Introduction to George Lindsay and the Art of Technical Analysis: Trading Systems of a Market Master
- "It has been proven time and time again that true and lasting success lies in the dissemination of knowledge, rather than in its concealment."1
- —R. N. Elliott, founder of Elliott Wave analysis
Who was George Lindsay and why did I undertake to write this book? If you've never heard of George Lindsay, you've already answered the second part of the question. Lindsay was considered a "stock guru" in the 1960s and 1970s. His market opinions often appeared in the New York Times next to other prognosticators whose names are more commonly known today, but very few people today are acquainted with Lindsay. Even among technical analysts who do know the name, very few are familiar with his work.
Lindsay's ideas are in danger of becoming lost to history. He never wrote a book on his market methods, only newsletters. He did write one book (The Other History, examined in Chapter 2) but it pertained to politics and history, not the markets. This book is the result of reviewing an untold number of his past newsletters and cobbling together the partial descriptions of his different models into coherent, step-by-step explanations.
It's no wonder that very few market participants have chosen to use his methods. Reading Lindsay's newsletters is like drinking from a fire hose. His style of writing is very difficult to read. The reader never gets a moment to "catch his breath" as the ideas just keep jumping off the page. The presentation format of his newsletters is difficult as well. Modern readers have become accustomed to the formatting of word processors—bullets, labeling, charts placed near the narrative, and so on. As I read Lindsay's newsletters, I imagined him sitting at a typewriter, typing to the right side of the page, reaching up with his left hand to shift the carriage back to start a new line, and blasting through yet another line, the ideas pouring forth with very little thought given to anyone trying to assimilate the mass of information being thrown at them.
We live in a world that would send the best and brightest of a generation off to fight and die for the invisible hand of Adam Smith, but ask those same people about technical analysis and they call it voodoo. Those who have accepted and practice technical analysis tend to gather into their own camps of like-mined analysis. Lindsay was an unintentional iconoclast. His approach, while often incorrectly described as cycles, was an original approach different from anything previously known. Like Lindsay's mother, who spent the majority of her acting career off-Broadway, Lindsay's ideas were decidedly "off-Wall Street." Modern technicians often seem to be spending more and more of their time examining the micro—30-minute charts, 5-minute charts, tick charts—an approach which, when taken to the extreme, is myopic and can border on nihilism. Lindsay took a broad, perhaps healthier, view of the market—but one that shouldn't be confused with anything approximating the buy-and-hold approach. While others may focus on the trees, Lindsay was busy mapping the forest.
It has been said that in order to understand the philosophy, one must understand the philosopher and his times. Never was this truer than in trying to understand the work of George Lindsay. Lindsay has been a mystery figure. Prior to this book, very little has been known about the man himself. Who was Lindsay? Genius or high-school dropout; artist or sophisticated Wall Street professional; heterosexual, homosexual, or asexual; a right-wing political conservative or a nonconformist dreamer and futurist? The answers to these questions come from an understanding of Lindsay's background and hence the biography in Chapter 1.
Lindsay's experience as an artist can be seen throughout his work in the markets. Charlie Parker, the great, early-twentieth-century jazz saxophonist, once said, "You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail." That's probably good advice when using the models Lindsay created. Like music, his models were full of rules and specific counts but the magic lay in the exceptions to those rules. It is by learning and practicing the guidelines laid out in this book that one can hope to achieve that proverbial "feel for the market" and "just wail."
March 2, 2011