Retail traders love quotes. Boiling something down to a single sentence makes it appear as a universal truth. A physical law that cannot be broken. It’s a great way to reduce critical thinking. After all, if George Soros said something, it surely must be true. The guy is a billionaire and couldn’t possibly be wrong.
Quotes are useless. Pay no attention to them. – Andreas Clenow
What you need to realize is that quotes are almost always out of context and oversimplified. There are also many quotes I see used as universal truth in the retail space are from people with dubious backgrounds or who clearly have an agenda. Often people who make a living selling trading systems, mentoring, coaching, trading signals, newsletters and such but lack any real, verifiable experience. Even when intelligent, successful people speak they might have an agenda. If a billionaire who owns a commodity firm says that gold is the only real asset in the world and that it’ll double in the next year, he clearly has a reason to say so. Same as how someone who owns a discretionary global macro hedge fund might talk about how dangerous the stock market is. Or someone who’s a partner of a systematic hedge fund firm trying to convince you that systematic strategies are superior. Oh wait, scratch that last one.
But let’s assume for a moment that the person behind the quote is a highly experienced trader, has the best intentions and that he is correctly quoted.
Even then, the quote is probably not very meaningful. You’d need to fully understand the context and what was really intended with the quote. Most of the time, people don’t really expect that a throw-away sentence will hang around for decades and be repeated in trading books and on websites.
Sometimes I say silly things without intending it to be quoted in future trading lore. – Andreas Clenow
Many popular trading quotes are generalizations. They are formulated as absolute truth and appear to be a summary of a person’s life philosophy. That was likely not how they were meant. Take something as simple as “Always trend with the trend.” The only people who would agree with that are those selling trend following trading systems. Trading with the trend can often be a good idea, but saying that you should always do that and never reevaluate your approach is unprofessional.
Generalizing is fun. It makes for more powerful and memorable statements. I do it on purpose from time to time but I try to explain the context and make the assumption that my readers are smart enough to do some thinking of their own. What you really can’t do is to cling to absolute statements as if they represented some higher truth. For almost every one of these kinds of statements from some famous trader, you can find some other famous trader who said the opposite.
The key to making money in stocks is not to get scared out of them. – Peter Lynch
Sure, that worked for him. Nothing wrong with that. But what about when someone like Marty Schwarz then says this?
The best advice I can give the ordinary guy to become a better trader is to learn to take losses. – Marty Schwarz
The two statements seem contradictory in nature. Which one is right?
Both of them, and none of them. It all depends on the context. Life is not simple enough to be boiled down to a punchy quote. If you’re looking for easy answers, go work in the back office.
I’ve never met a rich technician. – Jim Rogers
Jim’s quote above might not go down too well with the many rich people out there who identify as market technicians. He’s obviously trying to make a point and he probably doesn’t mean that there are no rich technicians in world. We all know that there’s an abundance of useless and rather silly methods in TA and that most people practicing TA are delusional. That can be said of many other areas too of course and there’s still useful ideas in the field and successful people using them.
The elements of good trading are: 1. Cutting losses, 2. Cutting losses, and 3. Cutting losses. If you can follow these three rules, you may have a chance. – Ed Seykota
Ed has done well for himself, so clearly he can’t be wrong. Right?
After buying a farm, would a rational owner start selling off pieces of it whenever a neighboring property was sold at a lower price? Or would you sell your house to whatever bidder was available at 9:31 on some morning merely because at 9:30 a similar house sold for less than it would have brought on the previous day? – Warren Buffett
Warren clearly takes issue with stop losses. He flatly don’t use them. Not only that, he’s repeatedly pointed out how irrational he thinks the whole notion is. Warren has more money than Ed. Does that make him more right?
Also beware of any quote or mantra that rhymes or generally sounds cool. They tend to be perpetuated more than others.
There is no holy grail. – All Too Many People, All Too Often
Pointing out that there’s no holy grail usually precedes a solicitation of some sort. There’s no holy grail, but I’ve got something close enough for you. Although on the topic of holy grails, it should be said that quoting Monte Python on the subject is never wrong, in any context.
The trend is your friend until it bends. – Who Knows.
Sure, but that’s about as useful in practice as
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood? – Guybrush Threepwood
Real World Trading
In the real world, there are many trading and investment styles and many variations of them. There are plenty of analytical tools and many ways to use them. It’s a good idea to read a lot about how others have approached the markets. Studying research reports and books can yield valuable insight and help you design your own strategies.
What you need to be clear about is that there are no universal truths here. An out of context one-liner from some wealthy guy isn’t very likely to help you.
Trading isn’t simple enough to be boiled down to a punchy quote. – Andreas Clenow