Commodity Futures Trading for Beginners

By Bruce Babcock

Psychological Pitfalls

Here are some additional psychological pitfalls to avoid. Be wary of depending on others for your success. Most of the people you are likely to trust are probably not effective traders. For instance: brokers, gurus, advisors, friends. There are exceptions, but not many. Depend on others only for clerical help or to support your own decision-making process.

You may acquire trading methods or systems from others or from books, but be sure to test them carefully yourself before trading. Good systems that you can buy come with computer software that allows comprehensive historical testing.

Don't blame others for your failures. This is an easy trap to fall into. No matter what happens, you put yourself into the situation. Therefore, you are responsible for the ultimate result. Until you accept responsibility for everything, you will not be able to change your incorrect behaviors.

Stay long-term oriented. Don't adjust your approach based solely on short-term performance. Through luck, any horrible system can look great, even for relatively long periods of time. Conversely, the best systems have frequent losing periods. If you judge a system by short-term performance, you are likely to reject the best systems that exist.

Most traders have such an ego investment in their trading that they cannot handle losses. Several losses in a row are devastating. This causes them to evaluate trading methods and systems based on very-short-term performance. Don't start trading a system based on only a few trades, and don't lose confidence in one after only a few losses. Evaluate performance based on many trades and multi-year results.

Don't underestimate the psychological difficulty of successful trading. Robert Rotella describes the trauma in The Elements of Successful Trading: "Trading is one of the most stressful endeavors imaginable. Taking losses day after day with a strategy that, just a short while ago was working well, can be a terrible experience. Trading performance can be consistently volatile with good and bad times highly magnified. The market can batter your psyche and gnaw at your soul. These bad experiences will never end as long as you trade. The more successful you are as a trader, the more money you will lose."

Keep trading in correct perspective and as part of a balanced life. Trading is emotionally intensive no matter whether you are doing well or going in the tank. It is easy to let the emotions of the moment lead you into strategic and tactical blunders.

Don't become too elated during successful periods. One of the biggest mistakes traders make is to increase their trading after an especially successful period. This is the worst thing you can do because good periods are invariably followed by awful periods. If you increase your trading just before the awful periods, you will lose money twice as fast as you made it.

Knowing how to increase trading in a growing account is perhaps the most difficult problem for successful traders. Be cautious in adding to your trading. The best times to add are after losses or equity drawdowns.

Don't become too depressed during drawdowns. Trading is a lot like golf. All golfers, regardless of their ability, have  play and poor play. When a golfer is playing well, he assumes he has found some secret in his swing and will never play poorly again. When he is hitting the ball sideways, he despairs that he will never come out of his slump.

Trading is much the same. When you are making money, you are thinking about how wonderful trading is and how to expand your trading to achieve immense wealth. When you are losing, you often think about giving up trading completely. With a little practice, you can control both emotional extremes. You'll probably never control them completely, but at least don't let elation and despair cause you to make unwarranted changes in your approach. Other common themes of good traders are self-understanding, balance and self-control. If you can master yourself, you can master the futures markets.

I wish you good trading.

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