The Pro’s Process - Greg Harmon

I am very excited to be able to offer the twelfth in my series of posts asking Pro Traders about their psychological processes.  Delving a little into how it feels to them when trading.  The good and the bad.  How this has changed over time and what preparation they do mentally for performing as a trader.

One of the key features for me was that I wanted traders with experience who have been through the mill over the years and of course those who were kind enough to broach this subject publicly.  This I hope gives developing traders more to learn from.  

I’m very fortunate to have a great line up and this week is: 

Trader: Greg Harmon

1) How long have you been trading?

I have been trading one way or another since 1986. I started with very short term money market arbitrage type trades, repurchase agreements vs Commercial paper all over night and took over 7 years before moving to equities.

2) What style of trading / investing do you practice (technically driven, fundamental, systematic, a combination etc)?

I am a top down technical trader.  So I start with identifying the trend and then look for how inter-market activity can influence that trend.  With a grasp of the big picture I then search for technical set ups within my universe of about 1000 names.  When I see something very interesting I then determine whether to play the trade in the stock or in options.

3) How do you feel when a trade goes against you?

It sucks when a trade goes against me.  Like every trader I know, I never want to be wrong.  But of course I am wrong a lot. 

4) How do you feel when a trade goes for you?

When a trade goes as good as could be hoped for it is a great euphoric feeling.  I would expect that most traders feel this way too. 

5) How have these feelings changed over your trading career?  (Can you recall how you originally used to feel and elaborate on how this has changed over time?)

Now this is the crux of the matter.  Early on losing trades would be brushed aside and winners would have me puffing up my chest like I could do no wrong.  This had a lot to do with the market I was trading in the late 80’s.  As they market got more complex, trading equities and derivatives, losses, especially a streak, could really get me down.  I would sometimes feel that maybe it was time to stop and move away from it for a while.  Wins would still help to inflate an ego.  Now 26 years in I know that losses can be learning experiences and should be studied, even if only for a few minutes, but then let go.  You cannot let them be an anchor around your neck and give you any doubt at all about whether the next trade will be successful or not.  Yes they still suck, but next, move on.  Wins still feel great but with age i realize that they come from preparation and sometimes luck.  I am not some great invincible being but take the time to be ready for what the market presents. 

6) Do you have any practices that you do away from the trading screen to help you mentally and emotionally handle trading?

Really just recharging the batteries.  I like to spend time with family.  What my 5 and 7 year old see in the world and how they learn and experience life can show you the proper context for trading within your life and reset the emotional faculties.

7) Have you always done this? 

No, prior to the kids it was going out with coworkers and friends and talking about other things, playing sports or working out.  You adapt your coping mechanisms as your life circumstances change.

8) If not, how have you learnt to deal with the feelings that come up when trading?

Added time doing the same thing also allows you to recognize the same wins and failures and takes a bit of an edge off of them.  Repetition and experiencing the same things over and over is a good thing.

9) Can you describe a time in your trading life which really rammed home the point that so much of trading comes down to psychological factors?

For me it is a matter of a slow realization through experience.  Not a break through moment.  Recognizing patterns and then dealing with them works in trading charts but also helps in the way that you move through life.

10) If you could give aspiring traders one piece of advice about emotionally handling the market what would it be?

Wake up every day prepared for the market with your analysis as well as with a good clean mental state.  If you cannot come into the day ready to accept both winners and losers and then move on, then do not go to work that day or do not trade.

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I’d like to thank Greg Harmon for sharing about the way he tackles the market from an emotional / mental side of things and for his willingness to allow me to post this as a free resource in the hope that traders who have been in the market for less time or are thinking of entering can perhaps pick up some A-HA’s.

If you are interested in finding more out about Greg Harmon you can find him:

On twitter: @harmongreg

At his blog: http://dragonflycap.com/ 

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Previously in the series:

Charles Kirk - read it…..here

Matt Davio - read it…..here

David Blair - read it….here

Mike Bellafiore - read it….here

Mark Holstead - read it ….here

Brian Shannon - read it…. here

Mike Dever - read it…. here

Anthony Crudele - read it… here 

Derek Hernquist - read it … here

Ivan Hoff - read it… here

Brian Lund - read it… here

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Disclaimer: Embrace The Trend / Richard Chignell does not provide investment, financial or product advice.  I trade my own capital exclusively.  I eat my own cooking as should you.  If you are going to trade / invest it’s at your own risk and you must take responsibility for your actions.