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How To Trade Successfully (Part 1)

Ever since winning the United States Trading Championship in 1984, subscribers have asked for a list of 'tips' on trading, or even a play-by-play of the approximately 200 short term trades I made while following hourly market data over a four month period. Neither of these would do anyone any good. What successful trading requires is both more and less than most people think. In watching the reports of each new Championship over the past three years, it has been a joy to see what a large percentage of the top winners have been Elliott Wave Theorist subscribers and consultation clients.

(In fact, in the latest 'standings' report from the USTC, of the top three profit producers in each of four categories, half are EWT subscribers!) However, while good traders may want the input from EWT, not all EWT subscribers are good traders. Obviously the winners know something the losers don't. What is it? What are the guidelines you really need to meet in order to trade the markets successfully?

When I first began trading, I did what many others who start out in the markets do: I developed a list of trading rules. The list was created piecemeal, with each new rule added, usually, following the conclusion of an unsuccessful trade. I continually asked myself, what would I do differently next time to make sure that this mistake would not recur? The resulting list of 'do's' and 'don'ts' ultimately comprised about 16 statements. Approximately six months following the completion of my carved-in-stone list of trading rules, I balled up the paper and threw it in the trash.

What was the problem with my list, a list typical of so many novices who think they are learning something? After several months of attempting to apply the 'rules,' it became clear that I made not merely a mistake here and there in the list, but a fundamental error in compiling the list in the first place. The error was in taking aim at the last trade each time, as if the next trading situation would present a similar problem. By the time 16 rules are created, all situations are covered and the trader is back to square one.

Let me give you an example of the ironies that result from the typical method of generating a list of trading rules. One of the most popular trading maxims is, 'You can't go broke taking a profit.' (The brokers invented that one, of course, which is one reason that new traders always hear of it!) This trading maxim appears to make wonderful sense, but only when viewed in the context of a recent trade with a specific outcome.

When you have entered a trade at a good price, watched it go your way for a while, then watched it go against you and turn into a loss, the maxim sounds like a pronouncement of divine wisdom. What you are really saying, however, is that in the context of the last trade, 'I should have sold when I had a small profit.' How To Trade Successfully - Part 2.

Robert Prechter is the founder and CEO of
Elliott Wave International
, a global trading advisor. Mr. Prechter has authored several books on Elliott Wave and the new science of socioeconomics.