The most valuable mantra in investing goes by: “Not to convince, but to be convinced.” A good investor does not take unnecessary chances and then convince himself that everything would be alright. Rather, he would wait until the right opportunity comes by and convinces him that it is the choice to make. In other words, a winning investor always abides in stillness until a high-probability signal dawns on him.

Let the Winner Proves Itself

For example, a momentum investor refrains from buying a fundamentally sound stock until its price has broken out to a new high. The reason is that, whenever the price reaches the higher end of the range, short-term investors would anxiously sell for a quick profit, while the long-term investors would begin accumulating those shares just being sold. The price would finally succeed in breaking into a new high when there are no more sellers to push the price back down, i.e. all stocks are transferred from bears to bulls, which means that there is no more resistance against the price to go up, and this is the safest time when you can put your capital at risk.

If you buy a stock long before the breakout occurs, chances are it may remain going sideways or even plunge down later, because your analysis of the stock may not be correct after all, and you forgo better opportunities by sticking your capital with a loser. It is against human nature to give up a bargain, but it would be risky to buy under an unconfirmed situation. This is especially true if the current market is in a correction mode, which gives us more reason to wait for a properly formed breakout. This is why instead of trying to predict the future, we patiently allow the stock to prove itself, and buy at the proper time as indicated by a change in price and volume.


Therefore, instead of assuming what will happen, you should simply wait for the market to confirm what you are assuming. One of my favorite jokes on the English language is that, “The word ‘ASSUME’ spells ‘ASS U and ME.’” Most financial analysts make the mistake of assuming that they know a lot about the market, and make predictions that are wrong for 50% of the time. It is ego play instead of investing, and unfortunately the smarter the individual is, the more prone he is to fall into this trap. This explains why so many bright people, including those really knowledgeable professionals like Julian Robertson and Victor Niederhoffer, were blown up in the financial market simply by not admitting they were wrong when the market told them the truth.

A great investor does not assume that he can always be right in the market, and instead he knows the only one who is always right is the market itself. As legendary stock operator Jesse Livermore pointed out that the aim of the game is not about being right, but about how much you can make when you are right. Therefore the difference between the stock “expert” and the true winner lies in that, while the “expert” always has to appear confident, pour out myriad of theories of fundamental analysis and make calls on the market, the profitable investor, on the other hand, believes that he could never be smarter than the market, and let only the market, instead of anyone else, to tell him whether he is right or wrong.

The Lure of Omniscience

As Sherlock Holmes said, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” All these troubles begin with the human urge to demonstrate omniscience by predicting events before they occur. It is almost like you would need to have an IQ of 200, the knowledge of a PhD, and some enormous insider information to make you successful in the market. As a result, you can see a lot of amateur investors spending a lot of money on expensive seminars to learn some obviously pointless methods like astrology, simply because it is too alluring to know how to predict the future. They do not realize that investing success is as simple as patience and humbleness.

The 80/20 Rule in Investing

To cure this, one must understand that the 80/20 rule applies in investing that, for most of the time, you simply do nothing. As Livermore warned, “No man can always have adequate reasons for buying and selling.” In other words, there are times when the correct trade is sitting in cash. Many otherwise profitable investors give back profits by overtrading, and they would surely benefit from the discipline of momentum investing by only buying on strength as proven by a breakout.  

Livermore believed that timing was everything to a speculator, so that it is never about if a stock is going to move, but when. Although it seems quite obvious, many investors simply do not bother, as they would buy the stocks they want anyway, and wait for the move to play out, and hope that everything would be alright. The market may eventually move in the desired direction, but it may also not. It is simply not sensible to be exposed in the market before a confirmation, just to hope that it would turn out fine.


A good investor does not buy a stock and convinces himself it is correct. Rather, he waits for an opportunity to prove itself to him. The reason is that the market has its own cycles of profitable and barren periods, and the former is way less often than the latter. By not imposing one’s own logic and ego onto the market, he will be able to see the market as it is, and hence keeping the powder dry until the best opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately, conquering one’s own ego is the most difficult task in the world, especially for those who consider themselves more knowledgeable than average. Still, it is only after an investor has acquired this habit to “be convinced but not to convince”, he is able to make money.

Author's Bio: 

Victor Chan Wai-To is an active trader in Hong Kong.