Note: I know I promised to report on the conclusion to the TF II contest. And I will. Just not today. Instead, I thought the columns you'll read over the next few days were more timely and relevant. Hope you agree.

I have very few areas I can honestly say I am head and shoulders above everyone else in. Golf? Nah, there are thousands who can whup me. Trading? Ditto! Swim parenting? Hey, there are parents I chat with who know not only their own kid's times, but also they know my kids' times! Sickening.

But, there are a few -- though very few -- areas I think I'm right up there with the best of them. One, I'm pretty good on my feet. In fact, I'm probably a better speaker than writer. OK, make that far better.

Also, I can be pretty introspective. I mean, I can look so darn far into my cranium, I can see clear through to the other side. A vast knowledge of my faults? Check. Know my strengths inside and out? Check!

I mean seriously, there is probably not one thing you could tell me about myself, I haven't already discovered years ago. Vain? Self-centered? Thin-skinnned? Big ego? Oh, puh-lease! I had those nailed by about the seventh grade! (But, yes, I'd also give me marks for considerate, balanced and somewhat humorous.)

What's all this have to do with today's column? Well, I wanted today's column to serve a number of purposes.

First, a good number of folks continue to want to know the details of my trading, my current methods and my take on the market. And to be frank, there are only slightly fewer folks who want to know about the "real" Gary B. Smith.

The Chartman:

TSC

message boards.

Second, a good trader looks inward even more than outward, because in the end,

you

are the reason you're succeeding or failing in the market. And you better have a good grasp on "you" before you really start to ramp up your trading.

Therefore, I am hopeful these next few columns will answer many questions and enlighten you from a variety of different perspectives. I know I learned a lot writing them.

Me:

Gary, we met once before. As you recall, I interviewed you then, so I hope you're a bit more comfortable this go 'round.

GBS:

Yes, and as I recall, you were quite the needler.

Me:

Well, I've grown since then. A lot less attitude, a lot more substance. Unless, of course, you really give me an opening!

GBS:

I aim to please, trust me.

The Past Year

Me:

OK, then let's start with 1999. I want all the gory details of how you did

.

GBS:

Happy to oblige. I finished the year up roughly 80%. The last quarter, though, really hummed.

Me:

Hmm, 80% was about what the Nasdaq did. And from what I hear, you were way below many people who simply blew it out. Any disappointment you didn't do better?

GBS:

Well, that's a good question. Sure, part of me always likes to beat the averages. And particularly last year, I know I was way behind folks who might have done 500% to 1,000%. So, yes, in one way, I feel like I was left behind.

However, the rational part of me knows that 1999 was a fluke for many people. I mean if someone rode

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

up 1,000%, does that make them a better trader than me? Well, maybe for that year, it does. But, unless he or she can discover a new Qualcomm every year, over the long term, I should be just fine.

Me:

You mean because you have a method that's not dependent on the market or individual stocks, right?

GBS:

Right, absolutely. If there are

no

Qualcomms in 2000, I should be just fine.

Me:

But what about some of the funds? Many, in fact, trounced you, and if you had invested in them, you not only would have had bigger returns but, after tax,

far

bigger returns.

GBS:

Oh, that's absolutely true. And if I had it to do over again, I'd would have been fully invested in that

Nicholas Applegate

fund! But, again, this is no different than the story about the individual investors. Those funds "got it right" this past year because they invariably rode a Qualcomm or

JDS Uniphase

(JDSU)

up a few thousand percent. Nothing wrong with that, but those results are highly dependent on the fund managers finding a few hot stocks every year. That's a tough proposition.

Me:

Well, 80% isn't exactly terrible. Mind telling the readers how much that 80% netted you in dollar terms?

GBS:

Yeah, right! Let's just say, I netted somewhere north of $100,000 and somewhere south of $2,000,000.

Me:

So, you're no Cramer, then!

GBS:

I'm not even Cramer's kids, I'm afraid.

My Method

Me:

OK, let me delve a bit deeper, because many folks want to know: Did your gains come solely from the GBS Classic technique, and if not, what other methods did you use?

GBS:

I'm glad you asked because that seems to be a hot question lately. I'd say about 40% of my gains last year came from GBS Classic trades. However, within those, I did tweak my money-management parameters to better fit recent data.

Me:

Care to divulge what those changes were?

GBS:

I moved my stop up a bit from 6%. Also, I experimented with using trailing stops, and did a lot of work on some money-management aspects of my trading. You know, when, where and how to exit.

Me:

Now that gets to a key issue. You told your readers none of this throughout the year. And by not telling folks, weren't you being a bit hypocritical?

GBS:

Well, I guess it could be viewed that way, but that was surely not my intent. No, what I found happening was that any number I ever put in print, folks would copy verbatim. And then I would get grilled repeatedly if I illustrated a chart that didn't stick exactly to the methodology I had written about. So what started out as an example evolved into me becoming responsible, if you will, for hundreds, if not thousands, of other traders.

Now, I didn't mind that specifically, but I thought they were missing the point: The whole reason I talked about my method to begin with was to give an illustration of how I trade and what a methodology looks like. However, as I've stressed many times, real success in trading comes from developing your own method, with your own parameters, not just copying someone else's style.

Me:

But weren't you also finding that as more folks "subscribed" to your methods, it was ruining your own trading?

GBS:

Actually, no. I did fear that would happen, but what I found was that whenever I went through a rough patch, it was invariably the market and not my method,

per se

. Also, keep in mind, a large portion of my gains have historically come from the short side, which frankly, few people seem to follow. In addition, the times we did go through a rough patch, many "GBS followers" would lose faith, abandon my method and never return.

Me:

So you were never hurt in the long run because of the frequent fallout and turnover, right?

GBS:

Right. What folks always forget is that one aspect of good trading is just sticking to your methodology through thick and thin. It's the

not

jumping off part that's incredibly difficult, but a real key to success.

Me:

Fine, but is sounds like you yourself changed at some point during 1999!

GBS:

Evolved is more appropriate, I think. While only 40% of my gains came specifically from GBS Classic, I still use one form or another of breakouts in all my trading. In addition, my trades on the short side have really changed very little from the way I traded a few years ago. I just had fewer short trades last year.

Me:

OK, give me an example of a trade you did that was not a GBS Classic, but still followed the spirit of your breakout method.

GBS:

Saga Systems

(AGS) - Get Report

is a recent example. I suppose it's more of a trend reversal play, but the essence of high-volume/solid-up day is right there, as is the emphasis on taking small but quick profits.

Me:

Let's wrap up this topic with a few last questions. If you're not afraid of folks following your trading, why not update them on every tweak and change you make?

GBS:

I suppose it's in how I'd like people to view me and this column. That is, as a teacher and a guide, as opposed to market guru. A great example is the

Motley Fool

site. They are an excellent resource for many folks, but as soon as they published their various portfolios, folks followed those trades exactly, but without really knowing why. In fact, I'm willing to bet the vast majority of "Fool" followers have never read word one about the overall TMF strategy. So then it becomes of game of "live by the TMF trades, die by the TMF trades." And that's kind of how I felt whenever the market went through a rough patch. I felt like I was letting people down because my strategy wasn't perfect in all markets. And it

isn't

perfect in all markets! I guess I created a monster, but who knew how much

TheStreet.com's

readership would grow?

Me:

So if you had to do it over, would you publish the specifics of how you trade?

GBS:

Yeah, I probably would. I certainly wanted people to know early on that I could "walk the talk" and I wasn't just some rube who had never traded. But I suppose I wouldn't have given all the frequent updates like I did. In that regard, I'm sure I implied a "follow Gary" strategy. In retrospect, that was a mistake.

Me:

With all that out in the open, then, are you afraid folks will stop reading your stuff?

GBS:

Yeah, of course. But -- and this is going to sound harsh -- if they were just reading me for the specific methodology updates and nothing else, then they probably needed to be weaned from that anyway. I mean, shoot, what will they do when I finally hang up my keyboard? That's not to say, however, I won't talk about my trading, or trading in general, because that's sprinkled through just about every column I write. In fact, when I illustrate a chart someone has asked about, my analysis is almost exactly how I'd trade it.

Tomorrow: setting goals for 2000, starting a fund, having a working spouse and writing for

TSC

.

Gary B. Smith is a freelance writer who trades for his own account from his Maryland home using technical analysis. At time of publication, he held no positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Smith writes five technical analysis columns for TheStreet.com each week, including Technician's Take, Charted Territory and TSC Technical Forum. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback at

gbsmith@attglobal.net.