Archive for July, 2011


The Weekend Trader Part 2 – Video is Back!

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After two and a half long months, we’re back with video!

Today’s video addresses the weekly PivotPoint Briefing, various personal updates, and also makes available an opportunity for a trader to partner in shared trading capital using the proven Jellie methods and techniques.

So let’s get right to the video …

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The Weekend Trader Part 1 – PivotPoint Briefing

Posted by: Don Miller | Comments Comments Off

The PivotPoint Advisors weekly technical briefing for the week ending 7-29-11 has been updated.

As always, it includes a candid and transparent narration of both our view of the market’s technical status and our actual portfolio management actions.

Look for a more detailed and key Weekend Trader here post shortly.

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The Weekend Trader – PivotPoint Briefing

Posted by: Don Miller | Comments Comments Off

Hi all.

Given out of town commitments and summer travel this weekend, we’ll keep this weekend’s briefing just that … brief … as the PivotPoint Advisors weekly technical briefing for longer-term cycles has been updated.

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Sometimes … no, make that MOST of the time … it takes hearing things two or three times to hit home. 

And it’s in that spirit that we continue our summer theme of key blasts from the past.

Here’s one of my favorites from about a year ago, especially as it relates to Mr. Wooden’s final comment about being morally and mentally conditioned between — in our business — trading days.

For this trader, there is a 100% DIRECT correlation between being finely tuned morally and mentally and producing superior — or even ANY — trading results.

A lesson that I’ve learned far too many times and unfortunately, continue to learn on a daily basis.

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Lessons From John WoodenInitially published 6-5-10

His record as a coach was unmatched.

His record as a human being may be as well.

- A 99 year life.
- An 88 game winning streak.
- 10 national championships in 12 years.
- A 38 game NCAA Tournament winning streak
- The best coaching record in the history of basketball.
- A Christian and a gentleman who took the Midwest, one-room schoolhouse values to a west coast campus in disarray and moral decline in the 60′s and changed its world.

With this weekend’s passing of basketball coaching legend John Wooden, let’s look back at some of his memorable quotes — which aptly apply to the world of traders and their coaches — with my thoughts in italics:

Be quick but don’t hurry. Wholesale (a.k.a “profitable”) trading is all about timing. Wait for the wholesale price positioning and only then grab it quickly with both hands.

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment. I can do better here.

Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then. Can you say October 6, 2008 or May 6, 2010?

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. Amen.

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. Suck at DAX trading? Stick with ES!

Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability. As I’ve said before, it’s not greed … it’s maximizing talent.

If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’ll simply add that if you’re not making mistakes, then you’re six feet under.

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts. Been there … and frequent the neighborhood often.

Never mistake activity for achievement. If you think you’re a good hyperactive scalper, does your bottom line concur?

Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts. Again, been there and expect to visit often.

Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character. Personal lesson learned in 2009.

You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one. Another personal lesson learned from years of public exposure.

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. Never let anyone else define your success or peace of mind.

And my personal favorite:

You cannot attain and maintain physical condition unless you are morally and mentally conditioned. And it is impossible to be in moral condition unless you are spiritually conditioned. I always told my players that our team condition depended on two factors — how hard they worked on the floor during practice and how well they behaved between practices. This last quote shows me just how much more work I have to do at this end — on the trading floor and in life.

Please save a seat on the heavenly bench for the rest of us John, as we continue our practice in this pre-season called life.

Categories : Motivational
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The Weekend Trader – Overcoming Mistakes & Disgraces

Posted by: Don Miller | Comments Comments Off

Hi all.

First, the weekly PivotPoint Advisors Briefing has been posted on the PivotPoint site.

Second, contnuing our recent theme of revisiting and reinforcing key posts of the last few years, here’s one from September 16, 2009 reminding us why mistakes are both necessary and critical to our long-term success, as well as the February 8, 2009 one linked in that same post where I got into one of my rants on “accepted mediocrity” which had been prompted by my reaction to a rather sick comment by one Mr. James Cramer … the final sentence of which may still be echoing around the ‘Net.

May we NEVER forget these critical concepts that form the foundation of both successful trading and life in general.

NECESSARY MISTAKES - Originally posted 9-16-09

Many of you know I have several pet peeves about this industry, including lack of transparency, poorly designed trader training by non-traders, and lack of accountability by the likes of Cramer et al. (Lest we forget that memorable “Miller vs. Barrons & Cramer” Post from February.)

Well one pet peeve that stacks right up there on my list is never being able to understand why many traders or educators never speak about that “other” side of this business — or putting it bluntly, their MISTAKES.

Well I make ‘em. And sometimes they’re doozies. In fact I make ‘em every day. And as I was telling the the team the other day, there has never been a day in my trading career where I haven’t made one.

Think about it. Never. And some days or portions of days, I flat out suck.

And while I’ve thus far passed on the many recommendations to pursue a book (btw, isn’t the blog enough?? Plus, it’s live and ever-evolving!), if I did, it would probably be titled something like, “How to make $2 Million by making Millions of Mistakes”. And by “mistakes”, I mean everything from tangible loss to the opportunity loss that comes from missed opportunities, lack of focus, burn-out, etc.

Rifle through the virtual pages of this diary and you’ll see plenty of them. Who could forget that infamous day in October 2008 where I — along with the rest of the world — got the wake-up call of all wake-up calls as the VIX shot through 60. -$94K was the “tuition” I paid to learn how to trade the VIX in the stratosphere if I recall. And yes, the tuition was worth it as that week ended +$40K and month +$315K. 

So that incredible month was the result of a beginning mistake. And not just your “trip on a banana peel” variety … rather it was figuratively a full blown drop from the 4th floor of a building onto a concrete walk.

Today, I made smaller mistakes in that I traded the Europe session poorly and began the U.S. session with a drawdown. Yet I was able to use the information gained and “tuition” investment (failure for the market to break down even in the stratosphere and a less than 100% focused mind) to anticipate the U.S. session rhythm, tighten up the focus, and fully negate the early draw.

So why then do most traders, columnists, educators, vendors, chatrooms (I could go on, but might run out of virtual ink) never want to discuss their mistakes??? Well here’s a news flash: We’re human and we make ‘em. And top traders make plenty of them … perhaps even more than novices at times as we take the necessary risks required to profit over the long run.

And since mistakes are often the very seeds needed for success … whether it be invention of the light bulb or million dollar trading, shouldn’t we not only talk more about them, but shout them from the rooftops???

My recent years of success are the direct result of mistakes — whether earlier in my career or of the current day variety. Come to think about it, even the current Jellie effort which is currently transforming traders is the direct result of a mistake in the form of my own personal early-summer burnout which led me to the concept of “Well, if I’m going to focus on restarting my own engine, why not do it with a team of traders so we can all benefit over the long run?”
Mistakes. I hate ‘em. You can ask the Jellies about my self-inflicted lash marks.

But I love overcoming them … every hour of every day.

I have to.

I’m human.

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A Huge DisgraceOriginally Posted 2-8-09

I hadn’t planned on doing a piece this morning as we’re having a great stay in Boston, but a peek at Barron’s today got my blood boiling.

And just when I make a momentary vow in Friday night’s video to take a hiatus from advisory and guru bashing, Barron’s (the only after-hours market reading I ever do, and even that’s limited to two sections so as not to inject a variable which could mess with my head) leads today’s edition with “Cramer’s Star Outshines His Stock Picks”.

The article provides an extensive analysis of Mr. Hype’s abysmal performance results, includes the quote, “The only regrettable thing about any of this is that CNBC and Cramer won’t meaningfully discuss how his advice pans out”, and goes on to reference various staunch defenses of Mr. Hype’s actions by CNBC which included severely restricting Barron’s access to both the network and the hype machine.

And while I agreed with much of the content, I took significant exception to the following quote: “IT IS RARE THAT ANYONE BEATS (their caps, not mine) the market over time, so there is no disgrace in the underperformance of Mad Money’s stocks. Barron’s then goes on to admit that even their “picks” were wrong.

No disgrace? No disgrace?? [as my wife wonders why my face just turned beet red]

Here we go again.

Here’s my rebuttal.

I remain sick and tired about how “accepting” most in society are of mediocre performance. In schools, we dumb down education to the lowest common denominator such that those with the potential to make a huge difference in this world are encouraged to underperform. We give everyone awards at the end of the year for “participation”, so as not to exclude anyone from “feeling good” about themselves, including below-average Johnnie who skips out of school yet whose parents are head of the PTA.

We then take this concept and continue it in the adult world where everyone continues to believe that “average” — or far worse in this case — is also acceptable. If we were to believe the continual written and visual financial press, we’re to believe that everyone should be making money only if everyone else is. If the market is down, we all should be down … and you’d better not be up for fear of skewing the curve. Sounds just like 9th grade science.

I could write for days on this, as it attacks one of my strongest-held core beliefs that we should neither listen to the screaming hype-machine masses that are only looking out for their own individual interests and pocketbooks, nor accept the strengthening standard of mediocrity in this world. It’s as if we’ve completely lost the ability to think for ourselves which brings us full circle back to “Johnnie” needing self-interest snake oil “gurus” to tell him what to do when he’s an adult — at least in body.

Here’s a novel concept … how about if we all get off our asses, think for ourselves, roll up our sleeves, and take some responsibility for self-improvement so that the bar eventually gets raised for everyone?? My wife is cheering.

Yes, it is a disgrace.

A disgrace that none of us should accept.

We need far more Bamboos and fewer Bonsais.

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The Weekend Trader – Returning to Our Bamboo Roots

Posted by: Don Miller | Comments Comments Off

Weekly PivotPoint Technical Briefing- First, the weekly PivotPoint Advisors technical briefing has been posted on the PivotPoint website (Briefing Room tab) which explains our current strategy and positioning in terms of managing client portfolios (which as discussed before typically reflect swing long positions given the nature of the accounts).

Next Jellie Team Trading Effort – The next four-week live effort is tentatively scheduled for September 6 through the 30th.  As has been my consistent approach, the effort will remain scheduled so long as there’s sufficient interest among participants.  Since I won’t/don’t mass market these for reasons often stated in the past (please keep in mind that I’m a trader and CIO first, and teach only as time and schedule permit), we’ll finalize the details over the coming weeks.

If you’re interested in participating, please email me asap at, and we’ll schedule a phone call to discuss. 

In the meantime, the $250 discount for the 16 Hours of Jellie Webinars chronicling the beta Jellie Team’s journey and detailing our strategies in painstaking detail remains in effect … just email me for a special discounted invoice.  ‘Nuff said on that.

Bamboo Roots - Back on the futures trading front, and on this three year anniversary since I went back “on the grid” after a multi-year hiatus in privacy from writing and teaching to finish a then-uncompleted part of my own trading journey (a journey which had been delayed due to teaching and writing requests & obligations which had been turning me into more of, well a teacher and writer than a TRADER), I feel it appropriate to return to some of our “Bamboo Roots”.

And so as summer hits full stride, I’ve reposted the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree below, which first appeared on my initial trading journal blog on January 26, 2009, which has been permanently linked for easy reference in the menu at the top of this page, and whose full credit goes to Eric Aronson as noted on the post.

For those new to this site, this post has had more profound impact on onlookers than any other single post of this 800+ page virtual diary, became the most-accessed page on the entire Internet (after Wikipedia) if you Googled Chinese Bamboo Tree, formed the foundation for the 2009 Boston Bamboo Trader picnic, and is highly reflective of my own trading, life, and spiritual  journeys.

To say it is powerful and truthful is like saying there’s just a tad bit of traffic on Cape Cod in the summer.

So to those still pursuing their dreams in this world where immediate gratification is everywhere – regardless of whether those dreams relate to trading or other more important life endeavors – and not yet seeing results, consider the profound words below … and most importantly, stay the course and KEEP THE FAITH!

Keep Watering Your Bamboo TreeEric Aronson

In the Far East, there is a tree called the Chinese bamboo tree. This remarkable tree is different from most trees in that it doesn’t grow in the usual fashion. While most trees grow steadily over a period of years, the Chinese bamboo tree doesn’t break through the ground for the first four years. Then, in the fifth year, an amazing thing happens – the tree begins to grow at an astonishing rate. In fact, in a period of just five weeks, a Chinese bamboo tree can grow to a height of 90 feet. It’s almost as if you can actually see the tree growing before your very eyes.

Well, I’m convinced that life often works in a similar way. You can work for weeks, months and even years on your dream with no visible signs of progress and then, all of the sudden, things take off. Your business becomes profitable beyond your wildest dreams. Your marriage becomes more vibrant and passionate than you ever thought it could be. Your contribution to your church, social organization and community becomes more significant than you have ever imagined.

Yet, all of this requires one thing – faith. The growers of the Chinese bamboo tree have faith that if they keep watering and fertilizing the ground, the tree will break through. Well, you must have the same kind of faith in your bamboo tree, whether it is to run a successful business, win a Pulitzer Prize, raise well-adjusted children, or what have you. You must have faith that if you keep making the calls, honing your craft, reading to your children, reaching out to your spouse or asking for donations, that you too will see rapid growth in the future.

This is the hard part for most of us. We get so excited about the idea that’s been planted inside of us that we simply can’t wait for it to blossom. Therefore, within days or weeks of the initial planting, we become discouraged and begin to second guess ourselves.

Sometimes, in our doubt, we dig up our seed and plant it elsewhere, in hopes that it will quickly rise in more fertile ground. We see this very often in people who change jobs every year or so. We also see it in people who change churches, organizations and even spouses in the pursuit of greener pastures. More often than not, these people are greatly disappointed when their tree doesn’t grow any faster in the new location.

Other times, people will water the ground for a time but then, quickly become discouraged. They start to wonder if it’s worth all of the effort. This is particularly true when they see their neighbors having success with other trees. They start to think, “What am I doing trying to grow a bamboo tree? If I had planted a lemon tree, I’d have a few lemons by now.” These are the people who return to their old jobs and their old ways. They walk away from their dream in exchange for a “sure thing.”

Sadly, what they fail to realize is that pursuing your dream is a sure thing if you just don’t give up. So long as you keep watering and fertilizing your dream, it will come to fruition. It may take weeks. It may take months. It may even take years, but eventually, the roots will take hold and your tree will grow. And when it does, it will grow in remarkable ways.

We’ve seen this happen so many times. Henry Ford had to water his bamboo tree through five business failures before he finally succeeded with the Ford Motor Company. Richard Hooker had to water his bamboo tree for seven years and through 21 rejections by publishers until his humorous war novel, M*A*S*H became a runaway bestseller, spawning a movie and one of the longest-running television series of all-time. Another great bamboo grower was the legendary jockey Eddie Arcaro. Arcaro lost his first 250 races as a jockey before going on to win 17 Triple Crown races and 554 stakes races for total purse earnings of more than $30 million.

Well, you have a bamboo tree inside of you just waiting to break through. So keep watering and believing and you too will be flying high before you know it.

Categories : The Weekend Trader
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Note: Comments have been activated for today’s post in light of the health discussion which may benefit many traders.

When we think of the term “holistic”, we typically think of health … and certainly not trading.

Miriam Webster defines “holistic” as follows:

Relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.

And based on the last two months of “back” hell that I’ve experienced – along with its accompanying journey to neurosurgeons, radiologists, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, primary care physicians, and … well, you get the picture – and the final SOLUTION (more on that discovery below … which may help many a ton of traders), I’m convinced more than ever of the need for a comprehensive approach to everything in life from health to, yes — trading.

Frankly, I don’t know how the heck June was a profitable trading month as I had to battle through one of the greatest focus challenges of my life – not to mention doctor appointments once or twice a week – but I suppose years of trading tends to toughen one just a bit.   But I digress.

OK, first let me explain my back journey of the last two months.

As Jellie Team #8 knows, I’ve essentially been dealing with what has felt like a knife in my upper back for about two months.  And the pain got so bad that the first day of Team #8 was deferred by a day as I had to head to the E.R. to deal with excruciating pain and tingling in all four extremities.

And while I won’t bore you with all of the details, suffice it to say that I discovered both the cause and solution in a way that none of the above-mentioned specialists with their years of training and fancy degrees could.  And that “way” was often Googling everything I could about every symptom — no matter how minor — that I was experiencing.

Frankly, I must have spent at least a hundred hours searching, researching, and looking under every rock in the virtual world before I stumbled across two sites where the giant proverbial light bulb went on in blinding fashion.

OK, many of you know I’ve had back issues over the years.  And much of the maintenance was a regular visit to my chriopractor and — and this is ironically where the problem started – to a massage specialist who beginning in January spent 90 minutes on my back every Friday … in part for stress relief, but moreso to keep that upper back in good shape.

And for the first three months this year, my back was the best it had been in during my entire life.  And the massages felt GREAT as each time she’d spend the first 45 minutes kneading my upper back muscles which often included use of her elbow to flatten out the rough spots.

Then in May, all hell broke loose.  For out of nowhere and after feeling the best I have in years, I developed a dull pain in the center of my upper back, which within a few weeks that pain escalated to the most excruciating constant knife-like pain I’ve ever felt.

OK, now to a few of the specialist reactions:

The MRI showed typical 50-year aging of the spine in a number of areas (MRIs often read far worse than you really are),but nothing warranted surgery and so the neurosurgeons recommended the typical route of oral steroids (which I refused to take) physical therapy (pain management, massage, rehab) and possibly cortisone shots in the back if things didn’t improve within a few weeks.

My chiropractor recommended continued adjustments, massage, cold laser therapy, a ton of Fish Oil and Vitamin D to combat the inflammation.

My physical therapist performed ultrasound, stim, and massage.

Nothing worked, and if anything, the various treatements made conditions worse.

And nothing made sense.  For how could my back go from the best it had been in years to this in only a few weeks?????

I reached out to my Christian friends, business associates, and Emmaus team members for prayer and insight.

Well, if you’ve read this far and figured it out, it took you a lot shorter time than it took me to figure things out.

For in the end, it was all about the massage.

Not only did that wonderful weekly session cause the problem, the recommended subsequent massages by EVERY specialist actually worsened the condition.

For what I discovered is that for people that spend much of their life bending forward, the WORST thing you can do is have your upper back muscles lengthened.  And stretching/lengthening back muscles is EXACTLY what massages are intended to do.

Think about it.  At my end, I spend hour upon hour in front of a PC trading, teaching, writing, etc., I use my Droid at least 20 times a day which tilts the head down, I stoop a bit to get into my compact BMW 3-Series, etc. etc.  And we all know that all of those actions result in weak, stretched back muscles.

Deep massage?

Absolutely the worst thing you could do … UNLESS it was far lighter AND accompanied by an equal strengthening program for those same muscles AND a stretching program to stretch/loosen the opposing tight & shrunk chest muscles (the effect caused by the lengthened muscles in the back).

But without those qualifiers, having a deep upper back massage for people like me is like adding gasoline to the bonfire.

Thankfully, through the grace of God I was led to research two highly unusual symptoms that I was experiencing.  A fire/burning type sensation, and a tremendous itching sensation between the shoulder blades that I felt during the actual massages, and again during my episodes of constant pain (and it wasn’t a healing type itching feeling!).

And after finding those golden nugget websites (the links are noted in the comments to this post) and later contacting one of the therapists, I learned that those are the precise symptoms for overstretched back muscles that are lacking adequate blood supply!

The solution?  Kill the ongoing and rehab massages and work at rebuilding and strengthing those overstretched muscles attached to your spine.

Amazingly, every specialist and my trading coach all suggested massage.

Yet it was precisely the worst thing that could have been done.

As for now, I’m well on my way to a full recovery as the symptoms starting lessening in less than two days after learning all of this.

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OK, back to the earlier holistic comments.

Specialists of course have their place in society.  Yet far too often there is a complete lack of a comprehensive approach to one’s problem.

Neurosurgeons know about and treat issues requiring surgery.

Chiropractors know about and treat bone structure and nerve compression.

And massage therapists know about and treat … well, yea.

So it’s left to us to play “general contractor” of sorts as we try to piece together the solution to a puzzle where we know our overall bodies and “puzzle picture” best, but where each specialist only has a corner piece.

And so it is as well with trading.

Every market rhythm is unique … as is every trader.

The Turtle traders of yesteryear traded well in a trend environment, but the methods failed miserably during times of false breakouts and choppy markets (thus, the famous “Turtle Soup” pattern).

Other traders I’ve met, including one from Jellie Team #8, speak of methods which are suggested to be used all the time but only work in certain markets (including using probes of prior swing highs or lows as stops in a chop market where 90% of them in such a market will trigger before the expected move … which you see all the time in non-trader led chatrooms under the guise of “loss prevention” … which is really “gain prevention”!!)

Sort of like a “wrench expert” trying to hammer nails with a wrench … cuz all he knows about is the wrench!

Yet as my “back journey” can attest, as well as over a decade of trading the markets profitably, trading — like life — is best approached from a holistic perspective.

And while the Jellie effort isn’t perfect, perhaps one of the reasons for its lasting success, participant feedback, and industry accolades is that it offers far more than a quick four-hour seminar fix, or a single method that only works under the works-twice-a-day broken clock theory.

My father once told me everything in life is good if not taken in excess.

And while he doesn’t have many years life left on this earth, those words should be heeded by every trader — and person — on this planet.

Especially when it comes to learning this business … and massages.

The Jellie Trader Training Webinar Series $250 discount will remain in effect over the holiday weekend.  Just email me at and I’ll email a special discounted invoice.

Have a great fourth!!!

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