Monday, February 08, 2010

Play Before You Work: A Key Peak Performance Principle

The recent post on the essence of greatness highlighted the importance of immersion in the learning process to maximize the benefits of structured practice. What we find among those on a trajectory to become elite performers is that they not only work hard; they become fully absorbed in their learning because they find it so intrinsically fascinating and challenging.

If we look across performance fields, we find a common developmental course: before expert performers make their livings from their work, they undergo a lengthy period of skill development. We see this among athletes, surgeons, chess champions, and performing artists. Before they begin their formal careers, they have spent extended periods in a learning process, often under mentorship.

In the trading arena, it is common to see training programs lasting a few weeks to months prior to attempts to make a living from performance in the markets. It's not surprising that a sizable proportion of students in such programs do not succeed. The demands of making a living from trading short circuit the natural immersion of the elite learner. Equally problematic, the brief nature of the training generally means that information is substituted for sustained skills building. It is one thing to learn about markets and setups; quite another to trade them successfully.

When seeking training as a trader, it is important to identify the actual skills-building activities--and the sequencing of those activities--that will support an accelerated learning curve. Performers learn by performing, and they learn by receiving regular feedback from their performances. There is so much more to training than absorbing information from speakers; before you pursue expensive education, make sure that the curriculum is one that can sustain your absorbed interest and efforts. Elite performers cultivate their skills because their development feels more like challenging play than hard work.