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Ep. 364: Simplicity Trumps Complexity with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

Simplicity Trumps Complexity with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio
Simplicity Trumps Complexity with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

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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)

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Ep. 362: Speculation Wins Today with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

Speculation Wins Today with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio
Speculation Wins Today with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

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Speculation has become a pejorative for some in recent times. A quick search yields the following definition of speculation: “forming a theory about a subject without firm evidence.” Yet if we look at the origin of the word, “speculor” means “to observe” in Latin. To speculate is to observe, and to make decisions based on those observations.

In business and in life, there are ultimately two choices: to speculate or to gamble. The difference between the two is simple: the first has a strategy behind it; the second does not. The first relies on predetermined parameters for making decisions; while the second leaves decisions up to circumstance or emotion.

In this monologue, Michael Covel talks about the philosophical foundation of success: speculation. This episode features many notable quotes from famous economists and traders, going back as far as the 1800s. The wisdom of these men is the foundation of trend following, and is as relevant today as ever.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Why speculation is such an important concept
  • The philosophy behind trend following
  • Watching results rather than causes
  • Cutting short your losses
  • Timeless excerpts from as early as the 1800s
  • The early beginnings of Wall Street

“Cut short your losses, let your profits run on.” – David Ricardo

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Have a question or comment about this episode? Post it below. Such as is the Jeanne Levy Church foundation a con?

Teller Outlines Trend Following Philosophical Foundations (Though Not His Intent)

Teller writes:

The most important decision anyone makes in any situation is “Where do I put the dividing line between what’s in my head and what’s out there? Where does make-believe leave off and reality begin?” That’s the first job your intellect needs to do before you can act in the real world. If you can’t distinguish reality from make-believe—if you’re at a stoplight and you’re not sure whether the bus that’s coming toward your car is real or only in your head—you’re in big trouble. There aren’t many circumstances where this intellectual distinction isn’t critical.

It was not his intent, but what a great explanation for why trading price is so smart. He continues:

Let’s take what magicians call a force, where the magician gives you a false sense of free action by giving you an extremely controlled choice…When I go to the supermarket, I have a choice of dozens of kinds of cereals—all made by the same manufacturer of essentially the same ingredients. I have the gut impression of variety and freedom, but in the end, the only real choice I have is not to buy.

Mutual funds not really a choice? Left/right politicians not really a choice? Correct, not really a choice.

Trend Following Philosophy: Dedication and Belief

Feedback in:

Hi Michael,

Let me start by saying thanks for taking trend following to the masses. The podcasts are excellent. Listening to how successful system traders started out, most of them quite modestly, reinforces my discipline and “belief” (Van Tharp) in trend following. I’ve been committed to systems trading for about a year now. I had researched Trend Following online and ultimately ordered Trend Following and The Little Book. After reading those I never looked back.

I’m definitely not high net worth, so the best I can do to support your endeavor is buy your books (done, done, done & done) and watch Broke (also done). I also left a good podcast review on iTunes a while back. I like your no bullshit delivery. Saying stuff like “hey guys, buy my books already” is so refreshing (or genius marketing). I got a kick out of your “amazon purchase” challenge in a recent podcast. Ironically, I had ordered Commandments and TurtleTrader only a few days before which I look forward to reading.

I also promote your stuff to anyone who will listen but I must admit that finding an audience is not that easy. Example, I loaned Trend Following (my bad, should have gifted) to a friend who is a computer programmer and talks about investing a lot, thinking it would click for him. I was disappointed when he returned the book unread. I was also hoping he might work with me to tinker with system development and testing. So much for that.

I’m currently trading a group of fairly liquid ETFs listed on the TSX offered by Horizons. They have interesting leveraged products with exposure to basic commodities, sectors, and indices. Both directional and inverse which allow you to go short without getting stuck not being able to borrow shares. My system is very basic and I believe fairly robust. I’ve back tested it manually, incorporating proper position sizing across all the ETFs that I track (major work) and it showed positive returns.

I love that the trading component of my approach only requires 20 minutes a day adjusting orders and stops. This really fits my personality, mindset and schedule since I have a day job. I have yet to be profitable (equity curve attached), but I think the fact that I’m sticking with it is an indication that I get it. My diversification needs improvement so I’m considering Futures trading to get away from high-ish correlation of the ETFs I track. First, I need to get some trades (and equity) under my belt.

Anyway, keep the podcasts coming, but please find time to write new chapters to your “bible“.

Discovering trend following is reward enough and I just wanted to say thanks.

Cheers! Georges

Thanks!

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