I was recording a podcast episode with Walter and a question came up from one of his students. I'm paraphrasing here, but the student was basically saying that he sits down to trade and he gets lost in the charts and never ends up knowing what to trade and he feels helpless…
…in spite of the fact that he has done is backtesting and has profitable strategies at his disposal.
Yes, he knows what to do, but he still cannot execute a single trade! At first you might think that he is just dumb, but I find that is very rarely the case.
Traders are a smart bunch.
So let's take a closer look at this situation.
We decided to skip this question for the recording, because we didn't quite understand what he was talking about. You see, I intuitively understood what the student was talking about, but at them time, I couldn't quite articulate what he was feeling, or formulate a possible solution.
But the question stuck with me…
So I thought about it for awhile. As someone who has felt this way before, I finally understand what was happening in my mind (and his).
If you have ever felt this way, then you will want to read this post because I do have a simple three-step solution.
Whenever this happened to me, I was basically getting screwed by Buridan's Ass. No, it wasn't a Donkey Show.
Here's what I mean…
What is Buridan's Ass?
In spite of the name, Buridan's Ass isn't an actual animal, but a philosophical principle.
Buridan's Ass is a hypothetical situation where a donkey is standing between a bale of hay and a trough of water. He is equally hungry and thirsty. The donkey cannot choose which to partake in first, and ends up dying of both hunger and thirst.
It's the paradox of free will. The donkey is free to choose either one, nobody has chained him. But because he is free to choose, indecision gets the best of him and he can't pick one.
This is obviously an overly dramatized situation, as much of philosophy is. However, it also illustrates a very real occurrence in trading.
You open your charts, see a ton of potential trades, but cannot execute a single trade because…
There is TOO MUCH opportunity.
Therefore, you end up not taking any trades and make zero money. This leaves you frustrated and keeps you on the Trading Silodrome.
So what should you do about it?
Step 1 – Acknowledge That You Have a Problem
The first step is acknowledging that you do have a problem. Don't beat yourself up about it, don't judge it.
That only makes things worse. Just see it for what it is…and resolve to fix it.
Think of it this way…
If you are short, does it make sense to beat yourself up about not being able to reach the stuff on the top shelf of your kitchen. Of course not, just go get a step ladder.
Nothing you do will change your situation. So deal with it and move on.
It's like getting mad at a zebra for having stripes.
So if you are in this situation, identify that it is an issue and work on solving it.
Step 2 – Severely Reduce Your Choices
Now that you are in problem solving mode, let's take a look at your biggest roadblock…too many choices. This is easy to fix.
Now I know what you are thinking…
But what if I miss out on a trade?
This is the root if of the problem, isn't it? Since you have given yourself too many choices, you have run into the paradox of choice.
So reduce your choices.
Yes, FOMO (fear of missing out) will creep back into your psychology. This is a strong emotion that can take you back into your old habits.
When this happens, just remember the result of your old behavior. You sit there, flip through charts, stare at them…and nothing happens.
Remember how frustrated you were? Remember how helpless it feels?
Really engrain that in your mind. It feels like a brick wall, right?
Because it is.
If necessary, tie it to an extremely unpleasant experience in your life. It's not fun, but it will give you the motivation to move forward.
Let's say that you hate swimming in cold water. Think about falling into a frozen stream, every time you look for other trading setups. That is just one way to do it, but find what works for you.
Now, reduce your options. Start with one pair and use only one strategy.
This is what brought me to the 8 tests formula in backtesting. By taking one strategy and one pair, you can focus and start to get results.
Step 3 – Go to Work on That One Thing
From here, it is just good ol' fashioned hard work. This is something that most people aren't willing to do, but you aren't most people, right?!
For starters, remove any temptation to look at other pairs and timeframes. Just keep one chart open and look for your one setup.
If you are tempted to look for other setups, go back to step two and remember what happens when you do that. Work on testing your system, instead of trying to trade other methods.
Setup a schedule to work on your system. A good way to setup a schedule is to use an app like Way of Life. Only test that one setup on that one pair, until you are confident in it.
Yes, this is not easy. This is something that I still struggle with, but I'm getting better.
Remember, staring on charts all night won't do you any good. So if you ever sit down to trade and you don't know where to start, you probably just have to reduce your options.
Something that helped me identify this issue was the meditation exercises and lessons in Chris Capre's mindset course. If you are simply at a loss for trading methods, then these courses might help you out.