Two Lost Skills That Can Improve Your Trading Results

There are two lost skills. Reading and writing. Let’s look at them one at a time. Writing comes first, it is diminishing faster than the sand in the hourglass. I am not referring to writing books and articles, although that is fading too.

I am referring to writing in a notebook, writing in a journal, writing notes, writing letters, writing postcards, writing happy notes to friends, writing tips and techniques. Email writing does not count. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn do not count either. In fact, forget the keyboard.

I remember taking a test to qualify for Australian Hypnotherapists Association. I was given six cases and was asked to describe what I would do in each case. Two pages for each case. I objected, I argued, I said I type much faster. The examiners would not budge. I almost got Repetitive Strain Injury, RSI. While this was a while ago, I remember the awkwardness of having to write that much.

I recently went to a seminar and a motivational leader was empowering us with technique after technique. He revealed tools, tips, explanations, structures, methods and more. It was a jam packed two-and-a-half-hour session. I took in excess of twenty pages of notes. I then copied them, in a little more orderly way to my ‘good’ notebooks classifying each tip into appropriate sections. Now I can just about recite the speaker by heart. Writing it twice made such an impression on me.

Trading is very much a computer art. Live screens, indicators, charts, big monitors, patterns, lines, angles, boxes, squares are so much easier to apply and take off with the computer. Yet nothing, absolutely nothing can match my hand charting experience. There is some magic in hand eye coordination that imprints the information in the brain. Yet, some traders snub the idea of hand charting (and super traders recommend it).

Journaling is another pen and paper exercise that makes a difference. I have journaled now for over twenty-seven years. I have encouraged many of my clients to journal. I have listened to their outcomes as they take up journaling. Writing your deepest feelings using a keyboard does have a therapeutic effect. Writing them on paper or a notebook literally doubles this effect (at least).

Yet, it is still awkward for many to consider pen and paper to assist in their trading, goal setting, and determining life directions. They often sit with a blank stare in front of a paper, frozen with discomfort wondering “well where do I begin”? That is exactly where you can. You can begin by writing that down.

Others draw or paint and create the same effect. As I do not have either skill (not yet developed), I am unable to comment in depth. I do know it helps just as much if you feel inclined to express yourself with shapes and colours.

In the seminars I lead on Trading Psychology, I suggest a three step process:

  1. Start with raw information, a tip, an idea
  2. Check it out, test it out
  3. If it does not work, drop it. If it works, use it to help you.

Here is my challenge for you. Get an A3, yes you heard it right A3, spiral scrapbook (for our non-metric friends A3 is about 17 inches by 12 inches). Fill up a page a day for thirty days. Use your hand to fill it up. No cutting pictures and gluing them (that is a good technique too but we are focussing on writing). You can write as small or as big as you want. The important thing is to fill up the page.

  1. Start with raw information: try this out
  2. Notice what it does for you
  3. If you do not like it, drop it. If you do, continue

My personal trainer once told me that the best time to decide to give up exercise (for good) was after you finish exercising, not before. In other words, she was saying that after you experience the exercise, you are in a better position to say “this is not for me” or “this is for me”. On the other hand, if you quit before trying, then you never really know what it would have done for you. So, before you discard this idea as silly, useless, not worth it, tried before, will not work with me, what is the point anyway… Just Do It. Then you have my blessing to make an informed decision.

The second skill most people are losing is reading. Once again I am going to leave computers out of the equation. Reading emails, stock reports, market commentaries, jokes, Powerpoint presentations, inspirational notes, budgets, annual reports… do not count. Reading the newspapers does not count either. I am talking about reading books. When was the last time you read a book? When was the last time you finished reading a book? There are many books, fiction, trading, biographies, history, sociology, religion, self-help, business, computer skills…

It is often so much easier to curl up in front of television and veg out. On the other hand, a book takes you to new dimensions. You see the work through the eyes of the author. You use your imagination, you take in every detail, you get absorbed. You get transformed to a new and different world, and when you come back, you are a different person, even if just a little.

Successful people, successful traders read a lot. Motivational Speaker Tony Robbins speaks of reading one book a day in his earlier years taking in the knowledge on every page. Judging by his results, I am sure this determination played a part in his success. “By the age of 10, I’d read every book in the Omaha public library about investing, some twice,” says Warren Buffett. “I made my first investment at age 11, I was wasting my life up until then.” What are you waiting for? Grab a book and start reading!


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