Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Book #7)

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A baseball team, of all things, was at the center of a story about possibilities and the limits of reason in human affairs. Baseball of all things was an example of how an unscientific culture responds, or fails to respond, to the scientific method – Michael Lewis

How could the poor Oakland Athletics be as competitive as the rich Yankees? That’s the main question Moneyball try to answer. Michael Lewis went inside the Oakland Athletics for the whole 2002 Major League Baseball season.

The Major League Baseball is a kingdom of inequalities. On one side you have the rich teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. On the other side you have teams like the Oakland Athletics. What was achieved with that team was near unbelievable. They had one great tool named “Billy Beane”.

He took control of the team with the idea of changing things. He hired Paul DePodesta, a Harvard graduate in economics, as his assistant. We can see here a break with the old tradition of hiring only people with “baseball” experience. Beane went down the road. He took all the old “false ideas” of baseball out of his team’s management.

The main idea was that opportunities can be created for the people who resist irrationality. Beane started to see the Athletics as a real business and he went for efficiency. He introduced sabermetrics (empirical analysis of baseball) inside his team.

This book isn’t just about baseball. It is a story of adapting or dying. Without Billy Beane turning the tides for the A’s who know what would have happened with the team (remember the Expos?). Imagine not having enough money to sign free agents or not being able to keep your own good players. Most people would have thrown the towel being in Beane’s shoes. Here are the words of Billy Beane:

No matter how successful you are, change is always good. There can never be a status quo. When you have no money you can’t afford long-term solutions, only short-term ones. You have to always be upgrading. Otherwise you’re fucked. – Billy Beane

This book showed me that innovation is always possible. It’s not because things were done in a certain way for the last 100 years, that nothing will ever move. It’s the perfect example of thinking outside the box.

It was one of my favorite non-fiction in a long time and among my favorite ever. It is as entertaining as it is useful. I’ve learned a bunch of things in that book that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. Read it if you have any interest in sports, business or trading. The movie with Brad Pitt is good, but this go way deeper in the subject.

Overall: 10/10
Fun Factor: 9/10


Micheal Lewis is also the author of  Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. If you want to know more about him, visit his website.

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Start and Ignite

No matter what we say, starting is essential. Without the start, nothing will get finish. Look at all great works around you, they most likely comes from a small first step. That little step is most often the most difficult. We have ideas. A lot of them. But, fear and resistance keep us from going forward. I’ve had the fear of the start for a very long time. I was always waiting for the perfect moment. Their will never be a perfect moment. I couldn’t handle the idea failing. In Poke the Box, Seth Godin explains that pattern:

Today, not starting is far, far worse than being wrong. If you start, you’ve got a shot at evolving and adjusting to turn your wrong into a right. But if you don’t start, you never get a chance.

Did you know that the game Minecraft was started as a sideline? I can bet that Markus Persson didn’t know that one day he would sell it for 2.5 billions dollars. Without starting, the game would have never happened. Nobody has a clue of what they start will be a success or failure beforehand. We can’t predict the future. One thing we can be sure about, starting will increase your chance of success. On the other hand, waiting will decrease them.

You must repeat to process of starting and failing on and on. Worst case scenario? You will fail. Nothing dramatic about it. We are feed with stories of success, but we rarely see the thousands of attempts that lead to success. There is no magic formula. A dynamite will never explode if you don’t commit to start and ignite it.

Against the Grain: How the UFC Used a Bad Image to Achieve Triumph

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So long as men praise you, you can only be sure that you are not yet on your own true path but on someone else’s.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I don’t have to make an introduction about the UFC. Most people nowadays know about that brand. Today, the UFC would be worth around 3.5 billion $ (or more) making it among the most lucrative sport franchise in the world. They host fights all around the world including Japan, China, Australia, Brazil and United Kingdom. They have major TV deals around the world, most importantly a deal with Fox in the United States. UFC is now mainstream. Whatever we can say about the actual star power problem and the performance drug crisis, UFC is getting bigger year after year. They own the majority of the “mix martial art” market around the world.

It all began with Ultimate Fighting Championship 1 in 1993. It was the idea of Rorion Gracie (a jiu jitsu expert from Brazil) and Arthur Davie. It was launched with the backing of SEG. They thought about making a tournament where experts from different martial arts disciplines would face each other. A discipline would be crown the best at the end of the event. The tournament featured experts in kickboxing, karate, wrestling, boxing, sumo and jiu-jitsu. The first event was a success. People were asking for a second tournament. It was a surprise. It was supposed to be a one shot thing. They didn’t even know they were about to create a sport.

It was different from today. There were no weight classes (not before UFC 12). Fighters could wear clothing traditional to their discipline. No time limit. No judges. No gloves. Almost no rules. The referee was only present to stop the fight after a knockout or a submission. The UFC had to choose states that didn’t have athletic commissions to avoid regulation. Their was an aura of clandestinity to those fights. SEG used that to its advantage. They promoted the fight as brutal and “no holds barred”. Using the shocking aspect of violence helped being talked about. Talk good, talk bad, but talk about it. You can guess what happened next.

Critics started to emerge from everywhere to attack the UFC. One of them was United States Senator John McCain. He claimed that the UFC was a kind of “human cockfighting”. He asked states governors and cities to forbid UFC to held fights. It worked and UFC started to have a lot of opposition. It was banned in 36 states. It was harder and harder to organize events. Cable companies started to refuse the broadcasting of the pay-per-views.  At that point, UFC needed to get into an adaptation mode. They milk the cow as much as they could. They surf on the popularity of the brutality aspect. But changes were necessary to reach a broader audience. In 2001, UFC was bought by a group led by Frank and Lorenzo Ferttita (which will become Zuffa). Lorenzo Ferttita said later that he knew UFC wasn’t worth that much in itself, but he was after the image.

“What you don’t understand is I’m getting the most valuable thing that I could possibly have, which is those three letters: UFC. That is what’s going to make this thing work. Everybody knows that brand, whether they like it or they don’t like it, they react to it.” – Lorenzo Ferttita

From that point, the sport evolved to what it is today. A deal was done with the Nevada Athletic Commission, which gives the UFC the chance to held fight in Las Vegas. It crossed the line to become mainstream. Today, it’s still a brutal sport, but the changes of rules make it much more legitimate. As you can see, UFC own a big part of its success because they didn’t follow the trends. They didn’t care that people would talk bad about it. You can see examples of brands that go against the grain today, one of them being Tesla. We can see that Elon Musk is trying to make shift in the automobile industry. Uber is another brand that is making a lot of noise recently. They want to change the current model of personal transportation service. It’s a total war with the cab business. Like the UFC, they both want to bring something new to the table. By wanting to bring changes, they fuel the army of dissidents. On the other side, the more they talk about them, the bigger the become. Being the bad guy isn’t always a bad thing in itself.

Learning From Losers: Why They Matter As Much as Winners

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I went to a seminar a while ago on the invitation of a friend. A guy was speaking about winning in life (and other bullshit self-help stuff). He said that he never lost at anything, that he was first everywhere he went. Okay good, a seminar by a narcissist, things could be worse. At one point that charlatan said that we should never read about losers, that they don’t matter. That was too much, I felt anger rising in me. I had to calm down. I completely disagree and here is why.

It’s like saying that we shouldn’t learn about Napoleon I because he lost in a crushing defeat at Waterloo. Same goes for the Tsar Nicolas II in Russia that was the victim of the October Revolution. Anyone remember Spartacus? The gladiator started a civil war before being defeated by Crassus and his Roman legion.

What about people who learn from defeat. I’ve talked about GSP bouncing from his worst defeat into victory. We can think of Donald Trump who has filed for corporate bankruptcy four times and went back on his feet each time. I could go on and give you 100 more examples.

I think we should never look down at people who have tried, who have risk it all. We should avoid the tendency to see things in black or white. Reality is more complex than that. Don’t look down at the defeated. They could give your most valuable life teaching.