower size to trade in such a situation. On the second level, your body-chemistry will signal to you from inside whether you are comfortable with this size in a new position. Listen to your body and mind. If they are not able to take more than a certain quantum of market-forces at a given time, they will tell you. If you are able to listen to them and then can adjust your position-size further down to a level that body and mind are comfortable with, you are then taking the concept of position-sizing to a metaphysical level.

So, see what the concept of Satmya or habituation has done to your trading. It has made trading holistic for you. With the incorporation of this concept, you are trading in a manner that is comfortable for your mind and body.

The net result is that you don’t fall sick because of trading, and because you stay in the game, you are able to catch the big winners when they come.

Happy Trading! 🙂

Moments Before the Plunge

A very common sight right through school and college was last minute cramming. It was an epidemic. I was more the odd one out, walking around without any books a day before any exam. Reason was, I was convinced that if I was unsure of myself a day before an exam, delving into course-material at that stage would make me feel even more insecure.

“Do you have any coffee?”, whispered someone. This fellow woke me up in the middle of the night, leaving with my entire bottle of instant coffee-powder. He was doing an all-nighter before some board exam. At the cost of not being super-prepared, I preffered to sleep the night.

Interestingly enough, I’ve had the chance to speak to some brides and grooms hours before the knot was tied. Jitters, man. Everyone was jittery, well almost. The most common feeling was “… what if this is the wrong step?” This was followed by “…what if we don’t get along?”

Seriously, people, why moments before the plunge? Why does the human being expose him- or herself to destabilizing thoughts just before pulling the trigger? There’s ample time much, much before, to sort all the destabilizing stuff out while deciding whether one goes ahead with a particular action. Similarly, there’s ample time to study for an exam if one starts from day one. Just an hour a day, throughout the term, and there’s no need for any all-nighters.

If you’re all sorted out and well rested to boot, you then have the best chance of seeing peak-performance emanating from your system.

And that’s what we are looking to be, just before opening a market position.

We’ve sorted out our worries and fears. We know how much risk we can handle, and have systems in place to manage this risk, i.e. we know what we have to do if our trade goes bad. Also, we know how to behave when a trade does well. We are aware about the size of the position we need to put on as an appropriate ratio to our stack-size. We’ve tuned in to the idea of position-sizing, and are practising it as we win more or lose more. Basically, we have our basics in order.

After that, we have to see whether we actually feel like trading. Even when our trading system identifies a set-up, the innate go-ahead to trade might just not come from within. There can be some reason for this. For example, there could be some tension prevailing at home. Sort out the external disturbance to the level of closure if you can, or it might constantly disturb trading.

So, internal sorting out, external sorting out, then comes a trade set-up, and one takes the trade. No jitters, here, there, anywhere. All jitter-causing avenues have been chewed up and digested. That’s when triggers can be pulled when they appear.

When Mrs. Market asks you to ride alongside her, your bag should be packed already. You can then jump on to her motor-bike without worries, for you’ve packed well for the trip.

Moving on to a Higher Table

You’ve started to rake in regular profits on your poker table, or, if you will, on your regular trade-size.

Common-sense now tells you, that you need to scale it up a bit. After all, you’d still be risking the same percentage of your stack-size per trade. Simultaneously, if your win-ratio remains constant, you’d be allowing your stack to grow at a faster pace.

You move on to a higher table.

Welcome to the concept of position-sizing.

Those who position-size can evolve into huge winners in minimum time. Even though the idea of position-sizing is so central to trading, it is still one of the most under-discussed of topics. We need to thank Dr. Van Tharp for teaching this concept properly.

Think about it. When you win, your principal increases. On the next trade, you then put the same principal percentage at risk like you’ve always done. Because your new principal was more, it allowed you to buy more. Thus, you put yourself on the line to win more.

What’s essential here is also to down-size your position when you are losing. Taken a few bad beats in a row? Move down to a lower table for a bit, man. Allow your stack to recuperate at this lower level and then some before moving back higher. With that, when you’re losing, you start to risk less. Crucial point.

Of the different methods available to you to position-size, here, we speak about increasing trade-size when a new trade starts.

The advantage you enjoy when you’re doing pure equity is that on each new trade, your position-size can pinpointedly be adjusted according to your stack-size. Scale-up, scale down, trade upon trade, as the situation demands. Beautiful.

Why does this work out so beautifully for you?

You see, your system gives you an edge. You are opening your positions on high-percentage winners only. Period. Simultaneously, you are cutting your losses at your pre-defined maximum. You are also allowing your winners to win more. And, you are taking your stops. Even if your system then gives you a 55:45 edge over Mrs. Market, you’re doing great. Over a large sample-size (many, many trades, or for that matter many, many poker hands), your stack will increase with a high level of probability. As it goes on increasing, you keep turning on the heat by increasing your position-size further and further.

What happens then? What do you see?

Something beautiful happens.

Your trading principal (what we’ve been calling stack-size all the time) starts to increase exponentially. Have you seen the progress of an exponential function as one travels from zero to the right on the x-axis (the x-axis here would stand for sample-size or the number of trades taken)? If not, check it out on the net.

A good system should give you a 60:40 market-edge. In the Zone, you’d probably trade at 70:30 or beyond. That’s 70 winning trades out of every 100 taken, and 30 losing ones. Imagine what that does to your trading principal over 1000 trades, if you adhere to position-sizing, let your winners ride and take your stop-losses.

The numbers will boggle your mind.

Go for it.

The Sweetest Spot

In the markets, we often lose our balance.

Then we find it. Only to lose it again.

The key is maintaining this balance over long periods of time.

There’s a spot, where everything, suddenly, goes into balance. I like to call it the sweetest spot. What are its characteristics?

Firstly, at the sweetest spot, health is intact, on the physical as well as on the mental level. Then, one has identified a trade, entered it, and the trade is in the money. At this spot, the spouse respects you and your profession, because neither you nor your profession are bothering him or her for space. Relationship with him or her is harmonious. At the sweetest spot, you find time for your children. You’ve got a rapport going. Your off-spring learns from your every word and action.

Phew, sounds amazing!

Wait, there’s more!

At the sweetest spot, one is debt-free. Neither is one under-trading, nor is one over-trading. Reactions to market events are sharp, and one turns with the market, i.e. one is in the Zone. As profit levels increase, so does position-size, proportionately. You are getting your strategy basics right, one after the other.

At the sweetest spot, goodness wells inside the human being, and he or she does an extra bit for the benefit of society.

Life, profession, existence…it’s all one smooth, harmonious, automatic flow.

Then, in a flash, the spot is gone. One or more of the many factors mentioned tend to go haywire. That’s quite normal.

Which only means, that you start looking for the sweetest spot again.

Whenever you find it once more, your primary goal is to maintain it as long as possible, again, and again and again (to the power of n, with n > 1).

Before you realize it, you are then staring at financial freedom. You are there, financially independent of any other factor or being. You have arrived.

Some things in life are really sweet, and worth striving for.

Taking Compulsion Out of One’s Trading Equation

Mr. Cool’s next trading cameo starts a few months after his last blow-up. He keeps coming back, you’ve gotta give him that.

This time around, his girl-friend wants a fur coat. Cool is determined to buy a fur coat for her from his trading profits.

Thus, Mr. Cool has put himself in a position where he is compelled to trade. Compulsion adds pressure. A trader under pressure commits basic blunders. There’s no question of getting into the Zone while pressure mounts.

Sure enough, Cool overtrades. Apart from that, he fails to cut his position-size after the first run of losses. These are two basic mistakes. They are being caused by compulsion. Mrs. Market is ruthless with players who commit basic blunders. As usual, Cool blows up, yet again. The fur coat is not happening. In fact, there’s no girl-friend anymore.

Meanwhile, Mr. System Addict has been evolving. He’s achieved a large-sized fixed income by ploughing previous profits into safe fixed-income products. He’s under no compulsion to trade. His fixed income allows him to live well, even without trading. He has a lot of time to think. Often, he gets into the Zone, where he’s moving in tandem with the market, and is able to swing with the market’s turn. What makes him get into the Zone so often?

It’s the lack of pressure. He’s comfortable. A free mind performs uniquely. There’s no question of making basic mistakes, because full focus is there. Addict is a human being who is aware. He knows when he is in the Zone. That’s when he doubles up his position-size and logs his trade. His win : loss ratio is 70:30 by now. His trading income surpasses his fixed income for the year.

Putting it all Together – The View from the Mountain-Top

Remember getting into the driver’s seat for the first time?

It all seemed so difficult. You got the brake-clutch-accelerator coordination all wrong. Proper gear changes were a far cry. There was no question of looking into the rear-view or the side-view mirrors, since you were looking straight. And the shoulder-glance – just forget about it, you said to the instructor.

Slowly, it all came together, perhaps after a 1,50,000 km behind the wheel. Now, driving is a piece of cake. It’s all there in your reflexes. It’s as if the car is connected to your brain, and is an extension of your limbs.

It took time and effort, didn’t it? And why would it be any different in the markets?

Flash-back to 1988 – high school – our Chemistry teacher Frau Boetticher used to teach us to strive for the “Ueberblick”. Roughly and applicably translated, this analogical German word means “the view from the mountain-top”. In Street lingo, the Ueberblick is about life in the Zone. Frau Boetticher used to push us to get into the Zone. She knew that then, our reflexes would take over. She passed away before our A-levels, after a very fulfilling and successful lifetime of teaching. She was the best teacher to ever have taught me.

When your reflexes make you enter a market, or exit it, or decide on the level of a stop, or a target etc. etc., you’ve managed to put it all together. Doesn’t happen overnight, though. The ball-park figure of 1,50,000 km behind the wheel changes to roughly 7 years of market experience, before one can expect to put it all together on the Street.

Where does that leave you?

As a thumb rule, money-levels at stake in the first 7 years on the Street need to be low. When you’re getting the hang of things, you just don’t bet the farm. That’s common sense, a rare commodity, so I’m underlining it for you.

On the Street, you only learn from mistakes. They are your teachers, and they prepare you to deal with Mrs. Market. No books, or professors or college will make you fit enough to tackle Mrs. Market, only mistakes will. Make mistakes in your first seven years on the Street – make big mistakes. Learn from them. Don’t make them again. Get the big blunders out of the way while the stakes are small. Round up your learning before the stakes get big.

Once your reflexes all come together, you can start risking larger sums of money, not before. Also, in today’s neon age, it’s difficult to stay in the Zone for prolonged periods of time. Something or the other manages to distract us out of the Zone, whether it is internal health or external affairs. When you feel you’re out of the Zone, just cut back your position-size. When you feel you’re back in, you can scale up your position-size again.

It’s as simple as that. Useful ideas have one characteristic in common – they are simple.

Blowing up Big

Derivatives are to be traded with stops. Period.

Stops allow you to get out when the loss is small.

Common sense?

Apparently not.

Who has common sense these days?

Also, the human being has embraced leverage as if it were like taking the daily shower. Bankers and high-profile brokers have free flowing and uncontrolled access to humongous amounts of leverage.

Apart from that, the human being is greedy. There’s nothing as tempting as making quick and big bucks.

Combine humongous amounts of leverage with large amounts of greed and brew this mix together with lack of common sense. That’s the recipe for blowing up big.

Every now and then, a banker or a high-profile broker blows up big, and in the process, at times, brings down the brokerage or the bank in question. In the current case at hand, UBS won’t be going bust, but its credibility has taken a sizable hit.

Bankers are to finance what doctors are to medicine. Where doctors manage physical and perhaps mental health, bankers are supposed to manage financial health. Bankers are taught how to manage risk. Something’s going wrong. Either the teaching is faulty, or the world’s banking systems are faulty. I think both are faulty. There exists a huge lack of awareness about the definition of risk, let alone its management.

Trained professionals lose respect when one of them blows up big. Such an event brings dark disrepute to the whole industry. Most or all of the good work to restore faith in the banking industry thus gets nullified to zilch.

A doctor or an engineer is expected to adhere to basics. I mean, the basics must be guaranteed before one allows a surgeon to perform surgery upon oneself. A surgeon must wash hands, and not leave surgical instruments in the body before stitching up. Similarly, an construction engineer must guarantee the water-tightness or perfection of a foundation before proceeding further with the project.

Similarly, a banker who trades is expected to apply stops. He or she is expected to manage risk by the implementation of position-sizing and by controlling levels of leverage and greed. Responsibility towards society must reflect in his or her actions. A banker needs to realize that he or she is a role model.

All this doesn’t seem to be happening, because every few years, someone from the financial industry blows up big, causing havoc and collateral damage.

Where does that leave you?

I believe that should make your position very clear. You need to manage your assets ON YOUR OWN. Getting a banker into the picture to manage them for you exposes your assets to additional and unnecessary stress cum risk.

In today’s day and age, the face of the financial industry has changed. If you want to manage your own assets, nothing can stop you. There exist wide-spread systems to manage your assets, right from your laptop. All you need to do is plunge in and put in about one hour a day to study this area. Then, with time, you can create your own management network, fully on your laptop.

Your assets are yours. You are extra careful with them. You minimize their risk. That’s an automatic given. Not the case when a third party manages them for you. Commissions and kick-backs blind the third party. Your interests become secondary. Second- or third-rate investments are proposed and implemented, because of your lack of interest, or lack of time, or both.

Do you really want all that? No, right?

So come one, take the plunge. Manage your stuff on your own. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, and it will definitely teach you a lot, simultaneously building up confidence inside of you. Go ahead, you can do it.

Baby-Stepping One’s Way Up the Financial Ladder

Everyday, without fail, I get a few opportunities to make this a slightly better world. I’m sure you do too.

And I’m ok with that. No further ambitions. Just doing what comes my way. I’ve always done what I believe in. Have never followed crowds. Have never joint someone’s battle which I don’t fully understand.

Baby-step contributions are drops in the ocean. Nevertheless, they are contributions. I’m proud of the fact that opportunities to contribute come my way regularly. I don’t act upon all of them. Have become very discerning of late. Don’t want to be involved with any frauds whatsoever. And India is brimming with frauds. For me, the world of contributing is about baby-steps. I’m content with that.

I believe that baby-stepping is the way up the financial ladder too, as far as one’s investing or trading activity is concerned.

In the world of trading, there exists the concept of position-size (developed to the nth level by Dr. Van K. Tharp). In a nutshell, this concept teaches one to scale it up one baby-step at a time as one’s account shows a profit. Also, one learns to scale it down a notch upon showing a loss.

Common-sense? Then why isn’t everyone doing it?

Why does everyone around me behave as if he or she is gunning for the big hit? The bringing down of institutions. Of governments. The desire to make it big and in the limelight in one shot. The desire to bring about sweeping change within a week’s time. Ever heard of speed of digestion and incorporation? Metabolism? Assimilation? Speed of evolution?

Life takes time to happen. Let’s give it that time. Let’s not hurry it up with our over-ambition. Do we want life to blow up on our faces because of over-ambition?

Frankly, I want to evolve with equilibrium. Really, really not in one shot. My system will explode if it tries to evolve in one shot. Many people are going to find that out the hard way on their own systems.

And I’m really satisfied with baby-stepping it up the financial ladder, using the concept of position-sizing. Slow and easy, little by little, tangible progress, day by day. No nuclear blasts, no tense situations or mood-swings, lots of time for the family, small quantums of realistic progress and its assimilation… what more can one ask for?

You should try it too.