Updated from its original posting on 2013-04-26
It’s a common misconception that expertise in a particular field, be it forex trading or sports, is simply an inborn trait that is possessed by an elite few. This line of thinking assumes that either you’re an expert or you’re not, and that there’s no way for you to gain expertise if you’re just not born with it.
While it’s true that some individuals are naturally gifted with traits or proficiency in certain fields (ex: height for basketball players or good eye-hand coordination for race car drivers), expertise is actually a development process that unfolds over time.
This is what Benjamin Bloom, Ph.D. of the University of Chicago discovered after conducting a study on the development of 120 world-class talents in various fields such as concert pianists, mathematicians, Olympic swimmers, and sculptors. His study also included interviews with these individuals’ parents and coaches, as he aimed to understand how superior performance is achieved.
Bloom concluded that there are three phases of development:
Early phase – This initial phase revolves around play and exploration, in which the individual pursues the activity for its enjoyment value. Coaches or teachers are chosen simply for their ability to structure learning while family members and peers typically provide support and encouragement.
Middle phase – In this stage, the individual concentrates on specific aspects of the field in more serious pursuit of excellence, as practice is directed at developing more specific techniques. For instance, a gymnast can decide on a particular event to focus on, such as the balance beam or uneven bars. At this phase, the pride and reward of performing are the primary motivators.
Late phase – It is in this stage that mastery is pursued. The goal of the individual shifts from competence to actual expertise. During this stage, it becomes essential to work with a recognized mentor who specializes in coaching elite performers. Intensive training is required and takes up majority of the individual’s day, which is why some young athletes are home-schooled to make time for more practice. In short, performance in the field has become a way of life and part of the individual’s identity.
It’s no surprise that new traders typically aspire for the latter stages of trading. However, Bloom cautions that undergoing the earlier steps is necessary before traders can achieve mastery.
Without curiosity and enjoyment for the craft, traders would hardly be motivated to pursue deliberate practice and skill development. Similarly, skipping the middle phase of skill development would make traders ill-prepared for the rigors of mastery.
Remember that elite performance cannot begin with abruptly shooting for mastery. It’s a process of discovery, having fun with the basics, and seeing if the field is something that really interests you.
In the context of forex trading, learning the nitty-gritty of order flow, stop loss placement, market correlations and the like is a backward approach to achieving mastery. Why the heck would you start at the last steps in a development process? Would you teach your kids about grammar and punctuation before you even teach them how to write?
There is no better way to sabotage the pursuit of mastery than by forcing an individual work on the latter development stages from the get-go. If you want to sustain your motivation to succeed, then you need to enjoy what you’re doing, build the necessary skillset, and then aim for superior performance. There simply isn’t any other way around it.
If you think that undergoing the whole process is daunting, then you should remember that most elite performers still enjoy what they’re doing despite the rigors of their training processes. Elite athletes would voluntarily train under extreme conditions with the same determination as musicians who would eagerly practice their craft for hours and hours.
If you want to start developing mastery in trading, immediately trying to acquire discipline and engage in deliberate practice seem like a chore. Instead, treat market analysis with a more curious approach and remind yourself why forex trading interests you in the first place. The genuine desire to learn and do better in your field is the key in sustaining motivation in the pursuit of expertise.