ChartWatchers

Where Are You on Your Technical Investing Journey?

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Hello Fellow ChartWatchers!

Whether you realize it or not, all ChartWatchers are on a journey of self-improvement.  We are all trying to become better stock market investors.  As users of StockCharts, our journeys have many similar paths and common milestones.  See if you recognize the steps that I have described below.  As you read through them, ask yourself "Where am I right now on this path and what is my next step?"

Stage I - Discovery & Experimenting with SharpCharts

At some point, you discovered StockCharts.com.  It may have been via a friend's recommendation or a search engine or a magazine article, but somehow we all visited the website for the first time.  Soon after that, you discovered the SharpCharts workbench page for the first time and you started playing with all of the settings - entering ticker symbols, adding overlays, changing colors, sizes, periods, etc.  You continued to experiment with the settings until you got something on the screen that you really liked.  Many of us did that without even looking at the instructions - which is fine and a very normal way of getting into technical charting. Despite the scissors-like name, tinkering around with SharpCharts cannot harm you in any way and is greatly encouraged.

Stage II - Learning More via ChartSchool, Support & Search

Eventually, if you did not already know about technical analysis, you probably started to wonder what all the wiggley lines on your SharpCharts meant.  Those questions lead you to another important area of our site:  ChartSchool.  You quickly discovered that ChartSchool is chocked full of articles on all aspects of charting.  Hopefully, before getting too overwhelmed, you read the "Overview" articles at the top of the ChartSchool page which gave you a sense of what Technical Analysis is really about.

You probably also started coming up with questions about how our SharpCharts page actually works.  Maybe some feature wasn't intuitive or you started seeing results that you didn't understand.  Regardless, you then started looking at our "Support" page for assistance.  You may have found the official documentation page (or not).  You may have read the FAQs.  You may have even sent us a question (which hopefully we were able to answer for you).  Regardless, your comfort level for using SharpCharts continued to increase.

And then one day you tried out the "Search" box on our homepage and found that it could answer lots of your questions quickly.  You started using Search regularly from then on.

Stage III - Reading Blog Articles

Somehow - maybe via the Search box - you also stumbled into our "Blogs" area and starting reading some of the articles there.  You soon realized that there were too many articles to read all of them, but "Search" helped you find the ones you needed and they were all very helpful.  Maybe "Mailbag" answered a question you'd been meaning to look into or maybe "Don't Ignore This Chart" caused you to try out a new kind of chart.  Regardless, you got more interested in learning more about Technical Analysis as a result.

Stage IV - Becoming a Member

At some point you decided that you needed more that what the free tools on StockCharts provided and you became a subscriber.  You may have needed intraday data bars, or bigger charts, or the ability to save charts, or access to our Scan Engine, etc.  Regardless of the exact reason, you immediately noticed the additional SharpCharts settings and capabilities that members had access to.

Stage V - Reading the Market Message

It might not have been at the top of your list of reasons for subscribing, but soon reading John Murphy's Market Message newsletters becomes an important part of your day.  You enjoy the high-level perspective that John and Arthur provide.  You also start trying to duplicate some of their charts yourself.  And Arthur Hill's videos and daily commentary give you even more ideas for investing and analyzing the market.

Stage VI - Scribbling On & Saving Your Work

Early on you discovered our ChartNotes annotation tool which allows you to add trendlines, comments, etc. to your charts.  But now, as a member, you can save your "masterpieces" into your accout for later review - much easier than recreating them from scratch each time.  And that if you save an annotated chart, the annotations get updated automatically for you.

You also go back to ChartSchool to learn more about all of the various tools and line studies that ChartNotes provides.  There are almost too many to deal with but you thought that Fibonacci Retracements looked promising...

Stage VII - Tossing Out the Kitchen Sink

At some point you get overwhelmed with all of the indicators and options and squiggly lines.  "How is this supposed to make things better?" you ask yourself.  And then you find John Murphy's essay - The 10 Laws of Technical Trading - which helped you get back on track.  John's message for keeping things simple started to make more sense after that.

Stage VIII  - Scanning for Dollars

The Advanced Scan Workbench looked very scary when you first saw it.  But, on the other hand, you needed something to help you find a manageable number of "interesting" stocks that you might actually want to invest in and the Scan Engine seems to be just the thing for that.  The "Predefined Scans" page had lots of interesting possibilities but you needed something more tailored to your situation.

Soon after you started trying to create a scan, things were looking bleak - but then you discovered the video tutorials on scanning in our Video Library and soon you had several promising scans up and running.  You also got some helpful tips from your friends on the s.c.a.n. board.

Stage IX - Trading & Managing Risk with Technicals

One day, you finally found it - the perfect chart.  But you didn't (couldn't?) pull the trigger.  You weren't comfortable with the mechanics of trading and you didn't know how to manage your risk with such a trade.  (And you agonized as the stock climbed higher and higher!)  Then you found Gatis Roze's blog - "The Trader's Journal" - and Alexander Elder's eBook - "To Trade or Not To Trade."  Both of those helped you approach trading in a more disciplined way using sound risk management practices.  The next time the perfect chart appeared in your scan results, you were ready.

Stage X - Getting Better by Going in Circles

At the start of this journey, you thought it would be simple - just find that one chart with the one indicator that would tell you when to buy and sell accurately without fail.  Over time you realized that this was a cyclical process of improvement.  You needed to be constantly learning and testing out new ideas.  You needed to have patience and gradually incorporate hard-won lessons into your trading routine.  Looking for the "magic bullet" gave way to creating repetitive, disciplined processes that paid off again and again but in smaller ways.

The books in the StockCharts Store became very interesting to you.  Many of them go deeper into topics than the articles on the website.  In addition, you decided to attend an SCU Seminar event - even though you were a very experienced StockCharts user by that time - and boy did that open your eyes to everything you'd overlooked on the website.

Stage XI - Validating Your Knowledge

Ultimately, your trading results validated your improved knowledge of technincal analysis and StockCharts' tools.  However, when StockCharts announced a new Certification Exam for members in October of 2013, you were the first to sign up and take it.  Becoming a Certified ChartWatcher confirmed your progress so far on your journey.

Does any part of this 11-stage journey that I described above sound familar?  Are there any parts of the journey which you haven't worked on yet?  Again, the journey never really ends, but you need to make sure that you are investigating all of the nooks and crannies along the way.  Each one contains part of the key to becoming a successful technical investor.

- Chip

P.S. Join me in Dallas next month for a full day (or 2!) of hands on training in all of these topics and more.  I'd love to see you there.

Chip Anderson
About the author: is the founder and president of StockCharts.com. He founded the company after working as a Windows developer and corporate consultant at Microsoft from 1987 to 1997. Since 1999, Chip has guided the growth and development of StockCharts.com into a trusted financial enterprise and highly-valued resource in the industry. In this blog, Chip shares his tips and tricks on how to maximize the tools and resources available at StockCharts.com, and provides updates about new features or additions to the site. Learn More
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