All successful traders have a plan. They do something, continually, that provides a favorable result over many trades. Since the market is so dynamic, this is sometimes hard for new traders to grasp. They say things like it: “It is going up, why I don’t I just buy it?” or “The world needs more oil, so I will just buy oil stocks.” No regard is given to when a trade should take place, if the idea is valid, how they will get out of a winning trade, or manage risk if it doesn’t work out.
Follow your personal plan to the end…
It’s 1863. Prussian premier Otto von Bismarck, feeling under the thumb of the dominant Austrians in the German Federation hatches a plan for no longer being the servant boy of Austria. His plans start by attacking weak Denmark to take back former Prussian lands – but he enlists Austria in the war, claiming the lands will be theirs. The war is won and Bismarck then demands the newly acquired land.
Austria is enraged, but compromises and gives Bismarck a part, then later selling the rest to Prussia. Bismarck knows this sends a message to the rest of Europe – Prussia is on the rise and Austria is conceding to Prussian demands. In 1866 Bismarck convinces the Prussian royalty to withdraw from the German Federation, thus going to war with Austria. The superior Prussian army crushes the Austrians in the brutally short Seven Weeks War.
Bismarck now switches his tune and puts himself on the side of peace, coming to a treaty with Austria and giving other German states total autonomy. This positioned the German Federation on the side of Bismarck, as one more war would occur between Prussia and France. France is defeated, but Bismarck wants no land, although he is convinced that Alsace-Lorraine should become part of the Federation.
Europe feared the now powerful Prussian’s (Bismarck’s) next move. Bismarck founded the German Empire, the Prussian king became the emperor and Bismarck himself the prince. But no more wars were started by Bismarck, despite outside expectation, and he strove the rest of his life to maintain peace. This was the final move of his original plan.
To outsiders it may look as if Bismarck lost his nerve or became complacent. But in fact he stuck to his original plan. He did not overreach, for to do so would create too many enemies. To not reach this end point would have left him and his country weak looking and open to counterattacks. Therefore, Bismarck played his own plan perfectly.
Plan ahead accounting for all possible contingencies. Do not stop until your plan is complete, and do not keep going after you have reached your goal. Stop, reassess, and make a new plan if needed to move further. Do no wing it after you have accomplished a goal. At all times actions and inaction must be calculated.
If it is not you doing the calculating, it is you that is being calculated in someone else’s plan.
The Trading Take Away
It doesn’t matter what your plan is, as long as you have one, know it will work and stick to it all the time. In Bismarck’s case, his plan unfolded like a political chess match. As trader’s, we don’t need to worry about politics, but we do need to understand how market participants act and how markets move. We need to create a plan and test it out, seeing how it would have performed in the past, testing it in current conditions, and then finally taking decisive action to implement that plan and achieve our goal of making money from the markets.
Our personal history will be created either way. At least with a plan we have a better chance of being on the winning/profitable side. When we look back from that state, we will happy we took the time to plan our actions.
By Cory Mitchell, CMT
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