Decide Already!

Harvard researcher Dan Gilbert tells us why we’re bad at predicting our future happiness, how that affects our decision making, and why we are actually happier after making a decision that feels irrevocable.

Fun with data

Monthly options on SPY started trading back in January of 2005. Here are a few statistics that I found interesting and thought I’d share:

  • Not including the current cycle (May 2016) there have been 136 monthly option expirations for SPY
  • When opening the cycle above the pivot, there have been 7 (5.15%) instances where SPY touched both R1 & S1
  • Of those 7 instances, 5 of them either closed OpEx above S1 or under R1

In other words, only two times did S1 fail to hold as support and two times that R1 failed to hold as resistance. That’s an impressive 98.5% “win rate” for S1 and R1 to hold after both being touched in the cycle. The failed support dates were in Jan ’05 and May of ’06 while the failed resistance dates were in July ’05 and Mar of ’13 . Interestingly, Mar of ’13 also saw R2 fail to hold as resistance.

Pretty neat information that can be used, depending on how you trade. Buy why stop there? Add another filter and both instances that saw OpEx close under S1 also started the cycle above the 13EMA. Guess what? Both instances that saw OpEx close above R1 started the cycle below the 13EMA.

Option expiration for SPY is next Friday (5/20) and S1 for the May 2016 cycle is down at 203.48. SPY started the cycle above both the 13EMA and the pivot. On 4/20, SPY touched R1 so next week could be interesting if S1 is tested. A rare occurrence if nothing else.

Poor Habits


Poor habits are difficult to overcome, especially those that have been a part of a routine for years. Part of the reason is that habits are perfected through experience. Habits can be formed and reinforced through expectations (from one’s self or others), triggers (smells, visuals, etc.) and even market conditions. Research suggests that we never truly forget our habits but overwrite them with new ones. If the old habit isn’t replaced with a new one then it can resurface. One way to replace a poor trading habit is to focus on the point of performance rather than the habit itself. This is where we as traders need to be on point or on task. To put it another way, the WHAT, WHEN and HOW of our trading system. Ask yourself these questions the next time you’re ready to put capital on the line to assess whether or not you’re on task:

  • Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing (WHAT)?
  • Is this the right time to do it (WHEN)?
  • Am I following my system (HOW)?

It’s the third item I’d like to focus on for the remainder of this post. Checklists are vital to trading success yet they are widely overlooked and even shunned. In his book “The Checklist Manifesto” Dr. Gawande writes “Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success. There must always be room for judgment, but judgment aided – and even enhanced – by procedure.”

Trading is a high-pressure environment where simple mistakes can be costly. The biggest benefit of using a checklist is the process itself. Creating a checklist removes the potential of simple mistakes caused by missing a mundane task (forgetting to check the earnings date or clicking the buy button instead of sell button). In addition, a check list frees up vital working memory which can then be allocated to the discretionary side of our trading system.

Another benefit of a checklist is that it forces us to be detached and systematic about certain key aspects of our trading system. Aspects such as calculating trade size or stops (managing risk) which should be systematic rather than discretionary. Just as a pilot would not fly until they’ve gone through a rigorous checklist, we shouldn’t trade unless we’ve gone through our checklist. In a sense, checklists are a form of discipline which is something we can all improve upon.

Excerpt from chapter 1

March Option Expiration

It appears the data I was using (Think or Swim) was/is wrong. Take a look at the image below. On the left side you’ll see the OHLC for the opex month. On the right side you’ll see the OHLC for the actual opex week. The close does not match. Something is fishy and I’ve reached out to Think or Swim support and have been told they are looking into it. Who knows what will come of it, maybe nothing. 

I was able to procure SPY data from Bloomberg and have been crunching some statistics that I plan on sharing at a later time.

Bottom line on brain health

I’ll admit, I’ve been inundated with questions regarding the posts I did on nootropics. So much so that I feel it is important to reiterate the following:

Nobody should be putting anything into their body without weighing both the risks and benefits first. What I share on this site is only skimming the surface of nootropics. Nothing I share should be construed as advice. Do your own due diligence and educate yourself.

As with any attempt to increase or decrease something you’ll need a baseline so you can measure the potential change. With nootropics the idea is to increase some function of the brain so you’ll need a way to measure the brain. More specifically, you’ll want to measure the exact function you want to increase. Perhaps it’s concentration or reasoning or memory. Maybe you just want to get brain back to where it was, like me.

There are commercial sites out there like Lumosity that you can use. However, I found Cambridge brain sciences to be the best platform to test. You can create your own “workout” routine for your brain and keep tabs on your scores to see if changes are occurring. Best of all it’s free!

After nearly 3 months of testing different nootropic stacks I’ve concluded that to find one that works for whatever it is your trying to improve is going to take a lot of work. Most people won’t do that and they just go read on Reddit about a stack and head to their local vitamin store to buy the supplements. Here’s my advice if that’s you. Don’t waste your time or your money! It takes discipline to find the right mix.

For me the following have helped me find my old brain. I walk, jog or run five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time. A little over a year ago I read the book Spark and haven’t looked back since. I’m a firm believer in the overall health benefits of cardiovascular exercise and its impact on the brain.

I started eating better. No more fast-food and no snacking between meals. I began with a juice cleanse after watching the documentary “Fat sick & nearly dead”. It changed my life.

Lastly It’s been nearly a year since I built a standing desk . I don’t get that bogged down feeling in the afternoon. I’m more active outside of the office as computer time has changed to work time (i.e., less surfing the web). I’ll never go back to sitting at a traditional desk.

Bottom line is that combining a proper diet and exercise, along with plenty of sleep, can do wonders for overall brain health. At least it did (and still does) for me. 

Long-term potentiation

Long-term potentiation (LTP) is thought to be the molecular event that contributes to learning. In a nutshell, LTP helps move whatever it is you’re learning from short-term memory to long-term memory. If you’re really bored you can watch a video that explains it better here.

There’s a lot of interesting research out there regarding chemically induced LTPs. I won’t bore you with the science behind it but should you want to learn more you can read the original research here.

The original experimenter attempting to create a  CILTEP (Chemically Induced Long TErm Potentiation) was Abelard Lindsay. Here’s a link to an interesting interview of Abelard.

The idea behind creating CILTEP involves inhibiting PDE4 while promoting the production of cAMP. This can be done, as the name would suggest, with some chemicals. Namely artichoke extract, as a PDE4 inhibitor, and Forskolin to increase cAMP levels.

If you want to absorb more of the information that you come into contact with then perhaps CILTEP is for you. It’s not going to give you the powers that Eddie Morra gained from taking NZT-48, but it might help in retention.

I took the following stack religiously, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, for 5 weeks:

  • 800 mg of artichoke extract
  • 500 mg of L-Phenylalanine (don’t mistake this for DL-Phenylalanine)
  • 20 mg of Coleus Forskohlii root extract to get 4 mg of forskolin (check the label to see %)
  • 10 mg of vitamin B6

I’d wash this stack down with 10 oz of water mixed with a scoop of green super food for the micro-nutrients. Sadly, I’d say that I didn’t notice anything as far as retention goes or even an increased desire to learn for that matter. Bottom line is that the science behind it is cool and I so wanted it to work. I’m not giving up because I know you can get some bunk supplements and the levels might not be exact. I could also be a non-responder. I’ll continue to try different levels, other supplements, etc. all while measuring for changes.

I mention measuring for changes as that is an important part of understanding whether or not a nootropic is having an impact on you. It is extremely easy to fall victim to the placebo effect with this or any other nootropic stack. In my next post I’ll share the resources I used to keep track of my brain changes (or lack thereof).

What are you doing with your 0.1% edge?

I recently read The Edge Effect by Dr. Eric Braverman. If you are interested in nootropics or brain health, you should read it. Here’s a quick snippet:

For all that we humans tend to emphasize our differences, biologically speaking we are truly the same. The proof is in our DNA: the human genome sequence is more than 99.9 percent the same in all people. However, that 0.1 percent difference is all it takes for some of us to be healthy and others ill, some tall and others short, some quick-witted and others dull.

While DNA codes our behaviors and physical functions, it is not at the heart of what makes each of us unique. Our DNA is only as good as the transport system it creates for the transmission of information. 

So what does make us unique? It’s the connection between the brain and the body. This connection is one aspect of “the edge.” When our edge is healthy we succeed, when it’s sick, we fail. A 0.1% edge isn’t much, or is it? Think about that before you answer. Time to get healthy and sharpen that edge!