Trader Don Miller’s Philosophy on the Markets

03/26/2009 10:44 am EST


Tim Bourquin

Co-Founder, The Traders Expo and The Futures & Forex Expo

Don Miller is a short-term S&P trader as well as a member of the CME.  He's also a blogger who writes about his thoughts at A few days ago, he wrote a post that was a "self-interview" about his overall approach to the markets. Instead of our regular trading idea for today, I thought you'd be interested in reading it. If you are serious about your own evolution as a trader, you'll definitely want to read Don's blog regularly.

Q:  How do you think you traded today?
A:  Terrible ... made too many mistakes on a type of day that's one of my strengths. I'd frankly grade it a C.

Q:  So you lost money then, right?
A:  No, I increased the chip stack by +$8K.

Q:  I'm lost, how can you trade terribly and still make money?
A:  Ever see a golfer miss several fairways and scramble to make pars and birdies?

Q:  Yup.
A:  There's your answer. Plus, I've played today's course a thousand times ... it's one of my favorites and I know the hole placement by memory, which aided the score. I just didn't hit as many greens as I would have liked.

Q:  What about this year, how do you think you've traded?
A:  At times, terribly, just like 2008.

Q:  So you must be pretty much breaking even then, right?
A:  No, aside from one very minor ding, I've only had one loss on the year.

Q:  I don't get it.
A:  I know. That's why I trade and you ask questions.

Q:  But there must be days where you don't make mistakes. Last year, for example, you said you netted over $1.6 million. There couldn't have been many then.
A:  Wrong. I made mistakes every day in 2008. No, make that every day. Plus, I had one bonehead day last year that cost me $90K, and I've sucked many times this year.

Q:  Well, maybe you need to tweak your style. Have you ever thought about altering your trading style by (names a variety of "tweaks")?
A:  Nope, and never will.

Q:  Why not?
A:  As I've said, focus is the only thing that will ever keep me from making money. I have no interest, desire, or plan to change how I trade...ever...and I turn a deaf ear to anyone who suggests I tweak my approach. Frankly, it gets mentally filtered out the moment I see or hear the suggestion. Let's never forget Seve Ballesteros. It's all and only about focus and execution. Always has been and always will. Said another way, why buy another lock when you know the combination?

Q: OK, let's try this. I've calculated your average point gain per day based on the number of contracts and your stated daily chip gain, and it seems that you make .00000001 points per day on large size (OK, I'm exaggerating, but you get the point). What does that mean?
A: Not a damn thing. Check the posts addressing why the volume is relatively high, which includes risk-managing interim insurance scratches. I care about one number...and that's the net profit on December 31 each year.

Q:  Yesterday (Monday, March 23), the Dow was up +500 points, while today it was even for much of the day before the late-day sell off. You must have cleaned up yesterday.
A:  Ummm, see my last know, the part about "one number." Who the hell cares about the net index gain? That's like saying the Celtics won by 40 last night, therefore you must have cleaned up today. It's completely irrelevant data.

Q:  Why are you so hard on yourself with respect to your performance? Seems like you're trying for martyr of the year.
A:  It simply helps remind me I have much room for improvement, which in turn keeps me coming back every day to try to do better. It's what drives me deep down, and I'll be working on improvement until the last trade I ever make.

Q:  Why do you reference 2008 so often? You must have had some recent stinko years.
A:  Laughing. You can't be serious.

Q:  Why the constant comparison to '08 and your current annual $1 million goals then?
A:  They're current personal benchmarks, nothing more. If people are insulted by my using them for motivation, it's a darn shame they're not focusing on their own trading. Talk about misdirected focus and lost potential!

Q:  Does blogging negatively affect your trading?
A:  Huh? If it did, I'd stop it in a heartbeat. It actually helps keep my head in the market after hours, and keeps me accountable to both myself and others.

Q:  But doesn't it add pressure?
A:  The only pressure I'll ever feel is from me, which is far more intense than 500+ daily onlookers could ever provide.

Q:  OK, thanks for your time, although I admit I still don't "get it."
A:  I know. If you're looking for that perfect trader, system, method, setup, etc., you'll have to wait for the next lifetime...there aren't any in this life. I just try to focus and stay out of my own way...some days better than others. You can call it "perfecting imperfection" if it helps. And I can give you a million reasons why it works. (Side note to onlookers: Stop trying to be so damn perfect!)

By Tim Bourquin, Trading Content Director,

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