Improving Our Performance by Watching

New science indicates that we can improve performance by watching. I started thinking about this while daydreaming on a pool chair at the St. Regis overlooking Hanalei Bay, one of the ten most beautiful beaches. When I was younger I was an excellent passer in the sport of basketball. I could never understand how others couldn’t see the floor like I could. Subsequently I have learned that no one becomes great at anything without purposeful practice, and I never played a ton of pickup ball when I was a kid, so how did I develop this skill? And most importantly after we sort this out, what can this mean to our performance as traders?

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When I was young I would tune into Boston Celtics games via a crappy UHF connection to a Connecticut channel that covered their action. I loved watching Larry Bird play. And he could really see the floor and pass. I can still hear C’s announcer Tommy Heinsohn: “Oh what a pass by Bird to the cutting DJ.” Was it possible that I developed this skill partly by watching him play?

Let’s explore some new science:

In the 1990s, some Italian scientists hooked up some wires to some monkeys and found that the same group of neurons would fire when the monkey made a certain motion AND when the monkeys watched
someone else make the same motion. Several hotshot neuroscientists such as V.S. Ramachandran speculated that these “mirror neurons” may be such a profound and important discovery that they will unlock the greatest mysteries of the human mind. Wow.

and then some more scientific findings….

Daniel Glaser asked some capoeira and ballet dancers to watch other ballet dancers and capoiera dancers while he hooked up some wires to their brains. He found that the dancers had substantial activity in the part of the brain that controlled dancing when watching the form of dance they performed. In other words, when ballet dancers watched other ballet dancers, their mirror neurons lit up – when they watched the capoiera dancers … not so much.

So if we are well versed in a craft and watch an expert you can get better just by watching that expert. What does this mean to us as traders?

1. When we watch trading tape of expert traders we can get better.

2. If we sit behind an experienced trader and watch their trades we can get better.

3. If we watch a screen share of an expert trader we can get better.

I shared this research with a great trading coach and he highlighted an essential point to emphasize: we must watch actively as opposed to passively. We must feel what it is like to make the trades like that trader. I needed to feel what it was like to make that same great pass that Bird had made. If we do this new science indicates that we can improve our trading performance by watching expert traders (see awesome video explaining here).

You can be better tomorrow than you are today!

Mike Bellafiore

One Good Trade

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8 Comments on “Improving Our Performance by Watching”

  1. oh yea? I’ve been watching girls at the beach a long time and its never improved MY performance.

  2. Maybe it would if you were trying to perform well at being a girl on the beach??? 😛

  3. Good post Mike.

    I definitely agree with the point about actively watching as opposed to passively watching.

    Active watching should comprise some part of any trader/sportsman’s learning and on going development phase as they progress throughout their career.

    Do you agree that active watching can help accelerate a trader/sportsman through level 0 (no skill) to level 5 (moderate skill) in a shorter time period than say focussing all their training on physical practice alone? Would you agree that at the early stages of a trader/sportsman’s training that active watching should comprise at least 50% of their training? with the remaining time dedicated to physical practice?

    This leads to my next thought, does active watching have the same acceleration effect in propelling a trader/sportsman from level 5 to level 10 (Advanced skill), as it did from level 0 to level 5? or does active watchings returns diminish/plateau in comparison to physical practice at this stage in their career, leading to a dramatic shift in learning style? e.g. active watching should now only comprise 30% of their training/development while 70% of their time should be focussed on physical practice?

    Thanks

  4. Mark,

    I reached out to multiple leading scholars and they had not considered my idea. They are now beginning their study. My blog is a new idea hopefully many in the performance field will consider and study.

    My sense is that the answer might be 80-90 percent practice and ten percent watching would be a nice mix. This is just another way for those who are elite performers to improve.

    Great questions. I hope we read about some answers soon.

    Mike

  5. I watched two of the best traders around (GMAN and Steve Spencer) read the tape at the Las Vegas expo. I see the tape now in a whole new way, and a very profitable way. A terrific experience and seminar, truly outstanding.

  6. Bella,

    I finally ordered your book through Amazon, and 3 days later… I’m done! First, let me thank you for putting together such great anecdotes of the traders you’ve traded with and are trading with still. I am still a developing trader in my first year and your book gave me a sense of how I should approach each trading day and what it’ll take for me to get through this curve.

    With regards to your blog, this was an enjoyable read that sparked my curiosity. If we can learn simply learn by watching as well, what are some ways I can bribe the best traders to give me tapes of their sessions?! Perhaps I can get them a slice of pizza and a Coca Cola!

    Thanks again for all the free educational posts you give to us almost daily.

    All the best,

    J from KTG

  7. Hi Mike,

    Right on the point. Watching might be the most effective way to learn trading. What really makes us act is not our ideas or thoughts but our emotions or feels. By watching a successful trader trading, we can feel what he feels at each moment and that just (internally) show our mind how to feel at each critical moment. It has huge value for traders at all levels
    The key is “We must feel what it is like to make the trades like that trader. ” I prefer sit beside a experienced trader trading live.

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