Breaking Your Keyboard

I know that when you trade it’s best to stay calm. And busting your keyboard is not keeping cool. I get and have blogged that you make poor trading decisions when you are not in the zone. But having sat on a prop desk the past 12 years of my life I have heard and seen many smashed, broken, and eliminated. Instead of pretending no one gets upset or that this is somehow a personal weakness, let’s talk about how to diminish these very human urges.

When I first started trading whacking your keyboard was commonplace. This was the birth of day trading so like a fine wine we needed to mature as an industry. At our firm there was actually an internal system for replacing battered keyboards. A tech guy would grab your shattered keyboard, or what was left of it, give you a brand new one, and the firm would just bill you. The whole replacement process took 30 seconds.

My first week of trading I critiqued about someone cursing the trading in AMAT,”Why is he so upset?  That is so unprofessional!” And then I started trading.

Yesterday one of our traders obliterated his keyboard when JCP stopped him out of a 7k share position. He is one of the better intraday traders on the Street. I was not on the desk at the time but I was told that some of the keys traveled two trading rows. Three traders were commissioned for the search, rescue and replacement of the hurled keys. Impressive!

We are not Buddhist monks. And while it is best for us to trade in the zone it is unrealistic to trade every minute of every day of every year in a calm state as a trader. And the shorter your time frame the more this is true. Intraday traders have more opportunity to experience loss and missed opportunities which triggers frustration and anger.

Before each day I check my temperate and record it in my trading journal. There are certain days when I am on edge even before the Open, which makes it more likely that I may lose my cool. Over the years I have learned that when I am getting worked unfairly by market players I can become heated. This is the lawyer in me who believes in fairness. The point is I can feel it coming. And you as a trader can learn to observe your feelings to avoid being that guy who demolishes his keyboard.

Making notes in your journal about what sets you off is a great start. Adding visualization exercises to better control your emotions on these things that may cause you to trade on tilt help. When you observe you are tense get up from your trading station and go take a ten-minute walk to cool down. Dr. Steenbarger of TraderFeed is the best source for all things trading psychology.

It is not abnormal to have these urges. You are not weak. We’re all wired differently. Some of us get set off by our trading more easily than others. But there are steps you can take to trade in the zone. And just a quick note. If you do get to the point where you cannot help but smash your keyboard (and this should happen at most once a year). Bang the crap out of it such that there is not one key left. If you don’t then you are just making noise!

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