Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Reinventing Yourself: The Key to Long-Term Success

I noticed a couple of good articles on Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in the wake of Duke's win for the 2015 NCAA championship.  The first article outlined how he adapted to different times in recruitment by going after players who weren't committed to four years of college.  The second article pointed out Coach K's time with USA basketball and how coaching pros helped him change the way he coached his new players.  When you put the articles together, you realize that the coach who won his fifth national championship was quite different from the one who won his first.

The winning team at Duke was dominated by freshmen, many of whom will almost certainly jump to the pros after this year.  The opposing coach, no doubt unhappy in defeat, mentioned that his team doesn't do "rent-a-player"--a clear swipe at how professionalized the game has become.  Gone is the idea that these are student athletes.  They are athletes who are students for a while.

That is what makes adapting to the future and making changes so difficult--and so rare.  When you deeply believe in what you do and then have to adapt to a new future, it feels like self-betrayal.  It seems as though you're going against everything you believed in.  And in a sense you are.

I was trained in longer-term psychodynamic therapy during my graduate internship.  It was great training and informs my work to this day.  When I began working in student counseling at Cornell, however, I realized that my training in mental illness had left me poorly prepared to work with mental health.  Out of that, I researched and learned brief therapies to help healthy people make changes in their lives.  The psychodynamic model stressed building a relationship and working with people over months and even years.  The brief model assumed that the first session could well be the last one and emphasized rapid change over long-term insight.

I was accused of being superficial and betraying my training.  At times I felt that way.  The only way to work with a new group, however, was to work in new ways.  No one adapts to the future without leaving parts of the past behind.

A trader I'm currently working with--he'll know I'm talking about him!--has made extraordinary strides in remaking himself.  He used to trade remarkably short-term for a big trader, but he found that the short-term drivers of price in a QE world no longer held up.  Extending his holding periods, he has changed his way of generating trade ideas and managing the resulting positions.  He reminds me of Coach K.; he is so invested in winning that he's been willing to lose the past.  That ability--not to stick to a process, but reinvent one--is what is also returning him to the winner's circle.

Further Reading:  Performance and Creativity