“Trading a Life” – My Story (Part 2)

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If you’ve read my bio, you’ll know I’ve been very sick the last few years, confined to my home, and learned to trade because of it. When I heard James “Rev Shark” DePorre’s story of learning to trade after going deaf, losing his job, and his wife, I could relate (except the wife part). But other than his hearing, I guess Rev’s health was ok. Mine’s not. Here’s my story. I wrote this for a trader friend of mine. However, it seemed fitting to post it here today, on my birthday, as I reflect on all that has transpired.

2007 was a much better year. My health was still a roller coaster and there were countless days I held on for dear life. However, things started to happen that made me feel more alive and mentally stronger. Mental health is more important than anything. A person in the worst circumstances can be happy, while someone with everything can be depressed.

I needed human interaction, even if only online. So, overestimating my improvements, I started the Systems Architecting and Engineering M.S. program at USC with just one online course. I still hoped to do engineering someday. If I could do night trading, I could surely handle one course right? I quickly gave up on this nonsense. I didn’t have the energy to keep up with the class schedule. Besides, the class was for managers much older than me. The markets were much friendlier to my chaotic lifestyle. I worked when I could, as much as I could, and simply rested when I felt terrible.

Luckily, even without middle-aged USC classmates, I didn’t go back to solitary confinement. An acquaintance in Utah, with whom I’d traded a few emails, kept me company. Other than my parents and occasional IMs with two buddies from college, this was the first person I’d talk to in over a year. Unlike my “friends” on TV, here was someone who responded and cared I existed. Day by day, the online chats and phone calls nursed away some depression. She didn’t mind I that couldn’t talk much at first. I slowly learned to control my mouth and form coherent phrases again. Through her stories, I felt more connected with the world. Our conversations helped me remember myself. My interests, ideals, humor, and creativity: parts of me that used to light up my life even when I was sick. I’m forever grateful she stayed with me on the phone everyday, and became my closest friend through it all.

Neither my mental or physical health turned around on a dime. Stories always jump to turning points, making things seem easy. If thing’s don’t come easily for people, one after another, they think something’s wrong. It’s not. Everything’s a process that takes shape over time.

Slowly, I became more proactive in my life as best I could. I turned my unfinished USC research paper on Akamai Technologies into my first stock analysis article, explaining complex technologies in layman terms. A lot of work went into the research paper. Why not make it useful? I submitted it to SeekingAlpha.com. The editors liked it enough to ask me to be a contributing author. What a fantastic confidence boost, especially for my first submission! This motivated me to write more. I felt my technical background gave me a firmer grasp of a company’s technology and opportunities than many analysts.

Did I find my niche? To explain to people a company’s technology and the company’s potential because of it? What a useful place my engineering degree proved to be in this new, unexpected “job”! It seemed like the best of both worlds. I launched a stock blog, Flyboys Fund, and wrote about technical topics such as technology and aerospace & defense. I found myself drawn more to global growth topics like construction, oil drilling, and the power grid. I actually enjoyed these companies’ conference calls because this was my comfort zone.

I was always uncomfortable owning stocks, like biotech, whose business confused me. These stocks were in my portfolio because they say you should have a little of everything to be “diversified.” No more. My portfolio had a facelift. I punted these stocks and replaced them with stocks I wrote about on my blog, the stocks I’ve knew. I didn’t have to spread my attention across tons of industries anymore. I concentrated on a few stocks, knowing them inside and out, selling when my analysis said the price was too high or buying when I felt the price was too low. I always kept extra cash for safety.

This is the general plan I’ve stuck with since then, though I’m constantly experimenting with new strategies such as options and technical trading. I figured, since the markets keep changing, I should be like a ninja: the more skills and tools I master, the better I can adapt. The airing of Fast Money in 2007 proved to be a godsend, teaching me to process news faster and take more decisive action. Thanks to Jeff Macke, I even went on the show via webcam.

My portfolio ended 2007 up nicely. Sure, global growth stocks like the ones I owned were stellar in 2007. How could I not make money? Why didn’t I make more? It doesn’t matter. What mattered was the markets started making sense to me, I felt I could succeed in the markets, and above all, I was a little healthier than I was in 2006.

Being tested by this death of a market in 2008, apparently I did learn a lot, or enough to not lose my pants. While the markets kept getting worse all year, my life has gotten better. Blogging helped me reach out to the world through the Internet. Many people have contacted me through my blog, including traders whom I’ve become great friends with.

In June, thanks to my friend’s dad, I visited the University of Utah Medical Center. For the first time in my 25 years, I found doctors who had dealt with conditions as severe as mine. Finally! The confidence in the doctors was well placed. Within a few weeks my skin cleared considerably. After 10 years, I can touch water again and even bathe now as part of the treatment.

Is everything peachy now? No. I have a long road ahead. The doctors are just getting their arms around the situation. Tests show my IgE allergy protein level at 18,000 (75-200 is normal), meaning I react hundreds of times more intensely to everything. We haven’t found a food I’m not allergic to, so I’m surviving on a prescription liquid diet. But I’m no longer in pain. I can go out, even went to New York for the Merrill Lynch Power & Gas Leaders Conference in September. I can look forward to tomorrow. It’s not dark anymore.

** Dedicated to my grandma, who passed away last November and couldn’t see me get well. She loved me as much as she could, maybe more. I miss her very much. **

** Thanks to all my angels: my parents, sister, family, friends, and doctors. I’m forever in your debt. **


PART 1

Videos Tracking My Health Developments


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