I grew up in the small town of Rhinelander, WI where I was raised until I left for school UW-Madison in 1999. My folks, who never went to college, owned and operated a water well drilling business and I quickly figured out that wasn't what I wanted to do for a living! My interest in markets took off in junior high school when my gym teacher was regularly checking his stocks on Yahoo.com during class. I was hooked and I managed to do quite well, out of pure ignorance, in the 1999-2000 tech inflated bubble but then blew out most of that money but not before I managed to at least get a car. I worked for my folks in the well drilling business a few summers to pay off some margin blowups I had from messing around in Soybean and S&P 500 futures after the tech crash. When I got to college I made it a priority to get my work done so I could spend my remaining time studying markets. I read everything I could get my hands on, tried tons of different strategies and services as well as latched onto anyone I could who would further my learning curve. I traded throughout college but I couldn't wait to get the hell out and start putting it all to practice on a full time basis. That started in 2003 when I met Dave Ellis from International Trading Group (ITG) at a college career fair who gave me my start in the futures world.
I spent the next 12 years at ITG expanding myself in every way possible to grow as trader. I sponged up all I could from all the most successful traders around me by studying their trades, having them look at my trades, working out together at the gym and whatever else I could come up with. I took parts of pieces of what they did well and patched together my own strategy. This process of learning from others while not losing my own natural way was one of the keys to my development as a trader. Today this continues to be a major theme for me but the focus has moved a bit more inward. No matter how well or how poorly I was doing I made it a point to keep trying new things and pushing myself, oftentimes resulting in short term pain but proved key to growth down the road. Recording my screen in realtime to review big moves later, plotting all my entries and exits by hand and keeping long hours were a regular thing for me. I often plotted 30 trades per day, every day by hand to analyze visually where I was entering and exiting as well as the macro/event context around those trades. I viewed myself as a long term day trader at this point in my career vs what many others were doing in my circle. I liked to create scenarios and bigger picture setups for each day when possible so I could figure out when other traders got stuck the wrong way and why. I also spent a lot of time analyzing events/macro events to profit from large unexpected moves away from the consensus. I found my trading to be consistent over months but over days. I would have explosive periods followed by stagnation where I tried to manage risk until the next period came along where I could earn outsized rewards again. Some volatile periods like 2008, 2011 and 2016 provided that more regularly each day. Other times it was only weeks here and there. As time went along computers made the business tougher and you had to wait more and do less to stay effective. I started to feel like my best growth was elsewhere because of this. In late 2015 I left ITG on my own accord and in good standing in order to trade on my own and to assess what would be my best path going forward. 2016 was a tough year personally for me even though I had essentially been living my childhood dream and now was totally free with plenty of money and zero restrictions on anything I wanted to do. I did a few 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreats but even that was an external way for me to deal with something inside. Oddly this never just went away but instead if slowly morphed into acceptance. It was around this time I discovered crypto and my next chapter.
I bought my first Bitcoin around $250 with small experimental size because of my friend Mike who was interested in the space. I was looking for a new way to express my curiosity and this seemed interesting. The highlight reel was that I spent the next two years into early 2018 doing mostly crypto. Trading, investing and learning. Using my old skills around events, divergences, and all else I'd learned plus using my most natural skill which is curiosity. This was a bit a bandaid to my internal crisis I was having about what I wanted to move into next. I did well during this period but when it ended I again felt a bit empty inside.
In 2018 I decided to look at stocks more as an avenue I'd never really pursued as much because I was fully into futures. I still did some futures at this point but not as much unless things got very volatile, which is still the case today. It's a tool for me that I can choose but don't need to rely on anymore. Stocks were a rough transition for me initially. The skills I learned in futures were useful but not an exact crossover. It was like being able to run the 100 M dash but thinking the same technique would translate into hurdles or the 400. I struggled with old futures conditioning and made my share of mistakes but this was all still part of an awakening as to what I needed to become to really thrive at a higher level. It reminded me to dial into what I was like and naturally interested in as a child. I got into futures because it made sense logically to start my career where opporunity showed up but my true calling was a mixture of trading, being curious to new emerging trends and also trying a lot of new things myself. I love the intersection of price action with themes and ideas I see in my own life and the lives of others. Fast forward to 2020 and I had still managed to patch it together and make some good money with my old skills but hadn't really dialed into what my more fully aligned approach to the markets would be.
In 2020 I found myself briefly pulled back into futures mode to trade the pandemic induced volatility and thanks to my last few years work had learned enough about stocks and earning reports to catch some nice recovery plays after. Later in 2020 I also got back into crypto though being curious and that's currently where I am focusing most of my time. It's been similar to the 2016-2018 period that way except this time I have a much broader perspective. In early 2020 I hired a coach to help me get to the next level and it unearthed a lot of things that could have been holding me back from fully aligning myself and my abilities to my trading approach. This intersection of trading, themes, sentiment, curiosity and experimentation is what I'd now describe myself as a mixture of. It's a unique formula that works for me and it took me a very long time to flush it out. Remarkably I've never had a losing year though all the changes I've made which can baffle me when I think about how hard I've been on myself at times. I believe each of us goes on a personal journey towards a unique and creative approach if we are to thrive in the market over a long period of time. There are times you need to join groups and learn from others and then there are times when you need to go inward and focus on your own voice. Eventualy I landed on a nice mixture of these two and I have cultivated a great group of collaborators who I work with and bounce ideas off of. I can say at this moment I'm feeling as excited as ever about my future in terms of the direction I'm going. I don't know how long it will carry me until that changes but the work that has led me to this point feels like home. My success going forward is likely and already has been much greater than what I left behind because of my desire to keep growing and finding what fits me the best. My current strategy is a bit of an art project as you can see but my holding times tend to be weeks to months and my trades are more often positon trades4. This isn't universal but it's more the norm now.
In terms of strategy one of my favorite tools to enter something I like is to use stupid news. I like to enter things in the direction of the prevailing trend on news that is unexpected and generally not relevant the underlying trend. I find this resets the participation and often causes a swift resumption of the trend soon after. I will build on this during future podcast episodes. Trading a very busy market is another strategy I'll use which is simply a choice to participate more in the short term when the moves justify it. I'll use news squawk to be aware of events, I will use multiple secondary indicators and trade index futures in times like this. This is the old skill set coming back to life. The rest I'd categorize as "other" which could mean a new idea where I feel I'm early or ahead of a narrative and the price action agrees. That could be crypto now and in 2016, lithium a handful of years back, a product or service I see getting traction, and other stuff like that. These strategies are different yet they also mesh together on different time frames and cross with each other.
Wealth management around trading is another area I have spent a lot of time on and plan to discuss more in the future. I generally employ a barbell strategy where I try to keep a bit more cash than I need and get aggressive at times when I feel I'm early but to not take a ton of passive risk when I don't feel that way. I believe in full alignment in my life with people, strategy, investments but sometimes I will be in "boring" things just as a tool to keep my risk a bit lower. I've learned what it takes for me to sleep at night though pain and suffering! I think this stuff is different for each trader and each personality type but it's important to have a plan for it. My plan is always evolving here. An example would be my recent shift to crypto when I realized I needed to have more exposure trading and passively holding. I've made a practice at always looking deeping into things that I and others are neglectful of. Often those can be where great opportunities are hiding.