It has to be a Dunk

When I shoot…

… it has to be a dunk.

If I’m not getting a dunk in…

… I’m not shooting.

What are the implications?

Imagine only taking market dunks for multiple decades in a row.

Where do you think that’s going to leave you?

Most of the time, though, one’s not shooting.

That’s because, most of the time, dunk trajectoires are not available.

When one is not shooting, does it become boring?

Only if you let it.

Yeah, just don’t let it.

No action is a good thing.

It saves resources.

Then, when opportunity is available, one might get twenty dunk days in a row.

Things can get so active, that one wants activity to normalize again, if not stop for a while.

Actually, not a challenge.

I’ll tell you what is a challenge…

… for me.

Dunk opportunity…

… and travel.

I don’t like this combination.

How do I deal with it?

First up, what don’t I like about it?

Distraction.

Not doing full justice to the trip.

Not doing full justice to the investing opportunity either, as in distracted due diligence.

Hmmm.

What do we do here?

Sure, you’ll argue, today one carries one’s terminal where one goes.

Does one also carry one’s zone, you know, the magical frame of mind, from within which one takes magic decisions?

Very probably not.

When one takes an investment decision, is it not better to be in this magical zone?

Therefore, unless the opportunity is just too pressing, such that it makes me open my terminal even during travel, …

…, yeah, my terminal mostly stays shut when I’m on the move, …

…, because then it’s time to do other things. Yayyyyy!

😀

What do you Want?

Is this one easy?

What do you think?

If this one were easy, we’d probably have no wars.

We’d sail from one fulfillment to another, without squabbling.

Life would be a breeze.

However, things are different on the ground.

We don’t talk to ourselves.

That’s why, for the longest time, we don’t know what we want.

Open the intrinsic dialogue.

Why is it not opening?

We’re so busy addressing the outside world.

We don’t even know perhaps, that a much more meaningful world exists – inside.

That’s the one more worth discovering, actually.

It contains the information about what we want.

We need to extract this information.

How does one do that?

Everything starts with a first step.

So, open the dialogue, yeah, the intrinsic one.

See where it goes.

You like exploring conversation on the dinner table, right?

Why don’t you try exploring conversation here, inside of you?

Next step is hit and try.

You’re in a new world.

Paths have not been defined. Define them. See what works. Discard what doesn’t. From the inside, go outside. If internally you feel that something might work, try it externally.

Keep trying and discarding.

Eventually, something sticks.

That what sticks is what you want.

Once you’ve discovered the groove, you can keep using it to discover more and more of what you want, till the groove stops working.

Then you go about creating a new groove.

Happy Searching!

🙂

Dance the Bawwdy Music!

..dance the body music

makes you feel so happy

dance the body music

music makes you happy

hear the music play

feel your body sway

hear the dj say

oh what a big smash big smash

dance the body music…

 

Osibisa, was it, late ‘70s?

Yup. 

What an cool swingy number, sung by an unforgettable band!

Disco beat. Rhythm. Easy peasy lyrics. Synth. Floor’s going crazy. Song’s all over the people. People are all over the song. 

Euphoria. 

Why are we talking about it?

Music or euphoria?

Euphoria. 

I used the music element to paint a picture of euphoria in your mind.

What is it about euphoria?

Why does it push me on alert?

Is it that I don’t wish to enjoy my life?

What could I have against euphoria?

I’ll tell you. 

Before I tell you, I’d like to mention that I love the feeling. 

It fantastic being in the feeling. I’ve got one eye on my alerts though. 

WHY?

We make our biggest mistakes when hit by Euphoria. 

Yes. 

Surprised?

Don’t be. 

Under the influence of Euphoria, our biochemistry is so, so different. 

We’re far from peak. 

Our defences are down. 

We are highly capable of plunging into…an abyss…oblivion…call it what you feel is befitting. 

We let go of safety. 

We bet big. 

We bet dangerous. 

We bet the farm.

That’s what euphoria can do to us. 

I do feel euphoric, at times. 

A trade’s gone well. 

A deal’s come through. 

Stability at home. 

Euphoria. 

However…

…as I told you…

…one eye is on my alerts. 

If even a single thought emerges of betting big, bigger than my normal size, well, my predefined red-alert also goes up with such a thought. 

I see my alert’s red flare, and the unwanted thought subsides. 

I am able to sick to within the confines of my position-size rule.

If even one thought emerges of trying a new untested line, just because all current lines are doing ok, well, my predefined strategy saturation alert also goes up with such a thought. 

I remind myself that I’ve decided upon financial strategy saturation, and don’t plan to add a new line, at least not in a hurry or upon an impulse. 

I’m able to stick to my strategy saturation decision. 

Are you understanding what I’m trying to tell you?

If yes, I’m so happy for you. 

You’re not leaving it for later. You’re understanding it without being hit by the aftermath of a decision taken under the influence of euphoria. 

Cheers mate!

🙂

Auto is our Motto

What are you doing…

…that’s not on auto?

Next question is, why is it not on auto?

On purpose?

Sure, there’s some stuff that you’d like to reserve for manual. That’s absolutely fine. 

Not on purpose?

Meaning you want it to be on auto, but haven’t done so?

Right. 

Why not?

Meaning, why are you not using that one big benefit of the twenty-first century – to your benefit?

Lazy?

Couldn’t care less?

Too complicated?

In a rut?

Whatever. 

Bottomline is, you’re losing out. 

How?

You’re losing out on…

…time…

…growth…

…evolution…

…prosperity…

…sense of fulfilment…

…sense of purpose…

…and what have you.

You can also start figuring out for yourself how you are losing out on these things amongst other stuff. No spoon-feeding here. 

Automation is the minimal requirement of our times. 

Automation requires transcending an activation barrier. 

This is a one-time input, before the concerned process goes on auto. 

This is also the step which makes many lose interest in going auto. 

Well, from nothing comes nothing. 

You will have to put in that time and energy for the one-time input that pushes the process into auto-mode. 

There is no way around it. 

However, each time you’ve gone auto, you’ll get a huge sense of accomplishment. 

You’ll want to recreate that feeling again and again and again. 

You’ll want to put more and more stuff on auto. 

With so much of auto stuff adding to you from the background, your life will become fuller. More enjoyable. More time to pursue whatever you wish to pursue. More time to be…

…you.

Cheers. 

Saturation

I don’t wish to add to my repertoire.

It has reached some kind of saturation. 

There’s no limit to how far I can go within my repertoire.

However, it is not comfortable with strategy addition. 

Fine. 

Did you just have this dialogue?

With yourself?

It’s good you did. 

While you start out in a field, you’re developing it. 

There needs to come a stage, in a while, where you have exactly identified, that you’re developing this, this and this further. Nothing else. 

Once you know what the exact game is, all your focus is required to take it to the nth level. What that n is going to be is up to you, again. 

Bottomline is, after a point, know your game. 

This is the game. 

This is what you are scaling up. 

That, that, that and that you are discarding, or have discarded. 

You need to reach this point within a reasonable time-frame. 

Then comes the next step. 

Pray, what might that be?

Automation. 

Before embarking upon scaling up, that what remains in your saturated repertoire – automate it. 

Staff. 

Technology. 

What have you.

Use any means for automation. 

Anything that’s legit, and which works. 

Use it. 

Standing instruction. 

Alarm. 

Alert.

Whatever. 

Automation is a huge blessing if used properly and after having tied up all the loose ends. 

If implemented in a hurry with sieve-like loopholes, it can even take you to the cleaner’s.

Implement automation in a justified and sure-shot fashion. 

Do you know what’s going to happen now?

You have created a situation, where scaling up means just punching in an additional 0 in the right corner, before the decimal point. 

Wow.

After a while, the complete field will be on auto. 

Why?

If you’re wise, you won’t scale up beyond your sweet-spot. 

Why?

Because obnoxious scales come with obnoxious problems.

What’s obnoxious?

Anything beyond your sweet-spot…

…is obnoxious. 

What is your sweet-spot?

That only you can discover. 

So what now is the exact status of the field?

Your repertoire in the field has reached complete saturation regarding strategy and scale. It is on full auto. It is adding to your well-being without you batting an eye-lid. 

Congratulations. 

However, where does that leave you?

Is that even a question?

There’s so much to do in the world. 

Discover a new field. 

Develop your new repertoire in this field. 

Take it to strategy saturation. Automate it. Scale it up. Take it to the sweet-spot. Wean off the scaling up. Move on. 

What a life it’s going to be for you!

Scaling Up

When you find a system… 

… that works… 

… what’s the next step? 

Plunge? 

Wait. 

Look left and right. 

Meaning? 

Look at your basics. 

Are they in place? 

Meaning? 

No worries about food on the table? 

No worries about kids’ education funds?

Basic family luxuries in place? 

No? 

Get these together and going. 

Yes. 

Ok. 

Go for it. 

Scale up. 

Your decision to scale up should at no time endanger your basics. 

You’re scaling up from  your extras.

You’re scaling up with stops in place. 

If your stops are hit, you’ll change your system till it works again. 

You will not borrow from your basics. 

You will wait for your extras to accumulate, and divert these into scaling up. 

Having gotten all that out of the way, let’s cast a glance at the concrete process. 

1x is working, or so you say. 

In fact, you’re sure 1x is working. 

Ok. 

Now do 2x.

Working? 

5x.

Can you take it? 

Do you sleep well at night? 

Fine. 

10x.

Working? 

Family life intact? 

Basics intact?

Fine. You take it from here. 

Where do you plateau? 

Right before a level where something might get disturbed. 

It’s really that simple. 

Happy scaling up! 

🙂 

Wealth-Generators often go Contrarian

You knew that too, right? 

Sure. 

Going contrarian is a buzz-phrase. 

We hear it again and again…

… till we begin to start thinking… 

… that we know what it means. 

Well, try going contrarian. 

Yeah, try actually doing it. 

You’ll see what I mean. 

It’s real hard. 

Going against the crowd takes all the strength you might have… 

… and then some. 

Most humans aren’t able to go contrarian. 

Most humans aren’t wealthy. 

When there’s blood on the streets, there’s no telling how much more there will be. 

Under such conditions, the contrarian investor lets go of his or her hard-earned money into an investment, knowing perfectly well that the Street might even value the investment tomorrow at a huge discount to today’s price.

That’s ok too, says he or she.

Why?

Because homework’s been done.

Underlying is strong.

Debt-free.

Management is stellar.

Balance-sheet is robust.

Projections are paramount.

That the world is pricing the investment wrongly is a problem with its vision.

Underlying is not going under. With above credentials, this alone matters.

Times change. Vision of the majority changes. Investor makes a killing. Cashes out some, principal and what have you. Leaves lots of free-standing shares… forever… or till parameters change.

Wealth-generators repeat this behaviour-pattern many times in their lives.

They’re not afraid of going against the grain.

They know otherwise.

Also, the money they use has been freed up.

Its being out of action for a long time is not going to change their lives even a bit.

They will have the last laugh.

Wealth is the reward of going contrarian. 

Looper

I know, that Bruce Willis sci-fi movie… 

… is also called Looper. 

Know any other Loopers? 

There’s one in your body. 

In hardware terms, it’s your brain. 

In software terms, it’s your mind. 

Its ability to loop can become a tendency. 

Any problems with that? 

Sure. 

Big ones. 

Imagine a trade. 

Goes wrong. 

You’re drained. 

You get out. 

Loss.

Done? 

No. 

At this point, don’t let your mind loop. 

It will, if you allow it the leeway. 

If it loops, you’ve lost the energy value of two trades or more (fatigue) while losing one trade. 

Don’t delve on the loss. 

Move on in search of your next winning trade. 

Define conditions that stop your mind from looping. 

For example, when entry value is small enough to not be bothered about, its partial or even full loss might not be enough to cause your mind to loop. 

And that’s the position you want to be in. 

No looping.

No overthinking. 

Just trading. 

🙂

Making the Skew – work for you

Anomalies.

Anomalies?

Opportunities.

Yeah.

It’s all about perspective.

Just align your perspective.

Get into the skin of the anomaly.

Why?

You were in this to make money, right?

So chop chop.

Anomalies are like waves.

They swell… and recede.

If you’ve missed one, wait for its one-offset to start swelling.

Oh yeah, forgot to reiterate, you’re out before it recedes.

That would be a great trade.

Getting in well before the swell and staying in would be an investment entry-strategy.

Getting out after a swell would be an investment exit-strategy.

Use your imagination.

Wishing you a lucrative market-footprint!

🙂

Who’s the Driver?

Are you an artist?

If you are, you’ll already perhaps know who the driver is. 

Or, maybe, you’re in the process of finding out. 

Ultimately, whatever you’re doing can become an art. 

What drives you?

Are you understanding what I’m trying to ask?

What pushes you on, with the art? What makes you want to create… more? What makes you want your art to be more… bombastic? Powerful? Impactful? Meaningful? Lucrative perhaps? What?

Is it mere ambition?

Naehhhhh, mere ambition is not enough. 

There has to be some kind of… pain. 

You have to ache somewhere, to let it out elsewhere. 

Pain drives. 

It can drive you beyond… itself. 

That’s the thing with pain. 

Slowly, you get used to pain, quantum by quantum. Your system doesn’t feel that particular quantum anymore. It’s feeling the surplus, though. How’re you bearing the surplus? By hanging on to your art. Your art takes you away from the surplus pain that you would have felt. You channelize the force of surplus pain into your art. Your art shines. On the side, you don’t feel a lot of pain anymore. 

It’s really important to understand where there will be learning, and where there probably won’t be. 

I’m not saying non-learning areas are to be avoided. They’re comfortable areas. Nobody likes to avoid comfortable areas. Sure. Nor do I. I’m just saying that comfy areas won’t really be enhancing your learning process. Let’s just be clear about it. If you have any art to express, any kind of art, full expression probably won’t come through if you entrench yourself in a comfort-zone. 

Know what I mean?

Yeah?

Good. 

You don’t need to ask who the driver is. You’ve worked with the driver. 

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.

Do You Believe in You(rself) ?

Still not hit the success button?

Suffering from an inferiority complex?

Market got you down?

Is it over for you?

Which brings us to the more important question : Do you believe in YOU?

Wrong English, I know, I know. Sometimes I misuse the language for effect. The effect is more important to me than how silly I look because of bad grammar.

Ok, so you want to succeed, make it big in the markets, blah blah blah.

Who doesn’t?

You obviously can’t last out if you don’t believe in yourself. Markets are draining, and tend to suck the living blood out of one’s body, so one needs to last. Market forces exhaust the system. It’s something about them, something electronic. This something consumes your stamina. So, no two ways, you need to last out. 20, 30, 40 years maybe…

I’m not saying it’s going to take you that long to succeed. For all I know you’re the next Jesse Livermore in a few years. Getting there is one thing, but staying there is another. Consistency. Maintaining success for many years in a row. That’s big. Something like that can be, and probably is, a trader’s lifetime goal.

It all starts with belief.

Baby steps.

First, weave a safety net around you. This involves the creation of a regular source of income to sustain your family’s basic needs. Such income needs to be independent of the market, any market. Your trading is not really begging you to earn your basic income. It can well do without that extra pressure. A comfortable slot for your trading to be in is when it can generate additional and bonus income for you. That’s the sweet-spot, and you want to be in it, with a comfortable safety net around you, free to trade the markets with no extra pressure.

Then, create a reliable system to trade the markets.

This can even take many years. I mean, some of us take seven odd years to recognize their basic risk-profile. Good, at least we are recognizing our risk-profile, because everything else is going to be built up on top of that.

As your system starts to perform, your belief in yourself gets stronger. Good going, stranger, now do humanity a favour and support others who are struggling to find themselves. In any way you can. It’s good Karma, and will help you further on your own path.

Then, you hit it big-time, your system catches some huge market swings, and you are there.

Now, other things start happening. Success brings with it its own entourage.

Remain on the ground, please. That’s how you are going to last out. Keep trading. Hitting the magic spot is not enough, you need to milk it as long as possible. Your new status of “successful” will bring many to your doorstep. The crowd wants to acquire the magic formula from you. People want your time. Deal with it, buddy. In a manner that still keeps you performing in the Zone, trade after trade. Also, in a manner that keeps you from hurting anybody’s feelings. I know, thin line, difficult to do, but you don’t additionally want the remnant emotional baggage of hurting people to affect your trading.

Apart from fame, there are other members in the entourage of success, and I’m just classifying them ad-hoc under the header “extra-curricular activities”. Yup, these will come your way. That’s part of being successful and famous. Well, do what you want, you’re a grown-up, nobody’s going to tell you where to draw the line. All one can say is, that if any extra-curricular baggage starts seeping into your trading, you’re going down Sir. Period.

Oh, where did it all start? Belief, right. Look where it can get you.

So come on, get up from your drawdown. Drawdowns happen. They are part of the learning process. The earlier they happen, the better it is for you. Now, you probably won’t let them happen when the stakes are big. When a future drawdown looms, you are prepared, and nip it in the bud. You don’t let it grow into an ulcer. That’s what your earlier drawdowns have taught you.

So get up and give it another shot.

All it takes is a bit of belief.

Coin-Flipping in the Marketplace

Are you good at darts?

Actually, I’m not.

I’ve even removed all darts from our home. Hazard. Children might hurt themselves. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m paranoid. Tell me something new.

Well, just in case you fancy playing darts, here’s a market exercise for your consideration.

Take a newspaper section, and pin it on the wall.

I know, I know, you’d love to take pot shots at your favourite corrupt politician’s picture. Please feel free to do so, let out all your venom. When you’re done, we can resume with the market exercise.

Now substitute whatever picture you’re shooting darts at with the equity portion of your newspaper’s market segment.

Take a dart. Shoot.

You hit some stock or the other. Let’s say you hit XLME Systems.

Now take a coin. Flip it.

Go long XLME Systems if you flip heads. Short it if you flip tails.

You have a 50:50 chance of choosing the correct trade direction here.

This is still a winning system, if you manage your trades with common-sense.

Cut your losers short, quite short, yeah, nip them in the bud. Let your winners ride for as long as you’re comfortable.

These two sentences will turn your little darts cum coin exercise into a winning market system.

Try out a 100 such trades, coupled with proper, common-sensical trade management. You’ll see that you are in the money.

Now, whoever turns towards me and starts to talk about trading systems, well, that person needs to be very crystal clear about one thing.

He or she needn’t bother discussing any trading system with worse results than the above-described trading system.

I mean, come on, people, here’s nature, already presenting something to us which doesn’t require any formal education, just an average ability to aim, fire, flip, trade, and manage with common-sense. This small and natural system is enough to keep us in the money.

So, if we want to spend any time discussing trading systems with an edge, we need to be sure that these systems are functioning at beyond 50:50. At par or below is a waste of time.

Good trading systems with a market-edge function at 60:40.

In the Zone, you maneuver your evolving edge to function at 70:30 and beyond.

Frankly, you don’t need more. You don’t need to function at 80:20 or 90:10. Life at 70:30 is good enough to yield you a fortune.

Getting to 70:30 is not as difficult as it sounds. First, get to a 60:40 trading system. Out of every 100 trades, get the trade direction of 60 right. Comes, takes a bit, but comes eventually.

Now you’ve got your good trading system with a decent edge, it’s working at 60:40, what next? How do you extract that extra edge.

Well, tweak. Adapt. Fine-tune. Till your edge becomes that something extra.

Still want more?

If yes, the game becomes a story about you. How disciplined are you? Are you with the markets regularly, as a matter of routine? Are you with the flow? Can you sense the next move? Are you slipping into the Zone? Can you stay in the Zone for long periods? Once you slip out, can you get back into the Zone soon?

The answers to these questions lead you to 70:30 and beyond.

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 Concept of “Sprachgefuehl”

That’s a German word. And it’s deep.

Literally translated, “Sprachgefuehl” means “feeling for language”. In practical terms it would mean / entail achieving fluency in any language by getting a feel for its structure.

Life has a language.

Everything that makes up life has its own micro-language. All the micros add up to the macro.

Most of the time, we are stuck in the micro. We learn many micro-languages. With some, we experience difficulty. Ultimately, either we swim or we abandon the micro-cause.

Learning and expertise of these micro-languages makes up life for us as a whole. In our current multi-tasking scenario, flexibility and efficiency is required. To tackle this, there’s no better concept to implement than the concept of “Sprachgefuehl”.

Sprachgefuehl involves plunging in, as in immersing oneself into the thick of things without bothering about formal training. For a limited period, one takes in an overdoze of the micro-language. The idea is to allow one’s system to start speaking the language on auto-pilot. If there’s danger of sinking, one can always abort, but, as another German saying goes, “what doesn’t kill only toughens u up”.

The learning process is enhanced by one’s mistakes. Because of not adhering to boring, attention-deficit causing formal rules, many mistakes are made. Believe me, these very mistakes are your best teachers. The learning they impart is priceless and irreplaceable.

Why am I going on and on about this?

What does this have to do with the markets?

In fact, everything.

Sprachgefuehl involves getting into the Zone to be able to anticipate the movement and structure of a language.

Getting into the Zone is what its all about. We are able to reap profits from Mrs. Market because we are able to get into the Zone. If we lose that ability, Mrs. Market manhandles us. Period.

Sprachgefuehl keeps our instincts sharp. It’s great Zone-practice. Whatever you are doing in life, you can use this concept for entry into and proficiency at life in the Zone.

With that, any kind of market-play will also come naturally to you.

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.

The Towering Value of Decisive Action

Decisive action can’t just come outta nowhere.

There has to be a build-up to it, a kinda revving up of engines and stuff.

Point is, this category of action generates a lot of force, and is required to do away with situations that cause panic. As in not let a situation become panic-causing to you. As in the current situation. As in the Dow falling 512 points last night. Will they have a name for it, Black Thursday perhaps? I don’t think so. Because I don’t think we’re done just yet. Situation might get blacker.

Back in December 2007, there were those who were taking decisive action, i.e. they were booking profits. These were people who had been taught by the market to do so. Unfortunately, I didn’t belong to this category at that time. On the contrary, I was busy topping up my portfolio with more investments at the time.

Mayhem in the market should teach you for the next time. If it doesn’t, there’s something wrong with you.

By the fall of 2008, the new market players of the millenium had gone through with their first piece of decisive action – an oath to never be in a situation again that causes them to panic or to spend another sleepless night. The events of the first nine months of 2008 were more that enough to drive them to this.

An important part of peace in the market is hedging. Serious players chose Gold as their hedge, and started building up large positions in Gold. The world around them was screaming “how could they?” Gold was already touching a high back then. They possessed the spine to take this decisive action, because 2008 had taught them to hedge. That’s how they could.

Many worked their way towards zero US exposure. When the cracks in the Euro appeared in 2009-2010, they worked their way towards zero Europe exposure. People around them were screaming that the USD would continue forever as the world currency, and that Europe was under-valued and thus a screaming buy. All to no avail. These decisive players had started to mistrust Alan Greenspan from the moment he started urging his people to take loans against their homes and to put the borrowed money in the market. For me, the icing on the cake or the snapping moment was when Ben Bernanke had the cheek to announce more stimulus one day after the “debt deal”. That’s when I gave up on the US market. Very late, I admit. Yeah, yeah, I’m a real slow learner.

Then, serious new players started to buy on lows. And they got some big-time lows, especially the ones of October 2008 and March 2009. The world around them was screaming “how could they?” and that “we weren’t done yet” and that “economies would get bleaker”. They had the courage to buy. The market had taught them to.

And, finally, they started succumbing lesser and lesser to greed. They would finally book profits. They learnt to sit on cash for long periods of time. They learnt not to listen to tips. They learnt to have their own market outlook and to be self-reliant as far as the chalking of their own path was concerned. They decoupled themselves from their bankers and their market advisors. They got tech-savvy to a point when they could control their entire market operation from their laptops. Basically, they took control.

And, they slept peacefully last night.

Zoning in on the Zone

What’s your favourite sport?

Baseball?

Ok, let’s say we were watching Babe Ruth hitting a home run. I know, I’ve got this habit of running up and down the axis of time. A little annoying, but please bear with it.

To hit home runs like a Babe Ruth, or for that matter to paddle sweep like Sachin Tendulkar, or to serve an ace like Roger Federer, a player needs to be in the Zone.

So what is this “Zone”?

Imagine a space where you are one with your environment. From within this space, your heightened senses are able to engulf any stimulus and respond appropriately to it as if on auto-pilot. Your reactions to your situation are “ideal”. If a ball is thrown at you, your nervous system motors your bat with perfect angle and speed to respond to the ball in a winning fashion. It’s as if your system is one with the trajectory of the ball and is anticipating its angle and speed. Such a mind-body space is called the Zone.

The Zone is multi-dimensional in nature. Beyond length, breadth and height, the Zone spans the dimension of potential. The Zone is capable of whizzing your mind-body continuum up and down the axis of time in a flash to select the best possible response to any and every given stimulus.

So how does one get into this Zone? If it were that easy, each one of us would be a Babe Ruth, or a Sachin Tendulkar, or a Roger Federer or for that matter a Warren Buffett. Obviously, getting into the Zone is privileged.

Practice helps. Immense practice. Of course talent has to be there. But what is talent? Nothing but the expression of latent potential accumulated by the mind-body continuum at an earlier point in its existence. And when the mind-body continuum accumulates potential, it has to work very hard for it. Nothing comes for free.

And is someone who has entered the Zone able to stay in it forever? Nope. Entering the Zone takes a build-up. Then in a flash one is in till external circumstances disturb one’s focus, which is when one is out of the Zone.

So what’s this got to do with the markets?

Well, try trading the markets from inside the Zone and you’ll see.