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Ep. 606: Jeff Bezos Is a Trend Follower with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

Jeff Bezos Trend Follower
Jeff Bezos Trend Follower

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Michael throws Jeff Bezos, Amazon and trend following into a giant melting pot. Jeff Bezos is a trend following trader – along with venture capitalists, Hollywood, the MIT black jack team, Warren Buffett (to some degree, yes), and many more.

Michael notes an excerpt from a document written in 1983, gleaning wisdom from Richard Dennis and Bill Eckhardt. Not relevant today? Think again. Richard Dennis makes it clear in the document that you never know where the next home run is coming from – missing a big payout is just as bad as taking a loss. Are you guilty of forgetting about big opportunity when trading? Do you focus too much on your downside? Most unfortunately get fixated on the downside and ignore the positive unknown.

Michael also notes an article written by Li Jiang titled, “What I Learned From Reading Every Amazon Shareholders Letter.” Li lists key lessons he has pulled from shareholder letters: type I and type II decisions, end each day of business like it is the first day, always operate like a hungry upstart, only the paranoid survive, make small bets because you can’t predict anything, move fast and break things, and if you are offered a seat on a rocketship – don’t ask which seat, just get on. Jeff Bezos’ words dovetail seamlessly with trend following philosophy. Thinking outside the box is essential to making great things can happen.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Jeff Bezos
  • Amazon
  • Type 1 errors/decisions
  • Type 2 errors/decisions
  • Sunk cost
  • Opportunity cost
  • Prediction
  • Trend following is dead?

“You never really know which market is going to be the one that is the big payoff.” – Richard Dennis

“If you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask which seat, just get on.” – Jeff Bezos

Mentions & Resources:

Listen to this episode:

Ep. 577: Art Collins Interview with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

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Art Collins is author of “Beating the Financial Futures Market: Combining Small Biases Into Powerful Money Making Strategies”, “When Supertraders Meet Kryptonite”, “Market Rap: The Odyssey of a Still-Struggling Commodity Trader” and “Market Beaters.” He has been trading systematically for the past 30 years.

How was Art Collins able to get Richard Dennis, Bill Dunn, Bob Pardo, Mike Dever and Larry Williams (to name a few) to talk? He made the interviews more like a partnership, than an interview. He made an impressive name for himself which led to positive word of mouth spreading.

What does robustness mean to Art? He uses four rules for prudent testing: 1. Don’t settle on your best result if it is a “diamond in the rough”. 2. Strategies should test well in various markets, particularly similar ones. 3. You don’t want your results to be bunched up in limited time frames. 4. Stay focused on testing concepts you understand in the markets.

Throughout the years Art wasn’t only focused on trading markets. He also studied how to beat the blackjack table and how to skew the odds in his favor when betting on sports. Trading football lines, and trading the price of stocks – what’s the difference? There isn’t much of a difference when you take a technical and systematic approach to them. It’s about keeping emotions out of it. He never wanted to be a cowboy trader or thought of as a “genius”, he just wanted his systems to work. Michael and Art spend the rest of this episode diving into card counting, mechanical systems, gambling on football, data mining and the fools errand of making $1,000 a day.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Systems trading
  • Richard Dennis
  • Card Counting
  • Mechanical systems
  • Robustness
  • Data mining

Mentions & Resources:

Listen to this episode:

The Incredible True Story of the Real Life ‘Trading Places’

Recently, I joined Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway on thier podcast, Odd Lots, to talk about Trading Places and the Turtles:

If you have any interest at all in finance, then it’s mandatory to have seen the 1983 movie “Trading Places.” You remember, right? Two wealthy Philadelphia commodity brokers bet on whether anyone, even down-and-out Eddie Murphy, can be trained to become a successful trader. What you might not realize is that something very similar happened in real life. In this week’s Odd Lots, we examine the amazing tale of the Turtle Traders. In 1983, successful commodities speculator Richard Dennis took out a full-page ad looking for novices to train in the art of trading. His novices — who did spectacularly well — studied for just a few weeks and were dubbed his “Turtles.” Joining us to tell the story is Michael Covel, who wrote a book on the Turtles, and Jerry Parker, a former Turtle who still trades using the same technique today.

Check it out here.

Overpopulation: A Trend Following Debate

When asked about trend following becoming “overpopulated” a Richard Dennis quote is often best:

“I don’t think trading strategies are as vulnerable to not working if people know about them, as most traders believe. If what you are doing is right, it will work even if people have a general idea about it. I always say you could publish rules in a newspaper and no one would follow them. The key is consistency and discipline.”

Psychology and following the rules are paramount–bottom line. Consider more from an excerpt from The Complete Turtle Trader:

The techniques that Dennis and Eckhardt taught the Turtles were different from Dennis’s seasonal spread techniques from his early floor days. The Turtles were trained to be trend-following traders. In a nutshell, that meant that they needed a “trend” to make money. Trend followers always wait for a market to move; then they follow it. Capturing the majority of a trend, up or down, for profit is the goal.

The Turtles were trained this way because by 1983, Dennis knew the things that worked best were “rules”: “The majority of the other things that didn’t work were judgments. It seemed that the better part of the whole thing was rules. You can’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I want to have an intuition about a market.’ You’re going to have way too many judgments.”

While Dennis knew exactly where the sweet spot was for making big money, he often fumbled his own trading with too many discretionary judgments. Looking back, he blamed his pit experience, saying, “People trading in the pit are very bad systems traders generally. They learn different things. They react to the [price] ‘tick’ in your face.”

Feedback from a listener that addresses Richard Dennis:

Hi Michael,

Hope you are doing well. Again, I appreciate everything, specially your commitment to the trend following podcast. In a recent back to back [other podcast] between [name] and [name] they address an important question:

Q: What lessons do you take from the fall of Richard Dennis? One of the biggest swingers at the Board of Trade…great trader…not only that but he believed he could replicate trading skills and did so successfully. He trained a whole generation of people who came up [and] manged billions…and then he basically goes and explodes. What is the practical lesson for your audience here?

A: Speaking to the trend following school in particular (and various trend followers who blew up or bled out): I do believe that certain trading styles and methodologies can suffer greatly from overpopularity. When there are too many people following a widespread strategy, and not enough differentiation among that active group, the strategy can be degraded to the point of no longer working.

Personally, I don´t agree with that argument because market trends have been persistent over time. As Howard Marks said: “We don´t have to worry about everybody becoming to prudent or to wise, because we are talking about human nature.”

I would appreciate your insight on this argument.


I don’t see any argument. My views on this are answered across 2 books comprehensively (the question above has some inaccuracies for starters):

1: The Complete TurtleTrader
2: Trend Following

My best response is in about 180,000 combined words (that is not a dodge; reality is that my answer is long). And yes I talk about the good and bad of Richard Dennis, but the good far outweighed the bad.

Trend Following Feedback

Feedback in:

Dear Michael,

First off, I would like to thank you on the excellent work you have done. You should be very proud of your efforts. The courage you have shown at times is highly impressive.

I am not a particularly good writer, but I will try to keep this concise and accurate. I have been working in the finance area for roughly ten years, but until recently I didn’t know of you. In fact, I only discovered Richard Dennis and the turtle story a few years ago. I read up on them for a bit, then as daily work took over and whatever else, I never went back to them. I then lost my job, became pretty sick, moved country…well, a lot happened. I have always been surrounded by fundamental type fund managers and analysts, who never really wanted or asked my opinion, I was just their operations or trader guy. I never had the confidence to voice my opinion. Listening to conversations with lines like ‘China mobile is cheap at twelve times earnings’ or ‘I should really tweak my estimates slightly on mediatek’. The usual blah blah, by guys who only cared about beating their peers, despite meaning that could mean their clients losing money. While I never believed it, I never really took the time to seek an alternative way. I was generally more interested in sport. Also, I never had any kind of mentor. I know these sound like lame excuses, maybe they are.

To use your words Michael, I am ‘making a commitment to change’. My motivation is one for change in my life. I have consumed a lot of your work in recent months, mostly the books and podcasts (an outstanding service). I am very interested in purchasing your training program. I am more than humble to admit, I can’t turn things around without help and sound advice. I am not seeking a Holy Grail as mentioned on your site. I want to give myself minimum one year full effort and commitment, part of a plan to turn things around. Of course, it will hopefully be one year or many more.

About the program, I am concerned that I may wander off course, so to speak. There is a lot of reading material. Can I read that over time? Can I educate myself with the systems at the same time? I worry that without checkpoints along the way, the books will gather dust. I guess that is up to me. My capital for investments at the moment is relatively modest. I also worry that I should have more questions to ask, but don’t.

Thank you for your time. I am happy to call you if you have a spare five mins, I understand you are a busy guy. Email is more than fine.


Sure, we can talk. I look forward to the chat.

In advance of that call listen.

“Why has the turtle trend-following system stop working?”

A recent chat thread about “Why has the turtle trend-following system stop working?” [not accurate headline]:

Forum guest: The drawdowns are horrendous for long term trend following systems. Don’t go near them!

Covel: Chris Clarke has good insight on this podcast ep. for those that scream “drawdown” when discussing trend following.

Also, drawdown goes far beyond trend following. Consider an excerpt from PragCap:

Another way to illustrate this is if you look at something like Berkshire Hathaway. BRK has gone down 50% three times in the past (or maybe more). Once in the early 1970′s, once in 1999 and then again during the recent crisis. Of all the investors who owned BRK in 1970, how many have done better than the 20% or so return of the stock over the years by getting in and out of it in order to avoid the 50% drawdowns?

Big returns over time come with big drawdowns. Buffett has also said himself:

“Unless you can watch your stock holding decline by 50% without becoming panic-stricken, you should not be in the stock market.”

No wisdom there (heavy sarcasm).

My thoughts on Michael J clark of Clark Capital Management, one of the Trend Following Legends.

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