Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc.(www.wiley.com) from The StockTwits Edge edited by Howard Lindzon, Philip Pearlman, and Iyaylo Ivanhoff. Copyright (c) 2011 by Howard Lindzon, Philip Pearlman, and Iyaylo Ivanhoff.

Find Trends, Ride Them, and Get Off

Howard Lindzon, @howardlindzon

LESS IS MORE

In 1987, after earning my undergraduate degree, I took a job in the back office at a small brokerage firm in Toronto called Davidson Partners. I was in order entry. Brokers would fill out tickets and drop them in a box for me, and I would enter the orders to be filled. Two months into my job, the market crashed. I saw people lose everything. I was on the ground floor of a panic, and I was hooked.

It is now 2011 and I do not have the same 24 years to catch up on all my mistakes and wins, so I want this chapter to be about speed. My goal is to get you to an "aha" moment about the value of trend following whereby you can catch big moves in stocks and markets.

I trust everyone and trust no one. I can do that because I have tried just about every type of investing known to man. Today when I invest or trade in the global markets, I am in control. I make every decision. I take responsibility at some level for every made or lost dollar of mine in the markets.

I believe the markets are opportunity machines. We built StockTwits to offer investors and traders an endless supply of ideas with more context and less opinion. It will mean different things to different people, but your goal should always be to seek out investors and traders who make your job easier, and to give back when possible. I believe investors should swing for the fences. If you invest properly, your best investments will become trades (you can call yourself a trader). If you know how to manage losses, those trades will not become investments; you will kick out losing positions from your portfolio so that you hold only winners and manage profits.

Do anything well for 10 years and you will be a success. If investing is in your 10-year plan, you just need to stay in the game and get started as soon as possible. I wish I'd had the proper perspective in 1998 when I started my hedge fund. After 20-plus years of stock investing, I can't believe how much time you can spend away from your screens and still be successful as a trader and an investor. In a nutshell, "less is more." The best investors and traders prune, shed, purge, hold, and even add to winners and sometimes start over.

I believe most people will never allocate the proper amount of time to learn how to trade, but all of us can invest. We live in spectacular times. You can leverage the Web in so many ways, especially around knowledge. You can Do More Faster (the title of Brad Feld and David Cohen's most excellent book on start-ups John Wiley & Sons, 2010) than at any time in the history of mankind. Our community at StockTwits is filled with tens of thousands of traders, a global trading floor that collectively digests and shares prices, ideas, and news.

CATCHING BIG TRENDS

I believe you can outwork everyone to get an edge but don't need inside information to be successful. In fact, I would argue that the further you remove yourself from the worries of all the noise, inside information, and tips, the better your investing results will become. Surround yourself with voices and people you trust and carefully let new voices into your routine over time.

I believe the opportunity of an investing lifestyle is an amazing freedom to pursue. You can learn to watch and enjoy the markets. Knowing what I want to do has helped me focus on a plan. My strength is the network I have built over 12 years as a hedge fund manager, investor, and entrepreneur. I have been very fortunate to benefit from the Internet explosion during the meat of my investing years. Finding mentors has never been easier. I use the term social leverage for this phenomenon. You should slip into my social stream if you want to take part in the process. You are not locked in, and that is the power of the Web today.

As a trend investor, I have caught some big moves: Chipotle, Apple, Amazon, Rackspace, Crocs, and many private Internet companies. You did not need inside information to catch 200 points in Apple stock or 100 points in Netflix in 2009 and 2010. I am open-minded, and experience has taught me that patterns exist and they repeat. If you build a daily routine and focus on the right lists, you can learn to catch big stock moves.

To catch a large basket of trends, one should start at the macro level and work to the micro level. My friend Ivan says this about trend following: "Short-term price trends are fueled by momentum, medium-term price trends are fed by earnings-related catalysts, and long-term price trends are sustained by social and business trends."

It also makes sense to focus on your areas of passion. Doing the work necessary to catch trends will be easier if you are immersed in the work you love. And of course, selling is a discipline that must be honed. I am very mechanical when it comes to exiting positions.

I have missed so many winners, and, as all investors do, I never own enough of the winners I do eventually own and ride. I keep on investing because I know a new opportunity is around the corner and I will get better at spotting catalysts that will lead to big moves.

I believe that you should not worry about valuations or price-earnings (P/E) ratios for your liquid investments. Valuation matters when you can't sell a security. I don't think many investors or analysts can successfully determine forward prices. If they could, markets would be way more efficient. Having a defined strategy is all that matters. I am known as an "early seller," but I like the moniker. Being an "early buyer" is a moniker I seek to avoid.

I used to trade and hire traders. Daily performance mattered. Now 10-year performance matters to me. I survived 10 years with pretty much my original limited partners in my hedge fund, despite making every mistake in the book. Daily performance anxiety is the stress of the entire financial industry. It will never disappear. That stress is our opportunity. The louder and more active trading and Wall Street become, the quieter you should become. Technology will continue to make it possible for both sides to do their jobs, cheaper and faster.

SIMPLE IS GOOD

When I read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point (Little, Brown, 2000), I wondered why tipping points were not linked to stock prices. Stocks "tip" just like products and ideas. If you look back at the great stock winners of all time, you can spot a myriad of points where you could have matched "aha" moments with large stock advances.

I believe that if I follow my simple routine, the right stocks will find me. Every Saturday morning, I go to www.stocktwits50.com to get a quick snapshot of money flow and momentum. It saves me time. In 20 minutes I have a good picture of the momentum in the markets.

During the week, I follow Joe Fahmy (@jfahmy), as well as @stocktwits50, @biggercapital, @ivanhoff, and @upsidetrader. Discovery is a fantastic feature of today's social Web platforms, so ask others on the StockTwits streams whom they trust. New voices are constantly surfacing. I check Techmeme at http://techmeme.com and Abnormal Returns at http://abnormalreturns.com and scan the headlines and read many stories. By doing so consistently, you will start to pick up the company and ticker symbols that entrepreneurs, angel investors, financial bloggers, financial journalists, and hedge fund managers are talking about. I read venture capitalist Fred Wilson at www.avc.com, Brad Feld at www.feld.com/blog, and TechCrunch at http://techcrunch.com as well.

UNDERSTANDING MOMENTUM

Momentum is a way of life. It is a style. For most people it's psychologically difficult to embrace momentum. When I launched my daily Web video show called Wallstrip in 2006, I wanted to express in a short video format that you only need one good trend idea to change your life. We presented a new stock almost every day, trying to reveal the catalysts behind big price moves.

Price is the ultimate leading indicator. It reflects the collective consciousness of the market. If a stock is trading at a new all-time high, the odds are the underlying company is growing very fast and under accumulation from institutions. When a stock is trading at all-time highs, every holder is in a winning position, and everyone who is short is in a losing position--a powerful combination that is often a recipe for further price appreciation.

Every stock that goes on to make 500 percent passes 100 percent and many new highs along the way. A stock that is breaking out to a new all-time high after a long period of consolidation is always worth further investigation.

However, price is not the only data point for me buying stocks. I like to keep my turnover rate low and I am very picky when it comes to opening new positions. I need to understand the catalysts that will sustain future price appreciation.

Once a stock reaches a new all-time high, I start to follow it. I always do my homework and if I find a strong catalyst that is likely to sustain the price trend, I buy.

I will never pay the lowest price and sometimes do pay the highest price, but I won't let one bad stock or investment wreck my life. There will be times when investing seems easy, but do not confuse a bull market with brains. There are times when most stocks go up as fresh money enters the equity markets and higher prices boost risk appetite.

MACRO TRENDS TODAY

My goal is to own shares in companies that will monetize the big social and business trends of the next decade. As we enter 2011, I can't imagine a world without inflation in commodities and deflation in technology and start-up costs, including talent. In 2010, we saw the continuation of some major trends--cloud computing, the mobile Web, the social Web, and the consumer Internet. Most interesting is the phenomenon I describe as "the $50 club sandwich and the $5 smart phone." While traveling to Paris recently, I encountered the $50 club sandwich at The Four Seasons Hotel and, while not typical, this is surely a sign of the times amid global commodity inflation. As 2011 ends, we will likely see some unbelievably low prices in smart phones as the war heats up among the telecoms, handset makers, and Skype, and as the operating systems of Apple, Google, and Microsoft fight for market share.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.