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The Area Under the Curve

In the neverending journey towards mastery of any endeavor, there are the inevitable peaks and valleys and the much maligned plateau, where progress seems to halt regardless of effort expended. I saw this phenomenon expressed in words first in the book Mastery by George Leonard (a much recommended and very quick read).

Reviewing a plot of my bankroll over the last few weeks, I saw this effect in sharp relief. It's been a bumpy ride and I've not been losing, but not winning either, the perfect plateau. Upon seeing this (and watching my hourly win rate decline in the process as I spend time breaking even), I was at first discouraged, until I saw something I hadn't noticed before — the growing area under the curve of my bankroll.

Now granted, this doesn't pay the rent, or even buy a beer, but what it does account for is arguably something even more valuable: experience. Sometimes just not losing is winning, and this is what the integral of success with respect to time appreciates.

Interestingly enough, calculus teaches us that if in that plot, bankroll is equated to velocity or simply speed, then what really matters, the distance travelled, is precisely that of which I am speaking — the area under the curve.

So while from the first-person perspective sometimes all you can see is zero growth, what a step back can often show you is that you are building a tremendous mass in motion, travelling great distances, simply by maintaining and standing by waiting for the next golden opportunity. So when times are tough, remember the slow and steady, keep working to improve, and keep building that area under the curve — the growth will soon follow.

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