Stocks & Commodities V. 25:13 (96-97): Novice Speculator by John Sweeney

Stocks & Commodities V. 25:13 (96-97): Novice Speculator by John Sweeney
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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 to forget.

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.

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