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Apprenticed Investor: The Zen of Trading

So far the Apprenticed Investor series has discussed a lot of don'ts. Don't do this, don't do that; avoid talking to these kinds of traders; don't say or think these kinds of things.

Well, it's time to shift gears, and since trading is an active enterprise, I'll discuss some things you should do. I plan to expand on these ideas significantly in future episodes.

Taken together, the following 10 rules will not only help you with the philosophical grounding necessary for thoughtful -- and successful -- investing, they will help you avoid some of the more common mistakes made by investors and traders early in their careers.

This is the "Zen of Trading;" It is more than an overview -- it's an investment philosophy that can help you develop an investing framework of your own.

    1. Have a Comprehensive Plan: Whether you are an investor or active trader, you must have a plan. Too many investors have no strategy at all -- they merely react to each twitch of the market on the fly. If you fail to plan, goes the saying, then you plan to fail.

    Consider how Roger Clemens approaches a game. He studies his opponent, constructs his game plan and goes to work.

    Investors should write up a business plan, as if they were asking a Venture Capitalist for start-up money; just because you are the angel investor doesn't mean you should skip the planning stages.

    2. Expect to Be Wrong: We've discussed this previously , but it is such a key aspect of successful investing that it bears repeating. You will be wrong, you will be wrong often and, occasionally, you will be spectacularly wrong.

    Michael Jordan has a fabulous perspective on the subject: "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

    Jordan was the greatest ball player of all time, and not only because of his superb physical skills: He understood the nature and importance of failure, and placed it appropriately within a larger framework of the game.

    The best investors have no ego tied up in a trade. Those who refuse to recognize the simple truism of "being wrong often" end up giving away unacceptable amounts of capital. Stubborn pride and lack of risk management allow egotists to stay in stocks down 30%, 40% or 50% -- or worse.

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