Monday, July 28, 2014

Performance Niches in Trading: The Rage to Master

A grateful shout out to Abnormal Returns for linking Adam Grimes' post on the "rage to master".  As Adam points out in his blog:

"People who have the rage to master are completely obsessed beyond any sense of balance, beyond any reason, with mastering their chosen craft. For these people, hard work usually doesn’t seem like work. They are motivated by the end goal, yes, but perhaps even more so by the process of learning and the process of getting better."

Ellen Winner, who coined the term "rage to master", makes the argument that innate talents have a motivational component and that the mastery drive is often present from an early age.  She points out:

"No one disputes the biological basis of retardation (with the exception of that due to extremely impoverished environment); and yet some do assert that high ability, the flip side of retardation, is entirely due to hard work.  But if biological retardation exists, why not biological acceleration?"

Citing evidence from children who display early talents in the visual arts, Winner observes that young people with precocious talent are intrinsically driven to pursue their domains, accelerating their learning and development via supercharged deliberate practice.  The rage to master occurs at the intersection of natural talents and immersive practice.

An important implication of Winner's view is that one of the best predictors of performance in a domain is an early and rapid learning curve.  This is the notion of "niche" that I emphasized in the trading performance book.  Exercising our talents is intrinsically rewarding, which leads us to immerse ourselves in the activities that provide deliberate practice.  Greatness, from this perspective, is a function of how we approach life; the rage to master is, as Adam points out, a form of obsession.

Per the Michelangelo quote above, if you're working ordinary hours in an ordinary manner, you're probably not operating within your mastery niche.

The work we're meant to do is not what we push ourselves to do; it's what no one can keep us from doing.

Further Reading:  Greatness and Creativity in Trading