For years the laptop would sit beside my chair, always on, always with the futures feed charted in 5 minute candlesticks. During the Armageddon trade of 2008 the laptop with the futures feed running would sit on my nightstand, beside my alarm clock. It felt good to be plugged in and up-to-date to the very last tick of the markets. I was watching the implosion of the financial capital of the world, in real time. I would tell my grand children about it.
As I look back on those years of frightful sleep and stomach-churning days and evenings, Macbeth’s soliloquy speaks to me:
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
What good is it to have a futures feed running all night if you don’t trade futures? It is like seeing a car wreck in progress. Except you can’t do anything to stop the wreck or help anyone until after the crash. What’s the point of watching the progress of it, living in it, if you are not going to use the information while it is happening? What’s the point of the day-to-day and night-to-night hand-wringing?
All good questions, for sure.
The truth is that I got rid of my real-time futures feed because I got rid of Tradestation. Tradestation, with its .01/share commissions and $100 bucks/month fee for trading less than 5K shares and its counter-intuitive “Easy Language” code was simply too expensive. I also had an account with Interactive Brokers, and at .005/share commissions and no platform fees, it just made sense (cents) to close down the Tradestation account and move everything over to IB.
While Interactive Brokers does offer a futures feed, their charting does not compare to Tradestation’s, and it was a hassle to pull up the feed on IB. Without really thinking about it–more or less just being lazy– I went without, for a few days. And then a week passed without the futures. I had missed it not at all. Two months later I realized that weaning myself from the futures feed has made a positive impact on my life and my trading.
Not only am I better able to tune out and off from the markets and focus on other important areas of my life such as my family, exercise, and sleep–I am able to execute mechanical system trades with much greater ease and much less nagging doubt.
Since I do not daytrade and typically trade the open or close via orders placed the prior evening, having a futures feed was significantly affecting my psychology and ability to mechanically place trades. Waking up at 3 a.m. to see what the futures were doing was allowing me to fast-forward in my own mind to the trades scheduled to be executed the next day. Many times I would second-guess these trades. My self-talk would often revolve around delaying the trade or setting a limit order rather than using a market-on-open or market-on-close. While the majority of time I did not override the systems I trade, sometimes I did. How much time did I waste trying to out-smart my own system? How much mental capital did I spend attempting to assimilate information that was unnecessary for my success? How much real capital was lost from deviating from a strict trade plan?
Traders these days are easily overwhelmed by the hundreds of indicators, platforms, experts, pundits, amateurs, tweets, bloggers, etc. Information overload is a very real threat and can be a detriment to trading success. At some point, the various bells and whistles just end up making a lot of noise. I highly recommend focusing on the factors most necessary for trading success and dumping everything else. Without a doubt, it has improved my quality of life and made me a better trader.