CHA STUDENT BLOG:  This month’s blog is written by Chang’s Hapkido Academy student Andrew Kennedy.

I work in the investment business and over the past while I have become increasingly interested in something called behavioural finance. It’s a discipline that meets at the crossroads of psychology and finance and seeks to understand the behavioural or “cognitive” biases – for example, excess emotion, fear, overconfidence or insecurities – which most of us unknowingly use and influences how we form judgements and make decisions. There is on-going debate about how and why these biases evolved but what does seem clear is that the human mind operates with a wide variety of potential distortions and excessive emotions which, if not properly understood and kept in check, can repeatedly lead us to make poor decisions or choices. At the centre of it all is the notion that the biggest problems we all have to overcome are usually ourselves.

Did you know that when we are 99% certain about something we are only correct about 75-80% of the time? Or that 80% of drivers and 94% of university professors believe their respective driving and teaching skills are above average? Or that 85-90% of us think our futures will better than the average person? All of the above are examples of something called “Optimism Bias”. Did you know many of us have a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions? That’s called “Confirmation Bias”. Or how about the tendency some of us have in claiming credit for our successes while blaming our failures on factors beyond our control? It has a name as well: “Self-serving Bias”. And the list goes on and on: for example, most of us become paralyzed when faced with too many choices (“Choice Paralysis”), we tend to think in retrospect, that our past choices were correct (“Choice-supportive Bias”) and we are generally much more prepared to avoid losing something than risk gaining something else (“Loss Aversion Bias”).

Now, at this stage you might be thinking what this has to do with Hapkido. Well, my interest in behavioural finance arose from some of the lessons I have begun to learn in Hapkido; namely that true development and improvement in almost any aspect of life depends on constant, deliberate, focused practice and letting go of our own preconceptions or ego.

While virtually all of us function with some degree of in-built biases, one way to overcome them (or at least minimize their influence) is to deliberately practice skills and applications designed specifically to modify or overcome our natural tendencies. Which is exactly what we do every day in Hapkido class where we follow a process in which we constantly practice skills designed to improve our physical and mental performance, all under the thoughtful guidance of a gifted and generous teacher. And the common feature in all deliberate practice – whether trying to improve our investment decisions, preparing for a rank test or trying to be a better partner or friend – is focus, repetition, openness to constructive feedback and a willingness of let go of our own expectations.

Deliberate practice is different from simple repetition. Deliberate practice can be difficult, often tiring and requires constant mental commitment. And it also involves a large dose of humility since we are constantly forced to confront what we in fact do not know. Interestingly, the more I practice Hapkido, the more I am comfortable in accepting how little I know, how much I still have to learn and also how this recognition flows into other parts of my life.

I once read a definition of expertise as the movement from unconscious incompetence to  conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence. Well I am certainly not very far down that road but at least now, every time I’m corrected by my instructor, Master Parlour, or asked to do something yet again, I embrace it since it gives me another opportunity to practice the process of letting go of myself.

The power of deliberate practice