Friday, December 08, 2006

>Genius Or Mastery

Susan Polgar walked into her chess club in Queens, NY and decided it would be a special evening for the men and boys gathered around the various chessboards. She stated, "Tonight, everyone gets to play me." And so it was, each opponent received five minutes per move to her one minute. Slowly but surely, she beat every single challenger. Ms. Polgar is no ordinary player, she has earned the designation of Grandmaster. There are approximately 950 Grandmasters in the world and the first female Grandmaster. There are only 11 female Grandmasters in the world. One of the other 11 is her sister Judit. They have a third sister Sophia who is also a champion. How did this happen?

It helps that they had a father who was a famous Hungarian psychologist, Laszlo Polgar, who published a book called "Bring Up Genius!" After studying hundreds of great intellectuals, Laszlo identified one common thread. This was early and intense specialization in one particular area. This is also the theme of Tiger Woods. Laszlo thought the public school system would do no better than create a bunch of mediocre achievers so he decided to homeschool his offspring and taught them chess from a young age because he felt it would do wonders for their confidence.

Anders Ericcson is a professor of psychology at Florida State University who spent 20 years developing a case for Laszlo's theories on genius and came up with a few of his own. I don't know if you would call it genius, maybe mastery is a better word. Ericcson argues that "extended deliberate practice" is the true key to success, not any innate skills. "Nothing shows that innate factors are a necessary prerequisite for expert level mastery in most areas."

The only exception would be in sports where size is a factor in athletic achievement. Ericcson interviewed 78 German pianists and violinists and his research revealed that by age 20 those who reached mastery had practiced approximately 10,000 hours or 5,000 more hours than a less accomplished group.
He argues that unless you are dealing with someone like Mozart or Einstein, it's the hard work that makes all the difference in the world.

Ognjen Amidzic is a neuroscientist from Switzerland. He was once an aspiring chess player but reached a plateau by age 23 and quit. He devoted his life to figuring out what went wrong. He studied the brains of Grandmaster chess players as well as highly trained amateurs like himself. His conclusions were very interesting.

==>What he found was when Grandmasters play chess they access areas for long term memory and higher level processing is activated.

==>When amateurs play they only use short term memory.

==>What he discovered was Grandmasters have committed anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 patterns to memory. These people have a gigantic hard drive of information they can retrieve automatically to come up with the right play.

His research suggests chess titans may be born with a tendency to process thoughts through their frontal and parietal cortices, the part of the brain responsible for longer term memory.

What his research does not reveal is whether anyone can develop this tendency as his research on older players suggests they haven't developed their frontal lobes to the same degree.
But how many people are actually permitted to develop the way Laszlo Polgar raised his children? Amidzic's research also suggests that when amateurs take in information, many times they are only relearning the same things over and over without improvement.

Lazslo saw to it that he
attacked areas that needed improvement to make his children into the champions they are.

The source of this information comes from the August 2005 issue of Psychology Today, "The Grandmaster Experiment," by Carlin Flora.

What I'm getting out this article is that mastery is something we can learn. We must be willing to put long hours into any discipline. I don't care if it's karate, piano, chess, accounting, engineering, acting, dancing or trading. I'm not talking about going on a roll of hard work for a few days, weeks or months. You have to dedicate years.

What disturbs me most about the trading game is the late night infomercials that claim they can turn you into a winning trader after a weekend seminar. At the show in Las Vegas there were any number of black box software program proprietors which claimed that all you had to do was press a button and you'd be successful. Sorry, folks, I'm not buying that nonsense.

What might be the tipping point of this research is the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza from "What The Bleep" fame. He has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt the brain forms new neuro transmitters when we learn new activities or practice new habits.

When we give up habits like smoking those wires in the brain shrivel up and die.

So it's not out of the realm of reason to think that with the proper tools and environment certain areas of the brain can become more developed over time.

But really, how many people are willing to devote 10,000 hours of intense study to a new skill? Not only do you have to dedicate years to the process, whenever you hit a snag in your development you have to work on it to the point where you actually figure out what you did wrong so you can advance to the next level. If you aren't doing that, you've got the definition of insanity.

In conclusion, I believe that success in financial markets has a direct correlation to your commitment level, the amount of time you put into it as well as the time you spend fixing attacking your weakest link. If you are already doing it and getting the results, great! Keep doing it. If not, if you are honest with yourself, you'll know why you aren't getting the results you desire and you know what you need to do about it.

Edited By Jeff Greenblatt

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