Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Great Work

Mark Iverson’s latest post is the inspiration for this one. I concluded yesterday’s post with a call for anyone to seriously consider the full ramifications of giving up a career to go full-time gambling. Note that I said ‘career’ rather than ‘job’. One could argue that a career and a job are both work, but there are differences, and I'm rather assuming that a career might be, if not something hugely enjoyable, at least something tolerable, while a job might not be. There are not too many gainful activities that I would describe as truly enjoyable outside of the world of professional sports or the arts, and even those might not be so enjoyable after a while unless you were one of the few making huge amounts from it which would certainly help.

One of the problems with giving up a career is that it can be very difficult to pick it up again after a break. My background is in IT, so my views on this are biased towards that industry, but a lot can change in a couple of years. In IT, skill sets become obsolete quite rapidly, and whereas the company you are with will (one hopes) re-train you at their expense in new technology, if you are on the outside, the cost of training is not only significant, but it is also hard to get a position when all you have is ‘theoretical’ experience. Even if you are lucky enough to be able to step back onto the ladder, the loss of a couple of years can mean going back to square one in terms of holiday entitlements, profit-sharing awards as well as seniority – since you are now behind others who have not taken a break.

This is not a problem for the unskilled, or for those with a trade of course, where it is much easier to pick up where you left off, but my feeling is that the modern professional trader / gambler is more likely to come from a ‘career’ background than from the unskilled or semi-skilled background. I am sure there are exceptions. If you believe the newspapers, the 1980s London Financial Markets were supposedly full of barely literate financial traders / dealers yanked straight off the street markets in the East End, thrown into the financial markets, and burned out by age 29 incidentally, but my feeling is that for the most part, an aptitude for trading is more likely to be found in someone with career options than not.

Mark talks in his post about the hours we work, and yes, work hours are hours that are not our free time, but there is a big difference between ‘work’ in an office and ‘work’ on an assembly line in a Chinese factory for Apple, for example. The latter really is work, but for many, a twelve hour ‘working’ day (including travel time) is really a lot less than that. Some people even get to write blog posts from their desk, read on their commute, (if they have one – working from home is becoming ever more common, even if not every day), have social chats by the water-cooler or coffee pot, take a lunch hour and breaks, adjust their hours to suit themselves and have access to personal e-mails and Internet while at ‘work’. Getting approved for a mortgage is a lot easier with a ‘proper’ job too, and as you move up the ladder, your income steadily increases too - something that is definitely not assured with betting, and quite possibly the reverse is true.

So I guess it all depends on where you are coming from, and where you want to get to. If I had a 12 hour shift in a Chinese factory, or a ‘job’ that I didn’t enjoy, my views on full-time trading would be a lot different, but the value of investing time in your future is perhaps something only fully appreciated when looking back in life.

As Mark mentioned in his post, Steve Jobs did indeed say this about work:
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
I’m just not sure a solitary life spent in front of a monitor betting on sports is what Jobs had in mind by ‘great work’, (he was probably thinking more Mona Lisa), and I’m not sure that I would ‘love what I do’ if I did it full-time anyway. I enjoy trading, most of the time, because it’s a challenge and because it's a way of relaxing from my real job, but would I enjoy it if the price of failure was no food on the table, or knowing that my income was at the whim of a PLC who could choose to stop doing business with me at any time because some accountants decided that I’m not good for their business model?

3 comments:

Webbo said...

Great post Cassini. I think the professional gambler dream appeals because people desperately want to be in control of their own destiny, doing something that they enjoy and gambling is something that anyone can try. I'm pretty sure the reality will never match the dream... well except maybe for a few intelligent bot-makers out there!

Mark Iverson said...

Thanks for the mention Cassini - had a feeling you might respond to my post :-)

I can see your viewpoint and a normal career is one that appeals to most due to the 'safety' it provides, but after my mother died of cancer when I was 25 and after my son was diagnosed with his heart conditions it gave me a wake up call.

For me sports trading full time is a 5 year plan (4 years left) and after that who knows? If anything comes along to disrupte that in the meantime (enhanced premium charges, law changes etc) then I'm making plans as I go to provide myself with some breathing room.

Have you read the book I mention in my post, 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad'? It discusses the fear behind the 'no food on the table' outlook better than I could do justice and is well worth a look in my opinion.

All the best,

Mark

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