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Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World | Book summary |

What is a stock market trader?

I would say she is a generalist. Markets do not offer narrow, repetitive patterns. The trader should focus on learning as much as possible about the larger market environment, not just a few patterns.

To attain excellence in any area, – music, sports, law, medicine, whatever, – you have to specialize, and specialize early. The wisdom is that you need to spend 10,000 hours on your specialization to become an expert.

In this book, David Epstein says that becoming a champion in any area does not need early and narrow study. In fact, it is quite the contrary. In the most rewarding areas of life, generalists are more likely to succeed than specialists.

There are areas where specialists can do better – tasks that have a narrow set of patterns, are rewarding of repetitive practice. When only a few steps need to be mastered, specialists will do better as they acquire their skills through repetition and practice.

David gives the example of Golf where a few strokes, done by an expert create winners. In sharp contrast are tasks where patterns are hard to identify and feedback is delayed / uncertain. Tennis is an example where generalists will do better, with the game offering less patterns and more of broader skills.

But is it possible to become a generalist by doing nothing? The answer should be obvious: work, study, practice are essential for success. Thus, we should strive to do what we like to do: if our field is a specialization, then be a specialist. If our field requires a broad spectrum of knowledge, work, study and practice for the broad knowledge. But, work and practice we must, whatever our work is.

My notes are based on a review by Jim Holts in the New York Times.

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