Dan looked at the candle on the daily chart. It was yesterday’s candle and it was red just like several before it, and it looked good. You see, it represented a pull-back from a high several days ago on the YM E-mini. The high was the latest in several higher highs and higher lows that stretched back a few months representing a strong upward trend. What looked attractive to him was the fact that the price action had bounced off a 10 period and a 15 period exponential moving average several times, and as well the highs pulled back off significant resistance levels several times. On this day, the price action’s pull-back was hitting a significant support level which also happened to be coinciding with an upward cross-over of the 2 moving averages at the open. For Dan this was an important set-up that he had been waiting for. Dan was an experienced trader and he appreciated that having a trade plan was essential, he also had a plan for this trade as well…that was his method. He aimed to plan his trade and trade his plan. There was however a fly in the ointment…he “knew” that the price action was going up! In this instance Dan had a “long” internal bias fueled by certainty…this is not a good thing.
As Dan executed his limit buy order slightly above the resistance-that-had-now-become-support level by a tick, his order automatically set a hard stop 4 points below the entry when he was filled. Everything looked great… that is, until the price action began to breath, dropping down 1 point, then 2, then 3 and got perilously close to his stop. However, Dan “knew” that the price action was heading up. He told himself that the set-up was perfect, and he wasn’t about to let a dip in the price hit his stop, take him out and then retrace upward leaving him behind. So, he moved his stop. This was a clear violation of his rules, but he felt a little fudge was OK; after all he was about to profit nicely when the price action would finally go up and hit his target for a gorgeous 4:1 reward. But, to his dismay, the price action continued to drop and headed straight for his stop again…and he moved his stop again. Dan was now fully caught up in his certainty, blinded by fear of taking a small loss, fear of being wrong and greed as he anticipated the profit.
Then he thought, “ …oh what the heck, it’s going to go up; look at that trend.” So, he took his stop out. Just then something terrible happened, something that he had never in his wildest dreams of this trade had anticipated…the price action began to plummet like a red brick falling off a high ledge. You see, this was February 27th, 2007 when the Dow dropped 350 points in 5 minutes; and a 500 drop total for the day. He watched in horror as the long red candle bled down his chart; and hemorrhaged his account. But, he was unrepentant because he still held on to the “hope” that the price would come back.
As the price approached the Average True Range he thought, “…well, it surely will retrace at the ATR, and even if it doesn’t come all the way back, if I double down I will get my money back!” But, alas, it didn’t come back and the price continued to fall. He was frantic and fully frazzled by the events that were unfolding in front of him. When the pain became so acute that it wrestled him from that trance he was in, he finally liquidated his position; but not before he had lost 20% of his portfolio in one trade and in one day! Now, this story begs the questions: Was this catastrophic loss due to a lack of knowledge? No, it wasn’t, Dan had experience and knew what he was doing. Was the loss due to something that couldn’t be managed? No, with training and the use of emotional tools he could have managed his situation and taken the small loss early on. And, lastly, if he had followed his rules could he have avoided this disaster? Yes, most definitely. Dan had found himself in a negative trader trance stimulated by fear and greed, and driven by subconscious beliefs and thoughts.
Episodes such as Dan’s can and do happen all too often for far too many. In fact, for some it is a daily occurrence. The point is to remain in a state of self-awareness and to be in the moment for the moment, fully available, fully present and in the NOW of the trade. In this way you will be able to align yourself physically, mentally and emotionally so that your entire system is working in the same direction and on the same goals. When you are aligned you can access and activate internal resources like the ability to remain focused with intention and attention on what matters most; and the ability to see both the big picture and the details with emotional tools at your disposal in the service of your “A” Game. When you do this you can resonate with the reality of the charts and the markets without succumbing to internal bias. You can develop a “positive trader trance” in order to be proactive in trading what you see and you’ll be less prone to being seduced by illusions brought on by what you’re making up about the market, the news or the charts.
Now, being fully available, in the moment for the moment, fully present and in the now takes practice. The tendency for most people is to focus on the past or the future in a negatively obsessive rumination about past injustices and losses; or future angst-ridden doom and gloom visions of how things will turn out badly. Your mind is always turned on and you must break the spell of the ego which makes you a slave of your rampant, unceasing, monkey-mind that is full of underlying subconscious limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, and painful emotions. Breaking the spell of the ego means in part that you must identify the gaps between the thoughts where you can return to just being and without judgment notice and become aware. The practice is necessary because it’s quite difficult to wrest yourself free of the barrage of thoughts and to allow yourself to focus on exactly what you are doing in “this” moment only; to find joy in being on purpose and on task with even the most seemingly mundane chores. Make of game of it and you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier to focus in the moment and bring yourself closer to a “flow” experience. The flow experience was coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.” In it he outlines his theory that people are most happy when they are in a state of flow or concentration, complete absorption with the activity and situation at hand. Flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone. It is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake; the ego falls away and time flies. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost.
There are several tools that can help with being in the now and in the flow state. We teach many of them in Mastering the Mental Game. Tools that can support a positive trader trance where you’re apt to develop a magnificent obsession with doing only what is in the best interest of your “A” Game and highest and best trader. For more information ask your Online Trading Academy representative. Additionally, my book “From Pain to Profit: Secrets of the Peak Performance Trader” is available on Amazon.