Grit. The 10,000 hour rule. Struggle porn.
These ideas became popular because they tell you that if you work hard-er, success will come your way. It doesn’t matter that the original ideas behind these themes are much more nuanced.
It feels like, if you aren’t successful (enough), you just aren’t working hard enough. You are to blame.But there is way more to the story.
Luck matters. Hard work matters. As James Clear writes:
We cannot control our luck—good or bad—but we can control our effort and preparation. Luck smiles on us all from time to time. And when it does, the way to honor your good fortune is to work hard and make the most of it.
But there is more to the story. Paul Graham in “The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius” notes there are three important components to success, one of which isn’t talked about enough. Graham writes:
Everyone knows that to do great work you need both natural ability and determination. But there’s a third ingredient that’s not as well understood: an obsessive interest in a particular topic.
Graham’s idea has implications for everyone. Children, geniuses and those of us more established in our careers. He writes:
But the most exciting implication of the bus ticket theory is that it suggests ways to encourage great work. If the recipe for genius is simply natural ability plus hard work, all we can do is hope we have a lot of ability, and work as hard as we can. But if interest is a critical ingredient in genius, we may be able, by cultivating interest, to cultivate genius.
Our interests all look different. Your thing is not my thing. And that’s okay. Our passions differ.
Dr. Brett Steenbarger at TraderFeed notes that many people claim to want to be traders. Yes, they want to make money in the markets, but trading isn’t an overriding passion for them. Steenbarger writes:
Purpose breeds passion. Passion without purpose is mere emotion and drama…If there isn’t an overarching point to your trading process, trading will eventually feel pointless. That is not a formula for success.
Research shows purpose to have all sorts of positive physical and mental effects. Steenbarger writing at Forbes notes:
In the world of finance, success has been attributed to many factors, from discipline and emotional awareness to the fit between our investment approaches and our personalities. All of these, no doubt, play a role. Might it be the case, however, that success is more likely to result when our market activities are part of a greater sense of purpose?
There’s more to success than hard work and natural skill. Passion and purpose matter. The great thing is that passion and purpose can be cultivated. If you haven’t developed them already, here’s hoping that you discover them both.