Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Feature Book Review: The Education of a Speculator by Victor Niederhoffer (ex George Soros Trader) ジョージ・ソロストレーダーの教育: ビクター ニーダホッファ

Any trader who is so good, he worked for George Soros, must have something special. Victor Niederhoffer, was that man, and he was certainly something, and still is. Not only did he go to Harvard and get his PhD at the University of Chicago, he was a 5 time US National squash champion, board game lover, horse racing enthusiast, and music fan. He is pretty complex due to his New York upbringing in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. 

With a father who was a cop & squash player, and an uncle who liked to buy & sell stocks, a lot of influences came to make up Victor's personality. Why does a trader who takes risk for a living with USD100 million or more, not wear any shoes in his office? Why does he keep pictures of the Titanic in his trading room and reminders of great men having great failures? Why does George Soros nick-name him looser? There is another image of him at the beach with george. Victor is out in the waves and George is closer to shore in a safe zone. A large wave is about to come crashing down onto Victor. It represents 2 different views on when market waves are safe to trade in. You soon have more questions about him than the money he makes by trading for others.

This book was written during a shining highlight peak of his trading career, well before any Titanic sized trading loss that was to come later on. This book is a self written explanation of how could he have got to his trading role and risk taking success. It is not a simple system that he developed, or an edge that he uses against a market. It is an entire process of thought. He is a great speculator because he is great at cross pollination of his many influences.

In many ways, his education comes from observations made in one area, and then applying them into a very new totally different unrelated area. How can you combine championship squash play strategies to price reactions from a US Fed announcement on interest rates? How do you make clear correlations between how bookies size up horses at the race track, and also see stock prices move in a very similar way to a keen trained eye? You do so in a very unique way. The amazing thing you learn in this book is that a speculator can become great by using any combination of disciplines but only if all are well observed.

This is not a light read. In fact, I would call it intense reading, You need a few moments to fully absorb what you take in. It reminds me of sipping fine cognac. This book is not something you go through fast, just like how you do not guzzle down XO cognac. You take is small amounts, and savor them. That is how best to fully appreciate this well written explanation of a great trader's personal roots, trials and tribulations. This 414 page testament to a 360 overview of influence, was a National Best Seller, and deservedly so.

The Top 3 Takeaways from this book that really impact any reader are:

1) There is a lot to learn about how to be a long-term successful trader, and no one path will do. The more paths you can take, the better. There is no single way, there are many, so learn them all.

2) The best traders know how to make money and keep doing what they do best by observing trends and possible patterns. Squash or any other sport keeps the mind sharp when in competition.

3) When becoming a successful trader, other similar disciplines may be obvious to learn from. Horse racing tracks that "bet on the ponies" can be a great insight into how horse betting crowds react like investors in the markets.

The most sad reality of this book though, is that it came out in 1997, just before a great fall. Like the Titanic image kept to balance human hubris in his trading room, the fall in his risk taking did come and hit hard within 2 years. Going broke at such an age after such a high, is discouraging for anybody who admires & applauds, such amazing courage to win against the markets. Maybe the house does win in the end? Maybe George Soros was right, Victor was a loser in the end, or at least for a time, before he of course, started trading again. Like any Greek tragedy, the hero must suffer defeat, and hopefully rise again. This book reads like the revealing of a man's soul, the key to a unique and complex personality.
An amazing book, highly recommended!

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