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The Evolution of Trading

Many people invest in the market by placing a bet on the future of the stock market as a whole. Usually the bet is that the market is going up.  This is because the majority of investors do not short stocks and the majority of that majority does not even know what it means to short a stock let alone know they can profit from a stock price that is falling.  For those who decide to take on the stock market for the easy money by actively trading they usually start out with the assumption that trading in the stock market is easy. 

Since they think they are clearly above average in both intellect and perseverance this stock market game will just be another conquest. Their definition of trading is most likely along the lines of 'buy low and sell high over and over again to produce a profit'. But that definition will slowly change as the process of learning to trade plays out over time. 

Wrong Again
Soon after trying the learned concept that introduced them to the market these new traders become frustrated because it is not working. They justify many reasons why it is not working and conclude that to truly master the markets they need more information. So they go on the crusade to become experts at everything. But little do they know that they are looking in the wrong direction. They read Barron's Fortune and Money. They watch CNBC and listen to all news and economic numbers. The quest now becomes to find stocks that they determine to be 'undervalued' based on the superior knowledge they now have. Their definition of trading has changed to 'looking for obvious overvalued and undervalued situations to capitalize on'.  They are still unsuccessful in this quest because as we all know stocks can stay over or under valued for a long time. Stocks do not necessarily go up or down based on these values. 

Right too Early
Soon they discover that undervalued does not mean the price has to rally. If it does rally their timing may be so far off that being right did not matter. They also find they are not right very often. I was right in 1999 when I said Internet stocks with no earnings should not be trading at $200 a share but it turns out I was right two years early.  The bubble did not burst until 2000 and 2001. Being right early does not make you a profit.  Going with the flow and the trend is how you profit.  I knew the stocks were overvalued but instead of trying to pick a top to short I stayed long until the trend reversed. The beginning trader does not know this but their definition of trading is slowly evolving.  

This was Suppose to be Easy
When they finally figure out that 'undervalued' means 'really weak stock' they start to think that they are still missing something. They get frustrated and start doubting themselves. This was supposed to be easy.  But they justify their losses by thinking they simply have had some bad breaks rotten timing; poor luck and naturally needed to overcome some growing pains. Unfortunately it is at this time that they become most susceptible to the prey of the 'Holy Grail'.  Desperation and lack of confidence often sets in and their definition of trading changes again.  It is now sounding more like 'buy whatever stocks are being touted by any and all Gurus or Analysts on TV'.  They start chasing whatever stocks have positive news and doing just what the wolves want the sheep to do.  They are being led into the traps that experience traders have learned to avoid.  

Wipe the Slate Clean
If this all sounds shockingly familiar it should be because we have all been there before.  You know you are on the road to success when you understand you have been down the wrong path before.  It is those who are never able to figure this out or cannot or will not admit that they have made these mistakes that fail.  Only when we can wipe the slate clean and seek to learn and think for ourselves can we be successful in any endeavor including stock trading.  The real definition of trading is one that has evolved through the process of learning to be a professional trader.

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