CMU: Lesson 2: Trade proactively, not reactively

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Feb 05

Cracked.Market University

This post continues the series expanding on of my 23 Trading Rules.

Lesson 2: Trade proactively, not reactively.

That sounds easy enough but the truth is very few people actually trade this way. Our natural instinct is to follow the crowd. We can blame this tendency on our ancestors. When everyone else was running away screaming, the guy who stuck around to see what all the fuss was about quickly turned into lion food. Those that ran instinctively alongside the crowd lived longer and passed their genes along to the next generation.

While those survival instincts worked great on the African savanna, they are not helpful in the financial markets. In fact, this misplaced gut reaction is the single biggest factor contributing to why so many people wash out of the market every year. These unfortunate traders didn’t survive long enough to learn how to control their natural impulses and they ended up falling victim to the market’s cruel tricks.

No doubt I’m preaching to the choir because anyone with even the smallest amount of trading experience knows what I’m talking about. We’ve all been guilty of it at some point. And if you claim it never happened to you, either you are a liar or your brain is miswired!

Running when everyone else is running is reacting to what the crowd is doing. So is getting nervous and scared and when everyone else is nervous and scared. Other times the crowd infects us with optimism and greed. No matter what the crowd is doing, it is nearly impossible to not at least feel the tug of those same urges.

If reacting to what the crowd is doing is the wrong way to trade, what is the right way? Easy, do the opposite. Get ahead of the market by moving proactively. Rather than wait to sell until after prices tumble from unsustainable levels, bailout while everyone else is still in a good mood. Instead of panicking when everyone else is selling, recognize the value of those irrational discounts and start buying what the crowd is selling. Rather than chase prices higher, buy before it is obvious to the crowd.

While it is nearly impossible to deny our emotions, the best way to manage them is by drafting a trading plan when nothing important is going on. When the market is boring you to tears, spend that time planning what you will do when it stops being boring. What price move would convince you to buy? What would convince you to sell? When will you take profits? When will you admit defeat and pull the plug? Write those things down and commit to acting on that plan before the crowd starts pressuring you to react. That way when you feel the urge to join everyone else running away, you pull out your plan and use those premeditated decisions to overpower your natural impulses.

It’s an overused market cliche but few things are more important to long-term success than  “planing your trade and trading your plan.” Stay ahead of the crowd and you will be far better off than everyone else reacting impulsively to every bump and gyration in the road.

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About the Author

Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and financial analyst that has successfully traded stocks and options for nearly three decades. He has an undergraduate engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and two graduate business degrees from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes engineering at Fortune 500 companies, small business consulting, and managing investment real estate. He is now fortunate enough to trade full-time from home, affording him the luxury of spending extra time with his wife and two children.