Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Weekend Trader - Striking a Balance

Teaching vs. Trading.

It's been a long-standing industry debate for decades, and an internal debate at my end since I was first asked to help train traders in the late 1990s ... especially as I find myself faced with continued inquiries from traders and brokers to help train.

At the industry level, the debate has long focused on the fact that most successful traders don't want to have anything to do with teaching for three reasons: (1) A perceived loss of edge, which to me is a cop out beyond proportions -- but that's a topic for another day ... a long day, (2) a true loss of income, as good traders will indeed earn less from teaching than maximizing trading, and (3) the most effective training takes a great deal of time during live markets in all conditions ... which of course brings us back to #2.

At my end, the internal debate has focused around two other areas. First, I find myself at the end of a long line of generations of teachers. Great-grandparents, grandparents, both parents, my lone sibling ... they all taught and sacrificed financial gain and other pursuits for the benefit of others. I, on the other hand, chose early in my life to pursue entrepreneurial efforts, from climbing the corporate ladder on a fast-track executive development program where I found myself running companies in my mid-30s, to eventually finding my way to trading ... which as I described in a 2004 Stocks & Commodities interview, is what I continue to call the "Ultimate Entrepreneurial Experience".

The second internal debate at my end is my long-standing belief that the best trainers are usually those who continue to prove their merit on the battle field -- and in current markets. I say "usually" because there are rare exceptions, including in my opinion the good Dr. Brett who again recently indicated that the daytrading grind wasn't for him, yet who has made strong contributions to trader education over the years, including "The Psychology of Trading" which I believe is a classic. On the other side of the spectrum, there unfortunately have been -- and continue to be -- outright frauds in this biz, which too many of us have witnessed firsthand.

So all for these reasons, it's usually difficult -- if not impossible -- to balance both. And perhaps such is why I too have struggled with the internal debate at my end as how and whether to balance both. For am I a trader or an educator?

Ironically, the decision would actually be fairly simple if either was a bust (not the case), if I simply liked one more than the other (I enjoy both), if I had aspirations to be the world's best trader or educator (which I don't), or if financial gain was the sole motivator (which it isn't). Yet it's a debate that seems to only intensify as time goes on ... especially as what I had planned as merely an interim return to trader education over the summer with a single experiment with the Jellies evolved into a 2nd, then 3rd, and then an unpublicized and very quiet (intentionally) 4th effort at the request of both traders and brokers.

Over the last decade, I've balanced the two primarily by shifting emphasis back and forth.

One example is when I voluntarily stopped doing a popular daily column and other educational efforts several years ago for TradingMarkets (many past articles btw remain avalaible there) ... a difficult decision at the time given my respect for -- and association with -- Larry Connors. Yet the efforts were simply infringing too much on my trading focus at the time.

And then again in 2006, when I stopped all teaching and speaking efforts to focus my market energies 100% on taking my own trading to the next level ... which continued until the 2008 public diary launch and 2009 Jellie experiment.

And yet as I mentally cleanse the brain over the next week, I'm faced with strong momentum on both fronts: personal trading performance where I'm planning on climbing to the next plateau, and surging educational demand.

Some have suggested I consider getting some help (no, not that kind of help, although I'm sure some will think I've always needed it!) by building a staff to help on one or both fronts. Yes, this is all just me ... every letter, graphic, & silly analogy in the blog, every trade with my broker, every blog email response, and every dotted "i" and crossed "t" in the Jellie efforts. I may be one of the few speakers in NY without an entourage.

It's long been said that career choices and options are good things, and I admit I consider myself to be in an extremely fortunate position from that perspective. Yet choices can also result in incorrect decisions and priorities, not to mention sub-optimized focus if one tries to be a jack of all trades, but master of none.

And while time will provide the ultimate answers, my guess is that I'll continue to try to strike a meaningful balance between the two, perhaps taking a periodic break to work with people as I did at times this fall, while continuing to make the Jellie videos available as I spend most of my of my time actively trading the markets, aiming for even higher goals, and continuing the never-ending journey of self-discovery.

If I were to envision my year-end post for 2010 a year from now, I would hope it will mention that I continued to improve myself as a person and as a trader, while finding time to help others along the way.

For as was the case in Mr. Holland's Opus, I imagine the rest will take care of itself.

For the world needs both directors and players, even if choosing between them may be difficult at times.

Have a restful weekend.