As a career coach, I get these questions over and over: 

  • How can I retire by age 40?
  • Which career path gets me to 7-figure paycheck most QUICKLY?
  • How do I QUICKLY know key drivers of different businesses?
  • How do I generate actionable stock ideas QUICKLY?
  • Which book is the BEST for learning about this sector?
  • How do I QUICKLY become a great communicator?

I am probably not the first to tell you, but if I am, thank me later: THERE IS NO SHORTCUT. It’s consistent hard work, it’s accumulation of compounded knowledge, it’s resilience during setbacks, it's the curiosity and a desire for lifetime learning.

This week I discuss how to master things the right way. 

No “Instant” Success

Let me tell you a story about Picasso’s napkin: Pablo Picasso is one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. One day, Picasso was doodling on a napkin in a restaurant.  A woman approached him and offered to pay whatever Picasso felt that napkin was worth. Picasso asked for $10,000. The woman answered in shock: “But you did that in 30 seconds! (there are variations of the story but the takeaway is the same).” Picasso replied “No, it has taken me thirty years to do that." 

What's the takeaway of the Picasso story? You have seen it in a motivational post (below): No one is an overnight success. Most just don’t care or know about their journey.

Malcolm Gladwell famously laid out the requirement to achieve excellence in a discipline is 10,000 hours (for those interested, that's from his book) - a much more conservative estimate than what the clueless perceives to be instant success. 

I see online articles about “instant success stories” all the time: “How a 30-year Old Makes $100,000 a Month Working Only 3 Hours a Week!” Only after reading the article, you understood the person spent many years building his online presence to achieve that lifestyle. 

Yes, you can try that path, too. One, you are not guaranteed to replicate his success. If everyone can, no one will have a corporate job and we will all be sole proprietors. Two, even if you are making real progress on your own business, things take time.

Media is incented to get your attention with such title and most readers are not delusional, but a subset will draw the wrong conclusion: “I can be a YouTuber and achieve instant fame.”

Internet is one of the greatest inventions in my lifetime so far. It democratized information and made everyone’s life easier. But you are not an exclusive beneficiary of the internet – the internet made it easy to get information out there FOR EVERYONE. That means everyone can have a newsletter, a social media account, a podcast, a YouTube channel and so on. But there is only one Litquidity (finmeme Instagram), one MrBeast (YouTube), one Patrick O'Shaughnessy (finance podcast). All that is to say: the method of distribution has changed, but the game remains hard.

For example, becoming the next super YouTuber like MrBeast, PewDiePie, or Casey Neistat is very hard. Simply posting contents on YouTube (again, we all can do that) doesn’t mean millions will follow you tomorrow. You have to be good, unique and solve real problems. In a start-up, you need product-market fit. In social media, you need the content-audience fit. And most cannot achieve the critical mass to sustain a lifestyle from social media. 

So again, there is no overnight success. But I can say there are commonalities amongst successful people – they work hard, are obsessed about excellence and constantly improve themselves. In the case of Jimmy Donaldson (aka MrBeast), I don’t know why a 13-year old (that's when Donaldson started YouTube-ing) is so obsessed about YouTube, but that’s why he became the world’s most-followed YouTuber at the age of 24 because he is obsessed and constantly worked hard (watch the interview below for yourself). That leads to my next big point. 

The Only Secret to Success

Hard f**king work. That’s the not-so-well-kept secret that people don’t want to hear and definitely don't want to implement. So with in mind, I answer the following questions based on my journey self-teaching how to analyze stocks:

  • How do I QUICKLY know key drivers of different businesses?

By having looked at enough stocks and losing enough money in the stock market. For you though: When you are research a company, learn as much as possible about the company and its industry. Have a thorough, first-principle understanding of everything. Consume all the public filings about your target and be self-starter in finding credible sources of information incremental to the public filings. 

Model every business from scratch. Don't use a template. Every business has idiosyncratic nuances that could matter (or not but you don't know beforehand). You will miss things if you plug numbers into a generic template.

You might counter: “My senior analyst just stress tests a model she got from a sell-side analyst.” Well, she has looked at enough businesses to know what matters. She can save time. You cannot because you are inexperienced. Be humble and put in the work. Over time, you will become faster by filtering out noises. 

  • How do I generate actionable stock ideas?

I discussed misconceptions on stock idea generation in a prior article: You have to do the damn work on each company because every company has a different story.

Over time. you develop pattern recognition and recognize how a new situation fits into your "idea buckets" where you have previously made or lost money.

  • Which book is the BEST for learning about this sector?
There is no best book. Consume whatever you need in whatever quantity to get to the point of expertise (my reading list IS a good start). Even legendary investors are still learning because the world is constantly changing. You really have no excuse to be taking shortcuts. Are industry primers helpful? Yes, but I highly doubt you will become an expert after only reading one primer.
  • How do I write concisely and clearly?
By reading a lot and then writing a lot. I can’t tell you when you will become a better writer, but I guarantee you will improve if you consistently work on it. 
  • Which career path gets me to 7-figure paycheck most QUICKLY?

Most who ask this question want to get rich quickly without working hard. I am sorry, but money doesn't grow on trees. 

Some paths offer you quicker time to wealth, but they are riskier, higher stress and longer hours. There is also no guarantee you can add value in that path. 

For example, for entrepreneurship, vision or idea is easy, execution is not. Selling everything online and making electric vehicle are simple ideas theoretically. But Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk made them happen at scale. Go ask them how operationally complex it is to make Amazon and Tesla happen. They deserve the wealth and fame for their execution as much as their vision. Very topically, Brian Armstrong and Sam Bankman-Fried both executed on the vision of a crypto exchange but the outcome is vastly different (at least based on the information we have as of now.) 

The wealth and publicity are the fun part, and that is what the delusional and clueless fantasize. Hard work is not fun, and the picture below of Jeff Bezos in 1999 should give you a glimpse.

"Overnight success" is in reality a result of compounded effort to build and grow. The experts enjoy the process and just make it look effortless. The media is never reporting on the process because sleepless nights, stress, and setbacks don’t attract readers / viewers.

Finally, life isn't fair - hard work does not guarantee success. The clueless and delusional consider those who failed to be losers. To the ones who have the maturity or have been through the same journey, they understand the failed ones are at least courageous enough to try their best and underwent a positive personal transformation.

My goal is to convert some of the clueless and delusional to someone who "gets it". I will leave you with one of my favorite motional speeches by Denzel Washington: KEEP MOVING, KEEP GROWING AND KEEPING LEARNING. I will see you at work. Happy Thanksgiving!

If you are interested in my take on building a career in any profession, particularly in the highest finance of investment research, I have two other great articles for you:

Don't know where to start to research and value a company? Have trouble generating stock ideas and differentiating on stock pitch? I can help you. Let's meet! 

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