First, on Christmas morning, I had what I considered a disastrous conversation with my son (18) where he opined: Face it Mom, you were lucky in your career. Since we're friends here and all of that, I can confess to you that I was damned angry. Oh, I had the "effort=outcome" discussion, and he knows quite well the level of "effort" on my part. (I've more to say on this later).
Second, I picked up Beating the Stock Market by McNeel and The Zurich Axioms by Max Gunther. Both had a reminder in them that the market, despite our best efforts, is still a game of chance. And both admonished that price patterns can delude us into thinking that (1) there is order in chaos; (2) history repeats itself; (3) there is a holy grail to any of 'this'.
Best to channel the great ones from time to time. Heraclitus stated (paraphrased): You don't step into the same river twice. That statement was a pleasant absolution of my visceral rejection of attempts by many to take the current market's zigs and wiggles and compare it to x, y, z point in time. The argument among which historical period this is most like chart-wise fails to consider that we've stepped into a different river now.
While we are bombarded with market platitudes that the market discounts the future, there is a failure to state this simple truth: No one (not even the market) knows the future. What we do know is this: The market is an imperfect discounter of what it perceives to be future value. As Father Time marches resolutely forward, the future is revealed. The future has a terrible habit (on which we can rely!) of abrading against the expectations of the many and rewarding the expectations the few. The market's zigs and wiggles, then, are merely the market's recalibration of its expectations of the unknowable as it becomes known COUPLED WITH available liquidity. The size of that gap determines whether we have a zig (big) v. a wiggle (small).
Third is a conversation with an Internet friend/trader on 'stock stuff'. There are two things that are important to say about this exchange.
- While I've spent quite a bit of time reading and writing about my experience with the market, I've spent NO time talking about the vagaries of trading. This person has afforded me the opportunity to have such a conversation, largely because there is not one soul that I know in my off-line life that gives a whit about trading.
- This might seem like an odd thing to say, but giving voice to one's thoughts in conversation is a different process than writing. More satisfying because you have the opportunity to be challenged/questioned, and you have the opportunity to do the same. Continuing to cultivate such discussions (real-time) is one of my goals this year.
While I would love to believe that "effort=outcome" in all things, that pleasantry is simply not true. Unfortunately, I came to that conclusion as I wrestled with what I believed to be my son's dismissive comment that jarred me to my foundation. While attempting to think about it to acquire my ammunition to lob his way and blast this conclusion, I realized that I merely shot myself in the foot. (I've not shared this with him just yet!). But such thought wrangling is helpful, and it led me to the following conclusions:
- Right effort within the wrong opportunity doesn't yield a commensurate outcome for the effort; and
- Absent right effort, one cannot take advantage of the right opportunity.
"What's the point?" you may be asking while tapping your toe impatiently. The point is simply this
- As investors/speculators we have to make the right effort (developing our skills to find the right opportunities); AND
- We need to ensure that we are in the right opportunity.
To evaluate the right opportunity, you need to have some anchor points. These anchor points are simply your 'lines in the sand'. Whether you are a technical trader or a fundamental trader or the bastard child of both (as am I), you are making an entry based on a "price relative to ____" (your chosen criteria). Further you are making an exit based on "price relative to ____" being accomplished over some period of time that you are willing to be in THIS opportunity v. the other opportunities available to you. (And it implicitly includes both a dollar and time stop loss!).
Your job, then, is to find your inner physicist and develop your own theory of relativity for each opportunity in your life. If you were to do that, you'd make optimum decisions, and you'll realize the dreams of all economists who have this wrong-headed view that we are purely rational beings.
Whenever you feel that any of this seems impossible just remember this....you don't have to be the best, you merely have to be a bit better than the rest.