The best way to learn is through a mentor; someone who has been successful and is willing to personally teach you and keep you on track. Unfortunately, the people who want a mentor far outnumber the mentors out there accepting students. Finding someone to personally teach you trade is difficult. But if you already a have a strategy you have tested, and just need to be kept on track, then a trading referee is much easier to find, and can help you a great deal.
What’s a Trading Referee?
When I first started trading, I didn’t have a mentor teaching me strategies. Although, I did have someone who monitored my risk. They were there as basically my backstop, to keep me honest and make sure I stuck to the strategy I had laid out for myself.
This person didn’t monitor me every minute of every trading day, but I made myself accountable to this person. If I lost more than I was supposed to on a day I was required to write an email to them explaining why (see: Use a Daily Stop-Loss to Protect Your Trading Income). If I was having a rough time and profits were hard to come by, I sat with them and tried to explain why.
The trading referee is someone you designate, that you trust–it could be a friend, fellow trader, spouse or even a specific trading forum–and to which you are accountable for certain things. Agree with the person what their role is, and how the relationship will work. Will you meet in person once a week to discuss your trading? Will you communicate via email when there is an issue?
Or best of all, send an email everyday with your results explaining your trades and anything you did well and what you need to work on. Include screenshot of your charts/trades, so they can look at them, and so you have a historical record of all your trades to see how you have grown or veered off course.
Utilizing Your Trading Referee
After you have picked someone, and they agree to help keep you on track, you’ll need to formalize the relationship.
You are still making the trading decisions, but hopefully knowing that someone will be looking over what you are doing will force you to stick to your strategies and plan.
Give this person some power over you. Give them access to your trading results so they can question you on anything which you have agreed is open for discussion. Also, give them permission to freely question you. While it may be uncomfortable, having to explain your trading will force you to stay focused in real-time, and will help you become a better over time.
Ideally your referee should be aware of your basic method for trading, so they can potentially spot when you have deviated from your plan without even realizing it yourself. Having to explain your trading method is also a great exercise for making sure you thoroughly understand it yourself.
While not necessary, allow your referee to impose some form of pre-agreed punishment if you continually make the same mistake. You may need to pay them a small fee, or buy them dinner if you make the same mistake a certain number of times. If you continually make trades that you aren’t supposed to, some of these trades will end up being winners, but since you weren’t supposed to make the trade anyway you may agree to give any such proceeds to your referee. With nothing to gain from making impulsive trades, your habit will likely be broken very shortly.
On a trading floor traders must answer to their superiors or other traders for their actions. Retail traders don’t have the same structured environment, which can be lead to sloppy trading habits. Find someone you trust, and ask them if you will help keep you on track. Formalize the relationship to suit both party’s needs; make it so you feel accountable and know you will be questioned if you mess up. Even if you just agree to send daily charts and notes of your trades to someone, this is a positive step. When you know someone else is going to see your mistakes, you’re less likely to make them in the first place. Finally, choose someone who is stern, yet positive and encouraging. This should be a good experience for your trading, not something extra to worry about.