Episode: Dirt Off Your Shoulder

Synopsis: Michael Covel opens with quotes from both Jay-Z and Malcolm Gladwell (“My goal of the day is to fully listen to my critics, even if they may not know exactly what they’re critical of.”). Jay-Z recently spoke with Russell Simmons about Occupy Wall Street, noting that he wasn’t sure exactly what the message was behind the rally. Covel talks about the Occupy movement, about criticism he’s received in support of Jay-Z’s stance, trend following in general, and the culture of “trolling” that has popped up on the internet. Next, Covel covers some of the more technical details regarding trend following trading. How can you detect a trend? How can you measure it? For anyone with a pulse, it’s really simple. A trend is from point A to point B. There are all kinds of different trend lengths, but you don’t know the trend until it’s over; you enter, you exit, and then you see where the trend was. The goal is to capture the “meat” in the middle. Covel covers the five basic precepts of trend following: What markets are you going to follow? What will be your signal to enter a trade? What will be your exit signal for getting out with a gain? What will your exit signal be for getting out with a loss? What will your bet size be? Covel also discusses drawdowns, speculation, and entry signals. He notes the connection between wildcatting/speculation and trend following, referencing P.T. Anderson’s film about oil speculators, “There Will Be Blood”. You can enter randomly, but if you can give yourself an edge on the entry, you should take it. Think about drilling an oil well: You show up and you start drilling holes. You can drill randomly, but if you do a little geological homework, you can find out where to drill to increase your odds. The same logic applies to trend following. You’re going to drill a lot of holes: some of them are going to be dry, but you’re going to hit a few gushers along the way. No one will care about the dry holes when you hit the gusher that pays for them all. You can either call Fidelity, give them all your money, and wait and hope that you have the timing correct for your own retirement; or you can craft your life around looking for the gushers with a strategy that gives you an edge.