Essence of Trading: The Three Pillars of Critical Thinking (Part 1)
Critical thinking is not just thinking hard or deep into an issue and then decide whether to believe it or not. It is a common misunderstanding that everyone can just do that at will if they try. Most of us has to be trained to have the necessary critical thinking skills to make it functional. I am going to explain what is needed to achieve the goal of developing good critical thinking skills specifically for the purpose of improving your ability to trade.
Critical thinking can be loosely build on three core disciplines. They are Logic, Objective Evaluation, Self-Correction. All three disciplines are related to each other and have overlapping components. Hence making the subject of critical thinking difficult to explain in general.
We often talk about logical thinking as if it is something separated from our normal self. It is a skill many of us are exposed to when learning mathematics and science subjects in school but logic by itself surprisingly is not a required subject. We are trained to use logical thinking to solve academic problems but seldom do we apply such on everyday life situations. In fact, many of us have chosen to think logically only when we are dealing with abstract problems, puzzles, or games.
Personally I think logic (and statistics) should be taught as soon as kids have a basic knowledge in math. But what do I know? A class of logical thinking students is a class of students who will likely challenge their teachers all the time with tough questions. I am not sure if our education system like to see that happening.
Usual symptoms of handling problems illogically:
- thinking in circles that keep sending you back to the original problem again
- staring at the problem in front of you while you think you are thinking of a solution but in fact your mind is blank
- keep trying variations of a solution to a problem without questioning the validity of the approach itself when the solutions you tried are all falling apart
Specific to trading, logic is often used in combination with statistics. In fact there is this specialized branch of mathematics dealing with probabilistic logic but the academic mumbo jumbo is totally overrated for practical trading purpose (most of the time).
What I like to mention here is that using simply logic to apply onto a trading problem (e.g. a sell setup) that is probabilistic in nature can lead to all kinds of wrong answers. The most famous one being efficient-market hypothesis. This particular issue deserves further discussion. Maybe in another article in the future.
If you found that when you are thinking of ways to deal with the markets and you keep suffering from the problems listed above. You need to learn logical reasoning properly. You don’t have to study a college course on logic and stuff. All you need is to brush up your reasoning skills with a few books on the subject so that you can think smartly instead of wasting time on a bad idea or having your mind stuck in places that causes frustration.
I reviewed two books on reasoning skills that are good introduction for anyone to read – The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills and The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning.
The main goal of having good logical thinking skill is to allow yourself to see what is more reasonable, even though you do not believe so.
The secondary goal is to be able to see what is unreasonable or illogical, even though you strongly believe so.
Logical thinking is a skill not just useful in developing your trading ability, it is also a life skill that will benefit you tremendously with just a little effort in acquiring the techniques.