BY TEGA ADEDA, CFA, EMERGING MARKETS TRADER/MUTI-ASSETS–Hardly a month goes by without someone asking me about trading and making “additional income” from the financial markets. To the last fellow who asked me, I said “You will need to dedicate about five years in developing the skills and you must be willing to absorb losses for most of the period”.
He was amazed at my response but thanked me for my advice, suggesting he may have to reconsider his position on trading because he didn’t have time to wait! His response surprised me. I hadn’t previously received such a response after giving advice on the time required to develop the core and necessary skills required in the markets. Having said that, a great deal of money can be made in the markets while the bad news is that there is no golden key, no magic formula to the spoils in the markets without the commitment in the form of time and effort.
Everybody knows that money can be made in most professions, but knowing and believing are chalk and cheese. Only a few people truly accept this concept, especially considering the widespread notion that “the grass is greener on the other side”. It is dedication and time spent honing one’s skill that leads to excellence. If you were to require major surgery, it is likely that you will not approve of a trainee doctor performing the procedure. The experienced doctor or specialist is usually the more desirable option. On the sports field, if there is an important match at stake, the coach will most probably deploy his most experienced players for the game.
In Orison Marden’s book, Pushing to the Front, he talks about “sticking to your aim”. He suggests that the constant changing of one’s occupation is fatal to eventual success. If a young man who has spent five or six years in a dry goods store, concludes that he would rather sell groceries, he will have thrown away five years of valuable experience which will be of very little use to him in the grocery business. By this token, he may end up spending large parts of his life drifting from one kind of employment to another, learning part of each but all of none. “A man may starve on a dozen half-learned trades or occupations; he may grow rich and famous upon one trade thoroughly mastered, even though it be the humblest”.
According to the MHMA Physician Compensation Report, the average neurosurgeon’s income is $775,965 while the top 10 percent make up to $1,229,881 a year, a figure that towers above the US median household income of $59,039. This income gap is also observable in other fields like law, sports and even finance, where the top-percentile are rewarded far above the average. What I really had in mind to tell my friend was that he would actually need a decade to get a good grasp of the financial markets, after which he could look forward to generating consistent income. After all, a brain surgeon spends between twelve to sixteen years in training, learning and gaining experience along the way before he is ready to step out. My intention wasn’t to turn him away from pursuing success in the markets. I wanted him to know that money can be made in most professions and not just in one, such as in the financial markets, which has a false supposition of ease about it. The deciding factors for the surgeon are the same for the trader, lawyer, engineer or sportsman – skill, time and chance are what take you to the heights of any profession.
Employers far and wide are always searching for the man or woman with the sharpest skill; but skills can only be developed through time. To be an expert in a field, experience must be gained along the way and this is where the power of focus and an unwavering aim comes to great use. When asked about his failures, the celebrated inventor, Thomas Edison, who is credited with inventing the breakthrough filament light bulb, is quoted to have said “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Obstacles lie along the way to specialization and are there to hone your skills and strengthen your courage, endurance and resilience. The importance of persistence can’t be overemphasized as this is one of the greatest principles of success. If you persist, you will almost always win.
Finally, opportunity comes equally to all men at different times and stages of our lives. When it knocks, you must be alert to both recognize and seize it immediately. One of the interesting lyrics from one of my nursery rhymes is “…take your time and work very hard, while the days are rolling by, an opportunity lost can never be regained…” When your chance eventually comes in your chosen profession, you will need all the luck in the world; but luck doesn’t drop out of the sky. Luck can be created through hard work and persistence, and the belief that if you water and mow your lawn and fend off weeds and bramble – your patch of green grass can be just as fine as your neighbour’s.