Now to the “letting profits run” side of the equation. This is even harder because who knows when those profits will stop running? No one does, of course, but there are some things to consider.
First of all, be aware that there is an urge in all of us to want to win, even if it’s only by a narrow margin. Most of us were raised that way. Win, even if it’s only by one touchdown, one point, or one run. Following that philosophy almost assures you of losing in the futures markets because the nature of trading futures usually means that there are more losers than winners. The winners are often big, big, big winners, not “one run” winners. Here again, you have to fight human nature.
Let’s say you’ve had several losses (like most traders), and now one of your positions is developing into a pretty good winner. The temptation to close it out is universally overwhelming. You’re sick about all those losses, and this looks like a chance to cash in on a pretty good winner. You don’t want it to get away. Besides, it gives you a nice warm feeling to close out a winning position and tell yourself (and maybe even your friends) how smart you were (particularly if you’re beginning to doubt yourself because of all those past losers).
That kind of reasoning and emotionalism have no place in futures trading; therefore, the next time you are about to close out a winning position, ask yourself why. If the cold, calculating, sound reasons you used to put on the position are still there, you should strongly consider staying. Of course, you can use trailing stops to protect your profits, but if you are exiting a winning position out of fear (don’t), greed (don’t), ego (don’t), impatience (don’t), or anxiety (don’t). If you are thinking about exiting a winning position out of sound fundamental and/or technical reasoning…do.
19. You can avoid the emotionalism, the second guessing, the wondering, and the agonizing if you have a sound trading plan (including price objectives, entry points, exit points, risk-reward ratios, stops, information about historical price levels, seasonal influences, government reports, prices of related markets, chart analysis, and so on; follow that plan.
Most traders don’t want to bother; they like to “wing it.” Perhaps they think a plan might take the fun out of it for them. If you’re like that and trade futures for the fun of it, fine. If you’re trying to make money without a plan—forget it. Trading a sound, smart plan is the answer to cutting your losses short and letting your profits run.
20. Do not overstay a good market. If you do, you are bound to overstay a bad one also.
21. Take your lumps, just be sure they are little lumps. Very successful traders generally have more losing trades than winning trades. They just don’t have any hang-ups about admitting they’re wrong and they have the ability to close out losing positions quickly.
22. Trade all positions in futures on a performance basis. Either the position gives a profit by the end of the third day after the position is taken, or else you get out.
23. Program your mind to accept many small losses. Program your mind to “sit still” for a few large gains.
24. Most people would rather own something (go long) than owe something (go short). Markets can (and should) also be traded from the short side.
25. Watch for divergence in related markets—is one market making a new high without another following?
26. Recognize that fear, greed, ignorance, generosity, stupidity, impatience, self- delusion, and so on can cost you a lot more money than the market(s) going against you. Also, no fundamental method exists to recognize these factors.
27. Don’t blindly follow computer trading. A computer trading plan is only as good as the program. As the old saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
28. Learn the basics of futures trading. It’s amazing how many people simply don’t know what they’re doing. They’re bound to lose, unless they have a strong broker providing guidance and keeping them out of trouble.