Novice Speculator by John Sweeney
In honor of our 25th anniversary, we decided to re-run a
piece written by former Editor John Sweeney when he was a
fledgling in the trading arena back in 1984, with his addendum
now. How much has changed? How much hasn’t?
Bill Wyckoff suggested I write this — not personally,
of course, since he’s long out of print. He
just noted in Wall Street Ventures And Adventures Through Forty Years that writing and publishing The
Ticker was a terrific way of learning about his market (the
stock market). I can take a hint.
I decided to write about growth. After all, nine months of
full-time speculation have given me more growing pains than
I ever thought possible. It occurred to me that a careful
documentation of my path might be valuable to others as well
as to me. That this would probably highlight mistakes hasn’t
bothered me. I know that, in theory, people actually learn
from mistakes, whereas success is tough to evaluate and easy
I see the world as full of restraints and pitfalls, amongst
which we poke and probe for a safe, rewarding path. When a
probing trade comes back with two-thirds of the margin
missing, the novice learns to avoid something. For a novice,
that knowledge is enough — survival alone is the novice’s
goal. A trader, on the other hand, having bested the issue of
survival, may probe some more, perhaps more gingerly, to
find a profit-maker. And by the time one is a true speculator,
I assume one knows what is in that margin-devouring pitfall!
After all, the word “speculator” comes from the Latin verb “to
see”; hence, a person who truly does see what is before him.
To become a true speculator, then, would be a great achievement, and is the goal to which these writings are dedicated.