Gregg Popovich

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

No panaceas. Before his thirty-minute talk, Popovich said, “I don’t have any secret plays. It’s about organization, discipline, and relationships with your players.”

Magic wand solutions are lies. Brent Beshore said the biggest secret about business is that there is no secret. Instead, “do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.”  Ben Horowitz wrote to use lots of lead bullets rather than search for a silver bullet. The only panacea is a lot of hard work, and that’s not really a panacea at all.

The only panacea is a lot of hard work, and that’s not really a panacea at all.

No egos. The San Antonio Spurs are known for their success and their culture. Both come from limited egos.

“The fiber of your team is the beginning of everything that you do. We want players who have gotten over themselves.”

“When you amass enough character on your team you can handle someone that might be a little off the mark in one-way shape or form because he follows the example.”

That applies to the coaches too.

“I don’t care where an idea comes from. You have to be comfortable enough in your own skin to realize that an idea can come from anywhere

Alton Brown said that he tries to be around people smarter than him so he has to “fight to keep up with the brilliance of everyone else.”

Marc Andreessen said:

“Naturally as we go through life we accrue beliefs about how the world works, beliefs about causes and effects and beliefs about patterns that we’ve seen. I try as hard as I can to be as ruthless as possible in shedding the old beliefs and leaving them behind. They are so rarely predictive of something new.”

Ego is deceit, humility is honesty.

Soft spots. Popovich blames ESPN for the state of basketball. It’s too many three-pointers and dunks. “It’s like the carnival,” said Popovich. Even though he hates it, “I’m not stupid.”

Popovich has a soft spot for another form of basketball. That’s what he’d like to coach. But soft spots are bad ideas in competitive fields.

Meb Faber has a soft spot for betting against dividend stocks. However, “I can’t imagine a less popular fund than going on CNBC and saying ‘We’re going to avoid dividend stocks.’ My god, people will just run for the hills.”

Daryl Morey had a soft spot for big guys who play tough. Scott Fearon had a soft spot for HoJo hotels.

Soft spots are places where the world you want diverges from the world that is.


Argue well. “R.C. Buford and I can tell each other what we think and then go have a beer together and not worry about it.”

Good organizations have this kind of culture. Ken Burns has it when he makes movies. Phil Jackson had it when he coached. Jeff Bezos had it during the early days of Amazon.

Mohnish Pabrai said that Charlie Munger suggested he do this in their first meeting. “He told me that it’s very important for an investor to have people to talk to,” and “When God tells you to do something, you do it. What you do by talking to people, not on your payroll is you get rid of vested interest and conflicts.”

Decentralized commend. Popovich said he’ll call timeouts and talk with the coaches first. This lets the players have a moment. Sometimes they don’t even need him.

Decentralized command works because the participants understand a situation best. Alex Blumberg runs Gimlet this way. Charles Koch runs Koch Industries this way too. Melanie Whelan said that SoulCycle aims for this too, telling their staff:

“Here’s the format for the class but you’re free to lead it how ever you’re inspired. What’s meaningful in Seattle is different from what’s meaningful in Coral Gables.”

Finite and infinite games. Popovich has no goals. “My goals are basic and general.”

“It’s ingrained in those guys that it’s a journey and the joy is in the process. The joy isn’t the final culmination but the journey is what you’re proud of.”

“The goal for us has been to be the best prepared and healthiest team we can be by playoff time.”

It’s hard to win a game with a finish line. Life is about more than basketball says, Popovich. Life is about answering the essential question.


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Ray Dalio

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

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Ray Dalio started his book tour for Principles and first up was a chat with Tim Ferriss. Here were my favorite quotes.

Be Different. Out performing, according to Howard Marks, means being both different and right. Different things are sometimes mistakes.

“I’m a professional mistake maker. Being an entrepreneur or being in the markets requires one to bet against consensus and when one does that a fair amount of times you’re going to be wrong a fair about of time.”

That’s actually good, says Dalio. Just make sure the missteps don’t kill you. Patriots coach Matt Patricia said, “we talk a lot that before you win you have to learn not to lose.” Good decision making is like good skiing; fall down as you try new things to improve but don’t go off a cliff.

Fifteen uncorrelated assets said Dalio is the “Holy Grail of investing.” Finding them takes work.

The best clues come from out of sample data. Look for things that hold over time and space. Cliff Asness said, “If you give me enough data I will find you something that has worked in the past – but it might be total gibberish.” But out of sample data is “very calming because it makes you think there’s a much smaller chance that you’re just lucky.”

Argue well. About his first loss Dalio said:

“In retrospect, it really was the best thing that happened to me because it gave me the humility that I needed to become more successful. It shifted my attitude from thinking ‘I’m right’ to asking myself ‘How do I know I’m right?’ That opened my mind a lot. It led me to look for people who disagreed.”

“Triangulation of great people is an excellent way of raising one’s probability of making a good decision.”

“To me, it’s a weird world that there’s a phobia about making mistakes and knowing one’s weaknesses. Mistakes are part of the process and everybody has weaknesses.”

‘Bridgewater culture’ makes headlines because it’s unusual. But many good organizations have health disagreements. Ken Burns, Ed Thrope, and Phil Jackson all argue well. Good culture means finding facts and eliminating egos.

Curiosity. Dalio is intensely curious. To use the words of Peter Theil in Zero to One, Dalio believes there are secrets to find.

“Many surprises come because things that happened as surprises never happened in one’s lifetime before. So it’s advantageous to look beyond one’s life to understand how the world works so that one can learn all the rules of how the world works. That’s the beauty of it.”

“Basically everything is ‘another one of those’… the key to success is to identify which ‘one of those’ it is.”

“I’m very curious. Curiosity is a big motivator.”

“The world has got much too much to offer relative to my capacity to digest it.”

Dalio learns by talking to other people (arguing well), making mistakes (but not permanent ones), and reading books. He tries to go through books quickly and separate the main ideas from the digressions Only if a book has good “flavor” will he take time to chew on it. He suggested to Ferriss: Einstein’s Mistakes, Sapiens, The Undoing Project, The Upside of Inequality, The Serengeti Rules,  From Bacteria to Bach and Back, The Lessons of History, River Out of Eden, and  The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Evolution is a principle Dalio uses for decision making. If you haven’t read On the Origin of Species, said Naval, you should. A modern extension of Darwin’s book that I enjoyed was Matt Ridley’s The Evolution of Everything.

Curiosity explains Dalio’s expression, don’t pick your battles, fight them all. This idea comes from a curiosity as to why things are happening. “Little things are symptomatic of bigger things,” he explained.

Believability weighted decision-making. Rather than use opinions to make decisions, Dalio wants facts. “The idea that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion,” said Danny Kahneman, “was a California thing – that’s not how we did things in Jerusalem.” Dalio agrees.

“There’s such a bias to think that just because you have an opinion that it’s valuable.”

Bridgewater has “believability weighted decision making.” It’s a three step process.

  1. “Put your honest thoughts on the table. A lot of people are hesitant to do that, they keep their honest thoughts back.”
  2. “Thoughtful disagreement.”
  3. “If disagreements remain you have to have meritocratic ways of getting past that disagreement.”

That meritocratic way is everyone votes on an iPad but some votes count more than others. Domain expertise means more sway. This works because everyone buys into doing things this way.


 “Psychology is a big deal in the markets.”

“Taking the emotions out of it is a real plus.”

“It’s not like you buy something and from that point forward it goes up.”

Wes Gray said that he likes to plan in System 1 so not to be overrun by System 2. Choice architecture is Richard Thaler’s term for nudging behavior. Dalio isn’t prohibited from going against his models, but he created a system where that’s harder to do. As Thaler explained, “because we are dealing with humans rather than Econs, they sometimes need help.


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NFL 2017 #1

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Mike Lombardi talked with Tate Fraiser about the preseason and first week of the NFL season. Here are some notes about how these ideas apply beyond football.

1/ The rest-stress balance.  “The Redskins were one of those teams that went to training camp to stay healthy and they didn’t look like they were ready to play.”

“The quality of the football is going to get better as we get going because in the preseason the teams aren’t getting ready for the season, they’re just trying to stay healthy.”

Brad Stulberg gave an interesting interview where he talked about a stress-rest balance for improvement. Success comes from compounding, Stulberg said, and it’s better to design a plan with activity-recovery periods.

This is what John Urshel did when he was in the NFL. Urschel would play games on Sunday, attend (remotely) M.I.T. classes on Monday and Tuesday, practice hard physically on Wednesday and Thursday, and prepare mentally on Friday and Saturday. Urschel’s pattern fits this rest-stress pattern.

2/ Headwinds, Tailwinds, penalty-winds. “Cleveland looks like they played great defense in the game but you factor in 144 yards of penalties, that’s a lot of ground you have to make up to get first downs.”

Investors weigh this question too. Rather than ask if a defense is good they’re wondering about a company, and instead of penalties, it’s a bull market.

Jack Schwager said, “If you’ve done well in a ball market all you can assume is you’ve been long during a bull market.” This is what makes Intelligent Fanatics  so compelling. They’re like football teams that win despite penalties.

3/ Alpha erosion. “Teams have shown who they are and where they play people. How the Giants utilize Evan Engram. How the Cowboys utilize their personal. That’s all been declared now so defensive coordinators can get a handle on what’s going on and offensive coordinators can get a handle on what’s going on. I think you’re going to see a more match up conscious game. After the first week, you do have some tendencies. You have declared what you’re going to do. The quality of football will get better because of that.”

Offseason edges will soon be eroded. This the theory on Wharton Moneyball as to why Aaron Judge’s home run rate has declined. Pitchers know his tendencies. Now it’s up to Judge to improve again.

Daryl Morey saw alpha erosion as the Rocket’s draft board became less unique and more ubiquitous. Ed Thrope said, “any edge in the market is limited, small, temporary, and quickly captured by the smartest or best-informed investors.”

But new edges spring up. Leigh Drogen said his data edge will last for maybe another decade, but like cars in a train, more will come. “There will always be new data sets and there will always be new heuristics and inefficiencies that humans operate on relative to the data sets.”

4/ Coaching is a skill. “When Al Davis was first doing his thing in the NFL, players mattered the most, coaches didn’t. It was one scheme, man to man, two backs in the backfield. The game was really simple…But when video came into play everything started to change. The game became more complicated.”

“When Al was watching players and doing his thing in the sixties and seventies there wasn’t that great differentiation. Everybody was running basic schemes so the coaching pool didn’t really matter.”

The two-jar model is a theory that says outcomes equal skill plus luck. Michael Mauboussin writes that if you can lose on purpose it’s a skill heavy domain.

Football outcomes have lucky moments, where the ball bounces a funny way.

But it’s skill based too, with a growing influence from coaches.

5/ Playing left handed. “Wade (Phillips) has done a really good job of matching up and making you play left handed. Good defensive coordinators make you play left handed.”

Connor O’Shaughnessy said that current data bears this out about tennis. The best players in the world don’t hit winners so much as they don’t hit losers.

Understanding this was a turning point for Andre Agassi. Brad Gilbert coached Agassi through this change. After one of their first practices, Gilbert said, “Sometimes the best shot is a holding shot, an OK shot, a shot that gives the other guy a chance to miss.”

6/ Culture. “The special teams coaches set the culture of your organization…if you want your team to be all in then everybody should be all in and the players should play some part of the kicking game. That develops the all-in mentality”

Jerry Kaplan explains culture:

“Companies are not conscious in the human sense, but each one nonetheless has its own personality…The culture may be explicitly acknowledged as a credo or mission statement, but more often it exists as a n unexpressed set of accepted procedures, practices, and behaviors that may at times be at variance with the professed goals. This underlying code is not visible in inventories or income statements, but it is the soul of the company.”

“These characteristics are not created by fiat. They are not mandated, manufactured, or bought. They arise out of a natural process that reflects the personalities and desires of the founders, economic conditions, the available labor pool, and cultural attitudes. And that’s why the first few hires are so critical.”



Thanks for reading, I’m mikedariano.

Ken Burns


Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Know that Ken Burns effect on Apple computers? He trades his name for equipment that he then donates to non-profits. But a Mac with the Ken Burns Effect doesn’t make you Ken Burns.


Burns is interesting because he’s looking for things that are true. That’s what we’re all doing. Patrick O’Shaughnessy and David Gardner talked about how investing is like journalism. Many investors point out that writing is a type of thinking.

Whatever the field, being curious about new things is a successful path. Here’s how Burns does it.

First, get the idea. How does Ken Burns pick his projects?  “The flip and glib answer is that I don’t pick them, they pick me.”

After a day of editing a WW2 battle scene Burns went to sleep then, “I woke up and thought, ‘We have to do Vietnam.'”

“I don’t pick subjects because I know about them. I pick subjects because I want to know about them…Everything comes with a blizzard of new things you learn.”

“It’s a gut feeling. It’s the chemistry that happens between friends. You’ve got a lot of ideas — 60, 70 film ideas — but then every once in a while, one drops from your head to your heart and you go, “Gotta do that one.” You sort of add that to the queue, and then it just becomes a matter of finding the bandwidth and figuring out who the collaborators are.”

The common theme to the ideas is their appeal to Burns. He does things that suit him.

“You have to know who you are. There’s a kind of ultimate Socratic thing: Who am I? What am I interested in? What’s my strength? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?”

“I have no problem starting my day. Coffee is not in my diet. It’s the other way around. I have to figure out how to turn off the machine at the end of my day. That’s my biggest problem. There are lots of things to do and not enough time to do them.”

This raison d’etre created the Ken Burns style. There are eight elements to this. Orally there is the voice of god narrative, the first person voices – like actors reading diaries,  sound effects, and music. Visually it’s live cinematography, live interviews, newsreel footage, and still photos. The idea for using photos came from Burns’s early experience with photography. He wanted to reframe their use. He used the photos to zoom, pan, and animate.

The eight elements aren’t equal. Burns tries to minimize re-enactment sequences. There’s nothing that ruins a battle between fatigued men like a fat soldier. Burns’s Lewis and Clark documentary was four hours long with two minutes of re-enactments.

Once he gets the idea Burns adopts an agnostic curiosity. The Vietnam project – that Burns promoted in 2017 – took ten years to make.

“Most people think American history is just a series of presidential administrations punctuated by wars and that gives you a fairly superficial handle on things. It’s much more complicated than that. The bottom up view that we’ve always tried to adopt delivers you much more complexity and undertow.”

Burns wants true love. He wants people to know the full history. It’s a warts and all approach. It’s not easy. The binary approach of good/bad, won/lost, zero/one is easy but wrong. “It’s completely childish. There’s nothing in life that suggests things are so crystal clear.”

We have to get past what Burns calls the ‘sanitized Madison Avenue perspective.’ There’s irony in history. There are winners with vices and losers with virtues.

Burns tries to “triangulate” to find these stories. Like in navigation, distance helps. The middle east conflicts are too recent to get a good perspective on, says Burns. Time has to pass first, hence his work on Jazz, baseball, prohibition, the national parks, and Vietnam. Time also filters out biases. It reduces our identity footprint.

Of course, biases will remain. “We had no thumb on the scale, we had no ax to grind,” Burns said about the Vietnam project, “Obviously, we’re going to be who we are and try to learn what baggage we brought into it.”

You get past baggage by being curious. You’re curious when you ask a lot of questions. There’s no best question said, Burns. Rather, good listening and following serendipity are the most important facets for gathering facts. “We employed scholars who knew what happened and we were interested in saying what happened. With them come arguments but arguments aren’t the same thing as facts.”

It’s a lot of hard work.

“I’m in a medium people think is glamorous and only a small fraction of it is. It’s mostly a lot of hard work.”

“A lot of people are drawn to film for its apparent glamour and don’t realize it’s really hard work.”

“Once you know what you want, getting it requires perseverance. I’m sure there are a lot of more talented filmmakers than me, with really great ideas, who just haven’t followed through.”

Location helps.

“Plus I don’t live in Los Angeles or New York City. I live in a tiny village in New Hampshire, which permits us to do the deep dives, to do the necessary research and keep the sanity in the course of a 10-plus-year project.”

Once he has the facts he starts the story. This isn’t a recitation of the encyclopedia. “In the stories, I like to tell, the good guys have really serious flaws and the villains are very compelling. My interest is always in complicating things.” Burns is like the sculptor who takes away bit by bit.

“I live in New Hampshire. It takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Boil boil boil. Evaporate evaporate evaporate. That’s pretty much what documentary filmmaking is for me.”

Like syrup making, story making is messy.

“I’d like to liberate you from sequential production. That is to say, begin here and do this and do this. You research you write you shoot and you do post production. We never stop researching and we never stop writing.”

“The researching isn’t done by a legion of researchers, it’s done by us. We read the books. We talk about it. Four or five people on any given production. We’re going to the places. We’re finding the facts. We’re writing them down. We’re engaging scholars. It’s a process that never ends.”

Within that cycle, debris jams the gears.

“Every film is a set of millions of problems. I use the word problems not so much pejoratively but as resistances or frictions that you just have to overcome.”

And his team debates what they should do.

“Everybody screws up, including me…It’s a question of process. We’re all going to try something. We can have disagreements that can be passionate, but they’re not loud and vociferous; they’re not personal and angry. There’s a generous spirit of collaboration.”

If these documentaries are different, so what! The Civil War documentary was originally five hours long, one hour for each year. It expanded to eleven. Who is going to watch 11 hours of this? people whispered. Forty million people it turns out. History is wonderful and learning it doesn’t have to “be like Castor Oil” or high school classes.

But don’t try to copy Burns.

“Every working documentary filmmaker I know has gotten there through their own unique path that’s the good news and the terrible news – there is no career path.”

What I liked so much about Burns’s approach is that it’s similar to others we’ve looked at.

  • You are your competitive advantage so there’s no point in imitating.
  • Good things take time.
  • There will be Resistance.
  • There is no playbook.
  • Uncertainty is okay.
  • The journey should be (partially) the reward.
  • Good teams argue well.
  • Biases are omnipresent but we can mitigate them.
  • Tool experts are more important that expert tools.
  • Where you work matters.


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Meb Faber

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Meb Faber joined Patrick O’Shaughnessy to talk about podcasting, having a jobby, and his forever fund. Here are the notes.

1/ Design your behavior.

“So many people talk about the illiquidity in angel investing as a negative but in reality, I think it’s a massive positive. We all know the behavioral challenges of running a mark-to-market portfolio. I saw a stat the other day that the average Robin Hood account user checks their balance ten times a day. All that does is create horrific behavior. But if you buy an investment that you then can’t sell even if you wanted to … and you’re more thoughtful before you enter than investment.”

Wes Gray told Patrick that he tries to plan in System 1 so that he doesn’t act mistakenly in System 2. That’s the advantage of angel investing.  Dan Ariely said:

“I believe in design. One of the major lessons from social science is that we make decisions based on the environment that we are in. This means that given a particular environment, we have less free will than we would hope, but it also means that if we take design seriously, we can design the world in a way that is more compatible with our skills, and more likely to lead to better decisions.”

Design helps with Grit and passing the marshmallow test. (However…see end). 

2/ Reframe for effect.

“I think the only way to learn this world (angel investing) is to do it and get some skin in the game, maybe even viewing it as an education expense given the high likelihood that these things won’t pan out.” – O’Shaughnessy

Our idea of the XMBA is that you can get an education from eXperiences. Charles Lindberg learned to fly by delivering mail in crappy planes. Ty Warner learned to sell by hitting the road. Before Ken Grossman brewed beer he ran a bike shop. Elizabeth Gilbert rolled around in the world, wrote, and repeated. Ben Carlson said, “For people trying to understand how the market works, for how business works, you can do a lot worse than dabbling in stock picking when you’re first starting out.”


Opportunity cost? 


3/ Default No.

“One of the reasons I’m a quant is at my core I’m an optimist and maybe even a little bit gullible. One of you guests said that you have to start at No and move to Yes.”

We all start with a default choice, wrote Richard Thaler, might as well make it a good one. A Default No keeps us out of things. Pat Dorsey told Patrick to give yourself a chance to say no to opportunities. Default No works when you need to find only the best ideas. “The path to superior results,” wrote Seymour Schulich, “is to accept only the best ideas.”

However, this No will overfit. Marc Andreessen said, “all of the mistakes I care about are mistakes of omission.” Bill Gurley made this mistake with Google. He knew it was a great product and that the founders were smart. What he failed to do was ask, ‘what can go right.’ Jason Calacanis said this about Airbnb. Which brings us to…

4/ Soft spot or sweet spot?

“The hardest part for me is launching something people actually want, just because I want it doesn’t mean it’s awesome…I can’t imagine a less popular fund than going on CNBC and saying ‘We’re going to avoid dividend stocks.’ My god, people will just run for the hills.”

Meb doesn’t care for dividend investing. He’s not alone, but he’s in the minority. Dividends are bad is his soft spot but to find a market he needs a sweet spot. Knowing the difference is powerful.

Daryl Morey knows the difference, saying he can’t just draft tough big men. Scott Fearon knows the difference too, don’t open a gumbo restaurant in Marin County. Do your best to know yourself.

5/ Be different.

“It has to be something that isn’t out there already.”

There’s a whole post about the advantages in Being Different. Meb doesn’t want to launch a low-cost fund to compete with Vanguard or another me too fund.


However, some things are better off not designed. Emergence is the subject of Matt Ridley’s book The Evolution of Everything and it’s shifted my thinking quite a bit. 

What’s a jobby? It’s something not quite a job, not quite a hobby. You can tap dance to work but make sure it’s work.

Alex Blumberg 3

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Alex Blumberg was on James Altucher’s show to talk about being a leader at Gimlet and making good podcasts. Here are the notes.

1/ Be naive. “You don’t even know how hard the thing you’re thinking about doing is.”

Not knowing how hard something will be is important to starting something hard.

2/ Play infinite games. About difficult times Blumberg said, “The trick is recognizing this is a sucky feeling, there’s nothing you can do about it but try to fix it.”

Gimlet was founded in 2014 and they still don’t have all the kinks worked out – and they never will be. Blumberg has begun the business game where the finish line always moves. Brent Beshore calls it a “daily knife fight.” It’s Groundhog Day.

You’d better love the game. For a long time Andre Agassi didn’t. He had to answer the essential question, why am I playing this game? before he enjoyed it. Phil Jackson coached players to “Forget the ring, what matters most…is the courage to grow.” Scott Adams uses the systems and goals framework to describe this.

The best games have no finish lines.

3/ The lightbulb moment. About starting a podcast company. “It seems obvious that this is something that needs to happen. It felt very clear from where I was sitting. The idea didn’t feel risky. It felt like I was in a unique position to see it and that I just needed to act.”

People in the weeds find spots for future flowers. Jenn Hyman said that Rent the Runway:

“was a lightbulb moment for me because I realized I was having a conversation with my sister about the experience of wearing an amazing dress. Of walking into a party feeling self-confident, feeling beautiful.”

Joe Peta hurt his back and looked at baseball statistics to have his lightbulb moment. Thomas Russo advised to “listen for things that surprise you.” Patrick Collison had his moment when he wondered why it was so easy to sell things on App stores but not the internet.

4/ Be different. “Our theory about what kind of podcast we want to launch is, if we’re going to try to compete in a space where we know people are already listening, we want to come with an approach where we can differentiate ourselves…there are other areas like sports shows and we haven’t figured out a way to crack into sports yet.”

To Be Different is important.

5/ Decentralized command. Blumberg can’t make every decision. “I don’t have the right information to make every decision so you have to set up a process for who’s making a decision and how they are making it.”

The invested people have the relevant information. During Hurricane Matthew, Waffle House didn’t order a shut-down. Why?

“We’re a 24-hour restaurant, so oddly enough shutting down is a big deal for us,” Waffle House’s Vice President of Culture Pat Warner tells “When it comes to making the final decision, we let our operations team on the ground, like individual restaurant managers, make the final decision based on local conditions. But our job [as corporate officials] is to give them all the support they need to stay open.”

Jocko Willink would point out the dichotomy in that. Leaders must understand the micro and macro views. Charles Koch said:

“The way we look at it is that certain things need to be centralized…But there are other things where the people at the plant have better knowledge…we’re very centralized on some things and decentralized on others. It’s not perfect. It’s a constant balance and rebalance and reworking and trial and error.”

6/ Certain skills. “It’s really rare to find people with the right mix of temperament, skill set, and desire.”

The two-jar model is a way to think about outcomes as being skill or luck based. We can control both our domain skills and our collegial skills.

On his podcast, Bill Simmons talked about Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow, and Michael Vick. Each has different domain skills like strength, speed, and reading defenses. Each also has collegial skills like interviewing, commenting, and interests. Vick’s domain skills overwhelmed his non-domain ones and he had a longer career than Kaepernick and Tebow.

Blumberg wants people who aren’t assholes and can host podcasts.

7/ Shut up and listen. Good leadership means meetings where everybody was heard. “I’ve taken that to heart and try with every meeting that I’m in to get everybody to talk at least once. It’s a simple thing that people want to be heard.”

In Negotiation, conversations, or meetings people want to be heard.


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Andre Agassi

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Open by Andre Agassi was unexpectedly good. The pace, tone, and voice were all unique. Here are a few notes.

This book circles and Agassi’s life spiral around the essential question; why am I doing this? For Agassi, it took a long time to figure out.

Agassi didn’t start playing tennis, his father started for him. The early stories of overbearing are thick. A product of his circumstances, his tennis improved but his love for the game didn’t. But what else does someone with a ninth grade education do? He played but knew tennis didn’t answer the essential question.

He dated (and married) Brooke Shields. This is not the answer. He took drugs (and maniacally cleaned). This is not the answer. He considered retirement.  “I tell myself that retiring won’t solve my problem.”

Then his coach’s daughter ends up in the hospital. Agassi buys an inner tube for her head. It’s a small, spontaneous act but it gives him a peek. “This is why we are here. To fight through the pain and, when possible, to relieve the pain of others.” The idea is planted. Agassi forms a charity. He starts a school. “I go to Key Biscayne. I want to win, I’m crazy to win. It’s not like me to want a win this badly…and I realize precisely why…I’m playing to raise money and visibility for my school.”

This is Agassi’s answer to the essential question.

“I”m only slowly becoming aware of the full story myself. I play and keep playing because I choose to play. Even if it’s not your ideal life, you can always choose it. No matter what your life is, choosing it changes everything.”

We all need to answer our own essential question. Once we do the path becomes clear, the direction set.

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There are two parts of tennis in the same game. The first is forehands and backhands and everything we see. That’s the 10,000 hours game. The second is the indirect game. We don’t see it, but it’s just as important.

“My father says that when he boxed, he always wanted to take a guy’s best punch…When you know that you just took the other guy’s best punch, and you’re still standing, and the other guys knows it, you will rip the heart right out of him.”

“I see fear creep into Pete’s face. We’re tied, two sets apiece, and doubt, unmistakable doubt, is trailing him like the long afternoon shadows on the Wimbledon grass.”

“When you think it’s your day, it usually is.”

“I see the pilot light in Hewitt’s eyes go out.”

There are two games of tennis, the one we see and the one we don’t.

Through tennis, Agassi lived other things too.

Loss aversion. “A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close.”

Frequency and magnitude. “Reporters ask how it feels to win twenty-six matches in a row, to win all summer long, only to run into the giant net that is Pete. I think: How do you think it feels? I say: Next summer I’m going to lose a little bit. I’m 26-1, and I’d give up all those wins for this one.”  Fifty one dollar bills equal one fifty dollar bill. One tennis tournament does not equal another.

Debt. “In the fifth set, however, he’s spent, whereas I’m just beginning to draw on funds long deposited in the Bank of Gil.” Agassi’s serendipitous meeting with Gil Reyes transformed his career. One way was building up his “bank of fitness.” Code debts, relationships debts, volatility debts all come due.

Media commentary. “Overnight the slogan (Image is Everything) becomes synonymous with me. Sportswriters liken this slogan to my inner nature, my essential being. They say it’s my philosophy, my religion, and they predict it’s going to be my epitaph.” Outsiders have one point of view, sometimes it’s the wrong one.

Hedonic adaptation. After winning some prize money, “item one on our agenda is what model of cool but cheap car we’re going to buy. The main thing is to buy a car with a tailpipe that doesn’t blow black clouds. Pulling up to Sizzler in a car that doesn’t smoke – now that that would be the height of luxury.” Everyone has a normal day but none are the same.

Be the house. After Gil, Brad Gilbert, author of Winning Ugly is the next most influential person in Andre’s life. After one of their first practices, Brad said, “Sometimes the best shot is a holding shot, an OK shot, a shot that gives the other guy a chance to miss.” Andre wants to hit winners, Brad wants him to hit not-losers. Winning is all about shifting the odds in your favor.

Hanlon’s razor. While playing in a cold match in Argentina Agassi catches an opponent’s serve. Was he disrespecting him? “I always wanted to do that,” Agassi says at the press conference afterward. In the book he writes, “The truth is, I was just cold and not thinking. I was being stupid, not cocky.”


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