Say YES To Profit

Boris Schlossberg

Sometimes the weekly column writes itself

Rob Booker:
How’s trade copying going? Mine has finally stabilized
Boris Schlossberg:
So funny just writing a column about it today
After flatlining for about 2 months I am finally back on the up and up but of course it involves NOT taking all my rules based trades and often getting out early.
It’s really about whether you want to be right or want to make money everybody who backtests a rules based system makes a huge mistake in thinking that future is just like the past when a 5% variance which is NOTHING can mean dif between profit and loss so the other day as I closed out a trade early I realized that just making 1 penny is still million times better than being “right” on your strategy and taking a loss.

Now this applies to my type of trading which is negative risk/reward if you are trading traditionally at 3:1 r/r than its probably not true but it was an interesting insight
and from now on I NEVER regret taking early profit no matter how much I leave on the table
because the flip side is that I rarely wipe out

Rob Booker:
So crazy. I just recorded two radio shows about this exact same thing. Some guy wrote me this message:
Screenshot 2016-05-26 19.51.07
Boris Schlossberg:
Ha!
Rob Booker:
Same thought. Trading is fucking hard. You want to make it harder? Lol
Boris Schlossberg:
Amazing
Rob Booker:
People are always looking backwards
At what could have been or might have been or should have been. But every time I focus on ANYTHING besides the right now -- I get screwed
Boris Schlossberg:
I think the key thing here is that trading is like quantum physics where all the rules of the universe are reversed but people think it’s like investing which is much more akin to Newtonian physics
Rob Booker:
It’s not linear. So true.
Boris Schlossberg:
So good risk reward ratios, holding on for long term profits, and having low transaction costs are all completely opposite in trading
That why it’s so hard to teach this to people
It’s like saying that chain smoking, coke snorting and promiscuous sex all leads to a healthy lifestyle :)
Rob Booker:
Wait. It doesn’t?
Happiness is not linear either
Boris Schlossberg:
Haha
Absolutely!
The future is NEVER just like the past
It’s just different enough to really f- you if you don’t recognize that fact
The only lasting rule is stay alive
Rob Booker:
Haha so true
It’s Jumanji
This is a jungle
Boris Schlossberg:
Robbie I am stealing this whole conversation for my Memorial Day column ok?
Rob Booker:
Lol yes
I’ll steal it too
Boris Schlossberg:
This is just too good :)
Please
I never believe in anything but I actually really do believe in Carl Jung and synchronicity and today is just the most perfect example of that
Rob Booker:
Really is.

Stop Trading and Do This Now

Boris Schlossberg

Like war and making movies, trading is basically 99% boredom and 1% action.

That’s what makes it so dangerous.

We all know that we need to eat our vegetables. Drink eight water glasses per day and exercise regularly.

Blah. Blah Blah.

How many of us actually do even 50% of what we are supposed to? Life is not like Lake Wobegon where all the women are strong, all the men are handsome and all the children are above average. In real life we are all full of character flaws and the key to success isn’t to correct them through willpower but to intelligently manage them with minimum damage.

Which of course brings me to trading.

We are not perfect Platonic beings. We can’t sit perfectly still waiting for our setup to occur while prices flash in front of our eyes. We are day traders. We like to get involved.

But of course that is always the start of every sad story in FX. I got bored. I took a trade. And before I knew it…

Basically there are two ways for the market to rattle you. One, it can shake you out of good trades by moving prices against you, make you doubt your set up and then make you cover at breakeven and then turning to hit your profit target. This happens to me all the time and while it’s bad it is by no means catastrophic. The net result is that you spend a lot of time treading water instead of making profits, but eventually if you follow your setups you will swim even if it’s with all the grace of a frog.

The other way for the market to con you is far more insidious. It is essentially the financial market version of the three card monty. In that game the mark (who is always you) is attracted to the game by the smooth talking dealer who flashes the card deck and shows you how “easy” it is to find “the lady” ie the queen of hearts. In FX it generally looks like this: Prices are rallying! Its strong move! I am jumping in! Wait -- it’s correcting? I am not gonna lose. I am adding more this move will resume for sure!

Almost every day we are tempted to place open ended trades without any clearly defined risk or reward triggered solely on our hunch rather than any well tested method. Even if we don’t do those type of trades for a month or more because we are “disciplined” we will eventually break down and do one anyway. As I wrote awhile back, we always bite the cookie.

But that’s ok. There is a simple solution to protect you from yourself. Here is all you need to do.

Trade the 0.01 lot
It doesn’t matter if you have $10,000 or $100,000 or $1M in your account. If the trade is not part of your well tested, well thought out strategy. If the trade does not have an exact size, exact entry, exact stop and exact exit to it. If the trade like so many of our trades is “experimental” then trade the 0.01 lot.

Always.

You can do as many stupid trades as you like. You can hold them forever or you can flip then over 50 times each day, but trade the 0.01 lot.

Always.

That one simple trick will let you survive any number of idiotic ideas. No need to be “disciplined”. Diets and risk control never work anyway. We all want to trade for fun not just for profit. The key is to do it in a way that will never damage your real money.

So trade the 0.01 lot.

Always.

Just. One. Trade.

Boris Schlossberg

Is there anything more quintessentially American than the all you can eat buffet bar? The idea that you can just eat an endless supply of food until you finally give up out sheer exhaustion is bewildering to most people across the world.

Don’t get me wrong. I love an all you can eat buffet bar as much as the next guy. There is a chain in the south called Golden Corral that is a guilty pleasure for even the snottiest of New Yorkers. I dare you to have their fried chicken without going back for seconds.

The all you can eat buffet is perhaps the clearest cultural symbol of American ingenuity and technological prowess in conquering agriculture. It is, in its own goofy way, the personification of the American spirit that tells us that there are no limits in life. But is has a dark side. Take look around. We have become a country of lardasses. So overweight that taken in totally 300 million of us probably weigh more than 600 million Africans or Asians. We have indulged our appetites to such an extreme that they have turned to gluttony.

So what does all of this have to do with trading?

Quite a lot actually.

Much like it did with agriculture, technology has turned trading into an endless buffet of opportunities for anyone with a computer and a connection to the Internet. Costs are miniscule, instruments are endless and -- especially in the market that we play in -- the clock literally never stops. In FX we can trade 24 hours a day, 5 1/2 days per week without ever taking pause or a break.

It’s an amazing achievement of human civilization, but it is also a recipe for disaster.

As a day trader I interact with the market a lot. In fact you can easily say that I am the poster child for “all you can eat” trading since I stare at my screens 20 hours each day.

But this week I discovered something extraordinary. Back testing all of my various strategies that we trade in my chat room I realized that if I simply restricted my trades to just one trade per day for each strategy and traded only the highest probability currency pairs, my win ratio would literally skyrocket to 90%. I would be able to double and some cases triple the amount of pips made without doing anything new.

That’s right.

Just one trade per day per pair. If you day trade like I do -- I dare you to try it. It is amazing at how many fewer stops you’ll incur because you will be taking only the best possible trades during the given day.

I know it’s not easy to practice this “one shot, one kill” approach. Very often you feel like you are leaving money on the table (kind of like that succulent drumstick of fried chicken left on your plate), but I beg you to try it. If you are doing 15 trades per day cut them down to 5. If you are doing 30 trades cut them down to 10.

Just.
Do.
One.
Trade.

Overtrading like overeating is just gluttony. No matter how good it feels in the moment you will pay for it in the end. More importantly this is a very simple way of radically improving your profitability.

So eat one plate and leave the f-ing table -- both your stomach and your wallet will thank you in the end.

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How To Double Your Money with Reasonable Risk

Boris Schlossberg

First things first. If you haven’t been able to make 1% per month for at least 6 months running on no leverage then your prospect of doubling your money is slim to none. In order to really “gun it” in FX you need to have well designed day trading system that has stood the test of time under real market conditions.

But if you can upload your results to myfxbook and can show to yourself that you managed to eke out 1% a month for 6 months or more then you have a chance to take your trading to the next level. But not before you do, you need accept a very important fact. In your quest to double your money you must be fully prepared to lose 50% as part of the process. That’s simply the basic math of trading. The best traders in the world have a runup to drawdown ratio of 2 to 1 so that if you realistically look to make 100% on you money then you have to prepare to lose 50% in the pursuit of that target. In short doubling your money is a strategy to employ only with high risk capital, but since many of us in FX are comfortable with such risks here is a couple of ways to make it happen.

Theoretically it may be possible to achieve these results via swing trading, but since I focus squarely on day trading let’s just use that approach in our discussion. Day trading first, foremost and always means small profits and short stops. It’s all about controlling risk, which is why if you haven’t been able to prove to yourself that you can consistently cut your losses you will never be able to double your money. If you managed to produce 1% per month on a non levered basis (meaning that every trade you make is no greater than the value of your account i.e. a 10,000 unit trade in a 10,000 USD account) then the path towards 100% is relatively straightforward. You simply increase your lever factor to 10:1 and if you can replicate your prior success then you will achieve 10%/month or more 100% per year.

Of course that’s easier said than done. First and foremost such high leverage approach should be done in what I call one shot/one kill manner. Ideally you should trade only one currency pair, no more than two times per day with a single entry/single exit approach. Let’s say you make 20 trades per month and each trade has a -20 pip stop and a +10 pip target and 80% win factor. Basically every time you trade in this manner you risk 2% loss to win 1% and if you are successful 8 out of 10 times at the end of the month you made 8% which will get you very close to doubling your money by the end of the year. If you were even more aggressive you could increase the lever factor to 15:1 risking 3% on each trade with 1.5% payoff on each win for a target of making 12% a month. But that would be the absolute maximum level of prudent leverage. At 3% risk per trade you would be down by 15% after 5 consecutive losers -- something that can easily occur several times a year even in the highest probability strategies.

If you simply can’t trade in the one shot/one kill manner, if you have to approach each trade in a more probabilistic fashion doing multiple entries in order to achieve a better price for an exit (what I facetiously call the “spray and pray” method) then you have to use a very different leverage scheme. Suppose you use a system that averages into a trade a maximum of three times. Under such conditions you really can’t level more than 1:1 on each trade. That’s because your total lever factor on each full position is actually 3:1 and your total risk reward becomes much more negatively skewed. In the same -20 Stop +10 Target structure with a 3 point entry at 5 pip interval your loss is always a max loss of -45 pips while the gains vary between +10 and +15 pips creating a risk reward skew that is 3:1 rather than the 2:1 of the single entry/exit method. Still some traders swear by the “spray and pray” approach, but if they want to use it to double their money they have to be extra vigilant about leverage and stops.

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In the end like all things trading the goal of doubling your money is simple but not easy. First and foremost you need to develop a strategy on low leverage that actually proves its mettle under real market conditions. Then you can ramp up the lever factor in a judicious fashion and make a play for the 100% return but you must always take your stops and be willing to lose 50% of your account in the process.

The Best Diet is Also the Best Trading Plan

Boris Schlossberg

The Only Place to See Me Live this Year -- and its TOTALLY FREE!

It never ceases to amaze me how dieting and investing are the two great social problems of the modern age. Basically it all boils down to this. In the advanced industrialized world we are all fat and none of us save enough money for our golden years.

Just 50 years ago this was not really a problem. Most of us did not work in sedentary jobs with our butts glued to chair for 12-14 hours per day and we did not consume highly refined sugary foods that deposited 2000 unnecessary calories in our stomachs every day. Cinnabon did not exist.

As to retirement, well smoking and cancer pretty much took care of it. Most of us died within a year or two of retirement so depleting savings wasn’t really an issue.

Now we live forever, speeding around in ridiculous motorized wheelchairs too fat and too weak to walk even a few steps as we worry just how long our money will last. What all of us in OECD world desperately want is to be less fat and more rich, so that we can enjoy our longer lifespan in good health and ample wealth.

Of course the reason that both dieting and investing have failure rates of more than 90% is because they both require Herculean efforts of willpower. They go against all of our human impulses hardwired into our psyches by thousands of years of evolution.

Even when we succeed in either endeavor over the short term we inevitably fail over the long term as our greed for both food and profits derail us from achieving our goals in a sustainable basis.

So are we destined to fail forever at dieting and trading? Not necessarily so. One of the most interesting pieces of recent nutrition research holds insights into how we can succeed on both fronts without radical changes in our behaviour.

What if I told you that you could lose weight without changing anything in your diet? You could eat the greasy tacos, drink the syrupy sweet Southern Iced tea and still have a chance to drop 5% of your body weight.

It’s called an 8 hour diet and it focuses not on what you eat, but on when you eat it. Basically scientists have discovered that reducing the time window for consuming food to just 8 hours a day ( ideally from 9AM in the morning to 5PM at night ) will have greater positive impact on your dieting than all the broccoli you can eat.

The research carried out at the Salk Institute in California showed that mice fed a high-fat diet within an eight hour time frame – for example between 9am and 5pm – were both healthier and slimmer than those given the same number of calories throughout the whole day. Even when obese mice had their eating window reduced to nine hours, they were able to drop 5 per cent of their body weight within a few days – while still enjoying the same amount of calories.

What I find fascinating about the 8 hour diet is how the same advice can be applied to the markets with similarly impressive results.

If nothing else my chat room is an ongoing experiment into the art of day trading and one of our greatest discoveries was that the time you trade is much more important than the strategy you use. In my chat room I have many traders using very different approaches to seek profit. Some use indicator driven strategies. Others use modified versions my fading algorithms that employ several entry and exit points on each trade cycle. And finally other like me have reduced their day trading methods the sparest simplest, single entry/single exit approach. Yet what all of us have in common is that none of us trade round the clock. We all trade very specific hours and then sit still for the rest of the day. That one minor change has had a bigger impact on both the accuracy and the profitability of our ideas than any strategy that we ever designed.

In our world of infinite possibilities, endless resources and round the clock satisfaction of our desires, the ultimate irony is that success depends on knowing when to say no. Less time eating and less time trading can help us become healthier and wealthier without much sacrifice.

Spray and Pray

Boris Schlossberg

When it comes to trading tactics there are only two moves you can make. You can stick to the single entry/single exit strategy or you can do multiple entries into a position until you get a better blended price that helps you turn a profit. I like to call that method “spray and pray”.

Price action by its very essence is probabilistic. It never follows a clear and steady path. That’s why the multiple entry method is so compelling because in theory that is exactly how you should respond to probabilistic opportunities. You can never know the absolute bottom or absolute top of a move so it’s better to spread your bets, to cast your net wide so as to increase the chance of catching the right price for the turn.

As seductive and as rational as that sounds, the multiple entry tactic is a gateway to trading hell not because of the math involved but because of the ever present psychology of the trader. Whether you like it or not, the more you allocate to a position the more attached to it you become. It doesn’t matter whether you are a seasoned hedge fund manager or a rookie trader we are all subject to the sunk cost bias. Sunk cost bias is simply the impulse to avert recognizing losses. It is perhaps the strongest human behavior pattern in behavioral economics and is primary reason why all classical economic models fail so miserably in predicting outcomes.

This week brings the news of Crispin Odey, one of the more colorful and well known UK hedge fund managers who, in the past four months, lost a decade’s worth of profits betting against the Australian dollar. A prime example of sunk cost bias as Mr. Odey becomes the newest poster boy for the “spray and pray” disaster.

Multiple entry tactic is a perfectly valid way to trade. If you are a fully programmatic trader, it may even be superior to the single entry/single exit approach because of the probabilistic nature of the markets. But if you are trading on a discretionary basis you simply cannot use that method no matter how many times you tell yourself that you have it under control. There will come a point when you will pull a stop and the multiple entry strategy will turn into yet another massive average down pile of losses that will end in a margin call. That will always happen. Believe me. That’s why the single biggest reason to never use “spray and pray” is to make sure that you are never in the position of turning the gun on yourself.

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What’s Better – Technicals or Fundamentals?

Boris Schlossberg

If you are a diehard fundamentalist like I once was, than this recent piece by Morgan Housel from Motley Fool really makes you think twice. In a column published this week Mr. Housel noted a few inconvenient facts about investing.

“1. Coca-Cola is fighting 12 consecutive years of soda consumption decline. Its stock is at an all-time high.
2. Tesla is changing the world, and orders for its new car are off the charts. Its stock is lower than it was 18 months ago.
3. Cigarette consumption has dropped 44% since 1981. Altria stock is up 71,000% since 1981.
4. WalMart net income has tripled since 2000. Its stock has lost 1.5% since 2000.
5. Apple has earned almost a quarter trillion dollars of profit since 2012. Its stock has barely budged.
6. Amazon’s profits round to zero since 2012. Its stock has tripled.
7. 2009 was one of the worst years for the economy in a century. The market rose 27%.
8. 2015 was a good year for the economy. The market rose 1%.
9. Brazil’s economy is a disaster. Its stock market is flat over the last two years.”

To which I can add my own little tidbit.

The US economy is leading G-3 in growth, rates and monetary bias and yet the US dollar is down more than 1200 pips against the yen and 800 pips against the euro this year.

So much for the forecasting power of fundamentals.

But technicals are of course no better. How many failed Head and Shoulders, how many failed moving average breakouts, how many busted Fibonacci retrace patterns have you seen in your life? And if Elliot Wave was so great, name me one, just one money manager that runs a $1 billion dollar book using that technical philosophy alone. I will wait another hundred years and you still won’t be able to provide me with an example.

Technicals are just a shade better than astrology in their ability to predict anything with accuracy.

The reason both disciplines fail so miserably is that context is everything. Investing is not logical -- it’s psychological and once you understand that you can make much more intelligent decisions.

While in and of themselves fundamentals and technicals are often worse than worthless, taken together they can become trading magic because they can provide that most elusive and valuable property of the markets -- context.

The classic good trade is often described as one where technicals and fundamentals confirm each other -- and that is indeed a good set up. But such combinations are rare, precisely because markets are forward discounting mechanisms and reasons for the rally or the selloff are rarely evident at the time of occurrence

Instead my favorite setup is when the fundamentals go one way and technicals do not confirm the move. This week’s action in USD/JPY is a prime example. The data from US Retails Sales was horrid and the change of posture to dovishness from Lockhart one of Fed’s most hawkish stalwarts should have been good for 100 point sell off in the pair. But the pair did not budge, instead it rallied in face of all this negative news. When price action runs counter to the prevailing narrative -- pay attention. That is often a great signal for a move against the consensus view. That is when you often get the best possible glimpse of “context” in action.

So next time someone tells you that they only trade on techincals or that they have never looked at chart in their life -- run the other way from those people -- because those type of traders have basically completely misunderstood the game that they are trying to play.

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You Don’t Sell Insurance in a Hurricane

Boris Schlossberg

Since the start of February USD/JPY is down more than 1400 pips. For those of you in the lottery business -- congratulations. Your once in longtime payout has hit paydirt. You can take your bow and walk off the stage with pockets full of profits. But if you are in the insurance business then this is definitely not the time to play.

Trading at its core is a very simple business. You only have two choices. Trend and Anti-trend. Every time you bet you are effectively predicting one of two possible paths -- the next move will be the continuation of the present one or it will be a reversal of it.

Since trends are much rarer than ranges all of trading essentially devolves into two models -- the lottery model where you make many small bets and lose most of them with the hope of hitting a ten bagger trade on just one of your tries and the insurance model where you win almost all your small bets and try take as few big losses as possible.

Most gurus teach the lottery model, but in real life especially in day trading the lottery model fails miserably. Since most of the currency dealers operate on the insurance model lottery traders become an easy opportunity to make money as market makers run stops day in and day out slowly collecting all of the lottery capital.

So in my chat room we trade the insurance model. We bet on anti-trend. We trade with negative risk to reward ratios and we try to win more than 75% of the time. So far so good. After more than a year of trading we are up in double digits while drawing down less than 3%. John Hancock would be proud. This year many of the new traders in my room are trading much better than me having fully absorbed my “insurance” principles and some are up 30% already.

But there is a time when the insurance model of day trading fails miserably. When volatility spikes and trends take over, trading against the move is a sucker bet. Volatility is exactly like a hurricane. It’s basically when price just like wind starts to move at 3, 5, 10 times its normal rate. The cardinal rule in the insurance business is that you don’t sell policies as the wind starts to blow and you certainly don’t stand in the middle of a full blown hurricane offering to cover the damage. Which is why when Yen went crazy, the first thing we did in our chat room was step away which was probably the best decision we made all week.

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Ignore Money – Get Rich

Boris Schlossberg

In his wonderful blog a www.wealthofcommonsense.com Ben Carson tackles the day to day frustrations of life in the markets. One of my favorite Carson posts is called “How to be Wrong as an Investor” where he literally lists a litany of problems that can befall an individual investment idea:

You can pick the right stock but in the wrong industry.
You can pick the right asset class but in the wrong geography.
You can pick the right country but in the wrong currency.
You can nail the direction of a trade but not the timing.
You can time things perfectly but invest in the wrong stocks.
You can invest in the right market but in the wrong style of stocks.
You can nail the macro but miss the micro implications.
You can optimize your asset allocation based on past experiences but be blindsided by new risks in the future.

The list goes on and on and it’s worth reading in its entirety because it rings so true. Anyone who has ever tried to make money from capital markets has been victim of several if not all of those failures and has certainly paid the price at the school of hard knocks. Yet for those of us who day trade the true problem lies with money rather than being wrong.

Allow me to explain.

A few years back I overheard an old time Chicago options market maker describe in complete detail exactly how he would win money from a golf player who was much more skilled than he. “First” , the market maker said, “you never play for penny ante odds. You put serious money on each hole and then you keep raising the pot by doing double or nothing with the guy. Eventually even the best players will crack because they are not longer playing the game but thinking about the money.”

This guy was a master manipulator who understood human psychology better than an Harvard professor I’ve met. And in the day to day battle of pit trading he excelled precisely because he knew how to make other traders “think about the money rather than the game.”

Although the floor days are long gone, the principles of trading remain the same. Think back to your worst trading mistakes and they inevitably turn out to be a pathetic melodrama of chasing the market at the worst possible moment because you wanted to “get the money back”.

The best traders have an almost ethereal ability to separate their decision making process from the P&L statement. For the rest of us -- that’s not so easy, which is why I recently started to do something interesting with my account that has helped a lot. I literally cover up the money. Or more accurately I remove the P&L module from my software so that I have no idea what my account is worth at any given moment. Yes, it’s a cheap psychological trick but it helps because it forces me to focus on the only thing that matters on a day to day basis -- making pips.

A pip (percentage in point) is the fundamental unit of measure in the currency market and as long as I focus on my pip count I retain a certain level of control. Of course there are still terrible days when I may lose a hundred pips on a series of ill advised trades, but it is far easier to regain your composure by focusing on making a few pips back a time rather than obsessing over the loss in your account.

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The great irony of the financial markets is that money -- the very thing we all seek -- is truly the root of all evil when it comes to trading. To win you need to trade for process not profit and that literally means that money doesn’t matter.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Day Trade

Boris Schlossberg

If you are a red blooded American male of a certain age eventually your metabolism will simply stop working. It doesn’t matter that you bench press 350 pounds every week. It doesn’t matter that you take 20,000 steps each day. It doesn’t matter that you eat only boiled eggs for breakfast. You will start getting fat. The belly will expand, the suit pants will be a little tighter and you will look nostalgically at those high school photos of yourself when you could swallow a whole pizza for a snack and still maintain body fat of less than 5%.

Such is life. If you want to stay anywhere near your fighting weight you will have to become much more disciplined about your diet. You will eat only two meals a day. You will avoid desserts like the plague and carbs will now become your enemy number one, even though without them you turn into a raging maniac at work and home.

But no matter how well you diet. No matter how healthy you eat. No matter how committed you are to your daily regimen you will come across the magic smell of a chocolate chip cookie sooner or later and unless you have the willpower of Gandhi you will take a bite of it and wolf it down like the red blooded American male that you are.

If you day trade 20 hours a day like I do than this is what to do.

You keep your size small. You always honor your stop. You keep an ear out for news and have one eye on price action at all times. And most importantly you trade your setup. Over and over again.

But sometimes the markets are slow. There are no setups to trade. You get restless. Antsy. You become bored and you need to connect with the market to keep your focus sharp. So you start playing the “what if” game. What if I went long here? What if I went short the cross to offset it? Looks good -- let me just give it a try…

There is no day trader in the world that hasn’t done the “bored trade” at least once every few days or weeks. The “bored trade” is the chocolate chip cookie of day trading. You know it’s bad for you. You know you will just pay for it with empty calories or lost dollars but in the end you don’t care. You need to do it. You need that small hit of guilty pleasure.

And you know what?

That’s ok.

In trading as in life you should never let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We are not robots and don’t have to be in order to succeed. As long you eat just one or two cookies, or make just one or two dumb trades a week you’ll still maintain your fighting shape and will be ready to tackle both life and markets no worse for the wear.

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