Friday, 24 August 2012

Depressing August Come-Down

Going into the fourth and final slam of the year next week (the US Open) I should be feeling full of optimism and verve but for some reason, I'm not. August has been a strange month for me. After the euphoria of July and the distraction of the Olympics, my trading fell flat. The massive high of my 6th consecutive profitable month and the British pride of 29 gold medals, almost left me nowhere to go other than down. I have struggled to find my focus and felt as though I wasn't sure what the next move should be. Of course, I knew I should just continue being consistent but after achieving my goal of 6 months of strong profit, it almost felt like an anti-climax when I started trading in August. The realisation dawned on me that I'm still a long, long way away from being solely reliant on my trading. I have also not been able to grow my bank as I'd wished and thus, have not been able to increase stakes. Unforeseen circumstances have meant that I've had to continue withdrawing all profit and it feels like I'm treading water, unable to get the leverage I need to reach the next chapter in my trading career.

I keep wondering how much potential could be unlocked by taking a few more risks. My bank is relatively small still but the vast majority of it remains untouched and has been just sitting there, unused for over 6 months. I don't think I've ever had more than 5% of it in use at any one time during a trading session and the lowest point it has been depleted by over those 6 months, is no more than 10%. So basically, 90% of my bank is going to waste. Of course, this 90% is there as back-up in case I hit a bad spell but am I being overly-cautious? Whilst in past years, there was always the danger that the entire bank could be blown in the space of a few days, I'm 100% certain that those days are long gone. Only variance could destroy the bank now but my worst spell of losses over the last 6 months, has only bitten off around 10%. I try to stick to the standard % of bank (my average stake is around 2.5%) as most experienced traders tend to go for 1-3% from what I've read. Whilst this is no doubt the correct route to go down for novice traders, perhaps I am now established enough to take a few more risks?

I feel as though I need a new challenge, something to gee me up and get me out of what is rapidly becoming a stagnant rut. I've started to make mistakes because I think that maybe I'm not taking enough risk. When it almost becomes too easy and there is a complete lack of fear, sometimes it can produce more errors and problems because you start to lose discipline. If you aren't bothered about losing your liability, where is the motivation to stay focused and dig in to keep those reds as low as they can be? And when things start to become monotonous and the challenge ebbs away, it's hard to keep sharp. But then, maybe the reason I've done so well is that I have not had that anxiety over my bank. Peace of mind should not be underestimated. I think I need to find that happy medium with staking. Larger stakes with larger profit would definitely get me motivated again but what happens if I start with a bad spell of variance that depletes the bank or if the increased exposure affects my mind negatively?

I'm sure some of you will think I'm moaning about nothing and just need to remain patient and plod along with the same gameplan.  However, there is so much potential there for me to make some serious money now but I am stunted by my bank size and my situation. Most readers won't know this but I work as a freelance writer. This job has enabled me to easily fit trading around it, as I work from home and have a lot of flexibility. This year, things have improved so much with my trading that I now fit my writing around the tennis, as it has become more lucrative. As the recession has tenaciously dug in, my freelancing has suffered whilst my trading has slapped this adversity in the face. I want to make hay whilst the sun shines, as you never know what is round the corner. With the tennis season shorter this year (cheers Nadal), I will have almost 2 entire months with nothing to trade, which is even more frustrating. It could be a very long time before I'm in a position where I can grow my bank and by then, I'm worried that this malaise may have reached epic proportions. If anyone has any ideas about what I could possibly do about this stalemate situation, I would welcome them!

N.B. I can't really be bothered to do a US Open preview so I'll keep it short and sweet: Federer, Djokovic or Murray (Del Potro outsider). Serena, Sugarpova or Li Na/Na Li (Kerber outsider).

Ana Ivanovic:

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Back to Life, Back to Reality

And so the London Olympics come to a close and I have to admit, I'm totally Olympic-ed out. I watched almost every sport and for several hours on each of the 17 days, so I am exhausted, despite the fact I barely left my armchair for 2 weeks! I'm really going to miss flicking from one sport to another, learning about sports I'd barely seen before such as handball and taekwando and seeing intelligent, humble and articulate athletes competing fairly (on the whole) and straining every sinew for nothing more than a slab of metal. Now we are about to go into the football season and I am dreading seeing the complete antithesis of cheating, diving, gamesmanship, greediness, mind-numbing interviews and self-absorbed histrionics. The Olympics will only serve as a stark contrast, highlighting how much I have fallen out of love with football. I am really going to miss them.

I am glad to get back to normal though, mostly because my trading faltered during the second week. I traded the Olympic tennis in week 1, so no problem there but I was so enthralled with the other sports, that I always had half an eye on the TV (and in some cases, both eyes!) when I should have been focusing on the ladders. As a consequence, week 2 was my worst week of trading for a long time. The Rogers Cup over in Canada, suffered from major downpours which disrupted play all week, and that also contributed to many missed matches. All in all, a sub-standard week but without Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and co. around to distract me, I expect to regain my concentration  for Cincinnati this week.

This time last year, I was having a dreadful time, as you'll see from the following post:


Reading back on this, one thing that strikes me is how I didn't know what was going to happen from one day to the next. I could have a perfectly decent day of trading or out of nowhere I could self-destruct and lose an entire week's good work. That has completely changed now and I think, (aside from the obvious in that I have a much better strategy now) a big reason for that is my routine. I didn't really have one a year ago, or at least, not one I would stick to for very long.

Today, I have a routine that I religiously adhere to and has become ingrained. It starts from the moment I wake up in the morning, when I will do eye exercises to get me ready for a long period of staring at the ladders, so they don't get irritable or ache later on. I now always run through my daily goals whilst I shower, as I find this the best time to get my head in the right place. I get all distractions out the way early on, by checking emails and facebook etc before I start to trade. Then through the session, I make sure I stretch regularly and keep notes as I go along. I will always slot in a decent break at some point, to recharge the batteries and will go out for some fresh air if I need to. At the end of the day, I'll analyse my performance and see if there are any issues which may need to be worked on. Individually, these tasks may not seem like much but together, they work very well at keeping me focused mentally and physically. I know that I only trade badly when my body or mind is not at or near its optimum, so I know it's essential for this routine to be kept to. Last week, it wasn't and my trading suffered.

The 'Numb' post was the beginning of a new era for me. It was the first time in several months where I started to lift my game and work hard again. I introduced the FPD Plan, which was the first of several new plans and strategies I developed to improve my trading and this includes my routine. Routines can become boring and it's human nature to want to fiddle with things and change them. But that's part of the challenge of trading - holding your discipline when it becomes mundane. I now have to get back to reality and knuckle down.

Eugenie Bouchard:

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Outstanding Olympic Inspiration

As with almost everyone who I have spoken to this week, I am thoroughly enjoying the Olympics.  My eyes are taking a battering from the many hours spent in front of the TV and laptop and I think it's been outstanding. Much of that is down to the enthusiasm of the British crowds, who have really got behind ALL the athletes. The Olympic stadium is a joy to witness, being almost entirely filled for every session of the athletics and most other events have seen good turn-outs. There is a collective sense of pride within the nation that I have rarely witnessed before and I have caught the tangible 'feel-good factor' which has swept Britain.

I've seen a  few negative comments about the BBC coverage but I have no complaints at all. The range of events being shown via TV and live on the net is fantastic, the picture quality online is superb and I really don't understand how some people have an issue with the commentary. It never fails to amaze me how many all of sudden become experts at commentating on sports they watch once every four years. For the most part, I've loved it, particularly the swimming, which has been covered informatively and enthusiastically by Ian Thorpe and Claire Balding. I'm also loving the contrast between Colin Jackson's overt, upbeat nature and Michael Johnson's more serious, composed but thoughtful views on the athletics.

To see John Inverdale's voice cracking up and the interview with the devastated rowing pair Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter (who narrowly missed out on gold in the lightweight men’s double sculls), was for me, the most emotional moment of the Olympics so far. Inverdale gets an awful lot of unmerited stick from people who don't like him as a presenter. I understand why, because he does come across a bit like a bumbling buffoon at times and his knowledge of certain sports seems lacking. However, the animosity this brings out in some people is a disgrace - he's a sports presenter, for god's sake, not a serial killer! And he never comes across as anything less than an amiable, decent guy with a clear passion for sport.

The tennis tournament was even better than I expected. It's one of those events, like basketball and football, which some believe shouldn't be in the Olympics because it's not the pinnacle of the sport but I think London 2012 has shown that it most definitely is. Roger Federer has talked it up ever since Beijing and anyone witnessing the performance of Andy Murray (who raised his game to a level which can now be considered on a par with the top 3) and Juan Martin Del Potro (who was overcome with emotion on getting his bronze medal) will understand that it is up there with the Grand Slams now.

The quality of tennis on show certainly proved how much these multi-millionaire stars want to win gold. It goes down as one of the tournaments of the year for sheer excitement, with the men's semi finals both absolute classics and Serena Williams simply awesome as she turned in some of the best tennis ever seen from a female player. Her reaction to winning singles AND doubles (resembling that of a little child on a trampoline for the first time) also proved that tennis is a worthy Olympic event. Even the mixed doubles had some cracking matches, with Victoria Azarenka overjoyed at her gold. To top it all off, the atmosphere at Wimbledon was actually better than during Wimbledon! It reminded me of the Australian Open, which is my favourite Grand Slam because of the loud, partizan and fun-loving crowds. Every nationality is represented and you'll see loads of flags and chanting and is altogether more raucous than the polite, gentile crowds at SW19. Not during the Olympics though! I only wish it was like that at Wimbledon every year.

Easily the most disappointing aspect of the Olympics for me, was the football. Not because Team GB went out early (in the quarter finals on penalties, as you'd expect) but because it barely registered with me. I didn't even watch the final match, I was too enthralled with the athletics, which is probably the reason why it's not been a big talking point. I did watch the group games though and the whole spectacle was just dull. Whilst other sports have been watched by cheering, noisy and enthusiastic fans with athletes really responding and giving their all, the football has been played in a flat, strangled atmosphere by players who for the most part, don't seem to really have the desire. I suppose the fact it's in the off-season and that clearly, not all the best British young players were made available for selection, hasn't helped. But the actual football was just very uninspiring, to the point where I switched over to watch cycling or volleyball or some other sport which had the sort of things you expect to see: hunger, determination, spirit and the best athletes from that discipline, in the best condition, giving their all to make the crowd get behind them. You can't say Team GB had any of that.

I'm really going to miss London 2012 when it's over and I have to say, it's even inspired me with my trading. The first week in August has seen my performance dip a little. I lost a bit of focus, maybe took my foot off the gas after my record-breaking July. So I've set myself a new set of mid-term goals and hopefully, this will sharpen me up and push me on to another 6 months of excellent results. I think sometimes, when you achieve a goal, you can lose some of the desire and discipline you had and so it's important to rejuvenate yourself and set new targets. That's what makes these athletes who win gold two or three times, so amazing. To keep going through the strain, sacrifice, patience and discipline required to be the best, even after you've achieved the gold once, requires unbelievable motivation and mental strength. If I can get just a smidgen of that, I know that I can be a very successful trader.

Bojana Jovanovski:

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Gold! And A New Record!

Congratulations Sultan, you've taken gold after another impressive display, breaking another personal best record along the way. How does it feel?

It feels amazing Gary, I'm over the moon. All my hard work over the past year in particular, has paid off and culminated in these superb results. July has been the best month of my career and I'm now unbeaten since February. When you think about where I was this time last year, it's a great achievement.

How will you be celebrating?

I might treat myself to a stuffed crust on my pizza and some women's beach volleyball but apart from that,  I won't be celebrating at all, Gary. I've still a long way to go before I achieve all I want to achieve. I'll be playing the joint event in Washington this week, so no time for taking it easy - straight back to the grind for me.

How do you think your parents felt, watching their son battling away? Can you sum up how difficult it must have been?

I've no idea, I'm not bothered. It's much harder for me than for them.

Have you been talking to Andy Murray?

No, I can't stand the sour-faced dullard. Though I do respect him as a sportsman etc etc.

What about these rumours that you may be turning pro now?

That's all they are Gary, rumours. For now, I'll remain an amateur and keep learning my trade. Although this is my third season, I only have 6 months of consistency with my game. I would like to complete a whole season of consistency before even considering becoming a professional. Ask me again in another 6 months!

You'll be the first to admit that last season was well below par for the standards you set yourself. What do you attribute to your change in fortunes this season?

Hard work, Gary  - it's that simple. Hard work along with self belief, positivity and a never-say-die attitude. When I was at my lowest, I always used it as a spur to train harder and find solutions to my problems. I wanted to prove the doubters and the knockers wrong too, particularly an imbecile called Aaron, who I seem to remember calling me a 'fucking moron' in a rant saying I should just give up - classic 'projection psychology'. Yes, this victory feels particularly sweet knowing I've shoved that bile back down his throat. If you don't have the motivation to get through the tough times that this game inevitably brings, you've got no chance of surviving.

So what next for the Sultan?

I never want to get over-confident because I know the damage that can do, so I want to keep my head down and stay solid and professional. I am not 'there' yet and this game can chew you up and spit you out in an instant and when you least expect it. But I am starting to fulfill my potential and there is huge scope to go much, much further.

We are now into the final third of the season, so I've got the US Open Grand Slam to look forward to. I have high hopes of making it my best ever Slam performance. It's a shortened season this year by a couple of weeks, so November is going to be much quieter than previous years. That's not really ideal for me but I suspect I'll be using the extended off-season to maybe get back into football. I think with my new found skills, I should be able to apply them to football with more successful results - watch this space, Gary!

Sultan, thanks for taking the time to talk to the BBC; you are a true gent and a class act.

A little bit arse-licky Gary but yes, yes I am.

NB: I asked in my last post who the tennis playing flag-bearers were at the opening ceremony. Here they are:

Marcos Baghdatis - Cyprus
Novak Djokovic - Serbia
Maria Sharapova - Russia
Agnieszka Radwanska - Poland
Stanislas Wawrinka - Switzerland
Stephanie Vogt - Liechtenstein

and doubles players (which Ionut C pointed out in the comments and I initially forgot about!):

Horacio Tecau - Romania
Max Mirnyi - Belarus

Valeria Solovieva: