Brett Steenbarger's 'Daily Trading Coach'

by: John Clark

In writing The Daily Trading Coach: 101 Lessons for Becoming Your Own Trading Psychologist, by Brett Steenbarger, it was the author’s stated intention to “. . . give you the tools to become your own coach, so that you can guide your own professional and personal growth.” I would have to say that I think he did a quite good job of that. The tools for just about any situation are in there.

Will they all fit psychological trading challenge of yours or mine? Probably not all, because that simply is not possible, but he does provide enough general principles and specific recommendations for personal exploration and action that it will at least be a good starting point.

If nothing else, it would be worth reading the book just to understand Dr. Steenbarger’s observation that if you were going to set up a learning situation in a laboratory specifically to make an animal anxious and ineffective, it would look much like the stimulus-reward relationships that occur in the financial markets. Of course, his suggested “work-arounds” for the markets’ “crazy-making” rewards, punishments, apparent patterns, unpredictablility, changeability, and chaos are invaluable for those who travel these waters. But, still, sometimes it is helpful just to get some validation that, yes, this is a strange place indeed.

Who is the book for?

The book is appropriate for anyone who is involved with the financial markets, whether personally or professionally.

It was written by a psychologist who has consulted to trading firms and coached active traders for many years as well as trading himself. His examples and language reflect this experience, as they should.

Given that, if you view yourself as an investor, rather than a trader, you may conclude that this book is not for you. From my perspective, this would be a mistake since whether we buy something with the idea of holding it for a minute, a day, or a decade, our intention is to eventually sell it for more than we paid for it. We are all traders. It is just our time frames that differ.

What’s in it?

The book consists of 10 chapters, each with 10 lessons, with lesson #101 being in the conclusion. They are

1. Change: The Process and the Practice

2. Stress and Distress: Creative Coping for Traders

3. Psychological Well-Being: Enhancing Trading Experience

4. Steps Toward Self-Improvement: The Coaching Process

5. Breaking Old Patterns: Psychodynamic Frameworks for Self-Coaching

6. Remapping the Mind: Cognitive Approaches to Self-Coaching

7. Learning New Action Patterns: Behavioral Approaches to Self-Coaching

8. Coaching Your Trading Business

9. Lessons from Trading Professionals: Resources and Perspectives on Self-Coaching

10. Looking for the Edge: Finding Historical Pattern in Markets

What might be a challenge in getting the most out of it?

Probably, first on the list would be that there is so much information in this book that it can feel overwhelming. True, the author says up front that it is not necessary, nor is it intended, to sit down and read it straight through. Rather, it can be used as a reference book, working on whatever chapter and lesson seems to apply to you at the moment. ( Obviously, you can’t do this if you are going to write a book review, so perhaps my view is a bit skewed in this regard. )

The book often seems to have been written for mental health professionals or at least someone who is familiar with the lingo of psychology, therapy, and coaching. This is not a huge limitation, but sometimes if the reader is not at all familiar with a concept or term, a quick trip to Wikipedia or some other source could be a good idea.

And, finally, when it comes to approaches to dealing with problems that come up, the ones that he describes are not the only ways or necessarily the best ways to go for each individual. This is one of those places where I do think Dr. Steenbarger has done an excellent job at getting the reader started, even where it may not provide a complete solution.

Overall Opinion?

This is an excellent book that accomplishes most of what it set out to do. The most basic challenge to the self-coach, even armed with a resource like The Daily Trading Coach, is to set the goals and stick with the program. What else is new?

Disclosure: The publisher of this book provided me with a copy to read for doing this review. I did read the whole book, but did not do the exercises.