The Power of Practice (Mastering One Thing)

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Amar Pandit

A respected entrepreneur with 25+ years of Experience, Amar Pandit is the Founder of several companies that are making a Happy difference in the lives of people. He is currently the Founder of Happyness Factory, a world-class online investment & goal-based financial planning platform through which he aims to help every Indian family save and invest wisely. He is very passionate about spreading financial literacy and is the author of 4 bestselling books (+ 2 more to release in 2020), 8 Sketch Books, Board Game and 700 + columns.

A few weeks back, I watched a basketball match between Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden, Boston.

While the match was super interesting, during the breaks there were some performances by cheerleaders and different athletic(gymnast) groups. All of them were phenomenal but one was absolutely stunning.

Here goes a short video of that performance.

What did you feel after watching this video?

Wasn’t this outstanding? 

I have no words to express this coordination, and precision. It’s amazing and kind of unbelievable.

Shouldn’t these guys be playing the basketball match instead of the Boston Celtics team who lost the game that day?

One might be tempted to say “yes”, but the real answer is “no”. This is because while these guys are masters of this act, they are not professional basketball players. And they are certainly not playing a match against an opponent. 

On the other hand, will the basketball team be able to pull something like this off. The answer is likely “no” and it’s not just because of their body structure and size but also because the basketball players are not playing this game. They are playing a different game. The key point here is that each one is the master of their own game.

However, I wish to make a deeper point here.

The gymnasts have practiced this act again and again and again. They have practiced this at least 10000 times. They have absolutely mastered their craft through persistent practice. They have mastered it to such an extent that they are now able to showcase their work at some of the most prestigious events in the world. They have made a Nano Niche for themselves, and boy are they brilliant on that front. You know the answer to this one.

Bruce Lee had said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick, 10,000 times. It’s such a powerful quote that I have read it some 1000 times.

Isn’t the above quote live in action in the video? I am sure you have seen examples of such things in various dance and other talent reality shows. In fact, you would have seen this not just in the world of art and entertainment, but in every profession. Even a world class surgeon of any speciality displays this. A lawyer displays this and so does a financial professional.

What can we learn from the above example?

1. We don’t need to do 100 things. We don’t need to be a jack of all trades rather jack of all niches.

This means we don’t need to cater to all kinds of clients. Retail, Affluent and HNIs. We don’t need to cater to everyone from the age of 21 to 80. We don’t need to cater to pretty much all professions or vocations.

The reality of our business is simple. We don’t need thousands of clients to build a valuable firm.

A firm in the US has just 2 clients but more than a few billion dollars. I am not suggesting you go that path, but the reality is that you can build a very valuable firm with simply 100 ideal clients. The key words here as you know are “ideal clients”.

2. We need to be the master of 1

We need to be better than anyone else in this one area. We need to be the best in that space. 

You don’t need to do 10 different types of products. You simply need one valuable process, and you need to be the best at that.

I have written extensively on the kind of skills a real financial professional should learn practice and master.

Mastering one area is the need of an hour for every professional.

There are simply too many “Me Too” businesses. 

I was speaking with the country head of a huge software company recently and I figured out that he was simply unable to understand the difference among banks, wealth firms, investment advisors, distributors, portfolio managers, and financial planners. It’s not surprising that he didn’t understand it, because most in our industry and profession don’t understand it. Even seasoned professionals in wealth firms and asset management firms don’t get it.

Earlier, there were geographical boundaries to protect your business from other firms and people. Thanks to technology, direct and immense (and intense) competition, mediocrity is no longer an option. We can hide behind it for some time but not for too long. 

Thus, it’s important to address these questions.

What are you best at? What will you specialize in?

How are you better than anyone else in that space?

The answers to these questions will determine your future.

3. We need to practice the basics every day.

In our industry, we keep looking for predictions and shiny objects (rather magic pills). But one thing we all know, Real Investing is Super Boring. It’s almost like watching a garden grow from almost nothing.

Likewise building a valuable business in our industry is also boring. It’s all about doing the basics, doing it over and over again (practice with real feedback) and mastering your craft. Your success will lie in your Mastery of just one area. Just so you know this is an ongoing process and as you don’t stop learning once you have become learned, so should you not stop learning (and doing the basics) once you have mastered your craft.