Many books can be read quickly because their authors take a couple of ideas worthy of perhaps twenty printed pages and then pad them to produce a 300-page book. Brett N. Steenbarger’s The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons for Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist (Wiley, 2009) is definitely not one of these books. It is jam packed with information and is thus best read one lesson at a time, as the author suggests. (I had to cheat for this review and try to swallow it whole, but now I plan to go back and do it the right way.)
Those who follow Dr. Brett’s blogs Trader Feed and Become Your Own Trading Coach have already been introduced, usually in an abbreviated form, to some of the material set forth here. But reading the blogs is no substitute for reading the book. They are complementary, and both are invaluable.
Contrary to most self-help books that promise quick and easy fixes (“five minutes a day to a waspish waist”) Dr. Brett outlines a pretty grueling regimen that includes research, self-therapy, psychological monitoring, recordkeeping, and—oh yes—trading. Even with all this effort success is not assured. Some people are simply not cut out to be traders. Without this effort, however, traders will never reach great heights. For instance, he writes, “Many traders sit down at their stations a little before markets open, trade through the day, and then go home, repeating the process day after day. . . . That is what you do if you’re the employee of [a] business, not the owner.” (p. 236)
About two-thirds of the lessons deal with ways to improve performance through psychological self-coaching. The final three chapters look at trading as a business, offer insights from trading professionals, and share some tips on using Excel to find historical patterns in markets.
Although there is no shortcut to trading success, The Daily Trading Coach empowers traders to create their own road maps, to set forth on the journey, and to keep checking the oil and logging their progress. And when the engine sputters, as it inevitably will, the wise trader will re-read the relevant lessons, fix the problems, and set out again. For now this book stays on my desk, not on the shelf.