Following recommendations from several sources I read Moneyball recently. It’s a cracking account of how an underdog baseball team implemented a system to enable it to compete with far richer and more popular rivals on a shoestring budget. I probably don’t need to go much further into the background of the book as it’s been so widely popularised (and of course turned into a Brad Pitt film vehicle) but I took away a couple of key ideas that can be applied to our own lives.
- Question ourselves about everything. The Oakland ‘A’s questioned all the long established scouting methods and statistical analysis of players in baseball which were considered written in stone by most of baseball and decided that they (quite correctly) didn’t agree. This brilliant post goes into detail about how Elon Musk has been so successful in following his own similar process http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/11/the-cook-and-the-chef-musks-secret-sauce.html but to cut a long story short, just because “that’s how we’ve always done it” doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best way or that we can’t improve on it. On a personal level, we need to ask and be honest with ourselves whether we are doing things because that’s what everyone else does, or it’s what we’ve always done or whether we have actually given conscious thought to our activities and how and why we are doing them. Sounds simple but is actually difficult to put into practice and can be quite uncomfortable and eye-opening when we really think deeply about our activities and their methods and motivations.
- Challenge ourselves to be comfortable with being different. The Oakland ‘A’s knew that if they did what everybody else did, then they couldn’t compete. So they didn’t do what everyone else did. They were mocked and disrespected for their methods and player choices. But they carried on doing what they were doing anyway because they had faith that what they were doing was right. As sociable creatures we find it difficult to be different. But if we want to really make changes and improve our lives we need to get comfortable with the discomfort of being different. We need to own our choices, have our own reasoning for doing what we do and if it’s different from others then so be it. The reason that any successful person in any field stands out is because they are different. Obviously if they were the same as the other 99% of people in their field then they wouldn’t stand out. Conformity generally leads to mediocrity. I’m certainly not suggesting being different for the sake of it but like the first point above we need to be prepared to question everything that we do. I think that being different can be exercised like a muscle. We can start small and build up. It’s only a small thing but we know it feels uncomfortable the first time we turn a donut down because we want to lose weight when everybody else in the office has taken one. But if we keep doing it, it feels easy. Then we can move onto something bigger that we feel uncomfortable about, and keep building up.