Category Archives: Psychology

Procrastination and ways to overcome it

Traders

I always wondered why traders never get to the point of creating a solid trading plan/system and the reasons behind this phenomenon.

I love writing articles about trading psychology and this topic made me come out of hibernation. This blogpost is a small attempt to see the probable reasons behind procrastinating in formulating a system – from a psychological perspective.

Introduction

Procrastination – we all know what it means and many even admit that they are procrastinators. In the world of trading, many get convinced that a proper trading plan/system is the first and pivotal step to be taken (at least the majority of us :)) but when we try to develop a system, we face this ‘procrastination’ demon. They never start developing one or drop the ball on the way.

Many a times, becoming aware of why something happens is the first step towards changing that pattern.

Procrastination and fear of failure

In my opinion, the primary reason for procrastinating in developing a system is ‘fear of failure’. This fear can manifest itself into various forms –

a) If someone had ventured into trading without a methodology/plan (99% start this way), they would have either blown the account or figured out how risky trading could be. So, part of us may be very scared of the consequences of trading any more that we will have difficulty in starting to develop the system.

b) More often than not, folks would have quit their job to start trading fulltime (or trading for a living – by the way, both are different things 🙂 ), but we are so afraid of the results of not trading well (that happened in the past) that we cannot complete the job of developing our system.

c) Lack of self-confidence – Based on past experiences, we might be uncertain of our ability to perform or just a general lack of self confidence, and this leads to procrastination.

d) If the time pressure to perform is greater, then it will invariably create more fear of failure and let us procrastinate on the things that are needed to develop a trading plan.

Procrastination and fear of success

This point will be counter-intuitive to many but lets face it.

a) Fear of change that success brings in – People fear success because it will bring something new. A change from status-quo.

Lets say that we become rich (by your own definition) and based on our 3rd party experience, we dont like the implications of what it means to be rich. One of the implications could be that your friends no longer want to associate with you as your lifestyle has changed

b) We might have a notion that wealthy people are evil-minded and parsimonious in their ways. If one does not want to be stingy or evil-minded, then there will be internal resistance in making money and hence keep procrastinating a probable way/process involved in making lot of money (trading with a plan/system)

Procrastination and fear of work/lack of interest

a) It is easy to just log into the computer in the morning, enter some random trade based on somebody’s recommendation/news and exit whenever there is a ‘feel’ of profit/loss is enough 🙂 . It takes lot of strenuous effort and commitment from a trader to create a well-thought out plan without any major loopholes.

On top of that, many loathe the sheer amount of work involved in backtesting the system for 10+ years. We have started enjoying the luxuries of modern vagaries that it feels almost archaic to go back to the basics and do things the hard way.

b) If someone told us to create a system and if we don’t like that person (for whatever reason), we tend to feel resentment towards developing a system. We don’t want to be like that person and hence we keep procrastinating. The more we dislike the idea of developing the trading system, the more we tend to push it away.

This essentially means that we will leave the toughest part of the job for that portion of the day when our energy level is low. We do this for any activity that we detest/lack interest in.

Procrastination and lack of understanding/objective

a) It is unfortunate that there is no proper understanding of how to create a trading plan/system. There is a structured process to follow in creating one and not much literature floating around on this less-discussed topic.

b) Traders who start trading usually does not know what they really want out of trading or a trading system. Getting our objectives down is 50% of the task. Until we have your objectives written down, we have no way of knowing what we want or knowing when we’ve got it.

How can we even monitor our advancement, a major factor in ongoing procrastination, until we know exactly what we want? On the contrary, once we know what we want, we can set deadlines for each phase of the system development.

Overcoming procrastination

1. First and foremost step is to realize that procrastination comes from us and we need to take control of the situation. Start today, however small the step/action maybe. There is no better day than today.

2. Worst case is you spent few hours/days/weeks of your time but let us think about the average/best case of start doing something today. We have spent/spending too much time on non-productive things anyways 😊

3. Don’t let the perfectionism get in our way. Even if the quality of the work is poor, it is very important to try something and fail rather than wondering what if.

4. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Write down your objectives for trading (being vague kills clarity) and steps involved in developing a trading plan/system. Get to know the process involved in developing one. If developing a trading system looks onerous, break it into pieces and create smaller chunks to accomplish.

Final thoughts

None of the businesses started or flourished without proper due diligence/business plan. Why trading should be an exception? This begs to a very important question on our thought process about trading as a profession?

If one is serious about it and think money can be made through trading, not coming up with a plan/system is completely illogical.

As the popular saying goes – ‘ A journey of thousand miles begin with a single step’. We might delay but the time will not. So, lets kick that ‘procrastination’ bucket hard and take that first step today.

Good luck all in developing your trading plan/system !!

Trading addiction and its antidote

Traders

I have been running workshops couple of times in a quarter and get this question a lot – Is trading the markets an obsession/addiction? – Answer is both YES and NO.

Most of the books/articles/trading world luminaries dont talk about addiction a lot. This topic is shied away mostly. In my opinion, it is as real as it can get. So, let us delve deeper into it – embrace yourselves for a long post 🙂

Introduction

What is addiction actually? One of the definition says “Addiction is the repeated involvement with a substance/activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was/is pleasurable and/or valuable.”

Let us look at it in trading perspective – When a person starts trading the markets, it is usually an harmless regular activity. When a trader opens the screen – he is welcomed with ticks moving every second and a possibility of making lacs every minute unfolds infront of him. Fair enough. But please read the last sentence again – “possibility of making’. This is what gets a trader hooked with the market instantly.

Trading and sleepless nights

Watching SGX nifty/DOW in the night (even though the trader knows that he cant do nothing when our markets are closed) is not just because of having positions more than they can handle. It is also due to the fact that the trader is addicted to watching everything related to markets. He just cant help it.

Many argue that only losing traders do this kind of watching activity. Not exactly – it is not about winning or losing. Typically, addicted traders absolutely have to be in the markets at all time – they feel that they have to assimilate all the information they could. They feel that they need to be trading every single day. No exceptions – it is like that wound that itches. You have to scratch it 🙂

Trading and stigma around money

Our brain acts differently when it ‘anticipates’ monetary reward. Behavioral psychology long ago demonstrated that the mind’s ability to choose rational thrills offering positive rewards over more intense thrills offering ridiculous, negative rewards is deplorable at best.

Usually addiction with alcohol/drugs or anything for that matter is a sickness but trading addiction is a bit different- the keyword separator here is ‘Money’. There is a social stigma around money albeit a big one. Folks will tell you everything about the most intimate details of their lives, but they will not tell you about their money – How much they have/How much they want/What they think about others who have more or less money than they do.

Actually, answers to these questions would reveal what they really think about money – What money really means to them? People have more feelings of shame, guilt, greed/lust around money than perhaps any other thing.

Trading and addict’s mindset

When the market opens, a typical addicted trader would feel like this – “Let me just put on a short trade as overnight DOW was red and Nifty has moved 50 points from the open. If I just chase it just this one time, it should be OK because it makes me feel so good when I see the price going down, and I am convinced that I can make a killing on this one. Why should I wait for the price to come to me? Waiting is for losers. Maybe the price wont pullback and I would have missed it all. There’s no fun in that – so, lets jump into the trade”

This feeling is supported by excess secretion of dopamine and the ‘feeling of high’ kicks in immediately. The possibility of making money is enough to kick dopamine – we dont have to actually make money. Well, it’s all good and wonderful until it isnt. Because the trader chased the trade, and market in its natural way of ebbing and flowing, comes down and the trader is in a loss right now.

Now, here comes the best part – the brain registers losses 5 times more intensely than it feels gains. A loss of 1 lac will feel like 5 lacs. Chasing caused pain, and now the pain is financial/physical and psychological. Immediately, dopamine shuts down and the fear begins to pop up in the brain. This leads to an emotional roller coaster in a traders mind – a feeling of high followed by low. Markets can bring this effect upon unseasoned/impatient traders very easily and things go south psychologically pretty fast.

It is important to understand that addicts dont know when to stop trading and when to not jump. This cycle keeps repeating. If you have experienced this before or know someone who has gone through this cycle, this is what is happening in the background.

Trading addiction and research

Two professors from University of California, San Diego (UCSD) did a research on stock market fall and the hospital admission rates. Their research says that if the market goes down 1.5%, there is a rise of patients in the hospitals by 0.28% on the same day (in the evening).

This research was mind-boggling, to say the least. So, the sickness can be physical not just psychological.

Full research paper here –

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4111/4bea0b59b220f6d3c3575b7a8a19729db88d.pdf

Antidote to trading addiction

In my opinion, ‘following a well structured plan’ is the best antidote to this issue. Faith in our plan brings patience and patience is a key ingredient in following a well-defined plan.

Create a rigid plan (well thought out one) that has no ambiguity and follow it to the T. This is the only way out of despair and addiction with trading. The trading plan must be part of you – based on your psychology. Otherwise, it will be sacrificed for whims and moments of weakness.

Here is a blogpost i wrote on trading plan –

Basic pillars of trading success

As long as you work your plan, the plan will work for you and you will reach your goals eventually. There is no “get rich quick” plan.

Happy trading all !!

Master of one or Jack of all trades

Traders

Everybody wants to be a jack of all trades but many dont bother to master anything specific. This blogpost tries to analyse this topic from trading point of view.

Introduction

As an human being, we tend to naturally gravitate towards things that are complex and the situation worsens if we are an engineer 😊 (you know what i mean). As many believe, the complexity of trading is not in the charts, but it is nicely wrapped up in the mind. We see many wannabe traders and few experienced ones trying to be jack of all trades (in trading the markets).

Knowing to do a little bit of everything is very good in life as we ‘learn’ how to learn and we fit well in leadership roles. But it can also lead to lot of distractions and eventual burnout.

Trading the markets can be simple but not easy

Trading itself is not overly complicated. Well, lets look at it closer –

1) Markets only go up or down (they can consolidate, but they have to leave that state in a direction). Essentially, there are only two directions. Deciding how far, how much room to allow it to breathe can get complex, but it still comes down to one of two choices 😊

2) Markets will only move in one direction for so long before they change direction. Traders study on where the change of direction should most likely occur. Each trader might have different notion/concept for trend reversal but there has to be one.

3) Allowing winners to be larger than losers beat a lot of things that could go wrong.

These 3 simple things may require a lot of study/practice/patience and learning, but not anything that seems “complex”. Maybe price analysis, but even that can be simplified to far less than quantum physics 😊

Trading and real life analogies

Analogy Number 1

I have a 2 year old son who started walking few months ago. As humans, our ability to balance on 2 legs is complex (try programming a robot to do it as well as an human – a Robot can never walk as gracefully as a developed human). We had to practice that skill as babies until it became second nature.

But today, while there may be a lot of complexity occurring in the background for our bodies to maintain balance (and we could probably map all of that with tons of analysis and indicators/charts), if we stand up right now, does any of that really matter? Absolutely not !!

The complexity of balance is just going on silently in the background. The study of anything worthwhile can be complex, but is complexity a required point of focus? A big question to ponder.

Analogy Number 2

I have never done skiing but can draw one more analogy from it. Balance is mandatory for that wonderful sport, but that point should never enter the mind of a skier.

Gravity is also mandatory, and complex, but still not on my checklist. Skiing does not require me to be aware of the complexity. What does matter really is that ‘have I practiced enough to have the ability to ski safely?’ As simple as that. If the answer is ‘No’ to that question, then the prudent thing would be to get back to the basics/practice arena.

Conclusion

In the pursuit of simplicity, by focusing on one or two markets over time, it can harness the potential of a trader to somewhat “understand” what the market is saying at a particular moment. This cannot be immediately translated into profits but the trader can ascertain the nuances of his methodology in a more meaningful way.

Long story short – focus on a specialty instead of taking the shotgun approach and devote the attention to understanding your niche. I don’t think that the process of mastering something can be easy but I do believe it should be very simple if we follow a structured approach.

Focus on one instrument/idea, keep things simple and it pays off nicely in the long run 😇😇

Let me end this post with this quote – “Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty – Frank Herbert”

Happy trading !!

Professional vs Amateur trader

Traders

This blogpost is a small effort to delineate the thought process of a Professional in comparison to an amateur trader.

Introduction

It is a common understanding that trading profit on any given trade can be construed as the compensation we receive for the risk we took on the trade. Traders take risk, in the sense they routinely make judgments with uncertain outcomes. So it would follow then, that good traders don’t try to eliminate risk as much as manage it, and instead, can increase their chance of profitability by better reducing that uncertainty !!

This can be accomplished by making better trading decisions than those that are less informed, less knowledgeable, and less skilled. Ultimately, it is not what the trader knows, but who he is. The really consistently profitable traders are able to ignore or subvert their natural tendencies to do what feels comfortable, and instead, do what is necessary, to be optimally profitable over the long run.

Amateur traders

1. Watch what other traders do and be sure to follow the crowd. After all, they have been trading a lot longer than him/her and hence, naturally they should be more ‘smarter’

2. Never worry about using stop loss orders. When the time comes, he will be able to sell his open position(s) and take a loss. Our emotions won’t even come into play. Besides, stop loss orders are for weaklings 🙂

3. Setting high standards to achieve and feeling beaten when they fail to meet their expectations. Suddenly,they are disappointed/stressed out,and prone to make trading errors. Losses start to mount,mood worsens and before they know it, they find themselves in a deep psychological hole of despair.

4. They dislike regret more than losses. Their avoidance of regret is more powerful than the fear of loss. It’s one thing to make a losing trade, but it is quite another to feel that we’ve made a mistake, and continually berate ourselves for making it.

Professional traders

1. They don’t give a hoot about anything/anyones opinions of what the market will/might do.The very news/opinions that surround them becomes the mortar for their brick wall of defense that protects their completely independent thinking (Keyword here is ‘Independent’)

2. They have incredible discipline to not buckle under pressure. They have a perfectly clear head and understand fully what they do and how they do it. Battle wounds and memories of defeat are more valuable to them than the money.

3. Their self esteem do not rise and fall with trading results. Their self concept is strong/durable and not at the mercy of the current, last, or next trade.

4. As they know that their experience in markets is a reflection of their personal life, they keep their personal life/finance in order as that will nicely percolate into their trading. They take care of their bodies with healthy diets/exercises, while understanding that recreation is a vital activity in keeping trading performance at peak level.

Conclusion

A budding trader’s goal should be to move from the 1st group (amateur trading) to 2nd group (professional trading) as early as possible. It is easier said than done though.

Please do remember that ‘Winning’ is just the culmination of lessons learned by making our own mistakes – not from other people’s mistakes. Many folks would disagree here and they believe that one can learn from the mistakes of others in trading. This statement is absurd, to say the least. Especially in an experiential profession like trading the markets where one has to go through the path on his own. Our biggest nemesis is in between the ears and one has to face their own demons(often unique) in trading.

Want to end this blogpost with this thought – ‘Professional traders attitude’ can be abbreviated as FEDCOP

Focused (on the trade only)
Emotionally Stable (treat winning and losing the same)
Disciplined (in trade management)
Confident (in methodology & risk management)
Objective (Unbiased)
Patient (to wait for the opportunity & to maximize profit)

Happy trading !!

Get comfortable being wrong

ComfortZone

Human nature is to be right all the time. Nobody likes to be wrong even in petty/useless arguments. This particular thought process is one of the primary reasons for many opting for methods that shows high winning percentage with abysmal Risk:Reward ratio. Many of the world’s renowned traders are trend followers and trend following usually delivers something that human brain is not used to – More losers than winners with superior Risk:Reward ratio.

Introduction

In trend following type of trading, the usual combination is low winning percentage with high Risk:Reward. This requires a trader to get comfortable with the fact that we will most likely be wrong more often than we are right.

That concept is tough for a lot of traders,as many of us believe that to be profitable we need to be right more than we are wrong. but nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, for scalping that is partially true, but for swing trading, with the proper risk to reward ratio, we can be profitable even if we are wrong more than we are right.

We just need to have the patience to wait for a trade to come, and also patience to wait for a trade to work.

Here is a blogpost on patience

Deliberate practice and patience

Trend following and surfing

Unlike surfing, we don’t get the luxury of knowing which direction the WAVE we are on is headed, but trust me, it is going somewhere and is not going to sit around in any one place for very long. This is the one and only guarantee in stock markets 😀

We may spend days watching for a sequence of events, enter a trade and get stopped out in minutes. But if we are a trend follower, we have to just get back up and start watching again. That is tough to swallow for traders who enjoy the adrenaline of a fast-paced trading environment

Trading and action

If a trader cannot wait and always in need of action, trend following will never work for him. For that matter, any kind of trading would be difficult.

Many traders love the frequent adrenaline rushes that come with trading. And, the more frequently they trade, the more they feel that they are hitting the fast forward button on their way to riches.

By the way, most successful traders and investors are systematic. Systematic sounds technical or quantitative but that’s far from the truth. All it means is that there is a process to guide proper decision making. When A happens they do Y, when B happens they do Z. Warren Buffett and Benjamin Graham has a very systematic process in searching for their stocks. Ray Dalio from Bridgewaters Associates has a very systematic fundamental approach to capital markets.

Trading and drudgery

Many a times, people ask this question to me. It always pops up in different ways –

Should i pursue the dream of becoming a successful/consistently profitable trader in spite of all these drudgery?

I remember a movie honcho once said that when people asked him if they should continue to pursue their dreams of movie stardom, he would always tell them ‘NO’. His reasoning was simple – no one destined for success would be dissuaded by him anyway, nor for that matter would they even have asked the question in the first place.

It’s that solitary “march to your own drummer” mentality that mark those ordained for success 🙂

Trading and negativity

So, to be effective in trading (and anything in life), kindly distance yourself from negative energy – no matter where it comes from. Let negative thoughts roll over like water. Negative thoughts, emotions, energy is destructive multiplier. It kills creative uni-directional thinking. Detach yourself from things, other people and immerse yourself in the price. Lose sense of time and space.

Think of an activity that you enjoy, we lose sense of time and space when we get involved right? So, let me ask this question then –

Why does trading have to be stressful, painful, edgy all the time?

Get comfortable being wrong and detach from negativity

Happy trading all !!

Your trading is exciting or boring?

Trading is boring

Introduction

Many folks find trading the markets pretty exciting. Why not? Seeing the tickers move wild can give great excitement to anyone and the prospect (not actually making money..just the prospect) of making money can give the best adrenaline rush . A fun-filled activity right? As a matter of fact, they become really sad when the markets are closed as there is no fun in mundane daily activities.

And there are certain set of people who find trading the markets as downright boring. Surprisingly, majority of the consistently profitable traders find this endeavor a really boring one. For them, it is a matter of doing the same thing over and over as long as it keeps on working. Without deviating and without looking for something new. Without getting antsy about “missing out” some great opportunity somewhere else.

Hard work and belief in the process

Let me get this straight – Trading is hard work at the start, but it should be effortless during the trading process. Good or professional traders know this really well. In fact, trading should be boring to some degree when we have our system and methodology down. The reason for this is we know when to pull the trigger and when not to. If market gaps against our position, we know what to do. We know how to react when the time is right. However, it requires hard work to get to this level of professionalism.

Two sides of the same coin

Trading the markets in itself is contrasting in nature. We must be confident, but ego-less. We must be mechanical but analytical, focused but relaxed, and disciplined but willing to learn. Our decisions may appear to be binary, buy or sell but they are markedly more complex.

Acquiring the knowledge of trading mechanics, maneuvers, ideas/strategies, and risk/money management is a relatively easy and determinate process. But, developing the mental skills of focus, discipline, objectivity, and self confidence are much more challenging.

In fact, it’s the one area of trading performance that gives the pleasure of incessant learning experience for the practitioner (trader) , and for some a continuous scuffle (and might feel like never-ending ordeal)

Trading and lack of knowledge

The problems and challenges we face in trading are not due to a lack of knowledge/information, but are due to a lack of patience and self-confidence. Once again, ‘it is never a lack of knowledge’. The sooner we understand it, the faster we can pave the path to recovery.

Enhancement begins with changes in how we choose to think, act and be. Positive changes that will only be realized when we make a decision – a choice to learn to let go off the selfish/self-defeating side of our emotions which blocks our minds and garbles our decisions.

Trading and self-introspection

I will be the first to admit that the journey onto becoming a successful trader is mired with twists and bumps all along, filled with great triumph, and frustrating distress, but everyone has the talent to succeed and the power to create value in their lives.

Now some serious questions to ponder upon —

1. Are you patient enough to wait for the planned trade set up?
2. Are you ready to wait until a valid buy / sell signal is triggered (not jumping the gun)?
3. Can you place and execute the required orders, before the prices move away from the price of entry?
4. Can you focus on your trade without any sort of disturbances, until the trade is completed.
5. Can you patiently follow your exit plan (even if the market moves up and down in-between)?

When we try to introspect by answering these questions, we readily identify that it is not our ‘lack of knowledge’ that is enabling us to lose money in trading but it is the lack of patience(in order to seek excitement).

So, let us focus on acquiring the non-glamorous skills and trading will become more boring than we would have ever imagined !!

Achilles heel of a Discretionary trader

Discretionary trading

Achilles’ heel was an unguarded weakness that ultimately brought down a hero of Greek mythology and this post is an attempt to understand the things that has to be kept in mind while designing a trading methodology as a discretionary trader.

As many of you know that am a mechanical(rule based) trader, my trading day is pretty monotonous and boring, many a times. The other group of traders are often called as ‘discretionary traders’. Both groups have their advantages/disadvantages and one should follow what they are comfortable with. At the end of the day, both discretionary and systematic traders have the same goal – making money.

What is discretionary/mechanical trading?

Discretionary trading is decision based trading – when the trading idea shows up in the charts, the trader decides(at that moment) whether to take the trade or not based on current market conditions. Discretionary trading does not mean random trading. Every trader(mechanical or discretionary) has a methodology to enter/exit the market – there are no two ways about it. For example, even if all the conditions are met for a trade, a discretionary trader will not take the trade as volatility is too low (current market condition) – so, basically the trader decides to let it go seeing the current market condition.

On the other hand, Mechanical trading is driven by rules. The trader do not make any decision on taking the trade but the system does. If A happens, then the trader go long and if B happens, the trader goes short. There is no element of decision making involved by the trader as everything is planned out beforehand and the trader just has to execute those trades.

Designing a trading methodology as a discretionary trader

There are certain things discretionary traders should keep in mind when they design their system. More often than not, the psychological pressure of making the ‘quality’ decision of whether to take the trade or not can overwhelm a discretionary trader. To understand this behavior, we need to analyze how our brain works.

A. How brain works?

Evolution has effectively given us (human beings) a dumb brain and a smart brain. The smart brain runs the show most of the times unless a threat is present/perceived and consequently, the dumb brain takes over. Why? The reason is very simple – Dumb brain is faster at making simple/resolute decisions. This avoids people taking a long time on making a choice as time is critical in predatory situations. If we take too much time to take a decision on ‘fight or flight’ situations, there is a good possibility of ending up in the jaws of a predator 🙂

B. Markets are there to get me

With this understanding in mind, one can easily comprehend why this could create a problem in trading as our natural responses can be inappropriate and the way we view/assess info changes when the dumb brain takes over.
Our brains are built to handle belligerent situations and hence, even in a normal situation in trading (like a loss – by the way, many dont consider trading loss as normal 🙂 ), we tend to do things like making “revenge trades”, which is treating the market like an adversary.

Think about it for a second – this is tantamount to curve fitting data so that it fits our trading model but only here, we are fitting the market to how our behavior and natural responses are designed to interact with predators. This is exactly why we see people saying ‘Markets are there to get me’

C. Demo trading and tunnel vision

As a discretionary trader, when we do demo trading of our ideas, we almost always get superlative results. The reasons could be multi-fold but the important one is so evident. When we practice in a non-stressful situation, we evaluate our success based on how our smart brain handles the situation. Under stress, in real trading, we might find that we fail to notice things that are obvious when we look at the same information after the stress has passed. People tend to overlook/ignore information that is contradictory to their analysis of the situation. In behavioral science, this is often called as “tunnel vision“.

Let us sit on this ‘tunnel vision’ for a moment. Like the airport traffic controller who ignores contradictory information (as he is affected by stress), traders fail to exit a losing trade, because our discriminative attention ignores things that indicate it’s time to get out of the trade. Practice (or demo trading) does help, but many traders find that their behavior is different under stress.

So, when a discretionary trader designs/practices a system, he needs to consider human behavior, psychology, and the human factors that were discussed here. In another post, i will discuss the difficulties in being a mechanical(systematic) trader.

Final thoughts

As it generally happens in any endeavor specific to a competitive pursuit, people end up with hallowed beliefs without subjecting them to rational scrutiny. The subject of ‘which style of trading is better’ is one such associated with the business of trading and is a favorite ‘peg to hang’ blame for failure in becoming a successful trader by many.

This blogpost does not favor one over the other – Pick the one that best suits you and pursue trading in that direction.

Happy trading all !!

Great lesson from Mahabharata – Visualization

Visualization

Most of you already know that am not a religious person but the mythological books can teach us many life lessons. So, my reading habit obviously gravitates even towards mythological stories/ books.

One such lesson can be learned from Mahabharata – it is about visualization.

What is Visualization?

Visualization is simply a mental rehearsal. We create images in our mind of having or doing whatever it is that we want. Visualization techniques have been used by successful people to visualize their desired outcomes for ages. The practice has even given some high achievers what seems like super-powers, helping them create their dream lives by accomplishing one goal or task at a time with hyper focus and complete confidence.

The typical visualization pattern comes from the sports world, where an athlete would imagine themselves winning a championship or standing on the podium receiving a medal.

The key to visualization is to visualize that we already have what we desire. This is simply a mental trick. Rather than hoping we will achieve it, or building confidence that one day it will happen, live and feel it as if it is happening to us right now. On one level, we know this is just a mental trick, but the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Our subconscious mind will act upon the images we create within, whether they reflect our current reality or not.

Elite athletes use it. The super rich use it. And peak performers in all fields use it.

Visualization in Mahabharata

After losing in a game of dice, the Pandavas were exiled to the jungles as per the bet waged. So, one of those days, Arjuna – the great archer was eating his dinner in the light of an earthen oil lamp, when a gust of wind
extinguished the flame. Arjuna continued to eat, his hand accurately reaching his mouth every time he ate a morsel of grain in the dark. At this exact moment, a sudden flash of thought embraced his mind.

If it was so easy to accurately place a morsel of food in his mouth, due to force of habit, the food not going into his eyes or nose by mistake, why was it so difficult to aim and shoot down a target in the dark ? This fired him up and the restless soul set about practicing archery in the dark, after staring at the target all day in the sunlight.

The mission was very clear and simple – the mind should be trained to know where to shoot from memory, just as it knew where to guide the hand containing a morsel of food in pitch dark. After months of rigorous practice, twanging his bow all night, for months, Arjuna attained mastery of the dark. The hard work paid off and helped the Pandavas win the battle of Kurukshetra years later. This is sheer Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) in work and ofcourse a lot of visualization before entering the actual arena.

Key take way and usefulness in trading

We all are Arjunas but we just lack something important – a sheer target practice. The mind can and should be trained. Samurais train with their Katanas thousands of times before attaining mastery of the sword. History tells us again and again that it can be done.

In trading terms, Visualization can help us cope with stressful situations (like visualizing to stay calm when we are in a trade) and to reinforce good habits. If one has issue in pulling the trigger/exiting early/jumping the gun, Visualization can be immensely helpful.

Thoughts are things and they create the beginnings of getting any result. The thought process includes not only what we’re telling yourself, but also the pictures that those thoughts summon.

Happy trading all !!

Getting out of comfort zone

Comfort

We have often heard successful people mentioning in their speeches/articles that one should ‘Get out of their comfort zone’ to taste success. What this phrase really means?

If we really break down the phrase “Getting out of your comfort zone” it means doing things that we don’t feel comfortable with doing.

Historical references

1. In the 3rd century B.C, General Xiang Yu sent his troops across the Yangtze river to fight the Qin dynasty. While his men slept, he ordered all his ships to be set afire. Basically,they cant go back quitting. There is only one way ahead.

Next day he told them, you now have a choice – fight to win or fight to die. This technique was followed by the Spanish conquistador Cortes in the Sixteenth century in Mexico.

2. In World war – II, Group Captain Adolph Gysbert “Sailor” Malan of the Royal Air Force instructed rookie pilots – if you want to be a crack fighter pilot lad, learn to ditch your parachute !!

3. In Indian history, we have a great example of the battle that happened to capture Singhad fort. After the fall out of Tanaji, his Brother Suryaji cut the ropes with which the troops entered the fort and addressed them ” Either die fighting or Jump off the fort and die – Your choice” This happened around 1670 under Great Shivaji in the battle of Singhad fort near Pune.

Behavioral references

Psychology professors Dan Ariely (he is my personal favorite) and Jiwoong Shin conducted extensive tests on subjects on why people cling onto multiple dating. They found that male and female subjects often latched on to multiple dating partners, refusing to commit to a formal relationship for the fear of losing the comfort of other date partners. They wanted the “safety” or “comfort” of numerical strength.

Often in life, we are required to burn our ships like General Xiang Yu to cut out the option of retreat from a difficult situation as a measure of self-motivation. In extreme circumstances, ditching our parachute like Group Captain “Sailor” Malan advocated becomes necessary to come out of our lazy, comfort zone.

Disclaimer: This tactic however, needs to be extremely/well thought-out and strategised. Cannot be applied to every situation in life – extreme due diligence is required !!

Nevertheless, as they say, “Life begins at the end of our comfort zone”. So, lets get out of comfort zone and the whole world is ours to explore 🙂

Never start your trading day with an hungry stomach

Brain

Indian stock market starts at 9:15 am. Well past the usual breakfast time for many. Yes – this post is about food 🙂

Behavioral science has been blessed with many stalwarts. Roy Baumeister is one of them. As a behavioral scientist, he wanted to ascertain whether remaining hungry and / or craving for food (though not starving) impacted a human being intellectual performance. As it goes with many researchers, he conducted an experiment.

Details of the Experiment

Two batches of 30 students each, of equal IQ and academic performance were selected. They were locked up in separate rooms for 60 minutes and given an exercise to master in mathematics. In both rooms were ovens, which were halfway into baking cakes and cookies. B

Batch # 1 was instructed to stay away from the oven even after it finished baking and was banned from consuming a single cake/cookie. Batch # 2 was instructed to wait for the oven to cool off before enjoying the confectionery.

Result of the experiment

After the designated 60 min timeframe, Roy Baumeister found batch # 1 floundering in their mathematical questions, whereas batch # 2 breezed through it.

Upon interviewing them, students of batch # 1 admitted that majority of their mental energy was spent in fighting their salivating mouths, the aroma of the cakes & cookies and deep emotional craving for the goodies. This was a great revelation.

But, the experiment did not end there. The roles were reversed and batch # 2 was forbidden from savoring the cakes & cookies and their performance went south as well. This is a very critical piece of information that can be used by traders as it can affect our logical decision making capabilities.

Final thoughts

Next time you decide to skip breakfast because you’re in a rush, please do remember this experiment and how our mothers force-fed us before packing us off to school. One might call that as ‘love and affection’ but indirectly, it served us well.

Moral of the experiment – Never start your trading day with an hungry stomach 😊

Roy Baumeister Profile

https://psy.fsu.edu/faculty/baumeisterr/baumeister.dp.php

Happy trading !!