I once met a guy who retired in his early 30s with well north of $20m in the bag.
His last job before retirement was that of a portfolio manager in an event-driven hedge fund.
A well-chosen career, combined with a few knockout trades and a well-negotiated remuneration package, and he was set for life – in a way that most people can only dream about.
It’s true that luck played an important role in his success. He certainly characterized it that way.
The real explanation, of course, lay elsewhere – because luck alone doesn’t explain a full ride at Harvard for a non-legacy, foreign applicant.
It also doesn’t explain an 800 score on the GMAT.
And luck certainly doesn’t correlate with the desire to take courses like introduction to stochastic processes and advanced methods in quantum field theory, especially if they aren’t on a pre-requisite list.
I mean, I know plenty of lucky people, but none of them have courses like these on their transcripts.
The more proverbial explanation is that, in addition to being incredibly intelligent, the future hedge fund manager also put in the reps. He just happens to have started all the way back in middle school.
Clearly, not all of us can be as foresightful.
But in order to reach any level of success, all of us will have to put in the reps.
Below are a couple of guiding principles that are worth keeping in mind along the way.
#1: It will take a long time, probably far longer than you expect.
Humans have an inherent bias for optimism – and an overwhelming desire for a shortcut.
Which, by the way, isn’t a bad thing. If it wasn’t for these qualities, we’d all still be living in caves and eating raw meat.
But progress takes time. As Morgan Housel once said, there are lots of overnight tragedies – but no overnight miracles.
It can take years and decades for your efforts to start bearing fruit. Thus, while it’s important that you stay patient, it’s even more important that you choose well.
Life is too short to spend it pursuing someone else’s dream or living up to other people’s expectations.
In other words, put in the reps – but make sure they are your reps.
#2: Enjoying the process is critical to the outcome.
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic swimmer of all time, with 28 medals to his name.
In aggregate, over his entire swimming career, he spent about three hours on the Olympic podium.
But to get there, he spent an equivalent of three full years in the pool – roughly 30,000 hours of training.
Imagine jumping in the pool today – and not emerging until August 2024.
In terms of the reward-to-effort ratio, that’s one of the least productive endeavors ever.
There isn’t a human being in the world with the requisite willpower to go through that kind of punishment for the (uncertain) sake of basking in the limelight for a few minutes.
Unless, of course, you enjoy the process.
Enjoying the process shifts the reward from distant to immediate, from uncertain to guaranteed.
It’s the most powerful lifehack you will ever come across.
#3: What you think you want and what you really want are often different things.
You think you want a chiseled body, but what you really want are high energy levels and good self-esteem.
You think you want to be a top performer at work but in reality, you are just looking for third-party validation of your efforts.
You think you want to be rich, but what you really want is the freedom to do what you want, when you want, how you want it.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter. I know many people who got into fitness for superficial reasons – but stayed for the right ones.
But in many other situations, not having a complete grasp of your desires leads to catastrophic decisions and leaves you at risk of being manipulated by others.
What Rajat Gupta thought he wanted was as much money as the hedge fund titans he was hanging out with.
But what he really wanted was to be accepted.
To do that, he risked one of the most illustrious careers in the history of business – and lost it all.
In other words, he was trying to use money to fix a non-monetary problem. A smart man like him should have known it was never going to work.
#4: There are many other things worth putting in the reps for.
Your intellectual growth.
#5: But what makes money is unique is its ability to compound.
Sure, other things compound as well.
Maintaining healthy eating habits or consistently getting eight hours of sleep a night makes an immeasurable difference when stacked up over years and decades.
But money is the only thing that will continue working for you even if you put zero incremental effort in.
Everything else in life – your skills, your fitness levels, your network, even your reputation – all of these things will eventually degrade if you happen to take your foot off the gas.
But not money. You can put money on autopilot, leave it to its own devices, forget about it for years and decades.
And instead of withering and dying, your money will flourish beyond your wildest imagination.
Thank you for reading – and good luck with those reps!
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14 thoughts on “Putting In The Reps”
I totally believe in consistency and putting in the ropes. Shame on RG. But he’s outta jail
now and still very wealthy!
I would say 800 on the GMAT is a lot of luck though. Being that smart is mostly genetic!
What is the guy doing now and how much do you think he’s worth?
Apparently Gupta has been on a bit of a redemption tour lately, I suspect we haven’t seen his last act just yet!
As far as my acquaintance, I haven’t spoken to him in the past few years. Like most freakishly smart people, he was actually quite awkward socially – I would never trade places with him notwithstanding all his money.
Suffice it to say that in his 30s, there was little to speak of when it came to friends/family/romantic relationships and all the good stuff that makes life really worthwhile.
Agree on the GMAT, though to be very honest I think doing well on standardized tests reflects the ability to… do well on standardized tests! (I had a pretty good score myself so this comment is definitely not out of jealousy)
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Hi there, I’ve been liking your content for a while! First comment 🙂
Research shows that standardized tests like SAT/GMAT don’t just measure test taking ability. They
are really IQ tests (cognitive ability), and IQ predicts several life outcomes. Of course, hard work would still be required, but a high IQ person with a high GMAT score might not even be aware of these causal mechanisms. And instead, might provide/believe a socially acceptable narrative of “Oh, I just worked hard.”
You are right of course, I was a bit sarcastic/snarky in that comment.
However, let’s not forget that the same person could take the GMAT twice and get a drastically different outcome. My score improved about 50 points between my first practice test and the real thing. Many folks see improvements of 100+ points once they do a proper prep course.
So I guess what I am saying is that while it does measure IQ, it’s very far from an objective measure. And it certainly doesn’t measure characteristics like persuasion or gravitas which go a long way in determining one’s success in life.
Many thanks for the kind words about the blog, very happy to hear you’ve been enjoying the blog!
I can’t imagine what having $20mil in net worth feels like in my early 20’s lol. Some people just have it all, huh,,,?
He was in his early 30s, but still very young indeed.
However, he certainly didn’t have it all – see my response to FS above.
Putting in the reps also applies to blogging!
As someone who’s been at it for 2.5 years, I couldn’t agree more!
Anything worthwhile takes a lot of work to get there.
Brilliant post. All true. You put in the reps to get a beauty like this one, that is for sure!
Cheers AR – am sure you know this first hand based on your experience building up a highly business from the bottoms up!
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Thanks for this immense post.
The last part of this post hit me hard where you talk about how money can compound and doesn’t require me to keep putting in reps in. And that’s quite true.
It’s almost like what we’re supposed to do is:
1. Put in the reps for all the intangible, important things in life.
2. Passively put money in the market and let it compound, while working on #1.