Sunday, 7 February 2010

How to Deal with Success in Investing

How to Deal with Success in Investing
The following factual story is from a US University experiment to understand the psychology of success. There has subsequently been many repeats of this experiment by different people in different locations.

The experiment asked people (experiment subjects) to guess the outcome of tossing a coin and measured how many times they guessed correctly and incorrectly.

The experiment involved tossing the coin 500 times and the law of probability says that you would guess right around 250 times or 50% of the time. This outcome is the same no matter how high or how low your IQ is, no matter where you went to school or how much you have studied the art of coin tossing. Just about everyone understands this and knows it.

However, within the 500 tosses you will have a good chance of stringing together a number of tosses in a row that you will guess correctly. This is where the psychology of success comes into effect. The experiment asked it’s subjects how they felt about their performance in tossing the coin and guessing the correct outcome at various times during the experiment.

What they found was that when people were having successful runs – four or five or six correct guesses in a row – that they believed that they themselves were responsible for this success. Reasons ranged from, I am getting better at this, to I am now concentrating harder and that is improving my performance.

Remember that all these people taking part in the experiment know that the outcome of a guess is based on a 50% probability outcome. Yet these same rational and normal people believe that when they guess a few coin tosses in a row correctly that it is due to their own talent and ability. The psychology of the brain is a scary thing.

This same effect occurs with people investing in the stock market all the time – and this is especially the case with people new to investing and trading. The investor or trader begins to believe, after a winning trade or two that they have some super “talent” for picking stocks and shares. They begin to believe that they have some natural talent that makes them better than the average trader.

The way to manage chance success in your trading/investing is to not become over confident and forget your risk management strategies. Enjoy your success but don’t forget the risks. If you do not manage the risk of future trades properly or take on too many trades and over-extend yourself then you may leave yourself volunerable to the Market Slap. The stock market has a habit of slapping down traders who become over confident and take on too much risk with a large loss.

The lesson to be learnt here is that every trade or investment involves risk and that every trader needs to manage the risk in every trade. This means not getting carried away with your successes and protecting your capital every step of the way. Beware the Market Slap!

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