I’ve just completed Way of the Turtle: The Secret Methods that Turned Ordinary People into Legendary Traders by Curtis Faith. If the term “Turtles” has you scratching your head, then I will start by saying that they were a group of students brought together by legendary trader Richard Dennis (featured in Market Wizards) in the mid-1980s as part of an experiment to see if successful trading could be taught. Dennis and his partner William Eckhardt (featured in The New Market Wizards) selected two classes and taught them their trend following methodology, then provided each with trading capital and set them loose on the markets.
Way of the Turtle is less a history lesson about the Turtles (for that you can read The Complete Turtle Trader), and more a deeper discussion of the philosophy behind the trend following methodology Dennis and Eckhardt taught them and the implementation of that system. The Turtle system has been published in other formats and other places before now, but Faith does more than that in Way of the Turtle. He talks considerably about the requirements for successfully implementing the system and how easy it is to fail with it.
To my mind, Way of the Turtle is a book of three primary parts. One is a really interesting discussion of the psychology of traders and the markets. Another is a very thorough exploration of system development, testing, and performance measurement. The final part is specific discussions of the Turtles and their methods.
The issue some readers might have is the manner of presentation of the parts.
I personally found the chapters on system design, testing, and evaluation to be the most unified and consistently coherent of the book. They progress well and present some things that I have not previously seen in comparable discussions. I spent a couple of chapters on the subject in The Essentials of Trading and I found Curtis’ coverage of the material to be an excellent advancement into somewhat more complex approaches. His discussion of the subject is, to my mind, a virtual must read for anyone look to develop and/or evaluate trading systems.
In terms of trader and market psychology, the early chapters of the book are an outstanding exposition on the different biases and mental states that we all go through as market participants in one fashion or another. It was this material, so plainly laid out, which got me very excited to be reading the book. It really is a fantastic look at the things we have in our heads which can create so much havoc in our trading, and Faith frequently cites examples of these things through the remainder of the book in talking about his and other Turtles’ successes and failures trading their system.
It’s in the third subject of the book where many readers may find it lacking. Way of the Turtle, as I noted at the outset, is not a history. While Faith does clearly delineate the full Turtle system, he spends relatively little time talking about the grand experiment which the Turtles were meant to be. Rather he provides views and opinions from his own perspective. That makes for a narrow scope. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One just needs to realize that going in and be prepared to find it in little bits scattered throughout the text.
Here’s the biggest rub – at least for someone expecting to come away with an immediately useful trading system. Even though the book does tell you exactly how the Turtle system worked, don’t expect it to be something you can use yourself. It was specifically designed for use across an array of markets by traders with a large capital base. By that I mean hundreds of thousands of dollars, minimum. As such, the vast majority of readers will not be in a position to make use of it.
So it’s a question of expectations. Are you looking to become a new Turtle and trade just like them? If so, you’re probably going to be disappointed. If, however, you are looking to learn from the experience and education of someone who was there, who learned a great many lessons under the tutelage of a pair of legendary traders, then you will probably come away from reading Way of the Turtle quite satisfied.
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About the Author
John Forman, author of this blog, has traded for more than 20 years, is a professional market analyst, and authored The Essentials of Trading. He is an active participant in trading forums, consults for trading related businesses, as published literally dozens of trading articles, and has been quoted in a number of books and in the media.
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