Oh, how I show my age missing discourse like this. Besides Donahue, we had William Buckley, Dick Cavett, and, often, even Johnny Carson. Hearing liberal vs. conservative in an informative way was so, so nice. NOT screaming, NOT engaging in relentless raw ad hominem attacks, NOT being proud of ignorance, nor being illogical–and so smug about doing all this. Even the audiences back then were different. Civility is always welcome. I like to hear from the dead, because what they say is locked down, therefore, allowing a true evaluation of them.
Building off of last weeks podcast Michael brings another dead guest on his show, Alan Watts. Watts is responsible for introducing eastern traditions to the West, i.e. Buddhism. He has been featured many times on the podcast. Is money the root of all evil? Is money the goal? Why are making mistakes so crucial to your life? Does money equal wealth? These are all topics that are discussed and answered on the podcast.
Before Michael plays a clip from Watts, he shares a story from his recent trip to California. Michael had lunch next to a table that was the quintessential example of money, wealth, and the stereotypes that live in Los Angeles. His opening story is food for thought as you listen to Watts and his wisdom.
In this episode of Trend Following Radio:
Relationship between guilt and gold
You don’t learn if you don’t make mistakes
Psychological attitude toward money
Money is just bookkeeping
Money as the circulation of information
Changing the psychological attitude toward money
The cost of paying income tax
“I wonder often if there is any relationship between guilt and gold.” – Alan Watts
Are markets efficient? Can you beat the market? Is the market the right price? These are questions Michael answers today. Michael brings in Benoit Mandelbrot to help explain the efficient market hypothesis and where we have all gone wrong in our thinking over the years. Next, he goes to Richard Feynman to explain the scientific method and how one goes about comparing and contrasting. Lastly, Michael lets Gerd Gigerenzer elaborate on the concept of heuristics.
Charles Faulkner has been featured in many Trend Following Radio episodes and across all of my books. An excerpt from “The Little Book of Trading”:
Perhaps you have heard the expression about living in the moment of now. What do I mean? The past is gone and the future is unknowable, but we have right now. That does not mean we cannot consider our past experiences or mistakes as useful references. Nor does that mean we cannot prepare and plan for the future. It does mean that making decisions based upon what is actually happening in the moment of right now is how great trend following traders organize their lives and produce their fortunes.
While not primarily a trader, Charles Faulkner brings a tremendously useful insight to the table. In all my years I can think of no one who does a better job of bringing traders and investors to a better understanding of themselves. Understanding yourself as a trader is the needed introduction to the journey of success in trend following profits.
Faulkner sees the world from a very wide and novel perspective, and you should too.
Case in point: A crucial lesson to understand is that when entering the market game, losses are part of the game. No matter the amount of experience you have, there will always be losses. That said, you want to make sure your losses are ones that you can handle—knowing that they are emotionally going to affect you.
People in sports understand this. Professional game players understand that to build your skill, you need to take losses and learn from them. You hope to play against people better than you because that is what makes you better.
Studying traders is very useful because everything in their world is extremely focused due to the intensity of their profession. What might take months or years to unfold in an ordinary life can unfold very quickly for traders.
For example, for many people the biggest purchase they make is a house or a car. And for many successful trend traders that kind of money can go through their hands within an hour, or even minutes.
This means, when trading, you don’t want to view money in terms of dollars as if you were going to buy a new car, but rather use the dollars to keep score. Putting yourself into that mental framework is critical. Releasing your mind from how you value money in terms of shopping, and instead focusing on it as a score during the game, is a huge first step.
A nice email came across my desk:
Good day Michael,
First I want to thank you for sharing your work with me and the rest of the world. I first read your work about 5 years ago and have not missed a podcast. Many podcasts I have returned to repeatedly for the timeless information and thought-provoking content. Another resource I don’t miss is the Epsilon Theory notes by Ben Hunt (thanks for introducing me to his work as well). I just wanted to suggest to you if you have not already read Ben’s latest note “I know it was you, Fredo” it is worth the time, like all of his notes. The information you have shared has not only changed my approach to the market but to nearly every aspect of my life. The exposure you provided me to the works of Charles Faulkner and Alan Watts two examples of many that have shaped the way I think about the world.
I felt it was time I thanked for what your work has meant to me.
Perhaps not surprising, trend followers have spent as much time observing and understanding human behavior as they have trading. Understanding human behavior and how it relates with markets is commonly referred to as behavioral finance.
Behavioral finance evolved out of a contradiction between classical economic theory and reality. Economic theory is based on the assumption that people act rationally, have identical values and access to information, and use rational decision making. The truth is people are irrational and seldom make completely rational decisions even if they think they do. I have had the good fortune to learn from some of the top minds in the field of behavioral finance. From Nobel Prize winner Vernon Smith to Charles Faulkner, my eyes have been opened. Faulkner outlined the core issues:
“The current proliferation of electronic technologies— computers, the Internet, cell phones, 24-hour news, and instant analysis—tend to distract us from the essentially human nature of markets. Greed, hope, fear, and denial, herd behavior, impulsiveness, and impatience with process (‘Are we there yet?’) are still around, and if anything, more intensely so. Few people have absorbed the hard neuroscience research that reasons arrive afterwards. That given the choice between a simple, easy-to-understand explanation that works and a difficult one that doesn’t, people tend to pick the latter. People would rather have any story about how a series of price changes happened than that there is no rational reason for it. Confusing hindsight with foresight and complexity with insight are a few more ‘cognitive illusions’ of Behavioral Finance.”
Faulkner is correct, but that doesn’t make his words easy. The problem is that by not accepting that truth, you will get into trouble one way or another, as Carl Sagan reminds us:
“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
A few years after writing Trend Following I came across another great mind in the field of human behavior and psychology, Alan Watts. Consider some feedback from a listener:
Thanks for turning me on to Alan Watts through your podcasts. Below is a link to an audiobook that I think you may find interesting, considering your interests in yoga and other eastern traditions. Andrew is a Lama (not a llama) and an old friend of mine: Here
An article recently appeared in Forbes, entitled “What Jurassic World Can Teach Investors About The Stock Market”. In it is an interview with Ben Carlson on why simplicity trumps complexity when it comes to investment strategies. Although not explicitly about trend following, the article brings up points about the poor historical performance of financially engineered assets and the superiority of simple systems.
In this monologue, Michael Covel talks about his desire to seek the truth, and the importance of taking personal responsibility for your actions. He also breaks apart the Forbes article on simplicity vs. complexity, and the logical reasons why trend following systems have historically performed better than others.
Also in this episode: the recent study that shows that metal-heads from the 80s are happier and better adapted than their peers.
In this episode of Trend Following Radio:
Why simple strategies are better than complex ones
The importance of defining your risk as a number
How risk and reward are two sides of the same coin
Why going for the average is a losing strategy
The difference between hiring a financial advisor and an trader
“Financially-engineered assets often fail to perform as their creators intended. Or they are ill-equipped to deal with unanticipated events.” – Ky Trand Ho (Forbes)
Mentions & Resources:
Ben Carlson’s book, “A Wealth of Common Sense: Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity in Any Investment Plan”
Forbes article, “What Jurassic World Can Teach Investors About The Stock Market”