Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.
Reacher has survived, in part, because of his good decision-making. Let’s take some snippets from The Midnight Line and see how.
Have good systems. Reacher mostly traverses the country in buses. How does he choose where?
“At the (bus) depot he did was he always did. He bought a ticket for the first bus out, no matter where it was going. Which turned out to be an end-of-the-line place way north and west, on the shore of Lake Superior. Fundamentally the wrong direction. Colder, not warmer. But rules were rules, so he climbed abroad.”
Whether it’s wearing or eating the same thing or acting and choosing one way, good decision makers systematize certain things. Reacher’s system is designed to fight temporary sentimentality. Though unattached, each book includes some romantic interest. Reacher created a system to avoid his weaknesses and keep him on the right long-term path.
Notice the details, like how tall is Jimmy Rat? When you’re Jack Reacher, with hands as big as catchers mitts, you win most fights. But Reacher doesn’t enter fights blindly.
“Reacher stayed where he was. The bike (motorcycle) the new guy had glanced at was one of the three with silver runes. It was a huge as all the others, but the footrests and the handlebars were set a little closer to the seat than most. About two inches closer than the new guy’s, for example. Which made Jimmy Rat about five-eight, possibly. Maybe skinny, to go with his name. Maybe armed, with a knife or a gun. Maybe vicious.”
Paying attention to the details Reacher knows he’ll fight seven, not eight guys. He’ll know who Jimmy Rat is once he goes in the bar. He knows he’ll be armed.
Like his compatriot in the land of fiction, Sherlock Holmes, who admonished Watson for not knowing how many stairs led to their residence, Reacher looks for important details.
Keep options. Reacher’s observations of the motorcycles lead him inside, then back out again, this time not alone.
“The seven guys fanned out in a semicircle, three on Jimmy Rat’s left, and three on his right. Reacher kept moving, rotating them the way he wanted, his back to the street. He didn’t want to get trapped against someone’s rear fence. He didn’t want to get jammed in a corner. He didn’t plan on running, but an option was always a fine thing to have.”
Gene Kranz wrote about the Apollo 13 disaster that we saw in the movie, “Generating options was our business, and options remained as long as there was power, water, oxygen, and propellant.”
Avoid emotional decision-making. Soon after orienting himself among the bikes and the bar, Reacher wanted his opponent to take action. If they rushed him, he’d lose. But he educates the reader, on how to fight seven guys. You don’t. You take down one and fight six. The another to fight five. He needed them to come one at a time, he needed them lathered.
“He (Reacher) said, ‘Then I guess I was just born lucky. This is like winning the slots in Vegas. Ding, ding, ding. I got seven big girls all in a line.’ Which got a reaction, like he wanted it to. Like he needed it to. Motion was his friend. He wanted moving and momentum. He wanted them raging and blundering. Which he got.”
Seeing the world The Midnight Line is about Reacher’s attempt to find a character named Sanderson. In one scene he tells her sister:
“It gives us a wounded Marine officer and a wounded army officer in the same place for six months. Such a thing could go either way. They would have been the worst addicts in the history of the world. Or they could have been doing better, with each other’s moral support.”
Reacher would agree with Hans Rosling when he said, “If you have strong opinions which are not based on facts you’re going to have problems sooner or later.” Reacher thinks like Phillip Tetlock; chances of this and chances of that.
But ambiguity is hard to explain. Here’s the Wharton Moneyball crew expressing the challenge:
Liquidity. Two-thirds through the book Reacher finds Sanderson. She’s an addict. She wants to stay where she is – at first. But she can’t. Her dealer will confess and the authorities will come.
“Sooner or later he’ll say the wrong thing. It would be prudent to assume the clock is already ticking. We might want to revisit the timescale for getting out of there. No point still being around when the supply cuts off. Definitely no point still being around when the Feds show up. I know how hard this is for both of you, but those kind of problems would make it much worse.”
Investing plans and non-fiction best-sellers both need liquidity. Financial Crises all have a liquidity component. Owners need to sell to buyers. Reacher needs to leave before the Feds arrive. As they say, timing is everything.
Lifestyle creep. Reacher’s addict needs pills to keep going. There’s a good sequence toward the end of the book about getting a few more. For her it’s pills. For other people it’s lifestyle creep. When talking about getting the addict help Reacher said:
“You can get IV’s at home. With a certain kind of doctor. Your sister will find one. The kind who will also advocate a very long slow glide path, when it comes to dependency issues. The kind who might want to maintain your current habit for at least another year, while you settle in.”
Sanderson has so much to look forward to, except the loss of her pills. David Ogilvy put it this way, “Winning a new account is a heady experience, but losing one is pure hell.”
Thanks for reading.