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Your Trading System - Persevere or Pivot?

Hi again /Forex, this is Part 5 of my 6 part series on creating your own trading system. The other posts are up here on reddit too if you want to catch up. Let me know what you think.
Please note all the advice below is directed at very specific issues that you may run into when using your system and then adjusting it based on your results. Your job is to be creative with your solutions to your weaknesses and always demand more from yourself. Be awesome and stand apart from your peers. Demand success.
Have you heard of the word "pivot" when referring to tech startups? If not, it simply means that a certain business idea is having a hard time gaining traction and the company has therefore decided to "pivot" away, meaning they're starting again from scratch with a new product or simply reinventing the old product in a new way.
Often in trading you’ll find the new guys are constantly "pivoting" to the point where they're dizzy and confused. Pivots are well and good when justified but how can we as traders justify the need to pivot? When should we simply persevere with what we've been doing?
Great questions, thanks for asking them you handsome devil!
The answer is:
When in doubt, persevere (and tweak).
Easy! Alright article over.
Seriously though, if you haven't read my previous articles I'd recommend you do so now before we get too deep into this topic. As a quick recap, so far on your developmental journey you should have:
*Developed a foundation trading system based on your beliefs and experiences.
*Created basic guidelines as to how you're going to trade in different market conditions.
*Made a commitment to track your trades like the trading machine you are.
And you're doing all those things wonderfully aren't you?? Great!
Now, let's say we've been tracking our trades for a few weeks now and we've had strings of winners, losers and in-betweeners and we're now ready to step back and see how we're going. We're seeing some patterns and some inconsistencies and it's time to do something about it.
If you've read the last article, you'll know what we're looking for when observing our trades. To summarise, we're especially interested in.
*Win percentages.
*Average reward : risk outcome of your trades.
*The market conditions that each trade was taken in.
*How well you followed your rules in each trade.
These are the cornerstones of your consistent success and we'll be judging (and tweaking) our systems based on these outcomes.
Now, let's look at each point and some I’ll make some suggestions for altering your foundation trading system in order to overcome their weaknesses.
Win Percentages
Higher win percentages (above 50%) are a huge psychological boon to most developing traders but their importance must always be balanced against the context of reward : risk, which we'll discuss next.
Look at the current win percentage of your foundation trading system, what are your thoughts? How has it impacted you emotionally? If you're breaking even with a low win percentage, it means you're getting great reward : risk opportunities which is FANTASTIC. The problem with this is a psychological one as lower win percentages can mean longer losing streaks and therefore larger account draw-down.
You need to make a call as to whether you're ok with this for the long term or if you want to adjust your system to increase your win percentages and perhaps give up some profit potential as a result. Unfortunately it's incredibly difficult to have both a high win percentage and a high reward to risk system and you need to make the call with which you’d prefer to focus on.
Just be realistic and focus on incremental improvements.
In the scenario that you're making decent profits when you're right but you're also right a little bit less than you're comfortable with, you need to go back and look at your trading log and screenshots, looking for the following things:
*How would a larger stop loss have affected the outcomes of your trades? Would the extra "breathing room" have impacted your trading positively or not?
*What were the market conditions like in both your winners and losers? Do you notice that losses coincide with sideways markets? If so, how would you filter those trades in the future? Are you constantly trading counter trend, trying to catch little bounces opposite current market sentiment?
*Could you have managed your profit taking in a more efficient manner? What if you'd moved stops after price moved x amount of pips away?
These are all great questions to be asking yourself after a nice big batch of trading. When you have the answers to the questions, you need to be creative in how you'll incorporate those improvements into your plan.
Once you've added some new filters or adjusted some old ones, it's time to re-test and see how your changes impact your profitability!
Always moving forwards and getting better. Change your mindset to one of learning and control, rather than helplessness and indecision and you’ll be years ahead of your fellow traders.
Average Reward : Risk
This number goes hand in hand with your win percentage. Like I said above, you probably can't have both numbers as high as you'd like. This is an unfortunate reality that can take a long time to completely sink in.
Alright, we discussed the questions we might ask if we have a system that has a low win % but a high reward : risk ratio, but what if our reward: risk is in need of help in order to improve our edge? What might we be looking for to improve our system?
The most common causes of a shitty reward: risk ratio are often:
*Your stop loss is only a "OH SHIT" protector. This can be absolutely fine with the right system in place but make sure your system is up to the challenge.
*Trading counter trend or in slow sideways markets. In these scenarios you've got to give yourself some big wiggle room to catch the retracement or bounce and even then, the nature of a retracement means you're simply not catching big moves.
*You get scared or anxious once in profit. This is an absolute deal breaker. If you can't let your winners run with some strict rules in place, you need to start developing some skills that will help you do so.
These are all fine and fixable so no need to worry. What's important is that you're identifying your weaknesses and improving them. Now, the solution to the above issues seems obvious enough doesn't it?
*Consider moving your initial stop loss to a place where your setup and initial setup theory has been proven wrong, rather than only protecting against "holy shit" moments.
*Consider trading with current market sentiment rather than against it. I know it's fun to catch tops and bottoms but simply look at a chart and see where the money is being made. Is it by catching huge impulsive moves in strong trends or looking for bounces? Trends tend to be much more lucrative, it's really as simple as that.
*Scared or anxious once in profit? You're going to have to practice your way out. If you're trading live, stop. If you can't stop, trade with the smallest lot size your broker will let you use. Make solid rules to lean against in order to create confidence, process and habit in your trading.
There will be many other scenarios that might be impacting your reward : risk ratio but what's important is that you identify what they are by leaning on your super high quality journal and screenshots that you're keeping ever so diligently!
Market Conditions
What was the market sentiment during your winning trades and losing trades? Were you more profitable trading WITH market sentiment or AGAINST it? Don’t overcomplicate this.
Don’t overcomplicate your definition of market sentiment either. Price is either going up, sideways or down. It's doing those things either slowly or quickly. Work out which works for your system and focus on those.
Remember, all we’re doing in this process is building on your strengths and eliminate your weaknesses, both in your system and in your mind.
Following Your Rules
What percentage of your trades met your systems requirements with 100% accuracy? If you eliminated the trades that didn't meet your requirements, how much different would the outcome have been over your sample size?
As per the last article, remember:
When in doubt, create a rule.
Not sure what you should be doing? Create a rule. It doesn't matter what it is, you can adjust later if it needs improving. What's important is that you have a place to improve from.
So What?
I guess the overall message is this: Persevere with your system and make adjustments based on its weaknesses and strengths. Making some big trades but your win percentage is too low? Go back and look for patterns why that's the case. In almost all cases you should be able to see patterns in both your winners and losers when looking at a big enough sample size.
During this tweaking process, you need to also qualify the importance and quality of your “concepts” that you’re using in your foundation trading system. If you’re trading based on candlestick price action and a particular part of that concept isn’t working, experiment with it. Adjust that one factor and re-test for another two weeks or 20 trades and see how it works out. What were the strengths of the new system? Where did it seam weaker?
In case you haven’t gathered yet, it’s also important that you run these tests in stages. You cannot be changing your system every other day based on your perceived results and expect to get better. It doesn’t work like that. Challenge yourself to take 20, 30, 40 trades before you consider the quality of your system. Don’t adjust ANYTHING even during a 10 trade losing streak. Just keep sticking to your rules and LEARN.
What if you’re completely unhappy with your results and your system isn't resonating with you?
Maybe it's time for you to pivot.
You NEED to feel comfortable with a system and that should be the case since you created your system from scratch starting from Part One. If you've created your system from scratch but HATE using it, it might be time for a change.
You're not going to continually and diligently improve something that you hate to use, so it's best you create another foundation trading system on which to build on.
What if you LIKE trading with your foundation trading system but you're not sure where to go from here? You can't identify any clear patterns based on win percentage, reward : risk, market sentiment or your rules? Leave a message in the comments and I'm sure some fellow traders might have some suggestions.
It's possible you've got a lemon foundation trading system but it's also possible you've got a FANTASTIC foundation on which you'll build consistency and success. Remember, when in doubt, persevere. Your system can always be improved and by doing so you'll create an even better understanding and bond with it. You'll know how it performs in specific market conditions because you've seen it before.
You're far beyond most traders at this point and you've been confirmed for being awesome, so well done.
In the next article I'll discuss some education suggestions if you're not even at a point where you can create your own foundation trading system and you’re not sure what resonates with you and what doesn't. Please let me know how you've found this series so far, I greatly appreciate any feedback, good or bad.
All the best,
Ben - TraderGrowth
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