In May, 2014, I decided to stop being a chicken.
Financially conservative by nature, I'd finally had enough. I'd had enough of people telling me that big returns aren't possible, and I'd had enough of my own risk-averse ways.
So I researched the best way to "safely" grow a small account quickly, and then I put my money where my fear used to be. I believed that I could make 50% on that account in twelve months using only a Robot. I was wrong.
I made 102%.
And here are the lessons I learned from the past year of trading that account.
1. Robots can make money. I've heard people say that Robots don't make money in real markets. They're wrong.
2. I've read that real life results never match up to a Robot's backtesting results. Wrong again.
3. It's not easy to keep your hands off. When you're trading a 24/7 Robot, you need to stay away from it. It's important to understand that some Robots are meant to be touched. Some Robots are based on principles and are best used as a vehicle to get into the trades you want to be in. In those cases, the human needs to finish out the trade.
But a 24/7 Robot is one that looks for trades all day long and handles all of the entries/exits for you. In those cases, you need to keep your grubby hands off or you won't do as well as you should. I know this because I closed a few trades out early and it was almost always a dumb move.
Just don't touch the Robot.
4. You have to have a dedicated computer. I've yet to find a VPS that I trust. Tradestation can be tricky that way. VPS works great for MT4 accounts, but Tradestation doesn't play nicely with virtual servers. If you don't have a dedicated desktop computer, you probably won't be able to get the results you should.
5. You can't need the money. If you really want to grow an account quickly, you can't do it on an account where the need for the money is imminent. If you have to take money out each month, you'll try for shortcuts or turn the Robot off during news announcements or do something else that hurts your results. I never needed the money from the Aggressive Account, and it made 100%. That's not a coincidence.
6. It's easiest to do it on a smaller account (under $10,000). It should be the same on any size account. It really should. But it's not.
On a small account, you tend to trade perfectly. On a bigger account, it's so easy to talk yourself into smart "executive" decisions that ultimately sabotage your account. If you want to see big growth-- especially if you're trying it for the first time-- do it on a small account.
7. You don't need to diversify. If you've done your research, you can quickly grow an account with just one financial instrument. You get to know the ebbs and flows, and you get comfortable with the trading patterns (meaning: drawdown). Plus, it's less hectic and less stressful. One Robot on one instrument is perfectly fine.
8. There isn't just one way to grow an account. I am happy with the Robot I chose and obviously happy with the results. But I have several other Robots that have performed similarly in the past year, and there are discretionary systems that can do it as well. Some systems are better than others, of course, but there's more than one way to achieve big gains.
9. Trust. You can't do anything spectacular unless you trust your system. I went down 20% right away in my Aggressive account, and it stayed down for almost three months. Then it went on to make 100%. If I didn't believe in my testing, I would have turned the Robot off. But I believed, and it paid off. Don't trade anything you don't trust.
It was a great twelve months. Now it's time to do it all over again.
(originally posted in June, 2015)