Trading In The Zone - Stock Trading Psychology & Trader Discipline
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Trading In The Zone by Mark Douglas.
We have covered many aspects of trading, from trading setups through to risk reward and risk management, but we have yet to cover mindset, psychology and thinking in terms of probabilities. Arguably the most important components of becoming a successful trader.
Many different character traits appear through the career of a trader, from fear, anger, confusion, despair through to over confidence.
Mark says ‘consistent winners think without emotion’
Technical and fundamental analysis will only take us so far, being able to adopt the right mental state and therefore ‘trade in the zone’ is the differentiating factor.
Mark shows us how.
Today we present ‘Trading in the zone’.
Every gambler approaches the roulette table with a positive mentality but is aware that when a bet is placed there is a chance they could lose, but deep down the gambler does not really expect to lose, otherwise why would they place a bet in the first place?
When this engrained false expectation materialises into a string of unexpected losses, true emotions begin to appear. Positivity turns into heightened focus and then disbelief, anger and finally despair.
On the other hand, the casino owner embraces the fact that the gamblers could have a winning streak, this could result in the casino having a losing day or even a losing week, but the casino has a confirmed edge and over a large volume of bets placed they know they will win, losses are just part of the business.
The same principle exists in trading. Every trader is aware that when a trade is entered there is an element of risk, either the full position or the stop loss portion. But does every trader really accept the risk or even think they will lose money on this new trade position?
The expectation of most traders is for price to continue its trajectory.
However, in reality this often happens.
When this happens several times in a short period, the trader becomes disillusioned, and realisation confirms a psychological gap between assuming they accepted the risk, to fully embracing the risk when a series of failed trades occur.
Mark Douglas suggests that the best traders in the world know that the next trade is a random event, therefore a sequence of random events could lead to a sequence of losing trades. But like the casino owner they understand this is just part of the business.
The hard, cold reality of trading is that every trade has an uncertain outcome. Unless you learn to completely accept the possibility of an uncertain outcome, it will be very hard to succeed as a trader.
Mark provides ‘Five fundamental truths’:
“Anything can happen”.
“You don’t need to know what is going to happen next in order to make money”.
“There is a random distribution between wins and losses for any given set of variables that define an edge”.
“An edge is nothing more than an indication of a higher probability of one thing happening over another”.
“Every moment in the market is unique”.
Once these truths are fully accepted the trader is able to face the markets constant uncertainty, they become unnerved by periods of drawdown and can therefore trade ‘in the zone’.
There’s a term called the ‘Gambler Fallacy’ which refers to an erroneous belief that a statistically independent event is influenced by a previous set of events.
Let’s take a coin toss for example, we know there is a 50% chance of the coin landing on heads or tails, but what if the coin is tossed a total of 4 times and heads appears 4 times in a row, do you think the next toss is likely to be heads or tails?
The answer of course is that there is still a 50% chance of either. The coin has no memory, the previous coin tosses had absolutely no relevance to the next coin toss. On this occasion, the gambler who loaded his stake up on tails would have lost, and despite his belief, he did not have an improved probability on the next toss to justify a larger stake.
This fallacy often finds its way into the stock trader’s mindset, not only is the trader surprised his 1st trade was a losing trade, but he is left in disbelief that all his 5 trades were losers. He assumes his selection process was wrong, or the market is rigged against him.
Conversely, all his 5 trades could be winners and he then feels he has the perfect trading method. In either scenario, the sample size is too small to make any judgement on the long-term success of the strategy.
The key message here, is that regardless of the outcome of the previous event or events, there is no influence whatsoever on the very next event. Every singular event is completely independent of one another.
Mark Douglas says that to trade in the zone you must fully accept that the very next trade is completely random, a trait that is inherently difficult to comprehend.
Expecting a random outcome however, does not mean that with discipline and practice you can’t improve your probability of success. Combining focus and regimentally following your process can lead to hitting your target more often than not. Just be prepared not to risk too much on each trade, an inevitable losing run will come and could blow up your account if the stakes are too high.
At this point you have fully embraced the market from a probabilistic perspective.
You know that the very next trade or series of trades could be losers.
You also know through your edge, that over a larger volume of trades (placed consistently) you are likely to make a profit, you therefore size your positions accordingly to enable your edge to materialise.
According to Mark, carefree means confident but not euphoric.
When you are in a carefree state of mind, you won’t feel any fear, hesitation, or compulsion to do anything, because you’ve effectively eliminated the potential to define and interpret market information as threatening.
When you have accepted the risk, you will be at peace with any trading outcome. You are now in the zone…
Marks says there are 7 principles of consistency to allow your carefree state of mind and statistical edge to play out, and therefore become a winner.
Firstly, objectively identify your edge. For example, your back-testing process may have identified a breakout strategy whereby 3 pivot points form a resistance line, thereafter the price is seen breaking through the resistance. This could be classed as an ‘objective’ reason to place a trade.
Next, you must predefine your risk, perhaps placing a stop loss below the breakout channel, again, often established through your back-testing.
Thirdly, you must completely accept the risk and not be surprised if the trade loses.
You act upon your edge or strategy without reservation or hesitation.
You pay yourself only if the market makes money available to you, you can’t force a trade.
You continually monitor your susceptibility for making errors.
And finally, You understand the absolute necessity of the principles of consistent success and, therefore, you never violate them.
“Ninety-five percent of the trading errors you are likely to make — causing the money to just evaporate before your eyes — will stem from your attitudes about being wrong, losing money, missing out, and leaving money on the table. What I call the four primary trading fears.”
Fears of this nature will inhibit your carefree state of mind and prevent you from ‘Trading In The Zone’.
Free yourself from the shackles that prevent you from trading in a carefree state of mind, and remember, anything can happen, embrace the unexpected.
Mark Douglas puts together some excellent aspects for trading consistently without fear, including the embracing of risk, understanding of probability, letting go of your fears and developing objective discipline.
A unique book and easily justifies 5 stars.
Thanks for listening.