Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Best Teacher

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have.” —Abraham Lincoln

excerpt from "One Good Trade"
New traders frequently think that learning from the most talented traders is the best way to learn. On the contrary, new traders should seek the best teacher. There is a difference. I don’t believe in the old mantra “those who can’t do, teach,” because in trading many do both. But sometimes the best trader has no personality, or poor people skills, while a consistently profitable, but not top 10 trader, can emerge as a premier lecturer, one-on-one communicator, and mentor.

During one interview, a potential candidate boasted, “I plan on being your best trader. Do I get a chance to watch your best trader?” With his engine of ambition, this Ivy League–educated candidate believed that learning from the most talented traders was the best way to learn. Just like a lot of platitudes one would assume to be intuitively obvious, such as “learn from the best,” this is not one of them. New traders need to find the best teacher.

But I liked the young man’s confidence nonetheless. My philosophy echoes throughout the prop trading world. A friend of mine in the business who leads his prop firm’s training efforts was quick to share with me that he was not the best trader on his desk. This is not exactly a slight since his firm is loaded with excellent traders, almost all of whom he personally trained. His firm is certainly not of the “League of Lesser Firms” I mentioned in Chapter 3.

TEH : I may not be the best trader around, but I do have an intention to be the best traders-teacher or mentor. Yes, I am sort-of mentor to my tratles, guiding them in traders with my weekly e-meeting and monthly meeting with them. Nothing will be easy ... to teach anyone to trade. Many are in markets more years than me. Some using more complicated and advanced TA techniques. Many read more news/books than me ... so, I have vast levels in my trading-group. Yet, I believe I could be a good teacher ... to novices. As they trusted me, many bring in their own friends to join my classes/groups. A good trader teacher MUST be a trader himself, to understand the market pulse, movements, emotions etc etc which could only come with experiences. Those young ones talking about pure technical may miss-out plenty of 'juices'. So, I am motivated to be a good trader-teacher!! Given another 3-5 yrs, I believe I could teach much better, understand much better ... and moving from current novice level to intermediate level. Watch me move?

As much as we preach the importance of the process, our guys are more interested in my mentorship when my results top our leaderboard. This is not to say that they do not listen when I am not on top of our leaderboard, but certainly they listen much more carefully when I am. But just like in all of human nature, we chase what’s hot. When Steve or GMan or JToma leads the pack, people swarm to them.

When I first started trading, it was almost hysterical watching traders swarm like bees to honey to the desk of a hot trader whose name they hardly knew. Some traders obsessively monitor the leaderboard. We have one trader who lurks near our leaderboard, just staring at it. To this trader, our leaderboard is as mesmerizing as Scarlett Johansson is to the rest of the male population. I once asked him, “Do you think we are gonna quiz you on those results?”

One of our former traders spent so much time near the leaderboard I don’t know how he had any time to trade. Perhaps if he spent more time learning how to trade than staring at the leaderboard he’d still be with us. We have a detailed, state-of-the-art clearing site that keeps track of the numbers for all of our traders. With this guy, who needed a clearing site? 

It is just human nature to be interested in how others are doing, especially compared to you. But this mentality is not in the new trader’s best interest. “Mike, doesn’t it make sense that you ought to learn from the best?” people ask me.

“Don’t I need to learn from the best to become the best?” they continue. No.

If this were the case, then Steve and I would be sitting next to our friends, some of whom are the best traders on the Street. It just doesn’t work like that. Think about it.

Who are some of the best professional coaches? Were they preeminent players?

TEH : Majority of traders MISSED out that the process in learning is the MOST important part to be a good trader!! That explains why they are running from one forum to another, one trading course to another, one system to another, and ever searching for that sure-win system. These traders will never learn well, unless they take an effort to rectify such a weakness. Yes, spend more time learning to trade rather than making noises in every forum's posts, or every facebook. It is simply more interesting listening to what others doing than doing it ourselves!! Then, many boasting around and we wasted so much of our time even reading what they are writing.

To trade well, we need to learn. To learn, we need to be serious and understand that it takes EFFORTS and TIME. To be a contrarian ... it is very difficult. So, if you are to tell them trading is not easy or why it took me years to get out of newbie-levels, they will be puzzled. What is there to learn? That is how their naive mentality works ... everyone will agree that we need years to master a subject, but somehow or rather ... learning to trade doesnt come into their logic. They prefer to pay thousands of dollars to those sales-people selling them sure-win systems. Yeah right ...

Anyway, Sir Alex was not a good football player himself but he is certainly one of the best club managers around!! So, I may not be a good trader, I do have few of them in my group trading better than me and I am very glad with that.

If the top coaches were not the best players, then why do new traders look to the best traders for mentorship? I posed this dilemma to the best trading teacher I know, Dr. Brett Steenbarger. He responded, “Many of the great coaches were competent players in their own right, but not all-stars. They knew the game, but their passion was for teaching and developing players. They worked on their coaching game as hard as the all-stars worked on their playing game. It’s all about knowing what makes you tick, and what you’re really good at.” Spot-on commentary from the trading coach of all trading coaches. The skills necessary to become a great trader are different from those required to be an effective trading coach. Being a star trader requires superior pattern recognition and discipline. On the other hand, superstar trading coaches are often:

Obsessed with finding better ways to teach
Highly motivated
Communicate clearly
Consider a trader’s unique style
Know when to get tough
Set firm values
Believe in the student

TEH : This is the best part of the excerpt that I would like to share. I am learning to know the game of trading. I m improving each and every year and still attending some talks, courses and more readings. I am still practising my trades and learning. If you find a so-called 'guru' talks a lot about investing/trading but he did not take many trades, then he is just a theoritical teacher who do not know how to apply much of the theories when it comes to reality. Trading is something very different from teaching many subjects. A person with a Master or PhD in Maths will NOT be able to teach Maths as good as me. That is definite! A young Maths graduate could certainly won't be able to teach Further Math well ... and defnitely could not teach better than me. But, after I teach my students, many of those brilliant students could do those FM questions better than me!! That is my greatest satisfaction ... and my driving motivation to teach better each year. Yes, I am obsessed to teach better!!

I am highly motivated, I teach when I chat, when I blog, when I write a comment, when I teach through online ... or any ways for me to TEACH. Now, this is my passion ... and those with me benefit well from my dedication.  Glad to help. Perhaps I am unselfish ... but I am lack of patience and must learn to communicate well. Yes, I do have set of firms beliefs(for example, I won't analyse your Ingens) ... and I do believe everyone could learn ... if they wanted to.

While I have taken about 5 years to learn about markets, I do know of few who are just a yr or two in markets but are good traders. I am a practical person ... a trader. I really dislike those so-called guru going around the bushes and never willing to share knowledge. There are many such so-called guru.

Since when I claim that I am good? I am always humble enough to learn, but I want to learn what is REAL. Do not tell me stories ... I just want to know, can your system trade this particular stock well enough? I just want honest answers ... but majority around are NOT even a trader. Where should I look for trader's teacher? I asked myself this question 3-4 years ago ... there is a HUGE void there, a hole, a gap ... that I am trying to fill. If those newbies want to learn ... WHERE can they go? WHO should they look to? HOW much will that cost us? WHY we need to learn from him/her? For what we know, he/she is just another salemen, offering you a preview to his so-called best system. Then ... the salesman will go to another company and claim the next product he is selling is the best or up-to-date?

Yeah ... I just want to be the ... best teacher. Gievn a chance, I will move into that direction!


p/s : I was awarded the best Math Leacturer(by Mapco) after 2 years teaching Maths, for my dedication towards learning to teach better. I still keep the Sgor pewter plate. Year : 1992

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