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EXECUTION Progress Thread: Consistently Profitable Trader

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Jonleehacker

Jonleehacker

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A slow week for trading, but two big lessons learned:

The first was a kick in the teeth for moving my stop.

And the second was from Wayne Gretzky's dad

Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter told him,
“Skate where the pucks going … not where its been.â€
I got to see the difference between regular preparation and true anticipation that a professional trader must do to take advantage of opportunities in the market.

The full update with all the gory details is here: Day 46 of 120 Days to Profitable Trading
 

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Twiki

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Thank you for posting these updates. You have a lot of guts detailing this process... trading is such a tough area to succeed in. I appreciate you sharing the gory stuff!
 
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Jonleehacker

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First, my apologies for missing last week's update. I did email in to my accountability partner, but so little happened that it didn't seem like it was worth writing a blog post.

This week's (& month's) update on my goal of becoming a professional stock trader... including stats and metrics from the month. In a nutshell, if there was a dog days of winter, I'm in it, or as Seth Godin calls it, "The Dip"

Day 60 - Journey to Profitable Trading. Feb '13 Review. | Jon Symons

trade-stats-Feb.131.png

Overall, the last 2 weeks have been a big struggle on every level. My goal this week is to get back on track now that I'm back home and can get my routines more stabilized (I have been in Florida for the past 6 weeks, working from a kitchen table, missing my extra monitor, and with unreliable Internet).
 
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Jonleehacker

Jonleehacker

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I was able to get back on the saddle and made 4 trades this week.

The first one stunk, almost to be expected after not trading for a couple weeks, but the other 3 trades, one was my newsletter service and it paid for the newsletter for the month ;) and the other two were both pretty good.

Both are into profit, but still open and their is no counting your money while you're still at the table in trading. I’m feeling a little bit vulnerable holding a full sized Yen position over the weekend, as a big gap against me could do a lot of damage, potentially gap past my stop, but it was new territory for me: the trade was still valid, no reason on the charts to close it.

Probably taking profit on half the trade and letting the rest ride over the weekend would have been the best path. Then if everything was cool on Sunday night, I could have bought back my position. This is how inexperienced traders become experienced, hopefully the market does need to re-enforce this lesson with a dose of pain.

The poor trade that I made this week also taught me a lesson and that was not to trade against the Daily chart trend when trading on lower timeframes.

3-9-2013-7-36-01-PM.png

The daily charts are by far the most commonly used so just were I was getting long, the daily chart, in a long term downtrend is just getting to the point of being an attractive entry point for sellers.

Here's the rest of my weekly update for more details: Day 67 – Journey to Profitable Trading

Jon
 
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Jonleehacker

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An abundance of trades, seven, this week.

Unfortunately a bit of less than ideal result with 4 losers and one winner and 2 still open.

Some really interesting self discovery and finding out a big key to my success going forward as my account hit a new equity high and that triggered 6 straight losers. Obviously some kind of self sabotage was kicking in.

Full details on my site: Day 73 to Profitable Trading - Fear of Heights - Jon Symons

Oh, and if you have trouble with The Secret and the Law of Attraction, you won't love this post.

New system is showing progress, hoping that this week I'll start to see more positive results
 
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Jonleehacker

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March recap.

It was a tough month in terms of P&L. I was caught on the wrong side of 3 trades during the Cyprus crisis blowup weekend.

And spent some funds testing my new day trading system.

All details here: Day 88 to Profitable Trading - March Review

Despite the P&L results, I know I have taken some important steps forward. Finding my niche (tmeframe and trading lifestyle) was a big part of this project and I know that I am getting there now.

April is make or break (at least in the short term for my goal of becoming a professional trader) as if I don't show decent profit I will have to find another way to produce income and put trading into a part time role.
 
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Jonleehacker

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Not sure there is an easy way to categorize this week.

Basically, in the last 4 weeks, I have transitioned from swing trading as my main focus to intra-day trading.

Week’s Summary

16 trades – 6 winners, 10 losers. Trader score for the week was 6 out of 10.

Expectancy was -.12 (for every dollar I put at risk in the market, I got .88 cents back).

Overall for the week, a small loss in equity. Two days I made 5 trades despite the fact that I have a rule of a maximum of 3 trades in a day. If I would have just followed that rule, I would have almost been break even for the week, as all 4 of the “extra” trades were losers (guess it’s a good rule).

That is definitely one thing that is different about day trading, it is much easier to break my rules, as decisions are made so much faster.

For all the (gory) details, including how I got divorced mid week and how that affected my trading: Day 95 on the Journey to Profitable Trading

Also, a hat tip to Austin and his day trading thread, I definitely learned a couple things from his progress.
 
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Jonleehacker

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Day 102 to Profitable Trading – Unstoppable

The following crude chart is a perfect illustration of the current state of my trading.


By almost any objective measure, this was a difficult week. Four losing days and one small profitable day. On both Tuesday and Friday, I was so down I was ready to quit.

The funny thing that keeps happening is that when I get crushed, I come up with a clear understanding of what I need to do to go forward and even more determination to get to my goal of being a professional trader.

After one of the moments when I wanted to tap out, I came across this post about the hurdles one needs to overcome to be a trader.

To be honest, that’s part of what I love about trading. There is always a new challenge, something to over come, and something to grow you in some way.

The thing that most people aren’t ready for is the fact that growing hurts. It hurts your bank balance, it hurts your emotions and it can hurt you mentally, too.

This week actually turned out to be, in terms of confidence and learning, my best week ever as a trader.

Permission to Learn

This was the first IMPORTANT lesson that I learned this week. I have been completely identifying and measuring my success in terms of P&L. Of course this is the ultimate measure and the only real reason to trade is to make money.

But just like a brain surgeon has the ultimate goal of healing people via brain surgery, but they don’t start out cutting into live people’s brains. They realize that they need to learn A LOT, before they are really able to perform surgery successfully.

I haven’t been giving myself permission to learn, and that has been a huge burden emotionally. Every losing day, I would be beating myself up with inner dialog of failure and hopelessness, and finally this week I saw how ridiculous that was.

The Prize – Putting it into Perspective

I believe that when I am a successful trader, I will have a virtual license to print money, never lacking for anything financial again in my life. I will be able to work from anywhere in the world that has a decent internet connection, I will have no boss and no clients and I will get to work at something I love and am very passionate about, for only a couple hours a day.

That’s the prize for me.


That prize is damn well worth going over a few hurdles to achieve.

It takes some effort and learning to achieve that prize.

Every book about success in any field that I’ve ever read stresses that the way to success is to focus on process rather than results. This is the lesson of the week for me.

This week I fell in love with the process of becoming a successful trader.

This Week’s Stats

In accordance with what I have expressed above, I’m going to focus my stats analysis of the week on the few key metrics that represent better process.

Expectancy (what I got back for every $ I put at risk) = -.28

Total Trades = 27 (17 Losers – 10 Winners)

Winning Percentage = 37%

What I am learning is that day trading is much different than my long term trend trading. In longer term trend trading a low win rate is to be expected because you are searching for the outlier type big trends that make a massive profit. This has been my style up until now.

But day trading is different. And I need to make the adjustment in how I exit trades.

What is happening to me is that I am puking out of trades waiting for them to establish swing lows. What I should be doing is exiting on strength and then re-entering on the swing low.

I have been guilty of expecting and wanting every trade to go to the moon. Which is good method for longer term trend following, but for shorter term trading, especially with options which have a pretty big spread, it is expensive to sell on pull backs.



When I look back on my trades this week, I see that my winning percentage could easily have been 90%. I am good at getting into winning trades, but I haven’t yet become consistent at selling into the surge in my direction. In trend trading you don’t do that, you always get stopped out in some way trying to capture as much of a trend as possible without overtrading, but in day trading, overtrading is the de rigueur.

Going Forward – Next Week

Since now I realize that it is all about learning, I have set a learning goal for myself for the upcoming week.

Next week will be about winning %

My goal will be to exit trades aggressively once I get clear of the break even line (including spreads and commissions which I include in all my win-loss and p&l calculations).

This way I will be focusing on finding high quality entries, and making profitable exits. Once I can get my win % up, then I can begin to fine tune the exits.

Unstoppable

I believe this week I have finally made the shift from chasing profits to chasing continual improvement. I have fallen in love with the process of being a successful trader.

I now know that success is certain, because I will not give up until I get there. The reward is in the process, not the end result. Look back at the two lines on the top chart. I used to be trading in fear that the P&L was going to drag my enthusiasm down and I would be a failure, but know I know that the green line (which is more than confidence: love of the process and ability to learn and grow) is much more powerful and it will certainly pull the red line up.

Thanks for reading, you can read my blog for the entire journal of my trading.

Jon
 
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Jonleehacker

Jonleehacker

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A couple weeks late due to travel and unreliable internet connection, but the explorations in this post are actually pretty interesting, and I was having a lot of revelations about the cost around trading, and I think I uncovered a big step towards my goal of consistent profitability.

[h=2]Part One – Commissions[/h] About 90% of the week’s loss went to commissions. Partly that is because I’m trading such small size that commission as a percentage of each trade is large. Even though it is a bit of a feel good for me to deduct out commissions, it is really just mental gymnastics. Commissions are real, so it is pointless to separate them from bottom line profits and losses.
The only thing useful about looking at them separately is to encourage the SMB motto, in their excellent post The Path to $1k:
This is me trading my best set ups, more often, and with more size.
Eliminating low quality trades is job one, and this will reduce commissions, just from the point of view of having fewer trades.
[h=2]Am I just Another Addict Pretending to be a Trader?[/h] I had a very interesting thought go through my head while trading this morning. It went something like this, “Do I really want to do this, or am I just being self destructive?â€
As I finished trading, I couldn’t get this feeling out of my mind.
I started to see an addictive behaviour, one that I am very familiar with from my health challenges. A part of me that enters trades looking for a feel-good. Nothing feels better than the hope of making money. The story goes something like this:
“Almost certainly this is going straight up from here. You’re going to see the most vertical green 1 minute bar in the history of trading and you’re going to make $100,000 in the next 30 seconds.â€
Honestly these are the thoughts that are going through my head as make the decision to hit the Send button and place an order.
All rational process of proper pattern identification sometimes flies right out the window, and this addict takes over and wants his drug.
For those that don’t trade, think of a food that you crave, you know it is harmful to you, but you want it anyways. For me it was chocolate bars, I was very sick, and I knew they made me worse, but I still ate them. At the moment I bought them, I was able to convince myself it was not going to be bad for me, the only real thought in my mind what how good that creamy sweet flavour in my mouth was going to be.
It’s that same thing now in trading, it’s almost like the rational thought process just goes away for a few seconds, just long enough for me to find myself in an emotional trade.
Fortunately, I have faced this type of behaviour in myself before. Although, it certainly isn’t an easy thing to overcome, it can be done with increased awareness and taking responsibility. In short that means probing to understand what the benefit is to me to taking self destructive trades.
It is not aways clear cut emotionally to accept success. Many of us were taught that successful people were bad, or cheaters, or rich people were thieves. When we start to taste success or wealth, these beliefs can kick in to “protect†us from actually despising ourselves, which would be psychologically devastating.
[h=2]Exact Same Trades $220 More Profit[/h] For fun tonight, I went through my trades from the day before. In terms of P&L, it was a “bad†day, down $124. I have been trading options, just so I don’t have to put much money into my trading account and because I consider myself in learning mode so I trade small numbers to keep the stress down.
But I had this hunch tonight. I went back over all of my 8 trades for today. The exact same trades, same amount of money at risk, only rather than trading options, I bought $30k worth of shares in each position. Again, exact entry point that I had with the options, and exact same exits (when I buy or sell an option, the confirmation message I get also shows the price of the underlying, so it is easy for me to calculate the equivalent trades on the underlying security).
Rather than a $124 loss, I would have had $100 profit. Also, there would have been less risk, since the spreads are lower and since I’m trading large caps, much more liquidity.That’s a pretty significant difference, considering I did not a thing differently in my trades.
This $220 difference is pretty much the cost of the spreads on the options that I’m trading.
[h=2]It’s All About the Spreads[/h] From my thoughts above, as I was placing a trade in VZ, I took a screenshot showing both the options and the stock spreads.

Let’s break down a trade of 500 shares. For sake of demonstration we’ll imagine buying and then selling the position instantly, since we are only interested in the cost of the commissions and spreads.
Option Trade
Buy 6 Contracts at the Ask price = ($2.70 x 600) + $7.50 commission = $1627.50
Sell 6 Contracts at the Bid price = ($2.62 x 600) – $7.50 commission = $1564.50
Cost of Options Trade for 6 contracts of VZ = $63
Same Trade with Stock
Buy 600 shares at the Ask price = ($51.13 x 600) + $5 commission = $30683
Sell 600 shares at the Bid price = ($51.12 x 600) – $5 commission = $30667
Cost of Stock Trade for 600 shares of VZ = $16
That $47 tossed in the trash, times 8 trades I make on the average day, represents almost $400 a day.
It would be pretty ironic if I was a couple days away from quitting last week, when in fact the only thing hurting me was having my account underfunded because I was in “learning mode.â€
[h=2]Further Investigation of Headwinds[/h] I decided that I needed to be more certain of my conclusions. One day and one test trade aren’t enough evidence to declare that I had made a major breakthrough towards becoming profitable and start trading $30,000 positions rather than $2000 ones.
Therefore, I went back over two weeks of trades, and ran them all through my trade tracking software, this time recording them as stock trades rather than options.
(NOTE: The following are not necessarily “position sized†properly. I am just buying $30,000 of each irregardless of the risk, so lower priced stocks are taking on more shares, therefore wins and losses of lower priced stocks may be over-sized. Some day traders do trade and size positions using exactly this method, so this method is not completely off the mark for the point of these tests.)
The number in brackets is the difference for the day by switching to stocks rather than options.
April 13 Options -124 Stocks +120 [+244]
April 12 Options -142 Stocks -249 [-107]
April 11 Options +8 Stocks -51 [-59]
April 10 Options -47 Stocks +176 [+223]
April 9 Options -177 Stocks -22 [+155]
April 8 Options -136 Stocks +58 [+194]
April 5 Options +18 Stocks +459 [+441]
April 4 Options -396 Stocks -169 [+227]
April 3 Options -12 Stocks +251 [+239]
April 1 Options +211 Stocks +770 [+559]
Total of $2,116 over my returns from trading options in 10 trading days, trading very small risk positions. That is very significant. If my conclusion is accurate, which I believe it is highly probable that it is, it means that I am only one small shift in trading away from me being a decently profitable trader.
On a $30,000 account, $2,116 is a 7% return in 2 weeks, just from the savings on spreads.
[h=2]Wild Day, Torture & Mulligan[/h] Interesting day. I put in my first order, a buy at market, and it took 3 minutes to fill. In that time the market turned, so I figured it was cool that somehow my order didn’t get filled. Just as I figured I was safe, I heard the “ring†to signal a filled order. Oh-oh!!
By the time my oder was filled, it was past my stop already.
I didn’t know wtf was happening, but immediately I hit “Flatten†to sell at market. What followed was 27 minutes of pure agony as my order just hung in limbo and BIDU slowly sank, dragging my P&L with it.
By the time my sell order had filled, I was livid and into a massive loss.
Anyways, long story short, I shot off a nasty panicky email.
About an hour later, I received a phone call, informing me that Thinkorswim had experience “order routing issues†(no shit!) and that my loss had been credited back into my account.
Whoosh! Felt like I was playing Monopoly and sitting on a Get out of Jail Free card.
[h=2]Summary[/h] What a week! Could I pack any more drama into a week of trading.
Anyways, this was almost 3 weeks ago now, and I still haven’t had a chance to process my revelations about the differences in costs with trading stocks vs options as I have been.
I will hopefully be back to trading next week with a properly funded account trading stocks
 
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Jonleehacker

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Wtf is Success Anyways?

I learned something very important this week on my journey to becoming a professional trader.

First a confession of sorts. Whenever I watch the Olympics, or the Super Bowl, or a golf tournament, or most of all the Stanley Cup finals, and I watch the trophy or gold medals being presented, I always cry. The feeling of success that the athletes must experience at that moment completely overwhelms me.

I remember back to being a little kid, all I wanted was that feeling. Even playing ball hockey, every game was the Stanley Cup finals, we were competing to see which team was going to get that feeling. Every football game we played was the Super Bowl.
The Feeling of Success

The first part of what I learned this week is that the feeling of success is still what I crave the most.

You see I have known I wanted to be a successful trader for a while. 22 weeks ago I set my focus on achieving that goal and I've been writing about it on this blog, but I have been trading for 4 years, without a real goal or focus.

Sure I had goals of how much money I'd like to make, all the guru's will tell you that there is no other reason to trade but to make money. But I always felt that my money goals were lifeless and impotent.

Now I understand why.

They weren't connected to the feeling of winning the Super Bowl. As a trader I want the feeling of winning the Super Bowl, of having that ring and having that amazing journey that leads to watching the clock tick down the final seconds with my team on the winning end of the score.
Worst Trading Day Ever

The above realizations about success came after this Tuesday's trading session which I can only describe as my worst ever. Not so bad in terms of how much money I lost, I am good at managing my risk now, so even when I lose 7 out of 10 trades, the losses are very much within tolerance. But a really bad day in terms of focus, direction and sticking to my plan.

I was just flailing away chasing trades (money) all day, and at the end I felt depressed and I felt like a failure that would never get it.

I knew that I was definitely not going to be successful or make any money trading like that. I needed some inspiration and direction. I went to YouTube and typed in "success" and the following video came up.

[video=youtube;ok8OHYQdDDI]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ok8OHYQdDDI[/video]

The narration of the video is awesome about how badly you want success and how important that desire is to actually achieving success, but it also reconnected me with that feeling that I wanted as a kid.

What the video leaves out however, is "what" success is. I can't just want "success." Success is nothing on it's own.
In Order to Be Successful, I Must First Define Success

I realized that success in trading is whatever I need it to be to create that "Super Bowl" feeling.

I have been, up until this past Tuesday, trading with dollars as the feeling of success that I have been chasing. Every day I define my success, my Super Bowl feeling as whether or not I made money and how much.

It is another very interesting thing about the video above, it is all about success, but they don't show images of players winning gold medals or Super Bowls, the visuals are all of a guy practicing.

The only way someone can win the Super Bowl is to derive the success feeling from his practice. A professional football player doesn't practice slipping on his Super Bowl ring, or cashing million dollar paychecks, he practices the elements that can lead to those events. But beyond that, he derives the feeling of success from practice.

Primarily learned that the feeling of success has to be cultivated. The only way we can cultivate success to derive it from things that we can control. That's why the football player defines success as excellence in his practice. That way he is in complete control of whether or not he is successful.

Winning the Super Bowl has too many elements of chance to be a reliable measure of success, but practice does not. The funny thing is, that most likely the team that wins the Super Bowl is the team that carries most strongly the feeling of success before and during the game.
Success in Trading

What clicked for me in this whole thing was that: one, I need to cultivate the feeling of success. I need to want that feeling as much as I want to breath after a minute of being held underwater, and two, I need to clearly define what gives me that feeling.

The most important thing I realized was,

You can't have success if you don't first define exactly what it is.

Every morning I go for a run as soon as I wake up. I just like to get a bit of a sweat, I just head out the door and run until I feel like turning around and going home. (This is actually a pretty good synopsis of the way I've run my entire life up until now.)

After my success realization I decided that when I run, I want to have the feeling of success every morning. So I went to Google Maps and picked out a building exactly 1 mile from my house, turns out, how metaphoric, that building was my bank!

Anyways, the next morning, I got up, full of vim and vinegar and ran the two miles to my bank and back.

Now I was feeling successful! Same run as always, but now I was filled up with a feeling of accomplishment and achievement.

Each day since, I've decided that success means jogging one building farther down the street. I tell you in the 3 days since, 2 of them I felt like complete shit and the last thing I wanted to do was to jog at all, never mind 2+ miles, but I was so attached to that feeling of success, I did it anyways, and compared to how badly I didn't want to do it in the first place, it wasn't even that hard.

In my trading then, the day after my worst, most disheartening day ever, I decided that success would be measured by only one thing, how well I followed my trade entry plan. Every time I looked at a possible trade, I asked myself, "is this at least a score of 7/10 on my entry rules pattern sheet?"

If it wasn't a 7, then no trade, no regrets even if it turned out to be a massive winner because it would not have given me a feeling of success anyways. The only way I could have the feeling of being a successful trader was to follow my rules. That's it.

And that feeling of success is all that I want.

The day after my terrible day, armed with my new definition of success, was by far my best day trading. Nice profit, but more importantly followed my plan, traded my rules and felt damn successful. The kind of feeling where you know you have taken a big step forward on all levels in your life.

Thursday and Friday I slipped a little bit, but still a major improvement over chasing money and not knowing what success even was.

I am getting it now: define success as something that is within my control that will also lead me the the Super Bowl feeling of success if I do it well enough for long enough.

All I can control with trading is when I get into the market and when to get out. I have updated all my score-keeping to focus on continual improvement of those two factors. Those are exercises that the guy in the video would be doing if he was a trader.

Thanks for reading,

Jon
 

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I submitted my previous post to Reddit, since I thought was pretty good.

Anyone that would help me out with an upvote, I'd appreciate it:

Success in Trading... Do you really need it? : finance
You may want to put a little teaser text followed by your link in the reddit post. It looks blank, and you have to click on the heading to get taken to your website. But I am not a big redditor, so I may be out of the loop on common practices.
 

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