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10,000 Hours To Graceland

The world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed - SEAN O’CASEY, IRISH DRAMATIST 


Do we really have a clear understanding of raw talent? Is there such a thing as a natural born trader? 

I think there is innate talent, but I also think it plays much less of a role in success than we think. Given two traders with equal aptitude, the one who works harder will win. Like any other field. 

Malcolm Gladwell in his book OUTLIERS, sites a study by The Academy of Music in Berlin. The study set out to discover just how far talent goes. In the study the schools most promising violinists were split into three groups. Group one was comprised of the “sure to be world-class” players. Group two were classified in a more “good” category and finally the “unlikely to play professionally” category. 

The students all began playing at roughly the same age, around five years old. They also practiced about the same three of hours a week. After a few years passed however, things changed. The students that would become the most successful began to escalate their practice sessions. By age twelve they were playing sixteen hours a week, and then thirty hours a week by the time they were twenty. It turns out, that by the age of twenty, the world-class put in over ten thousand hours as compared to about eight for group two, and four thousand hours for group three. 

Gladwell points out that “Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works. That’s it”. 

I guess we could apply this to any school or profession. Larry Bird was not the most athletic guy in the NBA, but he would practice constantly, frequently shooting in the Boston Garden before or after games alone in the dark, hours on end. 

Gladwell also notes that John Lennon and Paul McCartney actually started playing together in 1957, before they formed The Beatles in 1960. By the time they hit some success in late 1963 they had performed an estimated 1200 times. In fact, they had played together over 10 years from the high school days, to the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. How many hours was that? I’ll bet more than 10,000. 

Even prodigies like Mozart, put in the time. His first recognized original masterpiece was concerto No. 9, which he composed when he was twenty-one years old. By twenty-one however, Mozart had been composing for over ten years. Not those 10,000 hours again! 

Some people think stress from working hard will kill you, but I think that depends on passion. Practicing hard at something you love is not the same as hard work. It only appears this way to people who don’t care for that particular endeavor. I constantly work on my trading and never feel like I’m working hard. In fact, not working hard enough at it is more stressful for me. It reminds me of the quote by Malcolm Forbes who once said “retirement has killed more people than hard work ever did.”   

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Charles Maley