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Forex Trading Strategies: Head Versus Heart
Head Versus Heart
The other day, as I was watching the World Cup coverage on ESPN, their analyst made the following comment about the upcoming Germany versus Spain game. “At this point,” he noted, “strategy doesn’t matter. It all come does down to emotion. Who has the bigger heart? Who has the stronger desire to win?”
Interesting, I thought to myself. In trading the exact opposite is true. Emotion is the last thing you want to rely on when you put on a trade. Success in trading depends on dispassionate execution of your strategy. Anger, fear, frustration, joy, exuberance and swagger will all cause you to lose money in the end. How do I know? I am the prime example of that dynamic. No one has squandered more profits than I as a result of these emotional reactions to the market.
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Yet it would be utterly simplistic to argue that trading is all about the intellect. In fact emotion is critical to creativity. You cannot innovate unless you feel passionate about the subject and some of my best setups were the result of obsessive, emotion fueled binges of work. The key however is to leave emotion behind when time comes to execute the strategy. It is almost as if to be successful trader you need to assume two personalities – the wildly enthusiastic, intuitive creator and the colorless, consistent, dispassionate executioner.
That’s no easy task and is one of the reasons why trading is such a challenging discipline. In all the time I have traded I have never been able to solve this problem to my complete satisfaction, but I have come up with a practical workaround. I divide my trading capital into two accounts. I have a small account where I allow myself to be as emotional and experimental as I want to be and a large account in which I trade only the well worn strategies that I have tested.
Many traders have asked me why I never experiment on a demo and my answer always is that it is a total waste of time. Demo trading is good only for familiarizing yourself with the execution software. In order to truly understand how the market works and more importantly how you work in relation to the market, you need real money on the line. And although my little trading account has cost me a fair penny in losses over time, the wisdom that it has yielded in self knowledge and strategy improvement has been far greater than all the pips I squandered.
In a battle between the head and the heart, there is no ultimate winner. In trading as in life you need to find the place for both to thrive. Otherwise the markets will get you one way or the other.