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Trend Following with Michael Covel

Bestselling author Michael Covel is the host of Trend Following Radio with 5 million listens. Investments, economics, decision-making, human behavior & entrepreneurship--all passionately explored. Guests include Nobel Prize winners Robert Aumann, Angus Deaton, Daniel Kahneman, Harry Markowitz & Vernon Smith. Also: James Altucher, Dan Ariely, Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, Kathleen Eisenhardt, Marc Faber, Tim Ferriss, Jason Fried, Gerd Gigerenzer, Larry Hite, Sally Hogshead, Ryan Holiday, Jack Horner, Ewan Kirk, Steven Kotler, Michael Mauboussin, Tucker Max, Barry Ritholtz, Jim Rogers, Jack Schwager, Ed Seykota, Philip Tetlock & Walter Williams. All 500+ eps at www.trendfollowingradio.com/rss.
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Bestselling author Michael Covel is the host of Trend Following Radio with 5 million listens. Investments, economics, decision-making, human behavior & entrepreneurship--all passionately explored. Guests include Nobel Prize winners Robert Aumann, Angus Deaton, Daniel Kahneman, Harry Markowitz & Vernon Smith. Also: James Altucher, Dan Ariely, Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, Kathleen Eisenhardt, Marc Faber, Tim Ferriss, Jason Fried, Gerd Gigerenzer, Larry Hite, Sally Hogshead, Ryan Holiday, Jack Horner, Ewan Kirk, Steven Kotler, Michael Mauboussin, Tucker Max, Barry Ritholtz, Jim Rogers, Jack Schwager, Ed Seykota, Philip Tetlock & Walter Williams. All 500+ eps at www.trendfollowingradio.com/rss.

Aug 7, 2017

You won’t expect or see this episode coming… First, consider a truism: Asian American students dominate in academia. Asian Americans know that if they get the right scores, and check off all the boxes, they get the good school. However, this is not how it works at Harvard and other Ivy League institutions. They don’t operate based on who has the best test scores.

Michael reads a passage from a New York Times article illustrating the injustices in Harvard’s admission processes. Once one ethnic quota has been filled, that’s it. No more students can me admitted. Public universities handle their admission process differently. Asian Americans make up 34% of The University of California’s student body as apposed to about 15% of Asian Americans allowed to attend the Ivy schools due to diversity regulations.

“America, the home of equality?” This catch phrase has gone by the way side. When students work hard, but then are slapped down because of their race, this goes against the American dream. And when the system turns against you its time to make a choice: Fight against it or walk away? Michael’s answer is counter-intuitive and dovetails with trend following.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Ivy League quotas
  • The American dream
  • Asian Americans
  • Fair competition
  • The secret sauce myth
  • Letting go
Jul 17, 2017

A new mono… with some freaking edge.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Warren Buffett
  • Black box trading
Jul 7, 2017

Andrew Lo is author of “Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought.” He is also the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor of Finance at MIT and the chairman and chief investment strategist of the AlphaSimplex Group.

Andrew was taught from the beginning of his career that the efficient market hypothesis was gospel truth. It was the end-all-be-all. However, he first found a problem with the efficient market hypothesis just after graduating college. He did a test on the “random walk hypothesis” and related his findings from that hypothesis to the markets. He then came to find that his results proved the efficient market hypothesis wrong. Was there pushback during the early stages of talking about EMT being wrong? Absolutely. Andrew was one of the strongest that pushed back primarily because it went against everything he previously knew to be true.

Andrew talks about another study he did with one of his MIT classes in 2004. He looked at hedge funds around that time and through data he proved that they were headed for trouble. They were able to foresee a small piece of the 2008 crash. Michael and Andrew end the podcast talking about Andrew’s new book and the role that the environment is playing in adaptive markets. When studying a species, what should be asked is, “Is it the species that is complex, or is it the environment that is complex and the species is just adapting to it?” Many species have figured out how to live in harsh environments in very different ways. In the same light, there are many different ways that people can trade the market and be successful.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Efficient market hypothesis
  • Adaptive markets hypothesis
  • The random walk hypothesis
  • Crowded trade phenomenon
  • 2008 meltdown
  • Paul Samuelson
  • Commodities Corporation
Jul 3, 2017

Steve Burns and Michael Covel get together yet again to discuss all that is trading.

After a lifelong fascination with financial markets, Steve Burns started investing in 1993, and trading his own accounts in 1995. It was love at first trade. A natural teacher with a unique ability to cut through the bull and make complex ideas simple, Steve took to blogging and social media by founding New Trader U in 2011.

Since then, New Trader U has attracted hundreds of thousands of visits a month, becoming the go-to resource for people wanting to build a strong, trading foundation. New Trader U offers an extensive blog resource with more than 1,000 original articles (Steve posts daily and is the author of numerous trading books).

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Trend following
  • Taking a loss
  • Risk management
  • Proper psychology
  • Mindset
Jun 30, 2017

Chris Fussell starts the podcast explaining the process of becoming a Seal. The teams of the Special Forces do not select as much as they down select. Out of the 150 people who start a Seals class, maybe 25 will make it. The military uses rigorous training to sort out “who has it” and who doesn’t it. People have to have special inherent skills and then they are nurtured to refine those skills. A good team is made up of individuals that complement each others shortcomings and are able to magnify each others strength.

Chris stresses that these men have all the same burdens that civilians have, they just have it coupled with combat stressors as well. They deploy for an amount of time and then come how to a wife, kids, and a stack of bills. Everyone, especially soldiers, need to have a cocktail of coping tools so there is a balance between work and personal life. You can’t be amazing at work and have your family falling apart. Things will start to unravel at work rapidly.

Chris was a young officer in 2004 when the conflict in Iraq started. This was his first full scale conflict. He had the misconception that there was a set plan going in, and that all they had to do was execute that plan. Chris quickly learned he wasn’t entering a stable environment. Everyone needed to be proactive and adaptive to the war zone.

Now that Chris is helping manage a company, he uses that experience to always adapt and readjust. He realizes he needs small teams with a rapid fire adaption mentality. People need to see a problem and intuitively react to it. While in the Navy Seals they re-strategized every 24 hours. There were 6,000-7,000 people around the world sharing a consciousness every 24 hours. The most seasoned teams were able to run with speed and autonomy without checking in because of this once a day communication. They were able to make decisions on their own and be highly effective.

Chris and Michael end the podcast discussing what makes a working relationship. Relationships are grounded in knowing other perspectives. We have to be willing to see things differently and know that both individuals, when there is a disagreement, could be right. When you are on a team and leading with the perspective that everyone is part of your family, it turns teams into a more giving and trusting environment.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Nature vs. Nurture
  • Inner drive
  • Self-awareness
  • Charisma
  • Learning from failure
  • Synchronicity between data and leadership
  • Zealots and martyrs
Jun 26, 2017

Fear drives all in today’s world. Two operations who have not let fear dictate their trading are Berkshire Hathaway and Dunn Capital. Both have 40+ year track records that should be studied. What was their system? How has it worked? If you look at the month by month and year by year of these two much can be learned. Both track records have not just gone up, up, up–they have had massive drawdowns (at least by the definitions of mortals) and still they have been able to persevere. No matter who you are, the ability to adapt to the markets is mission critical.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Drawdowns
  • Dunn Capital performance
  • Warren Buffett performance
  • Risk management
  • Ego in trading
  • Cognitive dissidence
  • Efficient market hypothesis
  • Black Swans
  • Transparency
  • Critics; Trolls!
May 22, 2017

R.P. Eddy is an American businessman, venture investor, former U.S. government official and former U.N. diplomat. He is currently the CEO of Ergo, a strategy and geo political intelligence firm. R.P. is also co-author of “Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes.”

How did Fukushima happen? There were lots of Cassandras who knew there were issues. There were warnings thousands of years old, along with experts telling officials not to build the nuclear plant so low. Hurricane Katrina in the United States is another example where there were Cassandras who had the foresight to fix potential disaster, but were ignored. What would have happened if there was foresight to Saddam Hussein and the Kuwait invasion? A man named Charlie Allen had that foresight but was pushed aside.

With such credible people having undeniable evidence being ignored, this brings up the question: How does a dynamic change in government happen? It doesn’t. R.P. did a study finding that 1% of the public think for themselves to make informed decisions. As people turn on the T.V. or surf the internet they find biased information. It’s hard to sit down, find unbiased information and make opinions of their own. When we have Cassandras who come out with real data and information to make changes that can save thousands, it is hard to decipher if they are chicken little or the real thing.

R.P. profiled in depth Cassandras ranging from: Fukushima, Katrina, Madoff, 2008 collapse, the rise of Isis, and the invasion of Kuwait. In every instance the Cassandra went to the decision makers and asked the question, “Why are you ignoring all the data?!” The more outlandish the warning, the easier it is to be ignored. People who understand what is wrong with our brains, the ones who doubt themselves and double check data are the traders and leaders who thrive. Michael and R.P. end discussing nuclear weapons theory, North Korea, potential Cassandras, India vs. Pakistan, and why we should all stop and reassess the information that is fed us.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Indicators and warning
  • Analysis and foresight
  • Pax Americana
  • Fukushima
  • Corruption vs. competence
  • Bernie Madoff
  • Black Swans
  • 2008 collapse
Apr 21, 2017

Erik Wahl is author of “The Spark and The Grind,” “Unthink,” and “Unchain the Elephant.” Starting from an early age Erik was never encouraged in the arts but rather encouraged in his reading, writing and athletics. He believed that if he got straight A’s he would be successful later on in life. Things generally worked out for him–until the Dot-com bubble hit. He was devastated and realized he needed to figure out a new way to live.

Erik started meeting artists rather than business types. He came to find that mainstream society does not understand artists and because of this, many of these people would become, for lack of a better term, “tortured artists.” The love of art is what launched him into work as a professional artist. Art was not about producing a product but rather about a new way of thinking. He began processing information in a whole new way, not just linear.

Everyone has creative ideas. What sets people apart is how they chose to leverage and use it. When Erik does any presentation he starts off creating a painting on stage to rock music in 3 minutes. He is disrupting thinking by showing the audience rather than telling them. Unless you know how to use agility and mental dexterity you will be left behind. Erik teaches how to tap into creativity and adapt to the increasing rate of change happening in the world.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Dot-com bubble
  • 2008 crisis
  • Routine and structure
  • Misconceptions of overnight success
  • Embracing the grind
  • Mental agility
Apr 17, 2017

Michael’s first edition of Trend Following hit April 2004. Since both Michael and trend following were largely “under the radar at the time” the publisher did not put much money into the first edition and it was not carried in bookstores. Since it’s inception, however, Trend Following has become a bestseller with 4 editions, 100,000+ sold, and now a 5th edition out April 24, 2017. Michael goes into detail outlining this new edition (double the size) and how it gives Trend Following a whole new look and feel across 688 pages.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • What went into the newest edition of trend following
  • Performance
  • Survivorship bias
  • Efficient market theory
  • Volatility
Apr 14, 2017

Mark Weatherford is an American cyber security professional who has held extremely high positions in both the public and private sector. He was appointed the first deputy under secretary for cyber security at the US Department of Homeland Security from 2011-2013. Mark brings a wealth of experience and insight into a subject that all of us should be worried about in this day and age. He gives examples of how things are unfolding in regards to the cybersecurity and steps we can take to try and mitigate risk.

The basic infrastructure of the internet is essentially the same as it was back in the 90’s. A lot of physical infrastructure hasn’t really changed for most things since they were designed, however there has been layers of technology added. Michael uses the Hoover Dam as an example of old infrastructure with new technology layered on and asks, “Is it possible for the dam’s security to be hacked?” Mark says he always works from the viewpoint that absolutely everything can be broken into.

Michael moves on to ask about Hillary Clinton’s home server and what the scandal entailed. “Puzzling” is the word that Mark uses to describe the situation. She hired a company to build an email server and essentially put it physically in her basement but managed it remotely. None of this made sense or seemed well thought out. There are plenty of things you can do to protect infrastructure and it didn’t seem that they put any of those measures in place.

Michael and Mark end on discussing the idea that intelligence is all about deception. This is one of the biggest challenges in working in cyber security — figuring out what is true and what is false.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Cyber hacking
  • Hillary Clinton server scandal
  • Podesta hacking
  • Cyber security
  • “Model what you admire”
  • Partisanship in cyber security
  • Game theory
Apr 10, 2017

To celebrate my upcoming fifth edition of Trend Following (April 24, 2017)…my mega episode with Tom Basso is here again by popular demand. If you want to know the right way to think, Tom brings it. Michael plays all of Tom’s interviews back to back and throws in a bonus interview at the beginning. The bonus excerpt is a Tom Basso presentation from the early to mid 1990s.

Tom is most famously known as “Mr. Serenity” in Jack Schwager’s “The New Market Wizards”. Now retired from managing client money, Tom was president and founder of Trendstat Capital Management. He became a registered investment advisor in 1980, a registered commodities advisor in 1984, and was elected to the board of the National Futures Association in 1998.

Throughout this 4 1/2 hour podcast Michael and Tom cover a broad range of topics including: Tom’s background and how he got into trading, speculation, emotional rushes, emotional devastation, catastrophic events, separating trading from politics, behavioral economics, advice to newcomers entering the CTA industry, location independence, time management, stoicism, black swans, and the importance of routine.

Michael and Tom also go through listener questions spanning topics including: trading regrets, money management vs. trading, tinkering with current systems, drawdowns, one-system vs. multiple systems, thoughts on Alan Watts, emotions during both losing and winning periods, exit strategies, practice trading vs. live trading, money management, risk control, how to handle skeptics, serenity, John W. Henry, coin flip entry method, percent betting, comfort with uncertainty, initial capital at risk vs. unrealized gains, and fighting against your gut reaction. This podcast includes a wealth of knowledge worth listening to over and over again.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Speculation
  • Fighting against emotions
  • Catastrophic events
  • Separating trading from politics
  • Advice to newcomers entering the CTA industry
  • Time Management
  • The importance of routine
  • Money management vs. Trading
Apr 7, 2017

Cass R. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School. He is also founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy and is the most referenced law professor in the United States. From 2009 to 2012 he served under the Obama administration as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Cass is the author of “#Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media.”

This past Presidential election created a huge rift within parties, largely propelled by social media and even search engine interference. GOOGLE has the ability to filter your searching, pushing things that are suitable to your interests. They are walking a fine line between giving you an easier searching experience and putting you in an echo chamber and shaping how you think. Cass is a big fan of Facebook and Twitter when people are balanced with it. He uses the analogy of cars, “They are great because they get people from point A to point B, however, they do create negatives such as air pollution.” The same can be said for social media.

The founding fathers of the United States wanted a government that gave the opportunity for exposure to the uncomfortable and to have a forum where both sides could interact and hear each other. Madison and Hamilton were told that to have a self governing system it needs to be little and not diverse, but they thought that the opposite needed to happen: A self governing system needs to be large and diverse. If not, the government would end up as a echo chamber. We are now living in what Cass describes as “Hamilton’s nightmare.” Although government is diverse, people are not listening and learning from one another.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Echo chambers
  • Limiting people’s horizons
  • Hamilton’s nightmare
  • The daily me
  • Censorship
  • Bernie Sanders followers
  • Donald Trump followers
Apr 3, 2017

Michael has had some of the brightest psych minds on his podcast. Today he pulls together the great psych minds in trading into one podcast. Those interviews include: Brett Steenbarger, Jason Williams, Van Tharp, Daniel Crosby, and Meir Statman.

Brett Steenbarger is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York State University, and author of The Daily Trading Coach, The Psychology of Trading, and Enhancing Trader Performance. His newest work is Trading Psychology 2.0: From Best Practices to Best Processes.

Jason Williams is author of The Mental Edge in Trading. Jason received his psychiatry degree at John Hopkins. His father is famed trader Larry Williams.

Van Tharp runs the Van Tharp Institute and is author of four acclaimed books published by McGraw Hill: Super Trader, Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom, Safe Strategies for Financial Freedom, and Financial Freedom Through Electronic Day Trading. His new book is called Trading Beyond the Matrix. He was also featured in Jack Schwager’s Market Wizard’s: Interviews with Great Traders. Van Tharp received his Ph.D. in psychology.

Daniel Crosby is author of The Laws of Wealth: Psychology and the Secret to Investing Success, and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Personal Benchmark: Integrating Behavioral Finance and Investment Management. His background is in behavioral psychology and he sees the markets as a great backdrop to view human behavior in a real world setting. He is also founder of Nocturne Capital.

Meir Statman is a professor of finance at Santa Clara University and a behavioral finance expert. His acclaimed book is titled What Investors Really Want.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Envy and happiness
  • Fear of losing vs Fear of missing out
  • Mental accounting
  • Expert discretion
  • Efficient market theory
  • Human ego
  • Warren Buffett and his trading strategy
  • Passive investing
  • Sigmund Freud’s impact on trading
  • Standard deviation as a proxy for risk
  • Matching “the benchmark”
  • Systems theory
  • Money management vs. Position sizing
  • Ed Seykota’s trading and psychology strategies
  • Tom Basso’s trading and psychology strategies
  • Yoga
  • Training your brain how to think
Mar 30, 2017

My guest today is Vanessa Van Edwards, author of Captivate. Vanessa jokes that she is a recovering awkward person and learned in college that she could apply systems thinking to people skills. Once she started making formulas around communicating with others, she found there was more people like her.

“Treat others how you would want to be treated” is the golden rule. However, that rule should be changed to, “Treat others how they would want to be treated.” We think we know how others feel but we actually have very different ways of viewing the world and how we respond. Most are far better at intuition and snap judgment if they let their bodies do the work. Vanessa gives examples of our bodies sensing intuitively that something is wrong, exciting, etc. Our heart starts to pound, our palms start to sweat, and you may start blushing when your nervous. Your body also sweats differently when you are nervous or fearful rather than sweating from a workout.

What does it mean to “Work a room?” Being a social butterfly at events meant nothing to her because she was not the most outgoing person to begin with. She ended up engaging in countless meaningless conversations that went nowhere. This prompted her to do a study on what it actually meant to work a room and what the best people do to connect and network. She found most make their first impression before they even open their mouth and that we can spark dopamine with good conversation. How do you leave typical social conversation scripts (i.e. “What do you do?” “How are you doing?” “Where are you from?”) and have meaningful talks? This is how she came up with the idea of “conversational sparks.”

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Bringing the unconscious to the conscious
  • Confidence and lack of confidence
  • Introverts, extroverts and ambiverts
  • First impressions
  • Conversational spark
  • What makes a great presentation
Mar 27, 2017

Michael was recently interviewed by the CFA Society of Switzerland. Michael goes through the Q&A’s of his interview. Here are some of the questions:

  • When did you start trend following?
  • What do you say to trend following skeptics?
  • Do the experts you have talked to in economics, trading and psychology share any characteristics or qualities that may have contributed to their success?
  • Do many of your podcast guests, as well as yourself, have any habits that readers can emulate?
  • What are some of the books that have influenced you the most over the years?
  • What is the best advice you have ever received?

Michael finishes playing an excerpt from another interview he recently did with Bloomberg about the Turtles.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Getting what you want out of markets
  • Trend following skeptics
  • The Turtles
  • Turtle Trading 101
Mar 24, 2017

Susan Peirce Thompson is author of “Bright Line Eating.” This is a podcast all about “aha” moments. Most have no understanding of how their bodies take in, and absorb food. Susan’s BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) is to make sure that all those who want to put forth the effort of losing weight and keeping it off have a road map.

Susan had trouble losing weight starting at age 12. She found early on that the only thing that worked for her was using drugs, specifically crystal meth. During her 20’s she was able to get off the hard drugs, but then became addicted to nicotine, sex, flour, and sugar. The turning point for her was when she decided to do a bikini body 12 week challenge with her husband. They were suppose to work out 6 days a week and eat 6 times a day. Her husband did great on the program, Susan did not. She wasn’t able to keep with the eating schedule.

She ended up running into an old friend that told her about a different way of eating. Her friend gave her the cliff notes version of a no flour or sugar diet—combined with weighing your food. Susan ended up quitting the bikini challenge and started down this new path of eating. She began losing weight instantly. This lead to her going back and reverse engineering why the program worked. She started Bright line eating in 2014 and started doing a scientific study on the results of the participants.

80% of food sold in the super market has added sugar. 60% of one year olds are fed sugar every day. Susan explains why it is so hard to have the brain let go of the need for sugar. The dopamine release in sugar is the same type of dopamine release that occurs when using drugs or having sex. Doughnuts and pornography give a dopamine release that is larger than the body is trained for. What happens over time is your need for stimulation rises. There is a need to keep it sustained.

What is the solution? You need to automate your eating just like brushing your teeth is automated. There is no impulse control, just automatic. There needs to be no choosing involved. 80% execution of this program is so much harder than going 100% all in. It’s a system.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • BHAG
  • Sugar is an addiction
  • How to handle withdrawal from sugar
  • Drinking calories vs. eating calories
  • The radish study
  • Willpower is a finite resource
  • Regulating task performance
Mar 20, 2017

The vast majority of the investing population only know their own country’s stock index inside their portfolio. Top investors know much more than that. They think about gold, palladium, the Swiss franc, the Japanese yen, silver, copper, bonds, wheat, etc. Most would never think of trading these markets, however these markets are part of the trend following world. Any everyone can trade any market through a handful of different financial instruments such as ETF’s, LEAPS, and futures. The fundamentals of these markets are irrelevant for profit. The only information needed to trade any market for profit is price. This type of thinking opens markets up to anyone and everyone willing to play the game and take advantage of the global opportunity trend following provides.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Price action
  • Momentum
  • Macro hedge fund
  • Trade everything
  • Ignoring the fundamentals
Mar 17, 2017

Isaac Lidsky graduated from Harvard with a degree in mathematics and computer science, was a successful practicing attorney and became the only blind person to have clerked at the U.S. Supreme Court. His story is one of overcoming a rough obstacle. Isaac’s book, “Eyes Wide Open,” is about making the choice to take control of the reality you create for yourself. To choose in every moment who you want to be and how you want to live your life. Holding yourself accountable is the starting point.

Sight is a great case study for showing how we create the lives we live. What you physically see isn’t necessarily an accurate depiction of reality. Isaac had been living in fear of his blindness until he went to see a low vision rehabilitation specialist and had an “aha” moment. She asked about his using a cane to get around even though he could still see slightly. It made him realize that even though he was rapidly losing his sight, all he had was right now. He was subjecting himself to succumbing to a fear that was down the road. He was able to choose to live a different way.

We misunderstand luck as humans. People have a tendency to believe that we can isolate one moment and perceive what our lives would look like if we made that one change. It is a waste of energy to get caught up in thinking of the “what ifs.” So many fixate on a static decision that is unchangeable. You can move on from a decision. Looking at other situations and feeling envy of what they have is another swift way to get nowhere. Nothing is simple, even though another persons story may seem simple or that they got where they are based on one decision. Things are usually much more complicated than that.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

    Living in the “now”
    Heightened senses
    Luck and skill
    Fear we create
    Entrepreneurship

Mar 13, 2017

Howard Marks is a billionaire value investor with four decades of success. Although a value investor, his thought process mirrors trend following in many aspects. Michael plays an excerpt from Howard covering his thoughts on price, the lack of value in forecasting, efficient markets, surviving market randomness, and high yield bonds. Trend following and value investing may be two different worlds, however, there is a lot of overlap in how Howard trades and how trend followers trade.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Price action
  • Forecasting
  • Value investing
  • How to think about investing
  • Black swans
Mar 10, 2017

This is Brad Rotter’s 3rd appearance on the show. He is well known in financial circles as being the first investor with Richard Dennis. As a venture capitalist, Brad has helped launch numerous new enterprises. Our conversation today takes you in the mind of how a venture capitalist thinks and describes how he views new opportunity, particularly his newest investment: desalinization of water.

What is your process? How do you explain venture capitalism? Brad grew up on a farm in Iowa and became interested in futures contracts. This made him interested in investing in the future and he quickly began to see things a little differently than the “normal” world. Brad made his first hedge fund investment in 1982. At that time hedge funds were a very inefficient market. He would look at managers that had a special niche, grasp what they were doing, and invest.

Brad looks for long term trends when he invests in ideas and companies. Technology brought him to California. His current venture is providing fresh water across the world. The one crisis facing humanity that has a solution is fresh water and it is now an invisible water emergency. Brad says, “We don’t really have a water problem, we have a salt problem.” Brad goes in depth describing the processes of desalination and the infrastructure, or rather the mobile infrastructure involved.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Venture capitalism
  • Turtles
  • Efficient market theory
  • Mobile infrastructure
  • Desalination
Mar 6, 2017

Black swans arrive as a surprise. Rare stuff happens. Surprises walk up and punch you in the gut. They smack you upside the head. There is no exact preparation for the timing of a black swan, but you can position yourself. Michael plays an excerpt from Nassim Taleb explaining black swans. Taleb is of course responsible for popularizing the term.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Knowledge is therapy
  • Black swans
  • Uncertainty
  • Probability
  • Global warning
Mar 3, 2017

Donald Hoffman is a cognitive scientist at UC Irvine. He studies how our visual perception, guided by millions of years of natural selection, authors every aspect of our everyday reality. His research is about uncovering the underlying secrets of human perception. Donald has discovered clues that point to our subjective nature of reality. According to Donald, we actively create everything we see. Donald started to learn how to program at a very early age. This is what got him thinking: Are we just machines, or actual humans?

Donald began to be bothered by the reality that we might not be seeing what our eyes are seeing. Do we see reality as it really is? Almost all of us have a belief that we see the world as it is. Michael and Donald go in depth about certain illusions and truths that may be hidden from the main public. Illusions are everywhere when you start looking. Evolution shaped us with certain perceptions and interfaces that we, as humans, evolved to keep us alive. Whether or not those perceptions are real or fake is irrelevant. As long as they keep us feeling happy and alive, that is all that matters. Natural selection has also led us to the reality we see. The only thing that matters in natural selection is fitness. Fitness according to natural selection is not based on physical fitness but rather if you are able to reproduce. That is the only criteria.

Michael and Donald end the podcast posing the question: Do humans have the capacity to even understand what the true reality is?

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Are we robot or human?
  • Evolution
  • Reality vs. Perception of reality
  • Natural selection
  • Pushing theories to their limits
Feb 27, 2017

Michael excerpts a presentation from Cliff Asness. Asness is rigidly focused on the systematic side of the trading equation. Don’t let the idea of something being systematic scare you into thinking complication alone. Systematic means you follow rules. Asness has models, rules, and mechanisms he automates and executes. That’s smart. We can learn from that thinking.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Black box investing
  • Quantitative trading
  • Quants vs High frequency trading
  • Value based trading
  • Momentum trading
  • The dirty words of finance
  • Statistical arbitrage
  • Quant macro
  • Managed futures
Feb 24, 2017

Mark Rzepczynski is the CEO of AMPHI Capital Management and has a deep knowledge of trading, especially trend following trading.

Simplicity beats complexity every time. Unfortunately, people crave more complex. With trend following, traders keep it simple. They just want to get the direction of the trade right. Trend followers don’t care about what the price will be or how far it will go, they just go back to the basics and see what way the trend is going, up or down.

The ability to simply follow the math has always been undervalued. Risk management is about the math of selling losers and hanging onto winners. It isn’t hard math to do, but this is what separates successful managers from losing ones. Successful managers build a portfolio, follow the trends and execute trades properly.

Harry Markowitz said, “If I would have created CAPM around semi variance no one would have understood the math and I would not have won the Nobel Prize.” Mark breaks this quote from Markowitz apart. He dives into good volatility vs bad volatility.

Fake news has been the premise of the 2017 presidential election. But is fake news new? Every time you see a government announcement come out saying they are revising their data, that is fake news. GDP numbers, unemployment, etc. are examples of fake our outdated news that cannot be depended on. We know that prices move and fluctuate from day to day, but trend followers can do things to smooth the uncertainty and prepare with a toolbox of rules such as staying diversified and having crisis alpha.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Controlling volatility
  • Style diversification
  • Long term vs. Short term managers
  • Simplicity beats complexity
  • Quant trading
Feb 20, 2017

Many take risk without thinking. They do not quantify risk. One of Michael’s first steps into the risk indoctrination came in the 1990’s through a book, “Against the Gods: A Remarkable Story of Risk.” Michael plays an excerpt from the author Peter Bernstein.

There is no perfect algorithm for risk, only guesses. Everyone has a limited amount of capital. Risk is putting your money down and knowing that you can lose it. In the trend following world, risk is why traders keep it small. How much can you afford to lose? This is the only thing you can control in the markets. Predictions should be a blinking red light for anyone listening.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Stop loss
  • Know your risk
  • How much are you willing to bet?
  • Coarse risk management
  • Long Term Capital Management
  • Too much dependence on math
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