Building a Good Foundation – Lessons from Mister Bill
There are common threads among those who are successful in life and have reached a level of excellence in their chosen field. Success is defined not by monetary standards, but rather by level of happiness, personal fulfillment, and mastery in their discipline. Mr. Bill has achieved this exalted plateau. He is not a trader, but if you substitute the word “trading” for “trainer”, Mr. Bill’s lessons are the perfect recipe for success in the markets.
Mr. Bill is a personal trainer who has discovered the secrets to health, happiness, and building an awesome physique. Some of his clients are Olympic equestrian riders who have remained loyal to Mr. Bill for many years. And here’s why – his philosophy on the importance of building a good foundation has helped his clients bring home Olympic medals! Mr. Bill is in his late 60’s, has a body like Jack LaLane’s, and a mind like Yoda’s. I am going to listen to someone who says that the first thing he does in the morning is to get out of bed with a smile on his face because that is the proper way to greet the day.
Mr. Bill says a good foundation is the key to everything, whether it is bodybuilding or trading the markets. How can you start on the journey towards reaching a level of competency, let alone mastery, if you don’t start from a base of solid training principles? In any discipline, if shortcuts are taken, the cracks in the foundation will show up later and inevitably hold you back.
Mr. Bill has many words of wisdom to share with us on building a good foundation. To start, there must be a solid methodology used to build a foundation, and this methodology must be followed with CONSISTENCY. For example, when working out, it is important to work the muscle groups in a particular order because blood flows from one group to the next. There is a logical rational for everything, even if results are not seen for a while. A good foundation is built on the basics – core exercises for the major muscle groups. And when applying these basics, proper technique is everything. If you have proper technique in what you do, you will be able to accomplish twice as much in half the time.
This certainly applies to the bottom line in the markets. In your trading, keep a basic core group of patterns or strategies that you trade. They should be built on the elementary principles of price behavior, for this is where there is an edge. Follow your trading program with CONSISTENCY, using proper technique and form when it comes to managing your trades. Proper technique is the equivalent of good habits. Even though a trader may not see immediate results in their P&L from following a methodical approach with good money management, it is the good HABITS that will eventually enable the trader to climb to higher levels by using more leverage. It is the good foundation and habits that give a trader CONFIDENCE that their goals are achievable.
Rituals are the main tools used to achieve consistency. However, rituals are not just a tool, they are a lifestyle! Mr. Bill has rituals for practically everything, starting with how you wake up. Shave first, THEN brush the teeth…the same way every day. Next, one cup of coffee with condensed milk…the one sweet luxury of the day. Mr. Bill has 2 ½ hours of rituals before he starts training his first client at the gym. Check the computer for e-mails, meditate, take morning supplements, (have that cup of coffee) and of course leave plenty of time to get to the gym so as not to feel rushed! In addition to creating a methodical approach to everything, rituals offer the REAL luxury of freeing the mind…from stress, anxieties, and negative thoughts.
Mr. Bill states that record keeping is a critical part of building a good foundation. (Sound familiar for success in the markets?) He keeps track of every exercise, weights, reps, and minutes that go by for each of his clients. He notes every detail, comment or aberration. If a client has a unique problem, he thinks about it at night and lets his mind come up with creative solutions while he sleeps. He is devoted to achieving maximum progress for each of his clients. He is even more meticulous in his personal record keeping, including everything from personal nutrition and exercise to finances.
Think of record keeping as one more type of ritual. It is a tool that will help you to stay focused and gain control over areas that are prone to distractions. It is also the main tool used to monitor performance. Every top athlete keeps detailed records on their physical performance and progress. There is no reason why a trader can’t keep detail records on the more abstract business of trading.
Record keeping monitors your progress in reaching towards your GOALS. If your goals are not written down, Mr. Bill says that they are worthless. Once you write something down, that is the first step towards commitment. Writing down your goals firmly implants them in the subconscious and you are less likely to change them. Have you written down your goals for this year? How about starting out with building and maintaining a solid foundation in your trading program!
Mr. Bill suggests learning how to properly SCHEDULE things into your daily routine. Once it is scheduled in, it is part of your routine and quickly becomes integrated into the rituals. Mr. Bill says that if you do not schedule something, such as a regular trip to the gym, it is too easy to talk yourself out of it or procrastinate. So, learn how to schedule time for your record keeping and preparation time necessary for the next day’s markets. There should be no discussion with yourself when it comes to doing your necessary preparation for the markets each night. You will welcome making rituals part of your routine when you find that it helps you start the trading day feeling totally prepared and in control, ready to go.
Mr. Bill says that if you CONCENTRATE on the specific muscle you are working and give it your whole attention, it helps it grow faster. Concentration, in addition to a consistent methodology, is a key component of a good foundation. Learn to concentrate specifically on the task at hand. When you are putting on a trade or managing a position, give what ever you are doing your full attention at the time. With practice, it gets easier to eliminate distracting thoughts.
Mr. Bill believes that everything starts with positive thinking! He was not always that way. He used to drink heavily and smoke until one day, 20-years ago, he simply quit and said THAT IS IT! He weighed 135 pounds at the time (and he is a tall man!) Now he exudes more energy than people half his age. This man clearly loves his life! He says his biggest secret is positive thinking. He starts his day by saying “No negative thoughts today.” He refuses to entertain one negative thought. If one pops into his mind, he kicks it right out or turns it into something positive. And he claims that there are some days now where not one negative thought pops into his head.
Exercise is one of the easiest areas that you can quickly start to feel good about yourself. As you become more fit, you gain strength and confidence. Everything then branches out from there. You will eat healthier as your body feels better. Supplements or vitamins become part of your daily ritual. Alcohol and sugar are less attractive. And you will find yourself making more time at night to get a good sleep, as your muscles need time to rest in order to grow.
This analogy can be applied to the business of trading. When proper homework and preparation has been done at the end of each day, we are in a stronger position coming in at the beginning of the trading day. The first few successful trades give a taste of the satisfaction gained in running a well thought out program, which in turn increases incentive to continue to eliminate all the distractions and wasted time engaging in frivolous activities. Just as the person who engages in a regular exercise program starts to set higher physical goals for themselves, the person who starts to follow a consistent trading program will also set higher goals, such as one day running a successful money management business or striving for continuous new account highs.
Remember Mr. Bill’s lessons on the importance of a good foundation as the New Year begins: Stick with the basics, follow a methodology, be consistent, use rituals to achieve consistency, concentrate on your form and technique, write down your goals, keep records of your progress, and above all, practice positive thinking!