• Feature: Part III: Refining Trading Models And How That Improves The Super Trader Program, By Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.
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Feature Article

Part III: Refining Trading Models And
How That Improves The Super Trader Program
by Van K. Tharp, Ph.D.

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So far in this series I have detailed, 1) Models for Trading, and 2) how I teach those models. If you missed those, click to read Part 1 and Part Two.

Today in my final section I want to talk about how refining these models has helped me continually make improvements in Super Trader program.

Right now I only know of three large scale NLP modeling projects for which some kind of training program exists. These include:

  1. My ongoing work with modeling trading/investing success. As you know, we have a Super Trader program to teach and install these models. It’s limited to 75 people at a time in the program and we’re currently at 65. Since I don’t train people in NLP, most NLP gurus aren’t familiar with our work here at The Van Tharp Institute.
  2. Robert Dilts’ work with Leadership. His book on Modeling talks about this work at length. Robert has done extensive modeling of strong leadership qualities but he doesn’t have a program in place specifically to develop strong leaders. He does host a mastermind program that’s limited to about 25 people. I understand they may meet monthly by phone. Estimated annual tuition: $25,000.
  3. Dr. L. Michael Hall’s work on Metacoaching. Dr. Hall is a prolific writer - he’s written 12 books on coaching and also has a metacoaching program that is structured in modules that can be completed over several years’ time. I worked with one of his metacoaches for about six months, and wondered how many people progressed through the complete series and ultimately cultivate successful coaching practices. It’s apparent from my conversation with the metacoach I was working with, the rate is low.

Once you have the basic idea of what successful people do, you can evolve the model to make it even more powerful. In certain cases – when you would not like incorporate a by-product of certain processes, it’s possible to leave out that particular aspect from the model.

For example, one of Jack Schwager’s Market Wizards was full of anger, and he was totally convinced that his anger was part of what made him a great trader. Now, I could choose to accept the belief anger makes a great trader or decide that an angry trader wasn’t the sort of person I wanted to produce more of in the world. There have been many great traders who are not driven by anger (in fact, I’d say most are not angry), so even though I interviewed a trader — a market wizard — with this quality, his processes never became part of any of our models

In other cases, modifying models can be based upon objectives, common sense, and feedback. Modifications based upon these ideas help us improve the models contained in our Super Trader program. In actuality, we frequently improve the program as we gain even more understanding about traders and their internal maps. These adjustments result in even more profound transformations, more rapid progression, and overall improved performance in each of the Super Trader students. One basic NLP presupposition states that if one person can perform a task well, then all people should be able to. To that end, all people should be able to trade well if one person can do it, and I should have 100% success levels in each of the participants in the Super Trader program. Naturally, that has not been the case yet, and I continuously examine the program and challenge the results we are observing. We have to ask “Why?” and make adjustments to make the program even more powerful for both current and future participants. Here are a few examples of situations that have arisen as a result of student action during the course of their program, that have prompted further examination:

  • What happens when someone chooses not to engage, and do the work? I can’t force a student to take action, even if they have committed to the program. What could we do to help them do the work?
  • What happens when a student tries to do the bare minimum requirements to get by?
  • What happens when a psychological issue emerges, but the student projects it onto others (including me!) rather than work on the issue, and they decide there is something wrong with me or with the program? How can we help them see what’s going on?
  • What happens when students view their psychological issues as deep hidden secrets, that they could not possibly trust with any other person? (This is actually quite common, but when such issues are cleared, they no longer feel like “secrets.”) How can we help people when lack of trust and a feeling of needing to protect these long-held issues inhibits their dealing with them?
  • What happens when someone joins because they are unhappy in their profession and they decide they’d rather be a happy trader instead? Then, as their psychological issues get cleared, they become happy for no reason and decide to continue in their current profession?

Each of the situations above has actually happened to a handful of people in the program over the years, and taking the time to examine these issues have naturally led to improvements in the program. As a result, current Super Traders can totally avoid dealing with such situations, or more easily work through them. Thus, I see part of my job as continuing to improve the program by working on the program. That makes the Super Trader program itself an ongoing modeling project that involves asking a lot of questions, such as:

  • Even before a candidate is approved to enter the program, I ask, “What screening criteria can I implement to make sure that we accept people into the program that are passionate about their own transformation? Who is ready to put in the effort toward graduating?”
  • Whenever I have someone who appears to be struggling or is resistant about a change in the tasks at hand, I ask, “Is there some way I can improve the program to help this person and others who come in with a similar issue?”
  • Then in Super Trader I, I ask, “How can I help more people to raise their consciousness high enough to complete the entire first phase, with ease?”
  • After students complete Super Trader I, “How can I help each person in Super Trader II apply everything they’ve learned, so by the time they complete this phase they can become graduates?”

So by answering these questions and others like them on a continual basis, I make changes to the program and help more Super Traders work through the program, help each of them transform more, and ultimately become better traders.

Here are some of the more major changes we have made to the program —
  1. The original Super Trader program was only loosely structured. It became clear to me that I wanted to help people improve their lives, and as a result their personal success. So, the first major change came into the program when we devoted the first part of the program to helping them achieve a massive increase in consciousness. Later, we would devote the second part of the program to helping them meet acceptable criteria for graduation (shown in the TOTE model).
  2. We developed the Super Trader lessons to help students achieve the aforementioned increase in consciousness, and we continually improve and restructure the lessons. For example, one of the lessons requires students to come up with and evaluate about 400 identity level beliefs. I recently moved that lesson from very early in the program to a bit later so that Super Traders all have some baseline concepts in place and have experienced progress before they get to this challenging milestone.
  3. I noticed that some people in Super Trader II continued to struggle with psychological issues. So, we developed a summary of the psychological issues that traders might experience in Super Trader II, and then ask them to plan how they will deal with each if they came up. This has become part of everyone’s psychological completion in Super Trader I.
  4. Initially, I provided a financial incentive for students to work diligently through Super Trader I in order to receive tuition discounts upon entering Super Trader II. While this was quite beneficial to offer motivation throughout the first part of the program, I also noticed that a few highly motivated people seemed to lose some steam when they entered the second phase. This structure had also drawn a hard line between the psychological work and the technical side of trading. Super Trader II essentially signaled a close to the high-intensity inner work that Super Trader I had provided — and in Super Trader II, students were essentially expected to complete their business plans, develop their systems, receive my approval for these systems, and finally demonstrate the ability to trade at 95% efficiency or better. As a result, some people would apply themselves to the fullest in Super Trader I, get to Super Trader II and slow or stop doing their work, and even a few would struggle with some psychological issue and try to “fix it” with more technical knowledge. So, we enhanced the program to bridge the transition between the intensely personal internal work in the first part of the program, to include more psychological lessons in Super Trader II, a different financial incentive structure to inspire students to continue to work diligently (and help them finish quickly), and we also added a third phase to the program — Super Trader III.

  5. Some points to realize about the most recent improvements to the program:
  • Smoother transitions from Super Trader I to Super Trader II.
  • It is possible for highly motivated students to complete the entire program in 3 years, whereas in the past the minimum time it would take was 4 years. Students that take advantage of this accelerated schedule would not owe additional tuition after their initial payments have been satisfied.
  • Super Trader II now includes development of students’ business handbooks right up to the point of developing their systems and proving their trading efficiency.
  • Super Trader III has minimal requirements, so once I approve students’ systems and they actually begin trading, they have virtually unlimited time to complete the trading efficiency requirement. This means that everyone who completes all program tasks to this point could (and should) graduate.
  • Finally, as the program has evolved, something unexpected has happened: I’ve had a number of people within the program have such a profound experience, that they want to give back to VTI. Each of these students are so grateful for what has happened for them, and are committed to helping others also achieve their goals within the program. While I’m certain we have yet to fully understand this phenomenon and its impact on future students, we have decided to form a mastermind group of these individuals with the sole idea of continuing to improve the program. This might mean teaching classes, mentoring other Super Traders or other tasks these wonderful students feel passionate about — and I’m excited to see this unfold.
  • I’m really pleased with the program changes that we’ve made to date — it’s really been the driver for an improved experience for students. There is a maximum of 75 students in the program at any one time, all at various stages of personal development. As students are able to work within the new program structure, we can see each of their transformation taking shape. Currently, there’s about 65 active students, with about half working within Super Trader I, and the other half working within Super Trader II/III on the technical aspects of trading. All of these students will have achieved 5 major transformations by the end of their studies — many have even more than that. We expect as many as eight graduates by December 2017 — an increase over years past that we believe directly relates to program improvements, and student’s ability to work at an even higher level as a result.

    I mentioned earlier that our initial program’s tuition was $50,000 for two years, or $25,000 per year. While I’m not aware of other programs that I’d consider an “apples to apples” comparison to what we do at The Van Tharp Institute, I do want to mention some other major coaching programs:

    • Robert Dilts master mind program costs as much as our initial program costs were previously, except students end up with much less contact time. I think this program only involves monthly calls.
    • Tony Robbins has created a coaching empire, with the most elite “captains of industry” groups paying $1,000,000 per year. Tony also has a platinum group who pay $75,000 per year for the privilege of attending special events that Tony hosts – but that fee doesn’t cover the cost of the events themselves.
    • L Michael Hall’s Metacoaching program takes a number of years to complete, with the ultimate goal is the set-up of a successful coaching practice. This program requires attendance at a number of workshops that costs thousands per year in fees and travel — with most workshops being held outside the US.

    The Super Trader program is unique — in its curriculum, in its structure, and in its numerous benefits. Compared to some other long term programs led by experts in their field, the cost is a great value — especially when you consider the economic worth of being able to trade well for several or many years. My plan is to continue to improve the program, to continue to increase the graduation rate, and to continue to add more value for the Super Traders. As such, the investment cost for the program will be increasing to $18,500 per year as of January 31st, 2017. Over time, I expect to continue to enhance the program, and tuition is likely to increase to $25,000 per year or more. After January 31st, our next price increase won’t come until July 31st, 2017 when the annual cost for the program will rise to $20,000.

    As students begin to experience the transformative power of our workshops, many of them have told us that they’d be likely join the Super Trader program sometime within the upcoming year. If that holds true, as it has in the past, we recommend that you and submit an application without delay, prior to January 31st. If you would like to guarantee your tuition at the current rate when you submit your application, you may also remit a $10,000 deposit at that time. This will hold a spot for you at the current rate, to enter the program through July 31st, 2017 — the next projected rate increase.

    If you feel like the Super Trader program might be right for you, let us know how we can help you with this life changing decision. We welcome you to email Rebecca Price (Rebecca@vantharp.com) in order to answer any questions you may have, and to determine if the program fits your goals.

    If you have not attended a qualifying workshop already, you have one more opportunity before January 31st to do so. Peak Performance 101 workshop is a qualifying workshop and it’s being held again January 20-22.

    You can find more information about the Super Trader Program at our website page on the program.

    Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.
    About the Author: Trading coach, and author, Dr. Van K. Tharp is widely recognized for his best-selling books and his outstanding Peak Performance Home Study program—a highly regarded classic that is suitable for all levels of traders and investors. You can learn more about Van Tharp www.vantharp.com.
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    Trading Tip

    Trading and the Christmas Present Syndrome:
    Updated "Shiny Objects" Edition
    by D. R. Barton, Jr.

    Click here to resolve formatting problems

    Ten years ago, I wrote an article series called “Trading and Christmas Presents” that I think speaks to a key part of human nature that affects both our trading and our everyday lives.

    The idea is so powerful that, since then, I have taught this exact concept in dozens of seminars and have dubbed it “The Christmas Present Syndrome.”

    Because the subject is seasonally relevant and universally applicable, I’m going to share a large portion of the insights from my original article. Then I'll add some relevant thoughts on traders’ universal obsession and distraction with the latest “shiny objects.” I hope you find these observations useful and in the end, profitable!

    Excerpts from the Original Trading and Christmas Presents Article

    We love to expect, and when expectation is either disappointed or gratified, we want to be again expecting. --Samuel Johnson

    I learned some valuable lessons all over again this Christmas season. And whether you celebrate Jesus’ birthday with vigor (like the Barton family) or follow some other tradition during this season, you’ll be familiar with the psychology of gift getting.

    During the Christmas message at our church, Pastor Bo (his real name) truly uncovered the mystery of gift getting for me. And almost simultaneously, his insights revealed the essence of one of the biggest trading problems that I believe traders face. But more on that later; for now, let’s focus on the gifts.

    Everyone loves getting presents. (Sure, we all know some old curmudgeon who has become a jaded gift-getter—Dickens didn’t invent Scrooge out of thin air.) But deep down there’s a part of us that is still a little kid just drooling about getting a gift. Pastor Bo (I’m serious. That’s his real name.) unlocked the secret to the delight presents give us. He said that when we get a gift—the wrapped kind—it is pregnant with possibility. It could be ANYTHING. It puts us in that greatest of all mental states: HOPE.

    As Samuel Johnson said in the opening quote, “We love to expect.” While that present is still mysterious and wrapped we are full of hope—the hope that it’s just what we want; the hope that it will thrill us; the hope that unexpected joy (or greatly anticipated joy) is just around the corner.

    And then we open the package. The thing that only an instant ago was filled with unlimited possibility turns into a finite reality. Anything becomes SOMETHING. Hope becomes certainty. Expecting becomes knowing. The finest glass slipper, the most spectacular magic wand, or whatever was once our heart’s desire can’t help but degrade into a disappointment during that brutal transition. I have seen this in my children. I have witnessed it in adults. And I have felt it in my very soul.

    Perhaps Christmas is much less about gift getting and much more about an annual rekindling of hope. For me, it’s about a hope that lies in a manger. For you, it may be a hope for renewed ties with family and friends.

    So what do we do with the recurring theme where our exciting “ANYTHINGS” keep getting turned into mundane “somethings” every time we take off the wrapping paper? Van has helped me understand that I am responsible for what I feel when I open up the present. So, I choose joy over disappointment and contentment rather than instant gratification.

    Have you ever taken the proverbial wrapping paper off of a trading idea? That which seemed so exciting and full of possibility a little earlier suddenly becomes disappointing and fraught with shortcomings. This same dissolution of hope that we see in our gift getting forms one of the key psychological barriers for many traders.

    Shiny Trading Objects

    The Christmas Present Syndrome and our obsession with the newest or most recent discovery (a.k.a. “A Shiny Object”) are closely related. Technology geeks are notorious for their attraction to the latest shiny techno toy. And I think traders and investors suffer a similar malady when it comes to any newly discovered indicator or system.

    The attraction to something new and shiny can even override our ability to concentrate on important tasks. We are like the talking golden retriever named Dug in the excellent Pixar movie Up. Dug, and indeed all of the dogs in the movie, are obsessed with squirrels. Whenever they think they might see one, they drop anything they were doing, no matter how important, and concentrate on the possibility of seeing/chasing a squirrel.

    And so it is for traders and investors with:
    • A new indicator
    • A new system
    • A new hot stock tip
    • A new… (you fill in the blank for your version of a squirrel!)

    It matters not if the newly discovered tool is unproven. The fact that it is new and untainted by any scrutiny or deeper understanding is exactly the reason why it seems so shiny and fascinating. Like an unwrapped Christmas present, it is full of possibility, full of the hope that it is a better tool than the one we are using now. And like canine Dug, we stop whatever we’re doing and chase the shiny object.

    The more I have worked with seasoned traders, the more I’m convinced that longevity in this business is all about following a few basic fundamentals: Van’s Top Tasks of Trading, exercising discipline in following your strategy, and having the patience and persistence to stick with a process/strategy/system that has an edge in the markets. Mastering these fundamentals generates longevity in a trader’s career—not chasing new ideas.

    Now, I don’t want to sound like a cynic about exploring new trading ideas and tools. More than most, I myself enjoy digging into a new indicator or strategy. And exploring new ideas has many benefits including the opportunity to expand our trading knowledge and tool kit. This is a good and necessary part of trading as the markets change requiring us to grow and evolve our trading knowledge over time as well.

    My experience working with a multitude of both inexperienced and seasoned traders, however, tells me that few have the problem of sticking too long with a particular system or favorite indicator. Rather, the bigger and more common pattern is that once most traders pull the wrapping paper off of some new trading idea and find the first blemish, they prefer to start the hunt for the next shiny object.

    You can imagine how repeating this process may create wide ranging awareness but it does not help someone build deep knowledge (expertise) in any area.

    For most traders, understanding a handful of indicators and strategies at a very deep level will serve them much better than gaining superficial knowledge of many, many tools. Consider that my Christmas gift to you if you needed to hear that advice from someone who has worked with many highly successful career traders.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this article or about trading and investing in general at drbarton “at” iitm.com. Until next week…

    Great Trading
    D. R.

    About the Author: A passion for the systematic approach to the markets and lifelong love of teaching and learning have propelled D.R. Barton, Jr. to the top of the investment and trading arena. He is a regularly featured analyst on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. TV show (catch him most Thursdays between 12:30 and 12:45), on Bloomberg Radio Taking Stock and MarketWatch’s Money Life Show. He is also a frequent guest analyst on CNBC’s Closing Bell, WTOP News Radio in Washington, D.C., and has been a guest on China Central Television — America and Canada’s Business News Network. His articles have appeared on SmartMoney.com MarketWatch.com and Financial Advisor magazine. You may contact D.R. at "drbarton" at "vantharp.com".
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