Friday, April 27, 2012

Bamboo and Trading

I found this on Don Miller's site and I liked it...

Keep Watering Your Bamboo Tree - Eric Aronson

In the Far East, there is a tree called the Chinese bamboo tree. This remarkable tree is different from most trees in that it doesn't grow in the usual fashion. While most trees grow steadily over a period of years, the Chinese bamboo tree doesn't break through the ground for the first four years. Then, in the fifth year, an amazing thing happens - the tree begins to grow at an astonishing rate. In fact, in a period of just five weeks, a Chinese bamboo tree can grow to a height of 90 feet. It's almost as if you can actually see the tree growing before your very eyes. Well, I'm convinced that life often works in a similar way. You can work for weeks, months and even years on your dream with no visible signs of progress and then, all of the sudden, things take off. Your business becomes profitable beyond your wildest dreams. Your marriage becomes more vibrant and passionate than you ever thought it could be. Your contribution to your church, social organization and community becomes more significant than you have ever imagined. Yet, all of this requires one thing - faith. The growers of the Chinese bamboo tree have faith that if they keep watering and fertilizing the ground, the tree will break through. Well, you must have the same kind of faith in your bamboo tree, whether it is to run a successful business, win a Pulitzer Prize, raise well-adjusted children, or what have you. You must have faith that if you keep making the calls, honing your craft, reading to your children, reaching out to your spouse or asking for donations, that you too will see rapid growth in the future. This is the hard part for most of us. We get so excited about the idea that's been planted inside of us that we simply can't wait for it to blossom. Therefore, within days or weeks of the initial planting, we become discouraged and begin to second guess ourselves. Sometimes, in our doubt, we dig up our seed and plant it elsewhere, in hopes that it will quickly rise in more fertile ground. We see this very often in people who change jobs every year or so. We also see it in people who change churches, organizations and even spouses in the pursuit of greener pastures. More often than not, these people are greatly disappointed when their tree doesn't grow any faster in the new location. Other times, people will water the ground for a time but then, quickly become discouraged. They start to wonder if it's worth all of the effort. This is particularly true when they see their neighbors having success with other trees. They start to think, "What am I doing trying to grow a bamboo tree? If I had planted a lemon tree, I'd have a few lemons by now." These are the people who return to their old jobs and their old ways. They walk away from their dream in exchange for a "sure thing." Sadly, what they fail to realize is that pursuing your dream is a sure thing if you just don't give up. So long as you keep watering and fertilizing your dream, it will come to fruition. It may take weeks. It may take months. It may even take years, but eventually, the roots will take hold and your tree will grow. And when it does, it will grow in remarkable ways. We've seen this happen so many times. Henry Ford had to water his bamboo tree through five business failures before he finally succeeded with the Ford Motor Company. Richard Hooker had to water his bamboo tree for seven years and through 21 rejections by publishers until his humorous war novel, M*A*S*H became a runaway bestseller, spawning a movie and one of the longest-running television series of all-time. Another great bamboo grower was the legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro. Arcaro lost his first 250 races as a jockey before going on to win 17 Triple Crown races and 554 stakes races for total purse earnings of more than $30 million. Well, you have a bamboo tree inside of you just waiting to break through. So keep watering and believing and you too will be flying high before you know it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Understanding Probability

The market is changing, uncertain, and dynamic, and it is this which changes the underlying probabilities of a situation. As a system trader, I find it helpful to use time frames in order to better understand the probabilities.

I believe the changing cycles of the market affect the underlying probabilities of my trading models in both the short run and the long run. For example, I know that my trading models have a long run 70-80% win rate, but I also know that in any shorter term time frame the probabilities can change. It is not uncommon for me to experience 30-50% win rates within shorter time frames.

The short run probability may be quite different than the long run probability. We see this most clearly when we witness streaks. What is a streak in probabilistic terms? In Tom Stoppard’s play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern flip a coin which at one point has landed heads 92 straight times. Guildenstern states, “A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his faith, if in nothing else at least in the law of probability.”

Losing streaks can make us feel like Guildenstern, however, sound money management, risk controls, the passing of time, and most of all faith, can help while we await the reassertion of the long run probabilities.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Comparative Performance Statistics First Quarter 2012

Comparative performance statistics are in for the first quarter of 2012. Our results were better than both the Systematic Traders and Discretionary Traders Indices, however, no one could match the stellar 12% return on the SP 500 Cash Index.

3.5% Risk .58 %

2.0% Risk .32 %

1.5 % Risk .26 %

Systematic Traders Index -.52 %

Discretionary Traders Index .22 %

Hedge Funds Long Short Equity 4.9%

SP 500 Cash Index 12%

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Some advice from Mr. Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates

Time is like a river that will take you forward into encounters with reality that will require you to make decisions. You can’t stop the movement down this river, and you can’t avoid the encounters. You can only approach these encounters in the best way possible.

I want you to work for yourself, to come up with independent opinions, to stress-test them, to be wary about being overconfident, and to reflect on the consequences of your decisions and constantly improve.

Nothing is certain..i believe the best we can hope for is the highly probable

I learned that failure is by and large due to not accepting and successfully dealing with the realities of life, and that achieving success is simply a matter of accepting and successfully dealing with all my realities..

one of the most important things that differentiates people is their approach to handling them (mistakes). I learned that there is an incredible beauty to mistakes, because embedded in each mistake is a puzzle, and a gem that I could get if I solved it, i.e., a principle that I could use to reduce my mistakes in the future. I learned that each mistake was probably a reflection of something that I was (or others were) doing wrong, so if I could figure out what that was, I could learn how to be more effective. I learned that wrestling with my problems, mistakes, and weaknesses was the training that strengthened me. Also, I learned that it was the pain of this wrestling that made me and those around me appreciate our successes. 12

I met a number of great people and learned that none of them were born great—they all made lots of mistakes and had lots weaknesses—and that great people become great by looking at their mistakes and weaknesses and figuring out how to get around them. So I learned that the people who make the most of the process of encountering reality, especially the painful obstacles, learn the most and get what they want faster than people who do not. I learned that they are the great ones—the ones I wanted to have around me. In short, I learned that being totally truthful, especially about mistakes and weaknesses, led to a rapid rate of improvement and movement toward what I wanted.

Understanding reality gives us the power to get what we want out of life, or at least dramatically improve our odds of success.

Success is achieved by people who deeply understand reality and know how to use it to get what they want.

I am just saying that I believe hyperrealism is the best way to choose and achieve one’s dreams.

I believe there are an infinite number of laws of the universe and that all progress or dreams achieved come from operating in a way that’s consistent with them. These laws and the principles of how to operate in harmony with them have always existed. We were given these laws by nature. Man didn’t and can’t make them up. He can only hope to understand them and use them to get what he wants.

I believe that we all get rewarded and punished according to whether we operate in harmony or in conflict with nature’s laws,

my most fundamental principle: Truth —more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality— is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.

This perspective gives me a non-traditional sense of good and bad: “good,” to me, means operating consistently with the natural laws, while “bad” means operating inconsistently with these laws

In other words, I believe that understanding what is good is obtained by looking at the way the world works and figuring out how to operate in harmony with it to help it (and yourself) evolve.

I believe that evolution, which is the natural movement toward better adaptation, is the greatest single force in the universe, and that it is good.18It affects the changes of everything from all species to the entire solar system. It is good because evolution is the process of adaptation that leads to improvement. So, based on how I observe both nature and humanity working, I believe that what is bad and most punished are those things that don’t work because they are at odds with the laws of the universe and they impede evolution.

I believe that pursuing self-interest in harmony with the laws of the universe and contributing to evolution is universally rewarded, and what I call “good.”

20 The marginal benefits of moving from a shortage to an abundance of anything decline. 21 When pursuing self-interest is in conflict with evolution, it is typically punished.

It is natural that it should be this way—i.e., that our lives are not satisfied by obtaining our goals rather than by striving for them—because of the law of diminishing returns.

Self-interest and society’s interests are generally symbiotic: more than anything else, it is pursuit of self-interest that motivates people to push themselves to do the difficult things that benefit them and that contribute to society. In return, society rewards those who give it what it wants. That is why how much money people have earned is a rough measure of how much they gave society what it wanted—NOT how much they desired to make money.

The faster that one appropriately adapts, the better. As Darwin described, adaptation—i.e., adjusting appropriately to changes in one’s circumstances—is a big part of the evolutionary process, and it is rewarded. 24 That is why some of the most successful people are typically those who see the changing landscape and identify how to best adapt to it.25

Darwin is reported to have said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

The most important quality that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is our capacity to learn and adapt to these things.

So what is success? I believe that it is nothing more than getting what you want

The following five decision trees show these choices. I believe that those who don’t move effectively to their goals do the things on the top branches, and those who do move to them most quickly do the things on the bottom branches.

It is a fundamental law of nature that to evolve one has to push one’s limits, which is painful, in order to gain strength—whether it’s in the form of lifting weights, facing problems head-on, or in any other way. Nature gave us pain as a messaging device to tell us that we are approaching, or that we have exceeded, our limits in some way. At the same time, nature made the process of getting stronger require us to push our limits. Gaining strength is the adaptation process of the body and the mind to encountering one’s limits, which is painful. In other words, both pain and strength typically result from encountering one’s barriers. When we encounter pain, we are at an important juncture in our decision-making process.
Most people react to pain badly. They have “fight or flight” reactions to it: they either strike out at whatever brought them the pain or they try to run away from it. As a result, they don’t learn to find ways around their barriers, so they encounter them over and over again and make little or no progress toward what they want.29
Those who react well to pain that stands in the way of getting to their goals—those who understand what is causing it and how to deal with it so that it can be disposed of as a barrier—gain strength and satisfaction. This is because most learning comes from making mistakes, reflecting on the causes of the mistakes, and learning what to do differently in the future. Believe it or not, you are lucky to feel the pain if you approach it correctly, because it will signal that you need to find solutions and to progress. Since the only way you are going to find solutions to painful problems is by thinking deeply about them—i.e., reflecting 30—if you can develop a knee-jerk reaction to pain that is to reflect rather than to fight or flee, it will lead to your rapid learning/evolving.31

There are literally two different parts of each person’s brain that influence these reactions: the pre-frontal cortex and the amygdala. They work as though they were two different brains that fight for control of decision-making. The pre-frontal cortex is the logical part of the brain that evaluates choices logically and the amygdala is the “animal instinct” part of the brain that triggers emotional reactions like the instinct to fight or flee. When faced with an obstacle or threat, an emotional reaction (e.g. pain) can be triggered that can lead to a fight or flight reaction that “hijacks” decision making away from the pre-frontal cortex, where the rational choices are being made. This can result in our making decisions that produce consequences that we do not want. This typically causes really big problems

Pain + Reflection = Progress
How big of an impediment is psychological pain to your progress?

Ask yourself, “Is it true?” …because knowing what is true is good. How much do you let what you wish to be true stand in the way of seeing what is really true?

People who overweigh the first-order consequences of their decisions and ignore the effects that the second- and subsequent-order consequences will have on their goals rarely reach their goals.36 This is because first-order consequences often have opposite desirabilities from second-order consequences, resulting in big mistakes in decision-making. For example, the first-order consequences of exercise (pain and time-sink) are commonly considered undesirable, while the second-order consequences (better health and more attractive appearance) are desirable. Similarly, food that tastes good is often bad for you and vice versa, etc. If your goal is to get physically fit and you don’t ignore the first-order consequences of exercise and good-tasting but unhealthy food and connect your decisions with their second- and third-order consequences, you will not reach your goal.

And it is subversive because it diverts one’s attention away from mustering up the personal strength and other qualities that are required to produce the best possible outcomes.

Successful people understand that bad things come at everyone and that it is their responsibility to make their lives what they want them to be by successfully dealing with whatever challenges they face. 38 Successful people know that nature is testing them, and that it is not sympathetic.39

How much do you let yourself off the hook rather than hold yourself accountable for your success?

In summary, I believe that you can probably get what you want out of life if you can suspend your ego and take a no-excuses approach to achieving your goals with open-mindedness, determination, and courage, especially if you rely on the help of people who are strong in areas that you are weak.

When you think that it’s too hard, remember that in the long run, doing the things that will make you successful is a lot easier than being unsuccessful. The first-order consequences of escaping life’s challenges may seem pleasurable in the moment, but the second- and third-order consequences of this approach are your life and, over time, will be painful.

Most problems are potential improvements screaming at you.

Identifying the real root causes of your problems is essential because you can eliminate your problems only by removing their root causes. In other words, you must understand, accept, and successfully deal with reality in order to move toward your goals.

More than anything else, what differentiates people who live up to their potential from those who don’t is a willingness to look at themselves and others objectively.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Steve Jobs

This is worth reading...

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example: Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.