Strong opinion is a trader’s greatest threat

Discussion in 'Psychology' started by NoDoji, Mar 10, 2010.

  1. NoDoji


    I’ve reviewed all the mistakes I made in my first 2 years of trading and believe I’ve pinpointed the greatest threat to traders at any level, from beginners to professionals: Strong opinion.

    It can occur in various ways, but the most common scenarios are:

    1) You see a strong pattern happen again and again and again. (Or you run a ton of backtesting analyses and pinpoint a particular “if X, then Y, which leads to Z” pattern.) You are ready to hit a real home run as you see the pattern setting up! You put on a trade assuming it will “lead to Z” like it always does. When price moves against you (and the predictable pattern is violated), you figure it’s an anomaly and you either a) add to the position to improve your cost basis, or b) just hang on to the loser because it will eventually become profitable; it’s just taking a detour this time.

    2) You form an opinion about a stock (or a futures market) based on fundamentals. Price has moved ridiculously far from where it should be fundamentally based on fair valuation. You put on a trade, knowing that the market participants will soon come to their senses and price will revert back to a fair value based on the underlying fundamentals of the company or market. Price continues to move even further from what is reasonable, and you either a) add to the position to improve your price, or b) just hang on to the loser because it will eventually become profitable when the market comes to its senses and realizes the error of its ways.

    The major mistake you make in these scenarios is forming a strong personal opinion about what’s “fair” and “right” and “reasonable”, or about what will definitely happen next, and projecting it onto the myriad of market participants who have so many different reasons for buying or selling that your opinion really means nothing. The other mistake is that your opinion is so strong that you add to, or hold on to, a losing position until the loss reaches a level that you would never allow based on your risk:reward trade management rules. Finally, you throw in the towel and that’s often very close to the point that price actually does turn around and move your way.

    If price turns and moves your way after you take a heavy loss, this leads to another major threat to a trader’s survival: After you took the massive loss, you were proven right! You were right! You just weren’t patient enough! If you’d just held on a bit longer, or better yet, added aggressively to the position just when you were about to throw in the towel, you would’ve made a profit! You took a loss needlessly!

    And now the stage is set for what could end up being the final nail in a trader’s coffin. The trade based on one of the scenarios above where you refuse to throw in the towel, because you will NOT get burned again and made to look like a fool the way you did you did last time.

    When you see a trader knock off steady profitable weeks, week after week after week, then give most or all or more of it back on a single trade, I would say the majority of the time it’s a result of the psychological traps described above.

    What can make this psychological trap especially dangerous is a long, long period of successful trading using the “if X, then Y, which leads to Z” method. This creates a sense of complacency. It lulls you into believing you’ve conquered the market. You are one of the 1% elite who has what the other 99% don’t! What you actually have is the lethal cocktail of Ego + Strong Opinion.

    I think this is why you read of so many success stories that began with huge losses, or more than one account blowup, finally leading to a humble respect for the market and the risks it holds. And sometimes even that isn’t enough and some of the finest traders in history lose it in the end.

    There are times when a trade simply goes bad very suddenly and unexpectedly and if you’re overleveraged and unhedged it could wipe out a good portion of your capital. (Trading halts, sudden news or rumors, a black swan event such as 9/11, etc.), but I really believe most blowups are the result of Ego + Strong Opinion.

    If anyone has a story that fits these scenarios, tell your story here in the hopes it prevents traders at any level from making (or repeating) these same mistakes.
  2. Well said. Perhaps the point is to look at the track records of the most successful trades, figure that you are half as good at best, and if your observations are too good to be true, it probably is.
  3. keep a tight stop, avoid large losses. done deal
  4. The whole trading instruments has been designed based on such a professional method of psychology game. Market always challenges you to predict the future and your mind tries to convince you that you are right, therefore when its not going your way, your brain works more on finding more reason that you are right and prevent you from accepting the loss. Usually this is where disaster beginning to form.

    many of us study and read the major principals of trading, which are actually not too complicated. However when it comes to play the game, we fail...

    Rule number 1 which is the most important one is : patience and discipline...

    I have seen and worked with successful and professional traders and it is amazing how important patient and discipline are to them , they never touch their Stop loss order and its absolutely not important if it hits their stop and turn around, never risk more than %3-%5 of your account on any trade, regardless and as importantly they ride the winners at least to 1:3 ratio...

    Not following this rule is the major major reason of failing in this industry.

    it took me more than 2 years to completely train myself on rules number 1 but the second rule which has hurt me more than anything else and I am still working on not doing it is to find all the reasons for not getting in a position. Train yourself to sit on your hand. Research and find good setups and just stick with them. This rule becomes more important especially when you are on a winning streak. many times you lose on a trade becasue you were so happy and proud of yourself on a series of winning trades and got into this one just for the heck of it.

    I am sure what I have said is very redundant to most of us, but trust me , we need to be reminded about them on daily basis.
  5. Strong opinion is my greatest advantage...
  6. -------------------------

    you say STRONG OPINION is our greatest threat and then you go on to give us an ULTRA STRONG OPINION in your entire expose.

    In point (1) alone, ALL newbies would be dead already.

    Collect your Phd from baron, please.

    Have a nice day
  7. Thought i'd respond because i can see you are coming from a good place. Just a few humble opinions...

    #1 - No position is worth violating your tradeplan for. Whatever you have determined as your stop to use, more importantly, your max risk in %. If averaging down is the plan so be it, but that plan must be determined when the market is closed. Loss of discipline occurs when you exceed the max risk you set up to take pre-market open. If this happens EVER you need to get your trading in check. The truth is its always better to lick your wounds and trade another day. For me, it is not a possibility for me to intionally put on a trade with greater risk than i originally intended. I would rather take a stop and watch it go to my target for 1:20 r/r than reinforce a bad habit that could lead to ultimate demise.

    #2 - I have never traded on fundamentals so can't really comment. I have died the death of 1000 stops in many lives past, however. In that sense, im opposite to most i suppose.
  8. Also, all that coulda woulda shoulda stuff is bullshit. If you coulda, you woulda and you wouldn't be talking about what you shoulda done.

    Thats neurosis applied to trading. Gotta let that kind of talk go... not just in trading. You can't travel back in time in any job/reality.
  9. zdreg


    keep a loose stop and trade smaller quantities. done deal.
  10. i am underwater in a short position currently. though the market was overbought and added as it rose. we have 10 up days in a row its unbelievable:(

    i am now a bagholder if we go to 1160 im screwed
    should have never added my position

    it MUST make a double top
    #10     Mar 12, 2010