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If you want to treat yourself to ten minutes of pure unadulterated joy, just pull up the Wayne Gretzky highlight wheel on Youtube. You really don’t have to know anything about hockey to appreciate the athletic majesty of the Great One.
You can’t help but be amazed as you watch the grainy footage from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s at Gretzky’s ability to control the puck, outskate his competition and score seemingly at will.
Wayne Gretzky, of course, is famous for saying, “ I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Which is probably one of the greatest sports quotes of all time but is also unbelievably relevant to the world of trading.
I’ve been thinking about Gretzky a lot lately as I work on my scalp set up. Scalping is probably the hardest part of trading to master because it requires laser quick entry and exit techniques and a very high level of accuracy in order to overcome the massive commission costs that you rack up every day. But if you can master scalping you have true control because then you are able to make money in any type of market regime.
As I delve deeper and deeper into short-term trading I realize that the key to succeeding in scalping is the same as in hockey. You need to go where the puck will be. You need to anticipate price and position yourself accordingly. That’s of course much harder than it looks. Longer term traders can afford to be wrong for long stretches of time as their wide stops allow for massive market slippage before price finally turns their way. Scalpers don’t have that luxury. They are either right or stopped out, So they have to decide quickly if the trade is worth the risk.
If you anticipate something, you will inevitably be wrong. Professional tennis players are a perfect example of this dynamic in play. Watch any Grand Slam tournament and you will see the best players in the world get wrong footed countless times during the match. They run one way, while the ball goes the other.
But here is the thing.
You never see pro tennis players stop anticipating. Being wrong-footed, once, twice, ten times never stop any of these athletes from anticipating the next ball. That’s because there is no other way to achieve success. If you want to win you need to go where the puck, the ball, the pip will be. Not where it is now.Sometimes you will look like an idiot, but you just get right back up and try again. Because the key to sports and to trading is to get better at your reflexes -- not to stop playing when you lose.
The Great One had one last quote that helps sustain me as I refine my setup. Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shot you do not take.” So even if you are doing badly, even if you miss your targets, keep shooting. The process of trading itself will make you better, will make you sharper and will hone your skills.
The more you play, the better you see the rink -- the field of play. Just like the more you trade the more you see the market. My scalping hasn’t turned consistently positive yet, but my long term trading has improved tremendously as my “field of vision”, my feel for the market is much, much better.
For this, as well as for sheer joy of watching some of the greatest feats of athleticism in history, I have the Great One to thank.