Thoughts From The Farm, 4/12/17

It is always remarkable to watch the ease at which professionals execute their expertise. In any profession or skilled trade, be it law, surgery, aviation, carpentry, art, finance, construction, athletics or performing arts, the practitioner makes difficult tasks appear very easy to the unskilled eye.

When I learned how to fly a helicopter, it was frustrating to compare my instructor’s smooth hover of the aircraft, to the violent movements of the helicopter after I took the controls.

When I watched Instructor Thorp fly, he barely moved the controls!

It looked so easy…and I was impatient to get on the controls.  However, when they were actually in my hands, I recognized that it was more difficult than expected, and I may get myself and everyone else killed. “Multi-tasking: Not Natural and Rarely Necessary”

On the trading floor, interns are often surprised at the sales & trading professionals ability to transact in millions of dollars of securities, in between a casual conversation on a different topic. It just doesn’t seem very difficult, but the level of nuance and acquired knowledge is deceptive.

The new employee sincerely believes that he is capable of performing the same “simple” tasks, before actually taking a go of it. Then reality sets in…

I still laugh when I think of the comment that one of my kids made after visiting the trading floor:

“Dad, what you guys do is easy…you just talk on the phone all day!” True, but a bit more complicated.

The skill level of any professional should not be underestimated. What appears to be delivered effortlessly, took years of experience and repetitions to develop.

In Malcom Gladwell’s best-selling book “Outliers”, he concluded that it takes 10,000 hours of practice in order to master a skill. 10,000 hours!

If you practiced 24/7, 365 days in a year, you would accumulate just 8,760 hours of experience. Keep going…

Often times, the “young guns” get frustrated with the slow development path in skilled professions, based on their natural talent, enthusiasm, motivation and eagerness. Understandably, they want to ramp-up quickly, and “do big things” like leading troops, negotiating deals, staring on athletic teams, running projects or getting rich quick.

However, there is a lot more going on then meets the eye.

It’s like the old “duck swimming in the pond”. Just because it is gliding effortlessly across the peaceful pond, doesn’t mean that it’s webbed feet are not paddling away below the water. The duck is a graceful swimmer because it is naturally suited to swim, enjoys the water, and has worked hard since birth to keep up with mama.

To develop the level of skill that preduces the appearance of effortless execution, one must identify worthy goals consistent with natural strengths and interests, then demonstrate an eagerness to learn from the people who have mastered the skills and profession.

Most importantly, one must put in the hard work.

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