Jessica and I finally watched “Moneyball“.
Frankly, I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long to watch THE movie that catapaulted statistics into the limelight. Even with the long wait, I was not disappointed. Moneyball is right on the money.
As I watched, I thought that one of the most telling moments came early in the story, when Beane is sitting at the conference table with his collection of seasoned scouts, listening to them talk about players whom they think might replace the Oakland A’s star first baseman. It’s a chaotic scene, where the scouts are describing everything about the players except what matters. Beane becomes visibly more and more agitated as the scene unfolds.
In frustration, Beane intensely tells them that they have a huge problem. Worse, he says they are not even looking at the problem.
The head scout says, “We all understand the problem.” Beane asks him what the problem is. He gives one answer. Beane asks another scout what the problem is. He gives a different answer. Beane tells both that they don’t get it. The problem is that they cannot compete with the other teams if they play the way the other teams are playing. Then, he goes out to try to solve his problem. He succeeds.
When we are trying to understand a problem, our path to understanding can look like this. Even when we stumble onto the problem, we don’t realize it. Often, we don’t notice because we aren’t really looking at the problem.
Beane’s scouts did not understand the problem. Worse, Beane’s scouts each individually thought that they did understand the problem. Each scout understood “a” problem, but they lacked the courage and humility to look deeply into their real problem. They were more interested in practicing insanity — trying the same thing and expecting different results — than stepping back and looking at their results. They cared too much about what people said and too little about what the data said.
Over this past year, I’ve been presented with several tough professional challenges. I’m still not sure that I know whether I’ve handled them well or poorly. But, I do feel that I’ve begun to learn a lesson. It’s a lesson that is echoed in Beane’s observation. This lesson was stated almost a century ago.
The other night, I fulfilled a personal dream. Following the excellent instructions found on the Revolutions blog, I created this representation of 1.16 million data points! This map shows unemployment data by county. The data source is 2010 the census data.
How cool is that? One screen showing over one million data points!
My awesome wife and I respond differently to uncertainty. This artist brilliantly illustrates our two reactions in the picture. I easily juggle multiple plans. My wife looks longer before she commits, but she does not look back.
We’re a great team. In uncertainty, I grab opportunity and nimbly dodge risks. She avoids taking foolish risks and perseveres to make opportunity into reality. We love, trust, and encourage one another as we seek wisdom.
Wisdom enables us to adopt a measured, thoughtful, appropriate response to uncertainty. Seeking wisdom takes courage. Over the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about courage. Here is my working definition:
Courage is the worldview that strengthens us so we face the danger, fear, and sudden, unexpected changes we encounter in life, in activities, or in our surroundings with poise, confidence, and resolution.
Do we need courage to win? I think so. Our world is certainly uncertain. We know that storms will come. Courage helps us ride out storms without losing our love of the sea. Without courage, we choose to stay on the sidelines and lose the chance to win the victor’s prize.
Can we measure courage? Possibly. How about mental toughness? Quantitative analysis of mental toughness is increasingly measurable. Mentally tough individuals act according to their convictions despite opposition.
Mental toughness doesn’t mean inflexible rigidity. Quite the opposite. It measures flexibility and responsiveness as much as strength and resiliency. Mental toughness means developing internal and external consistency before, during, and after the moment of truth.
If we need courage to win and if we can measure courage by mental toughness, then we have a victometric. When the pressure is on, who consistently shows courage and mental toughness? Ceteris paribus, they have an edge.
Bonus: this 3 page article has helped me bring these principles into my everyday work. The Pursuit of Courage, Judgment, and Luck