Sunday, July 25, 2010

Success and Convexity Part 3: Generating Positive Convexity

This is Part 3 of Success and Convexity. I will begin to cover the factors that can encourage “positive convexity”.  How can we accrete higher and higher levels of success in our lives? Our careers? How can we use the randomness of the Universe to produce positive outcomes for us, and for those positive outcomes to produce further outcomes?

Factors Generating Positive Convexity

1. Hard work
Renowned golfer Lee Trevino has said “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. He’s right. Recent research has revealed that skilled participants in athletics are more prone to have “streaks” (consecutive positive outcomes). A “streak” would be an excellent example of positive convexity. Life presents random events, but the ability to capitalize on those events is represented by the hard work, “deliberative practice”, etc which goes into skill-building.

Hard work on a challenging topic, which involves out passionate interest, also may generate iterative reflection.  As a young composer (35 years ago), and as a trading system programmer now, I would wonder:  “when is this composition finished? Am I done ? How do I know?” That’s because once a creative person looks at their work, they frequently make changes based on how the work looks to them. This process can go on and on. In fact, The process is not limited to an individual work, but may last a lifetime, as work upon work generates new “answers”, new music, new algorithms, new solutions.

And that is exactly the positive convexity we are looking for. If we can generate a current of interest that carries us along through our work, this concentrates our focus and allows expertise to build on top of expertise.

2. Exploratory behavior
Luck (or what we currently call “luck”), is correlated with exploratory behavior. Whenever you are “out and about”, whether at a bookstore, an event, a family gathering, a class, etc you are bringing your skills and goals with you. The fact that "you are you", tends to “filter” the randomness of your encounters, as you respond to the outside world’s inputs, oriented, as you are, toward your own goals and intentions. You “collapse the wave function” of the world by allowing the world to impinge upon your particular mindset. You literally “see” different “worlds” from other people. Therefore, the more experiences you seek out, the more often a small percentage of those experiences will be relevant to your goals and ambitions.When I am driving with a particular friend of mine, I am always startled that she sees so many new restaurants, stores, etc on the very streets that I drive through every day. She simply “expects” different things from the world, and as a result, she gets them.

We'll continue our series on generating positive convexity in an upcoming post.