Michael Lewis writes really good non-fiction books targeted at men that read a lot like fiction due to his ability to weave facts and a story. I’ve read a few and recommend them all (including Liar’s Poker-about bond trading on Wall Street in the 80’s, The Blind Side – about Michael Oher and evolution of the left tackle, The Big Short – delves into a cast of unknown characters that contributed to the 2008 subprime meltdown and and Moneyball). Moneyball is a book about baseball and statistics, and how doing regular, boring things frequently you can compete and have success. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, the basic premise is that Billy Beane, the manager of the Oakland A’s, one of the cheapest teams in baseball, found a way to be competitive with those spending up to four times the amount by focusing on those the others don’t value as much.
In baseball, a “five-tool” player (hitting for average, hitting for power, throwing, fielding and base-running) is a rarity and highly sought after, so much so that high-school players playing against high-school talent are often picked higher than better established college players due to their “potential.” No other sport can generate the quantity of statistics that baseball does, because so many situations exist that can be tracked and it’s an individual sport.
While most general managers chase that elusive five- or at least four-tool player based on measurables (height, weight, speed of fastball, speed), going after unproven commodities that especially can hit for power, Beane knew he couldn’t. His A’s were at great disadvantage, operating with the third lowest payroll at the time of the writing. Instead of going after the big name free agents, he assembled a team of misfits that flew under the radar due to poor measurables. What he focused on were simple statistics, especially focusing on things like on-base percentage [OPS] (how often they got on base from hits, walks and hit-by-pitches) or on-base plus slugging (basically taking that on-base percentage and adding in the factor of extra-base hits to the mix) or maybe a pitcher that despite a slow fastball, had some unmeasurable qualities that resulted in low opponent batting average. Beane also tended to put more stock in college players than high-school potential, and often overruled his scouting staff who drooled over the bigger/stronger/faster players. He’d likely draft a midget baseball player that no one else would touch if he had an OPS of .400. While others are looking for that home run hitter, he was looking for the guy who got walked a lot, or who got walks and singles a lot, even if he wasn’t as skilled in other areas. As a result, looking at simple stats and getting those singles/walk type players, he’s done much better than expected given his salary limitations and his approach has changed the way teams approach team construction. The A’s recently extended his GM contract through 2019.
So where am I going with this? Walks and singles aren’t sexy, but doing them consistently can eventually lead to big wins, even against those who have much more inherent advantages. So many people are not happy with their situation or relationships, but don’t know how to correct them except for swinging for the fences. Perhaps they are looking for that perfect job to come available on Monster, or what you think are big changes like going to the gym and come out swinging for mucho sex. Sometimes swinging big can work, but most often it doesn’t. The Moneyball approach is much better. Gaining small skills and improvements, hitting singles and getting walks every day, can one day lead to HUGE payoffs, even if you don’t see the vision today. Chipping away at that debt, versus being overwhelmed and doing nothing. Going to the gym and chipping away at your body, and staying with the grind even if you don’t see improvements right away (the “before” and “after” pictures are recommended so you can see the difference after a few months).
In your personal life, instead of waiting for the lotto to hit, gaining small skills from things you find passion in can very well one day yield to that dream career, that new life mission or even that sexy marriage you so want. Keep your mind open to new possibilities and the universe will surprise you. What’s funny is sometimes totally random skills and passions will somehow come together into something magical. Maybe that passion for Paleo, cooking and coding can result in a new business, cookbook and app that more importantly help people (hello: Nom Nom Paleo). Or your love of videogames, lego’s, pop culture and fitness will connect with people and your passion (NerdFitness). Don’t be afraid to try something new even with no apparent payoff.
Instead of waiting for your invention of windshield wipers that move to your music or your “jump to conclusions mat” to really take off, build things little by little each day. I’m a self-taught guitar player, homebrewer, yoga practitioner, weightlifter, author, soon-to-be boxer, PTO-helper, engaged father, and sexy-ass husband with much more on the horizon. How do they all go together? Hell if I know right now. Some smokey visions on the horizon that I can’t quite make out, but I am not sure I can handle 8 hours a day in front of a computer monitor for the next 25 years. Changes don’t come overnight, the skills are slowly gained and improvements and respect from others earned. At some point you may need to swing for the fences, but it is better if you’ve gotten on-base before or have runners in scoring position as you’re chances of success raise significantly.