Cover Page



Title Page



The Call



The “Race”

A Motivational Carrot

How This Book Is Organized

Intention and Use of the Trading Journal Entries

Journaling and Performance

Balancing Credibility and Humility

Bamboo Trees and Windows

A Book about Trading?

Part I: Beginnings

Early Tunnels of Life

A Late Bloomer

Early Vocations

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Out of the Abyss

Evolving Perspectives

A Sporting Chance

Part II: Journaling the Million Dollar Race

July 2008 Journal Excerpts

August 2008 Journal Excerpts

September 2008 Journal Excerpts

October 2008 Journal Excerpts

November 2008 Journal Excerpts

December 2008 Journal Excerpts

Part III: Beyond the Race: Best of the 2009 Journal Excerpts

Part IV: Birth of the Jellyfish

The Genesis

Selecting the Team

The Jellies Speak

Part V: Beyond the Tank: Best of the 2010–2012 Journal Excerpts

Part VI: The MF Global Bankruptcy

A Different Kind of Trade

Part VII: What Goes Up . . .

An Object in Motion Stays in Motion

Trailing Stops at the Macro Level

A Thousand Words

Part VIII: Final Thoughts

Appendix: Journal and Jellie Shorthand and Acronyms

About the Author



Title Page


For years, I said no to numerous requests to write a book on trading for many reasons. First, I believed that my online trading journal at was a better way to get my thoughts across to the trading community on a current basis, initially as a detailed trading diary and then in a manner that shifted focus away from me and more toward intensive trader education, motivation, and industry activism. A book, on the other hand, unless properly crafted, runs the substantial risk of becoming dated the minute the ink dries. So, the first hurdle to be overcome by any bona fide author is to create lasting content that will forever stand the test of time.

Second, even though the title of this book, Chronicles of a Million Dollar Trader, accurately depicts my 2008 through 2009 journey in which I earned more than $2 million in 18 months by trading equity index futures intraday—largely as the result of a self-imposed one-year $1 million challenge—I didn't want to write a book that was a story primarily about success, nor did I want to put something forth that might encourage prospective readers to leave behind their current pursuits and talents to follow in my footprints. This is because as you'll read in the coming chapters, the virtual feet that created such prints have been bloodied, battered, and bruised as I stumbled and tripped my way through my own humanity toward a goal that seemed ever-elusive. And although I did ultimately reach my objective and beyond, the journey didn't come without a certain degree of personal and family sacrifice and hardship.

Third, there is substantial risk when writing what is largely an autobiography that despite best intentions, personal ego and pride will slip in. Yet, as any successful trader will tell you, both character flaws are among the leading causes of failure in the trading world, just as they are in life. Plus, any success I've been granted over the years has been largely rooted in the foundation of failure. Read that last line again and you may have unlocked several secrets to life itself! So, another challenge I'd have to overcome as an author would be to put forth content that would focus as much—if not more—on my failures than my successes.

Fourth, from a pure business perspective, a good trader can make far more profit from directing his or her energies toward trading than by writing. Any author of a trading book will tell you that the royalties are minimal at best and that the resulting “distraction” usually isn't worth the financial loss.

Finally, in terms of intended educational benefits, it's impossible to teach anyone to trade solely via a book. As is the case in any performance-based field, successful trading requires intensive education, years of experience, and the ability to hone and maintain the skills necessary to navigate the ever-changing seas of the financial markets. As such, for these reasons and more, for years I've turned down requests to write such a book.

The Call

Then came a call from Laura at John Wiley & Sons—a leading publisher in the financial world with a reputation for quality and high standards—who encouraged me to formally document and supplement my existing journal in permanent book format. As publishing ideas and discussions began, though, I was reluctant, as I made it clear from the outset that if we did something, it would have to be done in such a way to hold true to the values I've tried to maintain since beginning trader educational and advocacy efforts in the late 1990s.

Then the parallels began. Here was an opportunity to write a nonfiction version of my entire trading journey along the lines of the classic Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (Lefevre [1923] 1994), another Wiley book long regarded as one of the top trading books ever published. Much had changed since then, including the increased abundance of shorter-term trading opportunities, improved technologies, market access advances, and evolving regulation. Then, there was the opportunity to tell that rare story of someone who quietly but ardently prepared for years, reaped a substantial reward, and didn't subsequently give it back. Too often, we hear of investors, celebrities, professional athletes, and lottery winners who let it all slip away, sometimes as quickly as they earned it. There are also the modern-day real-life versions of Gordon Gekko (the lead character in the movie Wall Street) who have added new wrinkles to the long-running objective of ensuring that the market doesn't take your money, as now we have the game of ensuring that your broker doesn't abscond with your hard-earned money.

Suffice it to say that as time and discussions progressed, my thoughts slowly shifted from concerns of whether my story should be told to the growing possibility that my story must be told, if only (1) to prove once and for all that successful trading is downright possible with the proper mix of education, experience, patience, focus, and motivation; and (2) to chronicle my footprints in such a way that doing so might help just one person avoid the bloodied footprints that had disappeared into crevices.

I've often said that I wouldn't choose trading as a first career choice for my children given the necessary pain and hardship that is a fact of life in this field because (1) most small businesses fail, and (2) most traders fail. As such, every prospective trader begins with two strikes against him or her with a small remaining margin for error. Conversely, I've also said that (1) there is zero doubt in my mind that consistent and abundant success in the markets is possible, and (2) if, after weighing all the attributes of this field, my children or others made their own decisions to follow my pursuit, I'd do whatever I could to help make their way less painful. So, after many years of saying no to authoring a book on trading, I finally said yes.

So, welcome aboard as we journey together through a trip of a lifetime. Our journey will take us through the lowest valleys of despair that seem endless to beautiful bamboo forests that seem to grow to the sky before your very eyes. We'll travel through time and place, starting in my early years of immaturity. We'll travel through the puddles of tears, witness the self-inflicted wounds, see how I often poorly managed ongoing battles with interruptions and focus, and revisit battles with personal spirituality and life's true priorities. Through it all though, you'll see the path was forever moving forward.

One note of caution: As you begin reading, I strongly encourage you not to jump ahead and get right to what I call the “bamboo” years, where the fruits of time, effort, and grace finally blossomed. Although I recognize that traders by their nature can often be impatient beings and thus prefer to cut to the chase, Part I provides a necessary foundation for the later chapters.

Yes, this true story includes a certain level of accomplishment in the financial trading world, which will show that despite the tremendous imperfections of humanity—and this trader specifically—anything is possible when years of extreme dedication, preparation, and motivation collide with that special window of opportunity. Far more important however, is that these pages describe a tale about passion, humility, tears, triumph, redemption, and the constant struggle between humanity and the pursuit of ever-elusive perfection. Just as trading mirrors life, life mirrors trading. Succeed at one, and you'll likely succeed at the other. And if, when we reach the end of our virtual journey together, these words increase your perspective on life as much as it does on trading, we'll call it a mission accomplished.

Hold on tight as we witness the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the end however, as with the gift of life itself, it was and remains all good as you witness the unrelenting grace of God.


Where do I begin? I'll start with the two easy ones: my lord and savior Jesus Christ and my beloved wife, Debra, who so often bore the risk, brunt, and reward of my decisions. Without this incredible team, I wouldn't be breathing today. Together, they held me up during my most difficult times and stood beside me during better days.

Yes, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. Perhaps better said, call me a forever bumbling, stumbling, always-battling-with-his-own-humanity, too-much-left-to-work-on Christian. And although you won't find me “bible-thumping” my way through these pages, I've lived long enough and have personally witnessed specific life events such that there is no debate in my mind as to whether God exists and who Jesus truly is. For those with differing religious views, I love you beyond that which you'll ever know and look forward to our virtual journey together.

As for my wife, Debra, although I touch on her incredible love, support, and patience in various segments, I could easily write another book about what she's meant to my life. Simply put, I've been richly blessed with the ability to journey life's ups and downs alongside my best friend and confidant, one who loves me despite all my human flaws.

The next two acknowledgments are also easy: our two daughters, Courtney and Chelsea (listed sequentially by date of arrival only!). They've likely taught me more than I've taught them. And yes, the apples don't fall far from the tree, which as we all know can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on which of my characteristics were passed on and to whom. They've both reached incredible heights in their young lives, while persevering through their own struggles as they continue to discover their place in this world. In Chelsea's case, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, which was a devastating blow to us all and meant that she'd be forever dependent on doctors, needles, and insulin pumps. Since then, she's provided an incredible inspiration to me and others, as she's persevered to become valedictorian and an accomplished musician despite her hardship. She's also been the direct inspiration for our work with the American Diabetes Association and other charities, which receive a portion of the proceeds from our trading educational videos and services.

None of this, of course, would be possible without my parents, Betty and Burnie, who reared and guided me through some difficult early years, as well as my grandparents. In particular, my maternal grandfather, Frederick, had an especially strong influence in my young life prior to his passing in 1983, as did his wife, my grandmother Miriam, who—through my parents—would later provide me with a gift in her dying days that would provide a safe harbor for me and my family when life's sea got stormy.

On the industry front, although I admittedly learned the business through personal experience and trial and error, a few standouts have accompanied me during various phases of my journey. This list includes Dr. Brett Steenbarger, whose The Psychology of Trading 2003 work I consider to be among the best trading books ever written and who supported my initial efforts to begin publicly blogging my daily trading journal. Others include Larry Connors, Linda Raschke, Damon Pavlatos, and Pat Lafferty, all of whom have supported me over the years either by providing necessary infrastructure or simply as peers and friends.

With respect to the latter, there's an interesting dilemma for those of us who have found ourselves inadvertently placed in positions of perceived industry leadership, either through performance or other credible means. Although many look to us for guidance, it can be quite challenging and, frankly, a bit lonely when we find ourselves in need of our own sympathetic ear or shoulder on which to lean. At those times, a strong peer network of those who truly “get it” becomes a lifesaver.

I'd also like to acknowledge the initial 2009 “Jellie” trading team—which you'll read about more in Part IV—for their help in refining one of the more unique educational trading experiences ever crafted. Simply putting up with me for eight weeks (336 hours!) should earn them some kind of medal of valor.

Last, this book would not be possible, nor its final chapters complete, if not for the herculean efforts of James Koutoulas, John Roe, Greg Collett, and the Commodity Customer Coalition, which was created in late 2011 as the result of the MF Global bankruptcy that adversely affected tens of thousands of small business ranchers, farmers, hedgers, and traders. This team, and James in particular, was directly responsible for speeding the safe return of our assets that had been wrongfully taken during a very unfortunate time in this wonderful industry's life. Special heartfelt thanks go to Sandy Meyer and John Norquay, two dear friends who were placed in my path just prior to that tumultuous period and who helped me maintain some sort of personal and spiritual balance. Were our meetings simply happenstance or coincidence? Not in a million years.

To you all, I am eternally grateful for the gracious love and support you've provided me.


In December 2007, at the age of 46 and after numerous starts, failures, restarts, and distractions, I decided to take a drastically different approach to my on-again off-again passion of trading equity index futures. Although successful by most standards, I believed that my results were simply not reflective of a far deeper potential, similar to an iceberg that has a significant proportion of its mass below the water's surface. Further, because I was only a few years away from the half-century mark with a retirement nest egg that in my view was less than optimal due primarily to a splintered focus over the years, I had a growing need to maximize opportunity in such a way that would provide longer-term financial security for my family.

In addition, as a multitasking trader, columnist, and trading educator with a deep personal conviction that people should develop self-sufficient financial management skills to the extent time and circumstance permit, I believed that I was becoming the proverbial jack of all these trades as it related to the financial markets yet master of none. Add a growing irritation with naysayers who didn't understand the true business of trading and suggested that trading was irresponsible gambling or that any degree of market success was either impossible to attain or due solely to dumb luck, and I felt a growing desire to “walk the talk.”

The “Race”

My solution? Dedicate myself for an extended period of time—in this case, one year—in such an extreme and intense manner that I would eat, sleep, drink, dream, and live the world of intraday index futures trading with the goal of increasing my retirement fund by $1 million. The purposes of this “Race,” as I would later label it and how I often refer to it throughout this book, were threefold. First, if accomplished, it would exponentially grow that modest nest egg such that financial security would be in reach and allow me the time and resource to pursue endeavors later in life that I truly enjoyed, including trading itself. Second, striving toward such a goal would provide a deep personal challenge to see how far I'd evolved my trading skills after roughly a decade of development. Third, doing so would provide a large sample size of factual data to show that successful trading was indeed possible, plausible, sustainable, and real.

As important as it is to understand the above contexts, it's equally important to consider what the Race wasn't intended to accomplish. It wasn't a means to get rich, nor was it a self-promoting publicity stunt. The first point will become clearer as you read through these pages because it relates to my view on money. Simply put, I believe that we're simply temporary stewards of whatever assets we've been blessed with and that financial gain or loss does only two things: it allows us to earn or spend “time” for both ourselves and others. At the same time, I believe that we have a responsibility to maximize and share the gifts with which we've been bestowed. Given an age in which it seems that we often can't trust anyone other than a select few to effectively grow and protect our assets, the burden of such responsibility often falls to oneself.

They say that time is money? Well, I'll turn the tables and say that money is time. For example, gains in the midst of one's trading career provide the time to withstand interim periods of equity drawdowns and plateaus as well as illnesses and loss of focus or ambition. Far more importantly, though, is that cumulative gains—once locked in and set aside—can provide the time to pursue other interests that can more directly affect and improve human life. Losses, on the other hand, simply turn the clock back. A modest loss might set one back a few days, whereas an occasional larger loss—a natural and expected part of life for those engaged in a business based on statistical probability and in which imperfect humans are involved—might set the calendar back several months. And although it took me many decades to more fully understand this way of perceiving time, it helped me immensely during periods of both rapid asset accumulation and financial hardship.

A Motivational Carrot

With respect to the effort being a publicity stunt, nothing can be farther from the truth. Before my million dollar exploits, I was already a public figure in the industry, with writing, speaking, and mentoring efforts resulting from earlier successes. Although I thoroughly enjoyed them, the result was often a divided market focus that never allowed me to reach my fullest potential as a trader. So, I temporarily went “off the industry grid” for a few years to prepare life, career, and body in such a way that I didn't have such distractions. As such, the Race and its goal became nothing more than an internal motivational carrot for me.

Despite the benefits of this self-imposed seclusion, it soon became clear that there were several substantial drawbacks to pursuing my objective in a vacuum. First, I had no day-to-day accountability of my actions to others. Second, I had no readily available means of peer support. Third, as I realized that my true grasp of trading was reaching a state where several critical light bulbs were clicking simultaneously, I had a growing desire to share my observations with others in real time. The chosen solution was to begin an unadvertised online journal in the spirit of the movie Julie & Julia (2009) that, although released more than a year after I'd begun my journal, tells a similar tale of an individual who set a specific and personal challenge, and then invited the world to watch her failures and successes through her daily blogging. In the movie, Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams), decides to cook in one year every recipe Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep), included in her 1961 book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and in doing so decides to write a blog to motivate herself and document her progress. As I would later describe in my journal, the post of which is included in these pages, I found the similarities to my life downright eerie.

As such, the second half of this Race—as well as life beyond it—was chronicled live in painstaking detail beginning in July 2008 and witnessed by thousands of traders who read daily journal entries, watched a live countdown clock, and interacted with me at, a website that would later evolve into And although the journal picks up the effort in midform, the remaining six months and continuing tailwind will take us on a $1.5 million journey of their own, the magnitude of which I didn't fully realize or appreciate until I began compiling the material for this book.

How This Book Is Organized

The content of this book is, for the most part, laid out chronologically, beginning with a never-before-seen overview in Part I of my early life experiences and career successes and misfires that formed necessary building blocks for my later years. The rest of the story is told primarily through approximately 100 detailed trading journal entries made between 2008 and 2012. Part II contains more than 70 detailed journal entries written during the latter half of 2008. Parts III through VII then highlight subsequent periods, including additional key entries made from 2009 to 2012 that reflect continued trading, further discoveries, my plan for not joining the majority who let significant short-term income disappear, a desire to give back to the industry through charity and trader education, some fun with various recorded trading sessions, and the MF Global saga that shook the futures industry—and this trader—to its very cores.

To illustrate and get us started, here's my initial journal post from July 2008.

img Out of Hiding

Where does one begin after a img year break from the public eye? As some of you may know, February 2006 was my last public post after years of teaching traders and writing for various trading publications and websites. Two and a half years. Gas prices were a heckuva lot lower, and the Celtics were pre-Garnett.

And while I had planned on remaining “off the radar” until the beginning of 2009, I want to begin sharing the revelations I've discovered that have taken my trading to a completely new paradigm, as well as start a formal logging of daily thoughts, trades, and results. And yes, as I've always done in the past, I'll post actual results . . . good, bad, ugly, and fully supported by trading records.

As has been the case in my past “public” life, this will be a completely no-hype site. I hate it, period. I'm a trader . . . pure and simple . . . and consider the ethical portion of this business to be more important than any other aspect of trading. The sole purpose of my posts will be to share observations from one person's perspective for those who choose to follow my journey to consider. So let the journey begin anew.

Although the journaling effort was intentionally unadvertised, it soon became evident how avalanches begin. What started as a small snowball of onlookers would quickly grow into a full-speed avalanche that would later propel the site toward one of the top-visited trading sites, landing it on two industry top 10 lists of trading blogs.

To this day, I'm not sure why interest grew the way it did. Perhaps it's why reality shows do so well on TV. For a while, I even thought that it might be because—like watching NASCAR races—some enjoyed watching octane-fueled high-risk and high-reward efforts that include periods of crashes and carnage. Yet although I can tell you, based on interactions with journal onlookers, that a tiny handful did come with such motives or, even worse, challenged my intentions, integrity, or actual results, or tried in various ways to mentally defeat me, the vast majority—and they numbered in the thousands—were supportive beyond belief. As it would turn out, and this may seem highly ironic, I soon discovered that I needed both groups if I were to have a legitimate chance of successfully reaching my goal. Further, as I now look back, it's clear that I needed that small number of detractors even more, as they clearly served to strengthen my resolve. To all of you, I thank you and wish you well.

Intention and Use of the Trading Journal Entries

As you review the journal entries, which span a five-year period, here are a few critical points to put them in proper perspective and help maximize their use. First, like this trader and author, there will be imperfections. For example, I'm confident that the moment the electronic or tangible ink of this book is dry, I'll wish I had included something else, said something in a slightly different way, or included different journal entries. Frankly, choosing from among more than 1,100 journal entries to include in this book was difficult at best, and I went to painstaking levels to try to provide a representative balance of varied market days, performance results, and topics. Some of the selections were chosen based on feedback from readers who found certain passages to be particularly useful, and others were selected based on timing that matched the intensity level at which I was trading that varied over the years as market conditions and life priorities evolved.

You'll also notice a general evolution of the blog over time. For example, the initial posts were intended to provide a foundation and perspective for future detailed notes, and they include my thoughts on several “light bulb” moments that had occurred in recent times and taken my trading to a new level. Then, in later years, you'll see a general shift in content as I began to increase my focus on trader motivation, education, and advocacy. In the end, any gaps before, during, or after any of the chosen selections can be filled by accessing the online blog.

In addition, keeping in mind that the journal entries are just that—entries in my personal diary intended primarily for my own use and concept reinforcement—may be the best advice to provide proper perspective. Years ago, I remember an episode of M*A*S*H in which Sidney Freedman, played by Allan Arbus, wrote a letter to Sigmund Freud as a form of self-therapy. Similarly, my diary entries—including those that seem to address the public—were primarily directed inward and intended to keep me focused, centered, and on track. Another relevant analogy appears in The Psychology of Trading (2003) when Dr. Brett Steenbarger refers to the notion of an “Internal Observer” to help objectively view one's mind-set and stay balanced. My “observer” just so happened to have access to a keyboard. And, if no one had ever stumbled across the blog, I'd have likely written most entries exactly the same way.

The journal entries are for the most part identical to those initially appearing in the online journal, corrected for typos and condensed in some cases for brevity or clarity. The entries also include a newly inserted 15-minute chart of the Standard & Poor's E-Minis (U.S. day session with a 15-period simple moving average) for each day on which market action is referenced to provide a general idea about the day's rhythm and put any price-related comments in at least some perspective. In such cases, you'll notice that each chart actually shows three days of action—including the day prior and the day subsequent to the one journaled—to increase perspective of the day's price action. Keep in mind that each chart merely provides a backdrop for general reference and that it would be a futile and dangerous exercise to try to precisely match comments or trade rationale with such limited information because (1) I don't always elaborate on why I did what I did (remember, I was largely writing to myself); (2) I use other tools, such as the NYSE TICK and Three Line Break charts, that space simply doesn't permit to be printed here; (3) many other resources are available that address the technical aspects of trading; (4) some of the notes reflect trading that occurred on the Eurex Exchange or outside of the U.S. day session for which I haven't reproduced charts here; and (5) there may be nonmarket issues and priorities, or simply an unfocused or tired mind-set, that didn't allow me to make certain trades that, based on the chart, may in hindsight appear obvious. If you've ever traded while living any sort of a life, you'll thoroughly understand that last point! Nevertheless, the charts should provide some perspective about the type of day discussed.

In many instances, I wrote the journal entries at the end of the day; at other times, I kept time-stamped shorthand notes during the trading hours. The Appendix at the back of this book lists some of the shorthand and acronyms that I use. You'll also find various journal entries that are more topic-oriented or introspective than others— I wrote those on the weekends—as well as witness an evolution of creativity over time, including portraying the month-end equity graphs in such a way as to reinforce both motivation and humility. (Note: I began to use video for many journal entries beginning in 2009, which obviously don't appear here but remain accessible on the site.) Also, and with apologies to my fifth-grade grammar teacher, you'll often come across various grammatical “licenses”—including the lack of complete sentence structure and omission of the term I —because my primary concern was to simply document my thoughts. Again, keeping in mind that you're simply viewing my diary “over my shoulder” should help place each journal entry as well as the entire compilation in proper perspective.

Last, as should be the case when viewing any market data relating to shorter intervals, I strongly encourage you to keep the “micro” writings of each hour and day in perspective as they relate to the larger “macro” views of events and rhythms occurring in the market and in my life. Otherwise, like a market chart, any single entry will be completely meaningless unless placed in the proper context. After all, it's the balancing of micro and macro events that will tell the complete story and help you better understand my mind-set as we journey together through time.

Journaling and Performance

As I look back, I see that the journal helped me stay more focused and disciplined than I would have been otherwise. At the same time, documenting my thoughts often seemed to neutralize the intense market focus by allowing me to use a different part of my brain. Maintaining the journal also provided me with a highly productive outlet with which to vent during times of frustration, which undoubtedly helped me constructively redirect any negative energy toward improved focus and performance. And although journal onlookers may have grown weary of an abundant use of sports and movies analogies at the time, my occasional comparisons to boxers, Olympic swimmers, and other athletes or competitive endeavors provided me with a strong motivational mechanism that helped me rise from failure and keep pushing myself.

I can't emphasize these benefits of the journal enough. There is no doubt in my mind that the most optimal trading periods in my career occurred specifically during those times when I had the discipline and time to journal my trading thoughts every day.

With respect to any perceived educational content relating to specific trading techniques, it's simply impossible and naive to believe that one could learn to effectively trade by simply reading a book, just as it's ridiculous to try to learn how to fly a plane by watching Top Gun. Such a task is better left to quality trader development programs designed for just that purpose. And although one tool includes the trader training videos documenting the trail of the beta “Jellie” trading team discussed in Part IV—with a portion of any proceeds continuing to go to charity—there are, of course, other reputable programs as well. These chronicles are in no way intended to infer that any particular program—including the Jellie program—is best.

Balancing Credibility and Humility

A primary concern when deciding whether or not to write this book was that despite the best of intentions, personal ego or pride might slip in. Although I've gone to great lengths during the editing process to refine and filter content to minimize such risk, it's possible that some such residue remains, even if simply inferred. An extremely fine line separates the good that comes from documenting the lessons learned from a credible experience from the bad, where such sharing, if gone unchecked, could morph into an internal self-indulgent exercise with no outward benefit. Similarly, there's a thin line between a trader's confidence that is required to successfully profit from the markets and a cockiness that over time leads to complacency and losses.

Because I believe that author integrity and the credibility of these chronicles are paramount, I've taken some unique steps in compiling these materials. For example, I believed that it was paramount to share specific financial performance results at both the macro and micro levels so that readers can place the events in proper perspective, including the entire 10-year period beginning in late 2001 when I began trading futures to October 31, 2011. My reasons for doing so are threefold. First, because much of my journal accompanies a period and fund in the late 2000s that we will appropriately microanalyze at times in terms of performance in Parts II through VI, I believe that it is necessary to also provide an overview of (1) all accounts and (2) the early periods of my futures trading, including those during which I suffered losses due to the typical learning curve “tuition” that most experience, an imbalanced career mix, and an inappropriate transaction cost structure as discussed in Part I. Second, providing a full view would minimize any risk of inadvertently cherry-picking funds or periods relating solely to positive results while ignoring the rest. Third, providing complete disclosure is simply the right thing to do in an industry in which transparency seems to be sorely lacking at times.

Further, to ensure the validity of the performance data contained in this book and given that we now apparently live in an unfortunate era in which even brokerage statements can be doctored without detection (as occurred at PFG Best in 2012), I've provided the publisher with an affidavit supporting the content contained in these pages. I've taken all these steps because in my view nothing less should be acceptable from those of us who—willingly or unwillingly—have found ourselves in a position of perceived industry leadership, for we must hold ourselves to a higher standard of integrity and accountability. Of course, in the end, we'll all stand accountable one day before God, and He won't care one iota about bravado, book sales, or blog viewer volumes. And that will be the only opinion that matters.

Finally, just to ensure that I cover all appropriate bases, please note as you read my journal that past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance, which as we'll see will hold true for both extraordinary and suboptimal results during smaller time intervals.

Bamboo Trees and Windows

Before we begin our journey, it's important to emphasize that although it's technically correct that my peak career performance period occurred during a relatively brief period when several windows of opportunity opened simultaneously—including career, family, market conditions, and trading skill evolution—the deeper truth is that untold years of preparation ultimately allowed me to open and step through the window. This concept is not unlike that of a professional gymnast, whose Olympic routine may only last minutes yet requires years of frustrating sweat and toil with little immediate tangible result. Another analogy is that of the Chinese bamboo tree, which doesn't break ground for several years; then, it finally breaks the surface and proceeds to grow at a highly accelerated rate, often exceeding dozens of feet in just a few weeks. For the bamboo, though, those early years were necessary to establish a strong root system that could both propel and support the eventual growth. We see this concept again and again throughout our lives.

Likewise, much of a trader's career can be spent “underground,” which was certainly the case for me, and a trader can experience periods of slowing growth near maturity. Fortunately, trading the financial markets—as we explore in later chapters—is all about maximizing opportunity when the window opens while minimizing the downside when it closes. And unlike other endeavors or professions where monetary rewards are spread evenly over time, much of a trader's peak earnings come in spurts when those windows of opportunity open. The rewards come when, after years of mental and physical preparation, the trading “gymnast” is focused and, after hundreds of falls and bruises or broken bones, finally nails that gold-medal-winning triple twist before his or her body outgrows the ability to handle the required dexterity or before a personal choice is made to pursue other endeavors.

So it was with this journey. There were hundreds of virtual broken bones before, and a few sprains after. Included in the latter are the effects of the May 2010 “Flash Crash” and the 2011 MF Global broker meltdown as well as a personal choice to protect accumulated gains and balance my life and income stream with endeavors unrelated to trading performance.

A Book about Trading?

This journal is as much about life as it is trading, and you'll see this theme reinforced again and again throughout these pages. Although it took me many years to understand how intertwined life and trading are, my hope is that you'll grasp these connections far sooner than I did and at far less cost in the context of lost time or resources.

If you've stumbled across this detailed journal looking for trading insights, I hope you won't be disappointed. Yet don't be surprised if the book you thought you'd read solely to try to become a better trader instead helps improve your perspective of trading as it relates to life itself, even if just a little bit.

Before we can talk about bamboos, windows of opportunity, and trading journals, we must first begin with a brief overview of how all this came to being, including some initial life gifts and obstacles.