Why does it take so long for things to sink in? Why do we keep repeating the same daft mistakes over and over? Why can't we just live up to the old adage 'once bitten, twice shy'? I would have been a successful trader for a full year by now, if that was the case! I often wonder just why it is that all those bad trades, those full bank-job nightmares, those whole weeks of pure chasing, those foolish errors where I let the trade ride, occurred not only a second time but a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh.............a hundred times perhaps! Why do we just forget the bad stuff? Is it just that the human mind naturally selects the good moments? I know this to be true because it's often how the brain works to protect us, sparing us the more gruesome aspects of life by 'blacking-out' our memory. It happened to me once when I was physically assaulted - can barely remember a thing about it. Ever find it funny how you tend to have rose-tinted spectacles when it comes to an old relationship that in truth, had as many bad moments as good? This has to be what happens with trading too. I can't think of any other reason why I would continue to put myself through the misery of another blown bank! We tend to remember the positive trades, the big wins, much more than the crazy lump-ons and plumbing the depths of the Gambler's Cycle. Those emotions of pain and frustration and heart-palpitations, the tears, the desperation, the insanity and the soul-destroying hopelessness, where you just don't care anymore, seem to vanish into thin air after a while. If only they would linger around for a bit longer, were a little bit harsher. If only those 'demons' actually existed and could sit on our shoulders, burning our flesh with a lighted cigarette every time we considered staying in for a point or two longer than we should. We'd soon learn then!
I think it's a lot worse with some people than others. I don't consider myself a quick learner in life. I remember once training up to become a call-centre worker for Interflora, leading up to their busiest period of the year - Mother's Day. I was in a group of 20 or so people and we had just a week to learn how to handle calls, take orders and operate the computer system, before being thrown into the lions den, where we could expect flower orders every single minute for the period running up to Mother's Day. The amount of info lobbed at us on that first day was bewildering. I struggled with it, as I need time to digest instructions, go through them at my own pace, re-read things till they sink in. Another poor guy was callously singled out by our trainer, as the person struggling the most to pick it all up quickly - I'll never forget the poor lad's cherry red face. Yet the guy sat to my right was flashing through it all as if he'd done it for his whole life. By the end of day 2, the cherry had become a deep beetroot purple and I had decided I couldn't face the demands of the flora and fauna bouquet delivery world and never returned. But I know that if I'd had a little bit longer and if the trainer hadn't had such poor inter-personal skills and if the whole thing hadn't been such a mad rush and conducted in such a panicky way, I'd have not only picked it all up but would have gone on to be one of the best rose sellers Interflora had ever seen!
I was slow to pass my driving test too, having had around 50 lessons and 2 final test failures. There was a point where I thought I'd never pass, as I just didn't have the confidence or the desire. I could even feel my driving instructors getting fed up. But I stuck at it, kept trying and eventually it all just clicked. Now, I absolutely love driving. At school, my worst subject by a country-mile was maths. I was top of the class at every other subject (bar graphic design - why I took that I'll never know!) but just couldn't get my head around numbers in the way I could with words. I remember getting an F for my mock exams and was so worried about not having at least a C grade to aid with future employment and studies, that I spent the next 6 months working harder on maths than any other subject I've ever studied for. I ended up getting that C, a massive improvement in just a 6 month period and was more proud of that than any of the higher grades I got. It turned out that it wasn't that I was no good with numbers, it was just that I needed more time to learn it.
So this brings us back to trading. I remember it took me a long time to get my head around even the concept of 'laying'. And then just as long to grasp the idea of greening up, rather than letting a bet ride for more profit. So it's no wonder that it took me at least 6 months to fully appreciate the idea of redding-up. It was another 6 months before I was actually implementing it regularly. It's taken me a full year of tennis trading to finally stop chasing losses by reverting to the football and about the same amount of time to banish all distractions (such as forum posting) from my trading. The full bank-job lumps are a thing of the past but I had a good 3 years of doing that intermittently before it finally ceased to enter my mind that it might be a great way to get back what I'd lost, quickly!
But still, even yesterday, certain thoughts pop into my head out of nowhere, thoughts that you would think are inexplicable for a trader with my level of experience. Only yesterday, I got greedy and looked for double the green I had, only to lose it all and end up in the red. Why did that happen? I know full well that all I have to do is accept it didn't work out and come out of the trade before it slips into a loss. Why did I then get worked-up to the point of a full-blown seethe and set off on a trail of stunningly misguided trades for the following 5 matches? I had only suffered one small loss, yet for some reason, it gnawed away at me, taking away all sense of perspective for a couple of hours. Every now and then, these little things happen, even after all these weeks of consistency and all these years of learning the hard way.
When you learn to drive, you never forget how to do so, you just do it automatically. If you were in a call centre every day, you wouldn't forget how to run through the protocol and sell those flowers. So why does it take so long for all aspects of trading to sink in? Maybe the big question is, does it EVER fully sink in? Will those demons always try to catch you out when you least expect it? Or is it just me and my slow learning style? Are there traders out there who NEVER experience these lapses? Are there traders who learn from their mistakes immediately and never repeat them again? I doubt it somehow. I think when there is money directly involved in anything, the human mind just can't quite ever cope with the idea of losing it. It's an unnatural thing we are doing really, accepting losses, cutting short our potential profit, waiting around patiently for ages for something that might lose us money.
Fortunately, that aberration yesterday did not cost me as much as it would have done in the past. I was quicker to spot when I was losing the plot and sorted my head out, taking small reds and not doing anything too rash. So I suppose that is an example of learning from my previous experiences. One hour of bad trades (that's 'bad' trades, not 'losing' trades) is now always just one hour, it doesn't slip into a whole day or a week or a month, as it has done in the past. Sometimes I don't even realise I've cut a bad habit from my trading and one day I suddenly think 'Hey, I've not done that in weeks now!'. Things are improving for me - slowly but surely! I'm not 'there' yet. But does anyone ever reach 'there', in this game?