Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Simplicity: why don't we appreciate it?

There is one curious phenomenon that I observe for a long while. You see, my trading approach is fairly simple (let's make a distinction at once - simple doesn't always mean easy). It's a few chart formations, reading the volume, assigning a transparent and logical structure to the setup and following the standard procedure once a trade is triggered. I admire the simplicity, I enjoy it, and I am a fan of an old phrase by Leonardo: Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.

Yet time and again I encounter people disappointed by how simple my trading approach is. Yes, disappointed and skeptical - even though they see for themselves that it works. Imagine my amazement when I hear something to the effect: "Yeah, I observed you in action, followed some of trades, made money... read trading logs, see that you are fairly consistent... But come on, market is much more complicated than this! There is macroeconomics, there is stochastic, there is this, that, oh and that - and you ignore all this stuff. It makes no sense. Hundreds of pundits devote their life to all the analysis, and you are telling me you can do without any of that? It makes no sense. It makes no sense."

- "Okkkay... but hey, you do see that it works, right?"

Awkward silence. Pause. Blank stare. Then life returns to my counterpart's eyes as the needle finds the familiar groove: "See all these blogs? magazines? TV channels?..." Etc. You get the idea.

So, why do we do this? Why is simplicity not enough? Worse yet, why is it not enough even though it's proven as an effective approach to trading?

I have my answer to that. See if it's something you can relate to. It goes to the root of the very reason for our trading. Why do we trade? Sure, everyone immediately answers "to make profits" - but is it really so? Or rather, is it true for all of us? In my experience, no. For many of us, it's an intellectual challenge that we are after - we enjoy analysis, arguing points, proving our points to others... and all this stuff may or may not be relevant to trading in its purest form (which is Enter, Exit, add to your Profit or Loss column). If one's motivation is such intellectual exercise, my approach won't satisfy that person. More than that, to some it feels almost as insult!

We discussed earlier how such analysis can and often do lead to entrenched opinion which triggers Ego and leads to stubborn defense of one's losing position. It's also a point emphasized in A Taoist Trader course. Let me cite a quote from that course:


Much overcomplicated thinking obfuscates the simplicity and clarity of the real
world. Knowledge must be useful and practical.
...................

In comprehending all knowledge,
Can you renounce the mind?
In Taoist philosophy, there are two types of knowledge: useable knowledge that
contributes to the achievement of a goal (daily contentment), and knowledge that
does not. The only knowledge worth pursuing is the knowledge that serves the
purpose. Our ability to adapt to changes in an environment is a double-edged
sword. Our mind sometimes accepts external values without skepticism. These
values often conflict with our core nature and represent dysfunctional knowledge.
However, by using Taoist principles, we can accurately evaluate which knowledge
is worth keeping and which should be discarded.

The amount of information surrounding the markets is mind-boggling. Some of it is useful in the process of decision-making and some serves no useful purpose at all. A trader carefully observes which information helps him navigate the markets and which wastes his time and adds to confusion. Practical usefulness measured by actual performance is a trader’s criterion to evaluate which sources should be taken into account and which should be dismissed. A trader must avoid paralysis caused by endless and contradictive information flows..

If you ever catch yourself questioning simple trading approach merely because of its simplicity, ask yourself: Why are you trading?


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