Trading is for Muppets

(n) Slang, meaning silly, foolish people. As opposed to a frog and a pig that have a weird interspecies relationship. But you know, if you tell me their love is real, who am I to argue.

Spoiler alert. I used to be a Muppet. (Might still be one)

I feel like a having a good first trade stuffs you up. It makes you feel like you’re special. You strut your stuff, pelvic thrust. You sneak some little dance moves in there, maybe some air punches. Not me. I’m talking about the little people. I was like a fakir on a nail board. Floating on a pool of lava. Conversing with my inner Atman. Oommmh, motherfucker.

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Joeys trading desk circa 2010.

At least that is how I choose to remember it. I have a memory like a goldfish, so really it could have gone either way. But since this is my narrative I choose to believe the latter. I do however know I got ridiculously lucky. Like 400% lucky. Downside is when you’re just starting out you have no trading capital. So really that means very little in the grand scheme or schism of things.

Unfortunately your financial priorities just starting out are skewed towards things like Timberland and Soviet and taking the hot blond to the restaurant you can’t really afford. That was basically my first pay check. Not a great return on investment. Except for a brief preoccupation that I’d contracted chlamydia.

Next months expenses included a needless visit to the GP who touched me in my no-no special place, but after a stern talk, gave my junk the thumbs up. At least I got a lollipop. But that was like two hundred shares in a good blue chip in those days.

Worse than having a good first trade though is when trades two, three and four are also good. Soon the ridiculous size of my ego-bubble rivalled the Death-star in girth. Tight spaces became problematic for me, and small objects would randomly start to orbit my house.

Generally this where Icarus flies too close to the sun and melts the wax, falling to earth. And we all learn a valuable lesson. Which is that Greek engineering should stop at wooden horses and not expand to include aeronautics.

Not me though. I get a bit wobbly standing on the second rung of a ladder. But you do know that idiom where pigs get slaughtered. I forget the first part of it. Wait, is it hogs that get slaughtered? Anyway someone gets slaughtered. It made an impression on me.

I was generally super cautious. I did pay school fees once. It was my worst trade. And I lost twenty five thousand. And what made it worse was the share got suspended. So that damn trade sat at the top of my portfolio for two or three years (possibly longer). Reminding me every damn day about what an idiot I’d been.

Long story short. I listened to some bullshit story from someone I trusted. Thought I had this inside track. Didn’t check my ego at the door, didn’t have any rules and I got burned. Could have been a lot worse.

If you’re going to dip your toe into this murky pond you have to have a rule set. And you need to be completely committed to those rules. There can be no deviation, no variance, no exceptions. A stick with a knobbly bit on the end also helps. (so you can hit yourself in the face when you stray)

I rarely traded fundamentals. And technical trading is still a complete and utter mystery to me. I used to watch them on tv, with their little charts and their little ruled lines, in complete amazement… they are like those crazy fringe people on the unkempt verges of society, you humour them, but really it’s like the scientology of trading. Don’t make eye contact, because at any moment they might start espousing their thoughts on Xenu or Cthulhu or whatever fashionable kaiju is in vogue in cuckoo-land.

Mostly I momentum traded. I watched what other people bought. And I bought that. I wasn’t very clever. But I was super disciplined about it. If I got stopped out I didn’t cry about it and if a share ever went over 32% I sold it. Sometimes that share went on to triple or quadruple in value. *shrug* These things happen.

I had some other stuff going for me. I was lucky. I traded in one of the best bull runs in history. I lived for free in a cottage at the back of my parent’s property. If I trundled on down the garden path to parents house and looked really sad my mother would feed me. No dependents. It all adds up to disposable income that instead of blowing, I would trade with.

Which all sounds quite groovy. Only it began to consume me, to the detriment of living. It became the alpha and omega. And money became the score that I used to gauge my success in life. There wasn’t much introspection going on at the time. But I look back with morbid fascination at that strange doppelgänger that was me. It took me a while longer to snap out of it completely.

I’m still not completely over it. Like some sort of weird addict I relapse now and then. I bought Woolworths shares the other day. R64 something. Some stray neuron in my neo-cortex went… ‘ooooh shiny’. A week later I was like what the hell are you doing… and I sold them again. Anyways, annoying because now I have to pay tax on that. I hate paying tax.

Anyways, the point I’m trying to get to is. Don’t trade.

Okay. Maybe I should start with; Don’t trade futures. Or currency. Or commodities. Or cyclical shares. Banks are also pretty shit. Or fucken gold. But really don’t trade at all.

Money is this bullshit construct humanity has created. It’s not real. None of this stuff is real. Are you really going to commit all this time and effort to a figment of your imagination? Money, shares, options, Rand Dollar, it all exists because we allow it to exist by believing in it.

‘Burn it down!’ ‘Burn it all down!’ Well… I’m not really a fan of that either. I’m not a sandal wearing, tie-dye hippie. I like coffee and iPhones and MacBook airs. And these things cost money. What I resent is having to spend all this time doing something I don’t particularly love. If you LOVE pouring over balance sheets before bedtime, reading financial articles and logging into your portfolio twenty five times a day… and this is your thing… the thing that defines you as a human being… well then go for it. Fuck ‘em up son.

Me… I’ve paired down to just three exchange traded funds. I buy some every month. It’s infinitely better than gearing up every day and charging into the breach. Trading is not glorious. It’s awful grunt work. It’s listening to opinionated ego-maniacs all day, every day. Trying to sift through a slime soup of noise with a fork looking for a chunky bit. Don’t do that to yourself. If you’re into abuse get a partner that will dress up in leather every so often, tie you up and slap you around for a bit. Maybe burn you with a cigarette once in a while. Infinitely more fun. Don’t trade.

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