Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hirschhorn, 8 Ways to Great

Doug Hirschhorn is well known as a trading coach. In his latest book 8 Ways to Great: Peak Performance on the Job and in Your Life (Penguin Books, 2010) he presents eight principles employed by all top performers. They are: find your “why?”, get to know yourself, learn to love the process, sharpen your edge, be all that you can be, keep your cool, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and make yourself accountable.

The book is short (128 pp.), but I think its brevity helps drive home its messages. And they are, it should be noted, messages directed first and foremost at traders. So the reader who is a trader doesn’t have to extrapolate from advice given to business leaders or athletes.

There’s an abundance of sound advice in this book. One that should resonate with traders is that “two sharp edges are better than one.” As Hirschhorn writes, “Gaining a competitive advantage is like having a two-edged sword, and you need to keep both of them sharp. One edge is internal—knowing what unique skills you bring to the table. The other is external and comes from gathering knowledge that makes it more likely you’ll succeed.” (p. 45)

For those who suffer from analysis paralysis: “Words without action are just philosophy. And, as my old college baseball coach used to tell us, ‘You can’t sit there with the bat on your shoulder and “look” one out of the park. Sometimes you actually have to swing the bat.’” (p. 93)

All in all, a quick, worthwhile read. As always, the challenge is to act. Just as a person doesn’t lose weight by reading a diet book, so he doesn’t achieve peak performance by reading a book on becoming great. It’s comfortable to read a book, uncomfortable to stretch beyond one’s sometimes self-imposed limits. Yet we can all profit from being reminded now and again of what it takes to get beyond the middling.

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