Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sounding like a broken record

Total gross profits:  $-50.00  -1.00 ES points
Total trades:  9  [3 scratch]
Accuracy:  33.0% 
Execution score: TBD%
Opportunity cost: $TBD

For "long time" readers, if you've paid attention, I'm sure you have recognized certain messages or themes on this blog repeated as of late -- over and over and over and over... 

Thoughts of broken records, or maybe even the movie "Ground Hog Day" may come to mind. 

OK, for today, here we go:
  • RenaTrader's Diamond Setups alerts and shorts the high of the day!
  • I mismanaged many trades!
  • I got stopped out to the tick on a trade that ended up being a big winner!
  • I got chopped up taking rogue trades!
  • I didn't take some alerts that made money, why?!?!
  • I was down almost 10 [or insert # here] ES points, and had a big end of day recovery to nearly b/e!
  • My mental game had cracks!
  • I should have had a huge EPIC day (to offset the EPIC loss yesterday)!

All of the above was true for today. 

$ES_F 5 min 02-29-2012
Well, I don't want to be a broken record.  I'm entering my 11th month of day trading full time with just over 4 months trading ES futures.  And as I look back, I do notice that I've made some great progress in some areas.  But recently, I feel as though I've reached a plateau of repeating certain behaviors, so I will take whatever steps necessary to break out of this loop and get to the next level.

Maybe events of life outside of trading has had a bigger impact than I had initially thought.  And the proof is in my execution score as well as the bottom line.  They don't lie.  A comment made in on my post yesterday was, "'STOP NOW' before you continue to lose more. You simply won't recover your losses continuing what you're doing now."  If I continue to take subpar or rogue setups, then that comment will be absolutely be true.

For the month of February, where I only traded about 2 weeks, I ended down -5.00 ES points gross.  If it wasn't for yesterday's ugly loss, I probably would have ended the month slightly profitable, on a net basis.  February is over, hello March.  Next!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hello, Mr. Revenge

Total gross profits:  $-787.50  -15.75 ES points
Total trades:  8  [2 scratch]
Accuracy:  0.0%    [Yes, ZERO]
Execution score: 50.00%
Opportunity cost: $500.00  +10.00 points [Yes, 10 full points left on table!]

It seems like once I write that a certain mental challenge seems to have been overcome, I get jinxed, and it comes back, like a ton of bricks on my head.  

It was only a few days ago when I wrote the following:
I knew within the first hour that this was potentially a dangerous day where you could easily get chopped up to bits.  But you know what, I didn't get chopped up, and I truly believe that behavior is becoming something of the past.  I'm now less likely now to be tempted to enter the murky waters, especially if I sense danger, since I have a greater respect for the markets.  And I'm not as interested in pulling out the machine gun just for the sake of action caused by boredom.

I believe Rogue Grove is finally starting to grow up, and it feels like some sort of milestone has been reached.  This is encouraging, because I'm still just getting started on my grand journey ahead, and every little bit helps a lot.
"Foot in mouth" seems like an appropriate comment given my performance today, but on the bright side, with 8 trades today, at least it's clear I didn't bring out the machine gun.  

In fact, I really didn't feel as if I was in any emotional extremes at all -- the day rolled out in a relatively calm and uneventful manner, given the circumstances of such sloppy execution.  And a strong afternoon comeback mentality didn't really enter my mind either, which was strange.  Have I changed?

Looking back, one warning sign was when I had 4 trades during the 10:00-11:00 hour.  I usually have at most, 1 trade per 30 minute period.  So I did end up taking a break over lunch, as Greg suggested back in November:

One idea I heard somewhere, and I unfortunately had to implement it a few times, is this. Say your max loss limit for the day is -$1200. When you hit -$800, just walk away from your workstation and do something else for 20-30 minutes or so. Go have coffee, take a walk...but do something. Then when you come back, evaluate whether or not you think you should continue trading for the day, and what changes you think you should make.

When I did this, it was probably 50/50 the times I resumed trading that day. The other days, I felt like I was just out of tune with the market and was better off waiting for a better environment.

The advantage you have is you have a system you trust that generates a lot of signals...which means even if you leave for a half hour, you're not throwing away the last opportunity of the day.
The series of events that triggered my poor performance:
  • I missed the first trade of the day -- it made +2  
    • [Fear of missing out, actualized]
  • Prior to the 10AM economic news release, I knowingly entering a short trade -- I knew it was a gamble, got 1.50 slippage on stop loss   
    • [I wanted a quick win juiced by news...ended up with salt and lemon juice in wound]
  • The next 2 trades were stop losses by just 1 or 2 ticks   
    • [They were good setups, but bad luck]
  • Mr. Revenge then came for a short visit  
    • [The tipping point, cue the scary music...]
Whenever I run into a challenging situation, I welcome the opportunity for another similar scenario to take place again, and again, and again, until I finally get it right.  I'm certain there will be another day where I'll have 2-3 full stop outs in a row, all getting tagged by a tick or two.

So the next time that happens, I will most certainly remember this day.  And I will either scale back to become much more selective, or simply stop trading.  Now it's time to reset, regroup, reevaluate my trading plan, and get ready for the next day with a clean mind.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Is having a bias, bad?

I had zero trades today.  It's one of those days that started off with what felt like a misstep, and then I spent all day somewhat out of sync, on the sidelines.  However, it wasn't bad, since I didn't force any trades.  I consider this a successful day, since the price action today reminded me of some others in the past where I would get chopped to bits trying to trade against that strong upward trend in the morning.

Why did I start off with a misstep?  That leads to the question, is having a bias, bad? 

@RenaTrader had the following Diamond Setups alert for ES just before the NY cash open:

    (Feb 27-09:29) RenaTrader: SUP 1354-52

Paralyzed by my bias
$ES_F 5min 2/27/2012
Once the market opened, the ES opened gap down below the RTH S2 pivot point at 1358.00 and the initial opening drive was down. 

There's a general rule that when the market gaps down and stays below the S2 pivot level, especially during the first hour, there's a greater chance that the gap to the prior close will not fill.  Therefore, shorts will generally work better than longs, assuming price is trading below 1358.00. 

That particular short bias got stuck in my head, and paralyzed me from taking any long trades as the opening range developed.

HOD/LOD in first hour of trading
There's also another general finding that about 50% of the HOD or LOD for the ES takes place within the first hour of trading.  Unfortunately, that bit of knowledge was lost from my head.

With such a great level identified by Renato so early in the morning, I should have realized that the opening drive down will eventually bounce creating a leg up, and that the LOD would potentially be established. 

Wait a minute, didn't that also just happen a few days ago?  Deja vu!

Renato and his Diamond Setups does it again!
So Renato ended up identifying a trade that picked the low of the day...again.  Many members of the DS room ended up buying within a few ticks of the low.  But I'm still at the bus station, waiting for the next ride out.  I'll have to sleep here overnight on the hard and cold benches, but that's OK, because at least I didn't get on the wrong bus.

What's the lesson learned? 
Regardless of what my short/long bias is, it should not interfere with a entering a trade based on a good signal.  Once I start to enter with a few contracts, my first priority will be to reduce risk as quickly as possible (i.e. scale out partially), and then if the trade is continues to move in my direction, let the runner run as far as the market allows. 

Therefore, I believe having a bias isn't necessarily bad -- assuming good trade setups are acted upon properly, and then managed properly.  Following my trading plan will allow the market pay whatever it will allow, regardless of my bias.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Is there anybody out there?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Total gross profits:  $12.50  +0.25 ES points
Total trades:  3  [2 scratch]
Accuracy:  100.0%
Execution score: 83.3%
Opportunity cost: $0

"Is there anybody out there?" 

[Cue Pink Floyd]

For the ES, Friday was the lowest non-holiday (i.e. excluding Christmas period) volume since June 9, 2011, as well as the narrowest range day since April 21, 2011.  Seems like most people took advantage of the shortened holiday week, and maybe I didn't get the memo?  It really didn't seem like very many people were out there.

I took 3 trades on Friday, with one trade that was somewhat mismanaged, although it didn't impact my opportunity cost.  In the afternoon, a nice setup that would have paid at least +2 or more in the afternoon was missed, but I had just exited a trade where I was nearly stopped out, then went +1.50 in my favor, and then I finally scratched per my rules. 

So I wasn't in the proper mental frame of mind to do what I should have done when a new setup came up so quickly -- pull 'da trigger!  Darn rust.

I knew within the first hour that this was potentially a dangerous day where you could easily get chopped up to bits.  But you know what, I didn't get chopped up, and I truly believe that behavior is becoming something of the past.  I'm now less likely now to be tempted to enter the murky waters, especially if I sense danger, since I have a greater respect for the markets.  And I'm not as interested in pulling out the machine gun just for the sake of action caused by boredom.

I believe Rogue Grove is finally starting to grow up, and it feels like some sort of milestone has been reached.  This is encouraging, because I'm still just getting started on my grand journey ahead, and every little bit helps a lot.

Friday, February 24, 2012

$EURUSD swing short entered today at 1.3448

Today, I entered a swing short at 1.3448 in EURUSD, due to the following reasons:

  • There were at least 4 different Fib levels based on various waves that converged on the 1.3435 to 1.3475 area.
  • And something much less tangible -- it seems to have been a while since the Eurozone has really announced some really ugly news. Perhaps this weekend?
$EURUSD daily chart as of 2/24/2012
I've seen various other analysis demonstrating compelling reasons for why the EURUSD is going much higher.  And if this was an intraday chart, I'd say a reversal bottom has been sent, would look to buy on dips, and target new highs.

But I'd rather not miss a potential move, so I'm generally early to enter trades and am used to getting stopped out a few times before getting on board a big runner.  Risking about 30-50 pips in order to get a few hundred pips is my general setup for forex swing trades.

Odds favor that I get stopped out above 1.3500, which is just the cost of doing business.  But assuming this trade works, the initial target will be the 1.3100 area, with a final target around the 1.2800 level.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

After 2 weeks, a good start

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Total gross profits:  $412.50  +8.25 ES points
Total trades:  1
Accuracy:  100.0%
Execution score: 50.0%
Opportunity cost: $87.50  +1.75 ES points

My first trade in over 2 weeks ended up being a decent trade, with primary credit to @RenaTrader and his timely Diamond Setups alert.   

(Feb 23-09:25) RenaTrader: SUP 1351.25-49.50 

Once again, he called the high/low of the day.  This will never get old.

Since my buy was filled at 1351.00, I was fortunate to get filled 3 ticks from the low of the day.  And if I did not have to leave early, I probably would have let my trade reach the original profit target at 1361.00, which would have generated a +10.00 trade (as luck would have it, 1361.00 was hit about 10 minutes after I exited my trade). 

The importance of the first hour
One of the reasons why I let this trade run for so long is because I recently saw a statistic that about half of the time, the HOD or LOD gets established within the first hour.  And since this entry seemed to be at an extreme point, it knew it would either be the low of the day, or else I would try and scratch the trade.  I was lucky.

RTH vs. 24h pivot levels
Another interesting observation was that the 24h pivot levels were "in tune" today.  On some days, the RTH pivots seem to work better, but today, that was not the case.  Many would argue that the RTH pivots are more important, since that's what the cash session is based on.  But I really don't care, I monitor both, and will use whatever method the market decides to sync with. 

Confluence of levels
It's also interesting to see when levels from various methods all seem to line up.  Today, I saw Diamond Setups, volume profile, pivot levels, chart patterns, and trendlines, all line up at certain levels.  And when you also factor in the magnetic influence of the pivot levels which then create the "Ping Pong Pivots" effect (going from one level to another), today ended up being an interesting day.

Tomorrow is another day, and what I did today will not matter one bit.  So what's important now is that I be very selective with my trade selection, and work slowly at getting my rhythm back.

Trader Development Cycle: Self-evaluation

Thanks again for the wonderful support over the past week.  I'm very fortunate to have met so many great people since I've started on this journey to become a trader -- from Trader X's blog, my blog here, and especially the Diamond Setups community.  It's people that make such a big difference in life, and I an really thankful for all the friends that I have met on this journey.

Where am I on the development cycle of a trader?
Now it's time to get back on track and start moving forward again, on my relentless quest to becoming a consistently profitable trader.  But before I start trading again too quickly, I thought it would be good to first take a breather and evaluate my development to date.  It's important that I understand where I am, so that I can better determine the path I need to take in order to reach my goals as effectively as possible.

Sources for evaluating yourself as a trader
Thankfully, there have been a few different sources that help to describe the various stages or phases that one needs to overcome in order to become a successful trader.  Recently, there have been three sources that have struck a cord with me:
  1. (FT71) is someone who has been around for years, but I've only become aware and acquainted with him only in recent months -- oh the catching up I have to do!  He recently hosted a webinar for his brokerage clients-only (, and one of the sections discussed was "The 5 Stages of Trader Development."  Andrew Menaker also had an article discussing a similar development framework.

    On a separate note, if you're a developing trader, you should seriously consider opening up a VK Trader account with VanKar.  The level of commitment, tools, education, and services they have and/or are planning on to help the serious retail trader (especially ES traders) is absolutely amazing.

  2. "High Performance Trading" by Steve Ward describes in the first chapter of his book the three stages one must transform through in order to become a trader, and also mentions a development curve for traders he calls the J-Curve.  You can read the first chapter on Amazon here. 

    It's a great book that takes much of the psychological theory and concepts discussed by the Douglas, Steenbarger, Kiev, etc., and creates practical exercises for specific areas that are actionable.

  3. 38 Steps to Becoming a Successful Trader from Tim Racette of breaks down the 38 various steps one must conquer in order to achieve success as a trader.  He mentioned that the steps were from a book by John Piper's called "The Way to Trade".

    Tim has a great website, focused on the ES trader, but applicable to nearly all markets and traders.  One good starting point is to read his Best of EminiMind post, which groups together various articles by areas of interest.
What did I discover?
I have included additional details and my evaluation from each of the various development frameworks in the Appendix section below.  But in summary, everything seems to point towards the same conclusion:
  • I still need to master my methodology and trading rules
    • From what I have learned from the Trader-X, SMB, Diamond Setups, and others, I know more than enough setups that have an edge.  But I need to stick with a methodology and master it.  I'm feeling good that I'm making progress narrowing down a method that works well for me.
  • However, more importantly, it's my lack of discipline that has been the biggest challenge
    • Being consistent with taking trades that are a part of my trading plan is critical, at least until I reach the point in the future where I can trade using "Unconscious Competence." 
  • I have experienced some characteristics of a successful trader, but not consistently
    • It's good to see that I have achieved periods where I have demonstrated certain characteristics of a consistently profitable trader.  However, I need to be able to stay in that zone consistently.
  • This self-evaluation has brought me hope
    • Although there are times when it doesn't seem like I'm very far away on the trader development cycle, I realize that the final steps will require considerable amounts of time and effort to accomplish.  And I'll probably never get "there", and will have to work hard as long as I trade.
As I settle into a consistently net-breakeven trader, I realize that one of my biggest challenges to becoming a consistently profitable trader will be time, and so I need to do my best to protect my capital (i.e. solid risk management).  Within the framework of establishing a trading process maintained with a high degree of discipline, I will also maintain patience knowing that there are no short cuts to the considerable efforts ahead.

OK, time to get back to work!

Included below are the excerpts from the various trader development frameworks discussed above, as well as where I believe I am for each respective framework, which have been highlighted in yellow

FuturesTrader71 (FT71): The 5 Stages of Trader Development

Stage 1: Unconscious Incompetence
  • You believe that you can make a quick $ by trading and that it is a piece of cake.  Heck, it is just a video game. You fund an account
  • You think you know but you really don't. Eventually, big loses are taken and reality sets in.  Hello monkey!
Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence
  • You have finally met your monkey, took some big losses and you realize that you really don't know what you think you know
  • You are led to believe that there is a holy grail out there, so you use a lot of indicators, buy lots of books and courses
Stage 3: Conscious Awakening
  • You realize that it is not so much the system that makes or loses
  • You come to terms with the culprit as your own psychology, attachments to money or being right; your aversion to accepting losses that prevents you from making it
  • You begin to be aware of and are frustrated by your lack of discipline
Stage 4: Conscious Awakening
  • You are a seasoned trader and you know that this is all about accepting the unknown
  • You learn that losses are not all that bad, but there is a conscious effort to manage emotions still
  • You stop seeking the approval or consent of others for your own trades
Stage 5: Unconscious Competence
  • You feel no attachment to trades, wins, losses or the outcome whatsoever
  • You are disciplined and your reactions and read on the market are occurring beyond thought
  • You are militant about your homework, environment, tools, beliefs and goals

The J-Curve from the book "High Performance Trading" by Steve Ward
  • Learn not to lose
  • Make money
  • Break even
  • Profitability
38 Steps to Becoming a Successful Trader from is a great website for not only the ES trader, but for trading in general.  See his "Best of" post for great articles on various aspects of trading.

Starting at #29:
29. We now see the importance of following our rules as we see the results of our trades when we don’t follow them.
30. We begin to see that our lack of success is within us (a lack of discipline in following the rules because of some kind of fear) and we begin to work on knowing ourselves better. 
31. We continue to trade and the market teaches us more and more about ourselves.   
32. We master our methodology and trading rules.
33. We begin to consistently make money. We begin to consistently make money.
34. We get a little overconfident and the market humbles us.
35. We continue to learn our lessons.
36. We stop thinking and allow our rules to trade for us (trading becomes boring, but successful) and our trading account continues to grow as we increase our contract size.
37. We are making more money then we ever dreamed to be possible.
38. We go on with our lives and accomplish many of the goals we had always dreamed of.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My mom just passed away - what I learned from her

The focus of this blog has been on trading, but the trials and tribulations of a trader frequently include influences from the non-trading side of life that are rarely mentioned.  Maybe it's too personal?  Maybe it comes across as weakness?  But if it impacts your trading, aren't they relevant, and perhaps they should be addressed?

My mother passed away on Monday after battling lung cancer for over 3 years.  I would be lying if I said that her condition never had any impact on my trading.  However, now that she has passed on and is at peace, it's time for a new chapter.  Time to reflect on what I learned from my mom -- to make me a better person, in all aspects of life, both trading and non-trading.

Being at her bedside, there were a few themes that kept running through my mind:

Never stop fighting -- My mom always said of her cancer, "I'm going to fight this!  I will not lose!  I'm not going to let this beat me!  I not dying anytime soon!"  Perhaps she passed on some of her traits to me, because even when I'm down big for the day, I always believe that I can recover and end the day with a scratch or even be profitable.  That goes for any other adverse situations that come up in life.  My mom had a much tougher battle -- it was to save her life.  And boy did she fight hard, truly an inspiration.  Her mental toughness was amazing.  She was a fighter until the very end.

Don't feel sorry for yourself
-- She never smoked, but she got lung cancer.  Never did I hear her say or even imply, "Why me?"  Whether it's a 3 point slippage on a trade, a bad month of losses, or you found out you had some health condition you never expected, don't feel pity on yourself.  Accept the situation, figure out what you're going to do about it, and move forward.  Up until a month ago, you couldn't even tell she had stage 4 lung cancer.  My mom accomplished so much in the 3 years since she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I am so proud of her.

Be there for your family -- My mom's commitment to her family was unwavering and unquestionable.  She was always there for her family.  Always.  No amount of money will create the bonds and love of a strong family.  There is no trade or investment that can generate a bigger return than what you make into your family.  Your money will NOT be at your deathbed, holding your hands, saying "I love you."  Invest the time and love into your family, and I guarantee they will be there for you.  It's one of the few sure bets in life.

I'm sure as the loss of my mother continue to sink in over time, I'll continue to learn even more from her.  As much as I miss her terribly, I take comfort knowing that memories of her will always be with me.  And she will always be in my heart.  Those can never be taken away.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Out fishin' until next week

With all that is going on in my non-trading side of life, it's best that I spend more time focusing on that side of life vs. trading, instead of thinking that I can do it all.  The recent memories from a couple months ago of trying to be a superhuman trader, only to be super humiliated by the market, is still quite fresh on my mind. 

So as I did today, any trades I take the rest of this week will be on SIM only. And that's not so bad, since I have a lot of learning and configuration work I still need to do with my new DOM --  I hope to nail down the process to trade 2 contracts relatively quickly.

Good luck, stay disciplined, and go get 'em!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trading in the fog

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Total gross profits:  $-87.50 -1.75 ES points
Total trades:  3  [1 scratch]
Accuracy:  50.0%
Execution score: 83.3%
Opportunity cost: $75.00  1.50 ES points

I'm still a little under the weather, with not enough sleep, while being in single parent mode, as well as starting the day a bit late, so I should have used my discretion and just watched. 

But the lure of the markets was a bit too strong even from deep within the fog, especially since I sat out of the markets yesterday.  I could have ended the day with nearly a scratch, but greed took over and I tried to let my single contract go for much more than a +2 so that I could have ended the day with a profit.

Which brings up another point -- the power of scaling out.  Renato has talked about it often in conjunction with the DS system, and he also mentions from time to time how it's more difficult trading an all-in/all-out style vs. scaling out, unless you're scalping.

I recently opened up an account with VanKar Trading, using their version of OEC's platform called VK Trader LT.  It's supported by FT71 and he has had various presentations regarding the use of their proprietary trade analysis software, called VK Trade Analyzer.  So far, they have been great from the service and value add perspective.  One recent presentation on the VK Trade Analyzer module showed how using a scaling out methodology helps to reduce the overall risk on your trade, and seeing that take place in real time and why it helped to reduce risk was an eye opener.

So my next goal will be to ramp up to 2 contracts so that I can scale out of one contract quickly to reduce risk, and to then enable me to have a runner that could go for a big run.  Holding onto winners and letting them ride is a strength of mine, so I believe this should enable me to comply better with my overall trading plan and personality.

But first, I'll take things easy, get my health/schedule back, so that I can approach the markets from a position of strength instead of trying to make sense of things from within the fog...

Monday, February 6, 2012

View of life and trading

I had very limited trading last week of perhaps several hours of actual trading in the morning sessions only over 3 days due to other duties (ended with gross +5.75 ES for the week), and then last weekend was a hectic weekend of travel. 

It's those times when you're traveling and out of your usual routine, that thoughts you usually don't have begin to make their way into your consciousness.  And what really came to realization was how much more challenging trading can be, especially when you have to factor in the realities of life outside of trading. 

Catching a bug from my young kids and getting sick right as the traveling started made the trip even more "interesting."  Nothing else like having your ears plugged up in a airplane.  So staying healthy becomes something of bigger concern.  I haven't done as well as I could have recently to keep myself in good physical condition, and this will be a higher priority in the weeks ahead.

In addition to temporary illness, having to deal with terminal illness in the immediate family is also something that drains you emotionally.  Regardless of how you try and compartmentalize your thoughts between work and life, if you have any sense of humanity and empathy, there is a considerable cost on your mental well being.  If you truly love that person, there's no way around those costs.

And the everyday management of family life, especially young children, is never ending and relentless.  Morning, afternoon, evening, nighttime, you're always on call.  Spending at least 6-7 hours a day on family tasks takes a considerable amount of time and energy, as well as time away from trading. 

Then factor in the nighttime duties that impact your sleep, those rough sleepless nights will take a toll on the following day.  But I take pride in being a great dad and will not sacrifice that, even if it means that my eventual growth in trading will be limited.  Some things are just non-negotiable.

So what does all of the above have to do with trading?

I'm fully aware that for most, this is a fairly typical scenario.  And it's nowhere as bad as some others have it, so I consider myself very lucky to be in the situation I'm in.  And if push came to shove and I had to choose between trading or my family, there's no contest that family would win.  But as I work on succeeding in one of the most mentally brutal and challenging occupations they call futures trading, I need to learn to better balance my time and expectations appropriately, so that I don't burn myself out.

In my current life scenario, I realize that I can't spend the 14-16 hours a day for investing/trading that I could years before my family came into existence.  So achieving my 10,000 hours of experience to mastery will just need to take a longer duration than I had initially hoped.  There have been multiple times I've considered trading fulltime over the years, and when the timing or the results weren't quite right, I've always taken comfort knowing that the markets will always be there.

Adversity, challenges, difficulties...I respond with relentlessness, tenacity, and dogged determination.  It was just about 6 months ago when I wrote about "The Moment" and more than ever, I feel like my window of opportunity to capture this moment has not only remained open, but is getting bigger.  My goal will now be to continue to maintain the high intensity but to also balance my near term trading expectations so that my targets are very challenging, but yet achievable.  And most importantly, balanced within my overall life.