Trading Without a Mentor is Like Flying Blind

Written by on November 12, 2006 in Investing, Trading School with 5 Comments

Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, often talks about his mentor Warren Buffet, who just happens to be the world’s most successful investor.  It is well documented that Buffet was mentored by famed investor Benjamin Graham who is known as the father of value investing.  Many businesses have formal mentor programs as its benefits have been proven over and over.  Successful people often mention that a prime reason of their achievement was having a mentor.  So, if the Gates and the Buffets of world have mentors, so shouldn’t you have one?  I would like to suggest that trading without a mentor is like flying blind.

I can imagine the reaction of many readers.  They are saying, “That sounds good, but where in the h….. am I, an individual trader, going to find a mentor – smart a….”  I can understand that response.  If you worked on Wall Street, I imagine that it wouldn’t be much of a problem.  There you will find many like-minded traders that could be called upon to serve as your mentor, but how about on Main Street?  How many successful traders do you know?  I know a few who have tried, but I don’t know of many that have been able to survive for more than a couple of years.  The market is brutal and it takes no prisoners.  Also I believe a successful mentorship requires a like-minded trading philosophy.  There are some aspects that transcend trading styles, but how much can a day trader learn from a value investor? So, the probabilities of personally knowing a like-mind successful trader that could serve as your mentor are pretty slim. 

So, what are your alternatives?  If you know Warren Buffet well enough to ask him to be your mentor – you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.  However, he has written numerous books.  So, by studying his works you could develop a rather one-sided mentorship.  I am willing to bet that even if you purchased all of his books; he still wouldn’t take your phone calls.

I have heard of trading coaches that you can hire.  At least since you are paying them, they will take your phone calls – but probably not before 4:30 PM.  I can’t imagine a trader being distracted during market hours with your problems.  Your distraction could cost them much more than they could charge you. I have never looked into such programs, but I would think that they could be valuable.

The ideal trading mentor is probably not practical for most.  I have settled for a pseudo-mentor approach.  So, what does that mean?  I believe that there are three criteria for a trading mentor. He or she must be successful, must have a like trading philosophy and be “somewhat-available.”  The “somewhat-available” is why I call it a pseudo-mentor relationship.
Over the past 5 or 6 years I have tried to force-fit different trading services into this concept of a pseudo-mentor.  It is quite easy to find newsletter writers that claim to be successful.  Matter of fact, I have never heard one claim to not be.  The beauty of the market is that it is measurable.  If the newsletter is claiming to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, it won’t take long to determine if they are only blowing smoke.  Also like-minded services are easy to find.  There are newsletters for day traders, trend traders, momentum traders, fundamental investors, contrarian investors, all styles are covered.  The difficulty is availability. Most aren’t available.  Most won’t return your emails. Most only want a one-way street.  That’s almost like reading Buffet’s books.  However, the newsletters are more frequent, weekly or monthly, thus having a higher impact on your daily trading.
To addresses the availability, you can try an online trading room.  No, I am not talking about Yahoo message boards.   Online trading rooms are legitimate trading services where the leaders exchange ideas and provide assistance to others.  It is not like having a personal mentor that is available only for you, but you can bounce ideas off of someone before making the plunge.

A few years ago I discovered Jack Chan’s trading service.  It fits between a newsletter and on-line trading room.  He provides almost daily updates as well as email support.  The email support was key since two way communication is a must.

 So, how does Jack stack up versus my three requirements?  First, he is successful.  I have used his service for a couple of years and can attest to his success. Secondly his trading philosophy is somewhat consistent with mine. He is a trend trader and only trades Gold, Oil and Technology Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).  My trading universe is larger and I prefer individual stocks to ETFs.  Finally, he is “somewhat available.”  His email service serves me well.  This is not the classic mentoring relationship, but it beats flying blind.


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