It’s Getting Harder To Keep It Up: Transitioning My Trading

Today I am heading out to the Trader’s Expo in Las Vegas, and although I plan to have a good time, the tone and tenor of this trip will be decidedly different than that of my Vegas trips in days of yore.

One of the colloquial pleasures of growing up in Southern California was that at almost any given moment, often just on a whim, you could drop everything and head out to Vegas.

“What are we going to do this weekend?  Let’s go to Vegas!”

“Man this club sucks, I’m bored.  Let’s go to Vegas!”

“My classes got canceled this week.  Let’s go to Vegas!”

“I’m off of work for a few days.  Vegas….????”

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Swingers,” I kid you not, the scene in which they decide to go to Vegas is a 100% accurate representation of how easily it happens.

Many a times in my 20’s I would pile in to a van with some buddies and venture out through the beautiful monotony of the Southwestern desert, headed straight for Sin City.  Those road trips in themselves were fun and one specific incident always sticks out when I think back on them.

We had stopped at some convenience store in the middle of nowhere in order to buy more booze.  I mean this place was so off the beaten path it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Gram Parsons’ charred remains lying around.

As we all climbed back in the van with our liquid refreshments, one of my friends pulled out a “forty” of the one of the most politically incorrect and insensitively named consumer products of all-time; Crazy Horse Malt Liquor.

Yes, Crazy Horse Malt Liquor, I shit you not. That was the name on the bottle.  It even had a picture of an Indian Chief on the front of it.   I remember seeing it and having this stunned reaction, one that I couldn’t really put into words until years later when I saw Dave Chapelle do a bit on racism

In the bit he says….

“Have you ever had something happened that was so racist that you didn’t even get mad?  You were just like, ‘god damn’ that was….that was racist!”

“I mean it was so blatant that you were like….’Woooow!'”

“You’re like ‘Man, that was really racist!’  You’re in shock like you were watching it in a movie or something.”

That’s how I felt.  But hey, it was the cheapest non-grain alcohol on the shelf so I gave my pal a pass.

Just shocked that the tag line wasn’t “Me like-um fire water.”

As I got into my 30’s, and in theory became more mature, the Vegas trip experience began to evolve. It no longer consisted of a road trip, but instead a quick fifty-five minute plane ride, affectionately called the “stripper flight.”

These trips were no longer spur of the moment as the responsibilities of life were too numerous to just be able to drop everything and go.  Instead they became regularly scheduled, once a year “guy trips,” that though no longer spontaneous, were just as intense.

Truth be told, these weren’t really “trips” to Vegas as much as they were”attacks” on Vegas; the offensive usually starting in the airport bar where we would begin the process of “getting it in.”  That process would continue on the plane, in the cab to the hotel, and at the bar in between the front desk and the elevator to the rooms.  From that point forward it was “game on” for the rest of the weekend.

The rules for the “guys trip” to Vegas were simple….there were no rules.  And no plans either.

One guy wants to play craps; great, see ya later.  Two more want to hit the strip club; sounds good, have fun.  Another wants to power slam a dozen tequilla shots and run naked down the strip; hey, whatever turns you on.  The only exception to this rule was that on Friday night everybody would go to Del Frisco’s where we would take over one of the side rooms and gorge ourselves like Roman Senators.

I had many epic times in the city that Bugsy Siegel invented, some so “epic” that the mere fact that I never came home married, tatted, or in need of a massive double-dose of penicillin is a minor miracle.

Nowadays Vegas is a much different experience for me.  Sure, I still get the visceral reaction when the name is mentioned, but I quickly realize that my “epic” days are long done.  And the fact of the matter is, I am glad they are done.

A trip to Vegas now usually entails visits to the spa instead of the strip club.  “Power drinking” has been replaced with scotch and cigars.  I still love Del Frisco’s but now I am more likely to indulge my foodie curiosity at a tapas bar or celebrity chef’s bistro.  I mean you just never know, Emeril might be using a new type of balsamic vinegar on his Carpaccio.

It’s still a great trip, but just different, and more suited to where I’m at in my life.

This used to be me when it was time to head to Vegas.

Over the last year or so my trading has gone through a similar transition.  One that is more in tune with where I am in my life right now.

For most of the twenty-five plus years that I have been trading I have been a swing trader. It was something that fit well with the responsibilities of running my own business. However not long after 9-11 I began to day trade more frequently.  That only increased when I sold my company to become a full-time trader in 2005.

Day trading has always felt to me like the “purest” form of trading to me and I don’t think I ever truly have considered someone a trader unless they day traded.  But in the last few years, as my responsibilities in my new company have gotten larger, the practicality of day trading has gotten less and less.

And not only that, I realize that I don’t have the passion for day trading that I once did. Perhaps it is due to the increased noise in the markets. Perhaps it’s because I am getting older.  Or maybe it’s because I realize that I did just as good, if not better, when I was almost exclusively swing trading, but with half the stress.

Whatever the cause, it’s just been harder and harder to keep up the aggressiveness and energy needed to play that game.

During this last year I have really been influenced by the trading philosophy of Howard Lindzon, Ivan Hoff, and Joe Fahmy, and especially by the trading results of Steve Gomez.  All of them focus on finding that best of breed stocks and only swing trade them when the market environment is favorable.  They are not going crazy at the strip club, they are relaxing at the spa.  I want to be at the spa more as well.

Does this mean I won’t day trade anymore?  Well, let’s not get crazy.  And does that mean I won’t go to the strip clubs anymore?  Well…um, yeah since I promised my wife I wouldn’t, I guess it does.  But what it means in terms of trading is that when I do day trade, it is much more likely that I have passed on many other setups, even over numerous days, until I found one where I felt the odds were highly skewed in my favor.

One thing that I have always told newer traders is that you have to know what style of trading fits your personality.  If you day trade but your personality is more suited for swing trading, chances are you will have a hard time being profitable in the long run.  I now can add to that advice and say that you have to also trade in a style that fits with what stage you are at in your life.

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What bclund is, is the intersection of markets, trading, and life (with some punk rock, pop culture, and off-beat humor mixed in).  Check out “The Best Of bclund” to get started.

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