Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Weekend Trader - A New Experiment

Go the distance.

As I sit here on a beautiful day in the Northeast's version of paradise exactly one year after the launch of this diary and week after that nasty bump on the head, the vision that's been gnawing at me over recent weeks seems to be coming into view.

And if I had to sum it up in one inner dialogue, it would be, "The diary experiment was a good start Don, but you can do more. A lot more."

If you build it, he will come.

After pondering much feedback over the last few weeks, and upon finishing reading "Me, Myself, and Bob" this morning, I'm moved to finally push aside some underlying fears and hesitation and simply begin to take some action by sowing an experimental seed this weekend.

For just as I firmly believe there was a bigger meaning in last year's personal Bamboo, I also believe there's something significant "below the surface" of my recent lack of passion and consolidation period that's trying its darndest to bust out ... if I'd just simply step to my right.

Ease his pain.

And so I'm stepping.

Here's the vision:

Hand-select a small team of existing traders (no more than 20) deeply committed to personal and team growth, and provide & facilitate an ongoing support environment that provides participants with a foundation for optimal trading and personal growth over an initial three-month test period.

And while we wouldn't call it "Turtles II" for a host of reasons (I wouldn't be providing capital, and there would be some infrastructure cost and other differences), I'm thinking of either "Bamboo I" or "Jellyfish I" ... with Jellyfish borrowed from Phil Vischer's concept of simply floating with life's -- and presumably the market's -- current tide.

I've frankly struggled with this concept for a while now, as I know all-too-well from deep personal involvement the pitfalls of group efforts in a business where motives can be hidden, self-sufficiency isn't promoted, and where individual focus and skill development is paramount. I'm also well aware that some might incorrectly view such an attempt as my "turning to the dark side" ala Anakin Skywalker by lessening my focus on my personal trading (quite the contrary ... if anything, the idea would be to ramp up the intensity), or heaven forbid, using what have become very public results for personal gain. I can already see it coming from some dark corners, "I told you he was too good to be true ... he did have a hidden motive and reason for the blog ... and even hosting that darn cookout. He's one of them!" And dogs indeed bay at the moon.

Yet let me say it once for the record: If the consensus among those who I respect is not to proceed with the concept, then the idea will be allowed to quickly die on the drawing board ... as in a trade contemplated but never made. And if so, I'll simply move forward with the next leg of my own personal journey.

Ultimately of course, people have the free will to draw their own conclusions. At my end, I know who I am and have reconciled those and other concerns with the continuing gnawing passion I have for this business, and the firm belief that I'm supposed to again get off my a$$ and fight for more than just my personal bottom line.

If the concept floats (pun intended if we went "Jellyfish" route) and after I complete a thorough legal review of such an endeavor, then my commitment would be to launch such an effort as early as August and involve the team in fine-tuning the format. The yet-undetermined participant cost would be to cover communication infrastructure and yes, some of my time that would shift completely away from my other bill-paying endeavor. Please keep in mind that I don't have to do this. I'm also going to speak with Pat Lafferty at MF Global to see if commission cost and other economies of scale are possible.

And if (yes, that's bold red) we were to move forward, participation would be purposely screened and capped -- with a possible waiting list -- to maximize the benefit of those involved and maintain a focused and professional atmosphere. For I'm not interested in dealing with immature team members, legal headaches, or making a living off of this. I'm a trader, and always will be. There would also of course be no marketing, hype, etc., and I'd do my best to keep the darn thing as low profile as possible outside of the confines of those participating.

After three months, we'd then collectively evaluate the team's results (including mine) and feedback to determine if it was worth continuing, repeating, killing, tweaking, etc. So I suppose we could consider it a probing trade entry with an unknown return.

####

A year ago, we began one helluva unique experiment without knowing its outcome. Boy did we not know its outcome. And while I of course can't and won't guarantee success for those choosing to participate in the proposed beta team should we move ahead, and I haven't yet worked out all the details in my mind, I can commit to 120% dedication at this end, as I simply don't believe in doing things half-a$$.

If you're seriously interested in the concept and would like to be considered, email me with a brief background and contact phone number, and we'll go from there. As always, I ask that any general questions or comments be sent via blog comments for all to benefit from the conversation. First consideration out of courtesy will be given to those making the trek here last week.

Yogi Berra of course once said, "When you come to a fork in the road ... take it."

And while I admit hesitating quite a bit before clicking "Publish Post" on today's entry ... much like that first post one year ago which reflected one giant leap of faith ... my wife reinforced it's the right thing to do and told me to just hit the darn button.

There. Several of you have been screaming at me to consider doing something like this, and I've hesitated for some very good ... and perhaps not-so-good reasons.

The path I now choose to take is once again out of my hands, and I'll be comfortable on either one as I personally embark on my next leg.

Phil Vischer would probably say that's the way it's supposed to be.

Go the distance.

Happy Birthday Blog and Happy Birthday U.S.A.

32 comments:

Kareem said...

Hi Don,
I believe this would be the hardest thing you ever did. Yes, I think it even would be harder than trading.
Best of luck,
Kareem

Robert said...

Interesting idea; Is it your plan to advocate certain set-ups and give a set of rules that work, similar to The Turtles?

Shawn said...

Hi Don,
I think this would be a great experiment, and congrat on the blog.
Thanks,
Shawn

Dominic said...

Don: Always take the path less traveled; this might be one of them....

I'm 100% in and now wish I could have made the BBQ; its going to be painful on some waiting list....

Look forward to hearing more about the concept; will be on the next flight out if required!

Dominic

Aaron said...

Don,

This is a great plan. A few quick questions:

Would this be in a physical location or take place over the internet?

Also, what kind of bankroll would you expect students to bring?

Aaron

Ken said...

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African proverb) I felt compelled to check in one more time to the blog today and here it is...

Based on Don's philosophy about a # of topics and his professional approach to trading, this will surely be a valuable endeavor. To make it successful, it will require a leader who understands the concept of trading environments and has the experience and vision to delegate and create a simple rule benefiting-membership group.

Morphing into the Jellyfish vernacular seems appropriate as the next stage for Don..since I've just learned that..."Many jellyfish have a second part of their life cycle, which is called the polyp phase. When single polyps, arising from a single egg, develop into a multiple-polyp cluster, connected to each other by strands of tissue called stolons, they are said to be "colonial."

The Cape Cod Colonial Jellyfish Trading Society should be a stinging success.

Let Freedom Ring!

Don Miller said...

Thanks all for the initial feedback ... I guess I can breathe now.

Some quick responses, keeping in mind it's still conceptual.

Robert - Yes, I'd use my particular style of trading, including favorite setups, as Exhibit A throughout the effort.

Aaron - The bankroll would be participant specific, and shouldn't impact participation one way or another. Having said that, I WOULD want to ensure that those involved have already made a prior independent decision to pursue trading, and my role would be to simply provide as solid an environment as possible.

In terms of location, it would be a "virtual" team connected across the globe via the Internet using video & audio conferencing during and after market hours.

And Ken - You just left me speechless ... which is almost impossible to do. I think you just captured the Comment of the Year award. Stinging indeed.

Don

Frank said...

Don,

Sounds very interesting.

Can you be more specific on the concept. I understand your general vision that you have laid out, but would like more specific info to understand if this would fit into where I am with my trading.

As a trader that has seemed to finally find his way so to speak(with your mentorship and inspiration) after 5 soul searching years I wonder if this would be right for me.

Maybe you can help answer this question. Would this right for me or should I leave the slot open for someone else?

Thanks,
Frank

Don Miller said...

Frank -

It might not be for you ... I simply don't know. and the last thing I'd want to do in anyone's evolution is to have them take a step backward.

It's a good question and a tough answer. I'd welcome a chat sometime to help you think it through.

Don

peterl said...

Don,
I wish you and family happy 4th of July, and the same to all friends reading this increable blog.Again many thanks to give us chance last weekend to meet you and your famly.No words will express our gratitude for the wonderful evening .It was rare opportunity to meet all those kind people and their families.
Your resent plateau reminds me of Anthony Robbins, he describe same all sportsman and champions are going though, and masters are expecting it, work it out and they know that after that is another steep leg up and “quitters” will quit. I already can see your great future, and the same I wish to all our friends in this great trader’s community.

All the best,
Peter, Grace and Michael.


[From Michael: thank you for the nice evening and for allowing me to play with your game and to watch your movie, and I finished watching all of them last week
Michael ]

peterl said...

great idea,I was hoping that one day you will come to this,to mentor new traders like me,
Thanks
Peter

MilesT said...

Hi Don,

I have a question for the group and one for you.

All this talk about the Turtles got me to thinking.
As I know the story, Richard Dennis decides to prove that
his "trading system" can be taught (in a few weeks) to any
one with the discipline to follow the rules. His experiment
turns out to be a big $$$ success.

Did Richard Dennis have "The Holy Grail"?


Don, I know you have repeated many times in your blog that
you do not not posess "THG". You are just a craftsman who
has fine tuned his skills over time.

I for one would love to watch and appreciate the work of
a fine craftsman. Don, maybe you would entertain the thought
of sharing recordings (not live for obvious reasons) of your
typical day doing what you love. It would help folks like me
who do best by internalizing the the fine work of others. We
could repay by making charitable contributions to organizations
that you support which would help us anyway since you must learn
to give before you can receive. It would also help those who are
contemplating joining you on your new journey.

I would love to be on that expedition team but I am afraid I
would not be able to contribute my fair share as I still work
a day job here in the US while I cut my teeth in the evenings
trading the Australian SPI...ya I know, good luck with that, right!

Thanks in advance for your blog and letting me post.

Miles

ramps said...

Ken, great analogy. It reminded me of Mohammed Ali's boxing mantra, "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee".

Don, as for the CCCJTS and me, on the one hand it's an exciting idea as far as I understand it, but I hestitate, which is perhaps reason enough not to be considered. 2 main reasons, interconnected really.

I'm VERY new to this. 4 months and around 400hrs screen time, mainly paper trading. I'm not frightened of risk but I "know" I just don't "know" so right now it would just be too close to gambling, which I've never been keen on. I also feel I'm still working very hard at basic levels of analysis and personal discipline. So, though I would be bound to benefit from the experience of other traders (already I do through this and a few other sites)I can't see what I could contribute.

Related to this, though it's early days, I am committed in myself to learning to trade. I absolutely love the challenge, as bizarre as it sometimes seems regarding an activity that involves looking at bars on a screen! Commitment to a group however is something else.

Anyway, that's my tuppence worth. However you take the idea forward, it would be great if there was a way of folk like me sharing in some of the groups experiences. There must be plenty other baby jellyfish floating around on their own out there....!

I look forward to the further unfolding of this intriguing experiment.

Moritz C. said...

Hey Don,
interesting idea. What would you hope for the other members of the group to bring to the table? are you looking for experience or the blank sheet so to speak? it will be interesting aligning everyone's inevitably idiosyncratic trading styles in a mutually beneficial way. A challenge I would love to be part of.
Best,
Moritz

Trader Kevin said...

Miles T: "As I know the story, Richard Dennis decides to prove that his "trading system" can be taught (in a few weeks) to any one with the discipline to follow the rules. His experiment turns out to be a big $$$ success. Did Richard Dennis have 'The Holy Grail'?"

Miles, understand that Dennis' trading style is pretty much the opposite of Don's. Dennis is a long-term trend trade who gets chewed up by false breakouts in range-bound markets. He has made huge amounts of money in his career--and had huge drawdowns.

The mental strain of Dennis' style is very, very, very challenging. Most people cannot stomach the drawdowns he has endured in his career. And few, if any, current/potential backers will accept those kind of drawdowns.

I'm currently building a "new" track record with the thought of showing it to potential backers to increase my capital base. I'm building the new track record because my experience as a pit trader is irrelevant. Trust me when I say backers won't stand for the 6-12 month, 50%+ drawdowns that Dennis and his turtles have endured.

Don's style of grinding out a living is much easier to handle mentally. I'm reminded of something a seasoned local (independent market maker) once told me after I stepped in the trading pit: If you can put money in your account every day, whether it's a little or a lot, you'll be successful in this business.

I'd rather have smaller, steadier returns than make more money with huge swings.

"We could repay by making charitable contributions to organizations that you support which would help us anyway since you must learn to give before you can receive."

An obligation to make charitable contributions does not teach one to give. Giving must be of one's own volition or it's just another tax deduction.

Don Miller said...

Miles - THG of course doesn't exist, which is perhaps one reason I've considered the "Jellyfish" name, which links life, market, and even spiritual concepts. In terms of your other ?s, everything is on the drawing board at this point.

ramps - Hesitation can be a good thing, especially as this endeavor has to be right from both my and the participant ends. My usual rule of thumb is if there's a gnawing feeling to proceed, it will become apparent over time.

Moritz - Blank sheets are fine and may be better than smudged papers in some cases.

Kevin - Just a general note of thanks for your contributing posts over the last few months. Your experience and knowledge in this biz clearly show, and I appreciate the effort to share your insights with other onlookers.

Don

Sam said...

Hi Don,

Are there minimum capital requirements to be eligible?

What kind of time commitment does this involve? I assume this is meant for full-time traders only i.e. not for people like me who have regular jobs and do trading on the side (with the same passion, of course!)

I hope the unlucky ones who cannot make it will still gain something useful from this blog by following the progress of the "chosen" few and getting a better understanding of the setups/techniques involved.

Hope you can clarify the above questions.

Niraj Prasad said...

Don,

I think this is a wonderful idea! I can see the synergies such a team can generate under a good leader like yourself. That said, it is not going to be easy, from my own experience in organizing teams of equals, a lot of push is required to get people to act. My advise is to pick people who have 100% buy in on this and are also a realist, meaning they know what to expect and what not to expect and what it is eventually going to take and that there are no guarantees...IMHO.

Niraj

XVID said...

Don has yet to clarify if this will be a mentoring group benefiting from economies of scale, or more akin to a prop firm with profit/loss averaging.

Personally I think it a brilliant idea if the motivation is to share ideas and help each other maximize gains. Not to mention that pooling high volume derivatives traders in a group could significantly reduce overhead costs by averaging overhead costs.

have fun,
mark

Moonlight Trader said...

Hi Don.

First time commenter, but long time enjoyer of your amazing blog.

If you're able to launch the Jellies I think it would be quite compelling if they were to blog daily as you do, and share their experiences being part of the great experiment.

Thanks for your dedication to the blog and for your inspiration to all who read it.

MT

Don Miller said...

Sam - I'd certainly prefer full-time participants, although the brain is working overdrive this weekend to sort things out.

Niraj - Good points ... not that I'm looking for "equals" per se, yet certainly "equal" in dedication and commitment. As with anything in life, one typically gets what one puts into it.

XVID - It wouldn't be a Prop-type effort from a P&L perspective.

Moonlight Trader - Thanks.

Quick general update is that I'm sorting through the legal side of this today, including making a list which includes verifying a few things with the NFA on Monday.

And to say the initial email response has been favorable would be a gross understatement.

Personally, I've gone from great apprehension to being jacked as all get out in 24 hours, and am trying to keep my head about me as I sense a tremendous energy level around this right now.

My back isn't even hurting right now.

Stay tuned.

Don

Ken said...

Thinking out loud for a moment as we all position ourselves for a seat at the Table,it seems to me that a "comment of the year" should receive an automatic entry. :) Whoever makes the cut, be it geographic, blog participation or whatever, I implore Don to choose his Cabinet wisely with a goal of choosing a group that will fit his vision and enable the group to expand the concept for the benefit of all interested parties going forward. I agree that it is wise to limit the initial size of the group and I'm sure he will expand after the 3 month period has expired since it will be just as easy to broadcast to 500 as it will be to 20, if the rules and purpose are clearly defined as I'm sure they will be.. There are so many directions to take this "idea" and I await his future postings. Full-time traders and creative folks must find different avenues for fulfillment and amusement. A constant focus on charts and trade decisions can be very challenging. I'm working on my email!!

Trader Kevin said...

Ken: "I implore Don to choose his Cabinet wisely with a goal of choosing a group that will fit his vision..."

Another gold star for Ken! The choice of participants is extremely important.

When Warren Buffett considers buying a company he makes absolutely sure that the managers are people with whom he wants to partner.

As Buffett puts it, "Marrying for money is probably a bad idea under any circumstances, but it is absolutely nuts if you are already rich."

Two Jacks said...

I've been sitting in the back of the room watching others ask the questions I have. Just one I'd like to add, are you wanting your traders to trade the same vehicles that you do, or is there room in this stable for futures traders no matter what they like to trade?

I'm looking forward to the group, and as Moonlight Trader said, I hope the traders who do not make the cut or choose not to apply can still see a blogging effort from your entire group.

I wish you and your select group the best.

Jack

Syed Omar (Hilmy) said...

Don,

i would like to make a suggestion. For the 20 lucky ones who get picked, you could make them keep a blog like yours. So the rest of us can follow along their ups and downs on a more personal level. I think that would be very coool!

honray said...

To Syed Omar:

Yes I agree.. I think most dedicated traders already keep a journal. Mine happens to be private. It would be great to follow along on the journey of the 20.

H

Don Miller said...

Two Jacks - I'll be certainly focusing on ES, yet trading is trading in my view, and I expect many similar threads.

###

8pm ET What a day (and the usually heavy Monday web and email traffic hasn't even started yet). I really had no idea of the strong (positive) underlying emotion and interest in doing this. I can just hear an "I told you so" coming from my wife shortly.

For those responding, thanks for the detailed and heartfelt notes and please be patient as I continue to work through all of the necessary planning steps to get this off the ground and do it right.

Don

Severino said...

Hello Don,

Just getting a chance to follow up on the Blog and now I feel like I missed the breakout.
Now looking for the first pullback to 38%.

I cast a vote for a harvest of Bamboo’s.
(Truth be told, I could not imagine how it could be anything else.)

Would be a privilege to sit at a table with some I have seen pass through here.

Looking forward to the future.

Sev

Max Heat said...

Hey Don,
Since the term "Jellyfish" has become synonymous with "spineless", (not good for traders) might I suggest you call your team the "Men-Of-War"? :)

Mark

Max Heat said...

Correction: Men O' War

Surly said...

Hi Don,

You know you're full of surprises. I think you're idea is top notch and I wish you luck with it. I think it will work out great - you'll have the regular fits and starts getting all the mechanicals, etc up and running but a guided trading group that is born of mutual goals and, dare I suggest, friendship is about as worthy as it gets.

As one who would love to join the group but is probably too far outside the envelope, I hope you can still share some of the successes and, yes, those other things of the group. I would be very curious to know a bit about the different learning curves of the participants. I think it will be interesting to learn how experience traders go through appreciating and embracing (or not) a new system.

I think there's a real opportunity for learning if those participating share some of their difficulties and setbacks (and breakthroughs) with learning and trading what is obviously a successful "system" (in quotes b/c I know you're more discretionary).

Finally - I hope in all this you haven't forgotten to get some during these "morning-after-trend" oscillations!

cheers,
Surly

Bob said...

Don,

I have been intrigued by your blog and your obvious interest in passing on some of the realities of trading as a career. It is my considered opinion that such a project as your jellyfish or bamboo group has demonstrable benefits to those in the group as well as those who learn by observing your success. It is, of course, certain that there will be bumps and potholes all along the path but that does not warrant a negative impression of the idea. Hard problems follow good ideas. Solve the significant ones and ignore the rest. In three words, my unsolicited advice, GO FOR IT! I am at that stage in my trading education where I have gained a lot of experience (usually the painful kind) but am still too dangerous to play with others. But it does give me a goal for which to strive. I wish the best for all you day-trading warriors, jellyfish, or really fast-growing plants.

bob