Curtis Faith – The Way of The Turtle – (Review And Summary)

Last Updated on June 19, 2022 by Quantified Trading

I have just finished reading Curtis Faith’s The Way of The Turtle (for the second time) and below you find some very short comments about the book. This is a very good book! If you’re a beginner or not very experienced this would be one of the 5 trading books I would recommend. I will keep this review and summary short and instead include some quotes from the book.

Put short, I recommend The Way Of The Turtle because of one thing: Curtis Faith describes in an easy way the importance of keeping things simple. Trading is actually not that difficult. The difficulty is in following your strategy/methodology. Simple trading systems can give you a tradeable edge, but it’s psychologically difficult for traders to follow even simple rules.

The Turtle Experiment

Curtis Faith illustrates this by giving examples. The most notable example is Richard Dennis Turtle experiment in which all traders were given the exact same trading system. Yet, some failed miserably while others prospered. Hence, Faith argues for the necessity to have mechanical systems. Mechanical trading eliminates emotions from trading.

The book The Way of The Turtle is mainly about trend-following. However, you don’t need to be a dedicated trend follower to learn from this book. The principles are mainly the same (however, one might argue mean reversion is different, but that’s another topic). If you are new to trading, I strongly recommend this as your first book to read. If you’re a successful “veteran” (I dislike this word) it might not be so valuable.

Faith describes psychology with trading examples, what to look for when testing systems and he also backtests some of the systems he traded decades ago. They still seem to work! However, trend-following is not for the faint-hearted because of the low win ratio, so there is no free lunch.

Curtis Faith and trend following:

Curtis Faith was (and is?) a trend follower. Just to give you a better grasp of what trend following is all about we recommend these links:

Some quotes from The Way Of The Turtle:

I like to collect quotes from books I read, and here you have some good quotes from the book The Way Of The Turtle:

  1. …we were taught how to think in terms of the long run when trading and we were given a system with an edge. (page 34)
  2. The Turtle Way views losses in the same manner: they are the cost of doing business rather than an indication of a trading error or a bad decision. ……In fact, we were taught that periods of losses usually precede periods of good trading (page 37)
  3. The secret of trading and of the Turtles’ success is that you can trade successfully by using ideas and concepts that are well known and have been around for years. But you have to follow those rules consistently (page 39)
  4. Over the years I kept finding evidence that emotional and psychological strength are the most important ingredients in successful trading. This was my first exposure to that idea and the first time I had seen it in action (page 44).
  5. Good trading is not about being right, it’s about trading right. If you want to be successful, you need to think of the long run and ignore the outcomes of individual trades (page 44).
  6. ….It takes a lot of time and study before one realizes just how simple trading is, but it takes many years of failure before most traders come to grips with how hard it can be to keep things simple and not lose sight of the basics (page 115).
  7. Keep it simple. Simple time tested methods that are well executed will beat fancy complicated methods every time (page 131).
  8. In a similar manner, simple rules make systems more robust because those rules work in a greater variety of circumstances (page 212).
  9. People have a tendency to believe that complicated ideas are better than simple ones….Some of us thought that trading successfully couldn’t possibly be that simple; that there must be something else to it (page 224).
  10. The primary goal of trading should be to stay in the game (page 116).
  11. Luck or random-effects play a large role in the performance of actual traders and actual funds even though the best traders do not like to admit that to their investors (page 159).
  12. They often do not realize how markets go through phases and change over time, often returning to conditions that previously existed….In trading as in life, the young often fail to see the value in studying the history that occurred before they existed (page 193).
  13. The reality is that you don’t know and can’t predict how a system will perform. The best you can do is use tools that provide a sense of the range of potential values and the factors that affect those values (page 196).
  14. There are many successful discretionary traders, but there are far more unsuccessful ones. The biggest reason for this is that the ego is not your friend as a trader. The ego wants to be right, it wants to predict, and it wants to know secrets. The ego makes it much more difficult to trade well by avoiding the cognitive biases that hinder profits (page 224).
  15. One of the ways in which good traders differ from those who are less successful is that they are not afraid to be different (page 235).
  16. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Risk is your friend (page 236).
  17. Most successful traders use a mechanical trading system…..It makes it easier for a trader to trade consistently because there is a set of rules that specifically define exactly what should be done (page 245).

Curtis Faith ends the book by writing this which I totally agree to:

“Remember what Richard Dennis said: “I always say that you could publish my trading rules in the newspaper and no one would follow them. The key is consistency and discipline. Almost anybody can make up a list of rules that are 80% as good as what we taught our people. What they couldn’t do is give them the confidence to stick to those rules even when things are going bad”. Perhaps the best evidence that this is true is the performance of the Turtles: Many of them did not make money. This was the case not because the rules did not work; it happened because they could not and did not follow the rules. The Turtle rules are very difficult to follow because they depend on capturing relatively infrequent large trends. As a result, many months can pass between winning periods, at times even a year or two. During those periods it is easy to come up with reasons to doubt the system and to stop following the rules: What if the rules don’t work anymore? What if the markets have changed? What if there is something important missing from the rules? How can I be sure this really works?….Another problem is the tendency to want to change the rules. Many of the Turtles, in an effort to reduce the risk of trading the system, changed the rules in subtle ways that sometimes had the opposite of the desired effect.”

Keep things simple, make sure you understand your methodology and systems, and follow the rules. This is all there is to it, according to Curtis Faith’s The Way Of The Turtle. This is a great trading book!

 

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  • Not the worst book on trading; of course defining the strategy and sticking to it is critical. However, for any dedicated market participant the main challenge is evaluating the actual prediction power or the (supposed) edge of your strategy. The book completely lacks in the importance of assessing this with sufficiently sophisticated methods.

    Testing a simple trend system and mearly “looking” at the returns is not enough. If adjusting for total risk and drawdowns in such strategies and the curve fitting involved in “searching for something that appears to be working” most trend strategies cannot be concluded to generate alpha different from randomness. We have methods in a range of disciplines in quantitative/numerical analysis, statistics and time-series analysis, for evaluating such findings, but this is not done in the book. So to read about this topic without this can feel near meaningless. About models, statisticians have the humorous saying “explains everything, predicts nothing”. So, trend follower, based on what scheme of methods do you evaluate the prediction power of your trategy?

    • Well, the curve fitting in the strategies he reveals in his book is almost non-existent, as far as I can see. They have worked for decades. So I have to agree with Faith and Håvar! No need to complicate things.

  • Yes, its a good book. Hans: Do you refer to the use of regression analysis (like Niederhoffer)? Do it simple, like the book says. If you earn good money trading, what on earth do you need to complicate things further? We cant predict the future.

  • you mention this book would be “one of the 5 trading books” to recommend, what are the others?

    Thanks!

  • I feel like I have become dumber after reading this book. Logic fit for a child. Not recommended.