Trading from Your Gut: How to Use Right Brain Instinct & Left Brain Smarts to Become a Master Trader
- "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
- —Albert Einstein
George Soros, one of the greatest traders alive, trades from the gut. He has widely remarked on the correlation between his backaches and trading choices. In the autobiographical Soros on Soros, he wrote:
- I rely a great deal on animal instincts. When I was actively running the fund, I suffered from backache. I used the onset of acute pain as a signal that there was something wrong in my portfolio. The backache didn't tell me what was wrong—you know, lower back for short positions, left shoulder for currencies—but it did prompt me to look for something amiss when I might not have done so otherwise.
Some traders might scoff at the idea of making decisions based on "feelings" or intuition. They see the trader's role as one who remains calm and collected, rationally choosing the right course while those around them are tossed about by their emotions. They believe that Soros is either lying or fooling himself. They don't see how gut instinct can help. Yet many successful traders feel otherwise. Who is right? Is one approach better than the other?
If you are one of those traders who doesn't believe that gut instinct or intuition has any place in trading, I invite you to keep an open mind. I, too, once felt as you did. After all, I was trained to take a very systematic and logical approach to trading as a Turtle. I believed that it was important to keep your emotions in check. I didn't believe in trading from the gut.
What I didn't realize at the time, however, is that there is a big difference between trading emotionally and trading from your gut. Trading emotionally means reacting to fear and hope, which can destroy your trading decisions. Trading from your gut is different. It is a way of tapping into the extra power of the right hemisphere of the brain, which can be a powerful, effective, and entirely rational addition to any trader's repertoire.
Trading comes naturally to some people, as it does to Soros or my trading mentor, Richard Dennis, for example. They seem to have a knack for it that comes from a well-developed sense of intuition. This gut intuition can be developed through training and the right kind of experience. In this book, I teach you how to incorporate expert-level gut instinct in your trading.
Before I go further, it is important to further define exactly what I mean by intuition and gut instinct.
In mid-November 2007, when the Dow Jones Industrial Index was above 13,000 and the S&P 500 Index was above 1,450, I attended the Trader's Expo conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Trader's Expo is the largest trading conference in the country; people come from all over the western United States to attend the conference. I had been invited to speak at the conference in conjunction with the publication of my first trading book, Way of the Turtle.
While I was at the conference, I was asked to do an interview with MoneyShow.com, which had set up a video recording studio in one of the conference rooms. The interviewer asked me what I thought of the markets over the previous several weeks. Normally, my standard response is that I don't try to predict the markets. I had grown weary of giving advice and had found that specific advice is not generally useful to others when not considered in context.
This time was different. I decided to go out on a limb and advise that viewers be very cautious in their stock investments. I told them that I thought there was a higher than normal chance that the markets would go down a significant amount, that we were coming off a long period of steady gains, and that there was a good chance we had seen the end. The timing was prescient. It turned out to be the beginning of the downturn that would see the market lose more than 50% of its value over the next 16 months.
You may think my instinct had told me that the market would soon decline. This is only partially true. I thought the market was risky at that moment, for some very specific reasons that had nothing to do with my instinct as a trader. Where my intuition came in was in breaking my longstanding rule not to talk about what I thought might or might not happen. I just had a feeling that this time was different, that I should voice my concerns.
If you asked me, I could probably come up with some reasons I felt obliged to share my thoughts on the direction of the market, but these reasons would be somewhat contrived. The truth is, I didn't really know why I spoke up; I had an intuition, a gut feeling, but one without a logical basis that I could readily articulate. In fact, the rational side of my brain was arguing for me to keep quiet because I knew that predicting market movement was a fool's game. In retrospect, I hope that sounding this early warning benefited the traders who saw the video.