Moneyball: Relevant Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Oakland Athletics Moneyball

I put on Moneyball yesterday and was immediately struck by how relevant this story was, is, and will continue to to be long into the future. It’s a story of an underdog, a story of competition, and it relates to ALL of our industries, businesses, and methodologies in how we approach them.

Same As It Ever Was

“If we play like the Yankees in here, we’ll lose to the Yankees out there.”

Brad Pitt Playing Billy Beane in Moneyball

Faced with the insurmountable task of replacing their top three players, Beane realized he needed to do something different. Not only that, he had to do it on a team budget that rivaled the salaries of top players in the major leagues.

Moneyball, then, is the perfect movie for entrepreneurs. It’s a reminder of the importance to step away from “business as usual” and how important it can be to think outside the box, take cues from other industries, and take risks knowing full well that they may fail.

That quote by Billy Beane in the film can be found in an adapted form everywhere. For example, I recently finished The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, who states: “A different result requires doing something different.”

Similarly in No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Robert Glover talks about how nice guys get frustrated when the things they are doing don’t go their way, so they just try harder doing the same things while hoping for a different result. But that never works.

Ask The Right Questions

This too has come up again and again, and it is the mark of a good leader: probing with questions.

When I was at BrandQuery, that was cornerstone to the exploratory client process. I imagine it continues to be this day. It was so integral to the process that the owner made it part of the company’s name. Questions were the way to get to the heart of what the client was hoping to achieve with any given project.

In my current role, we are working on a book in which the owner and author talks about how questions get to the heart of a home seller’s motivation, expectations, and desires. You can’t know their desired outcome if all you are doing is selling yourself. You have to ask questions and you have to listen.

And again we have it here in Moneyball: they were asking all the wrong questions. Yet it permeated everything in the game as witnessed in an early scene where Billy Beane asked his scouting team what problem they were facing. Not a single one of them could provide an adequate answer. Because they were not asking the right questions, they were chasing the wrong problems.

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Adapt or Die

In order to enact change, to look at things differently, to adapt…well, that requires the courage to begin. And you cannot promote that courage without a sense of safety.

Creating a culture that allows a safe space to try something new and provides leniency and acceptance for failure will allow the company to adapt with much more agility. In the film, there were plenty of bottlenecks beginning with the scouting team as noted before and continuing with the coach, who resisted Billy’s efforts to try something new.

There were three pivotal moments in the film.

First was the decision to do things differently than they had always been done, and subsequent action taken on that decision. This was cemented when Billy hired Peter Brand to work the numbers and help him pick a team that could win.

Third was Billy’s realization that he couldn’t eliminate himself from the mix to see his vision though. As he and Peter began using numbers and data analysis at the game-by-game level, the team really started to win, and we saw camaraderie, morale, and life breathe back into the team.

Next was the implementation of the team he picked. Art Howe refused to play the lineup as Billy designed it, so he traded a handful of players including Pena who played First where Beane wanted Hatteburg, and Giambi who was presented as a bit of a toxic personality for the team. This forced Howe’s hand.

Failure Is The Best Way to Learn

I’ve heard this a few times about failure and about leadership. As a leader and/or entrepreneur, we have to create environments that promote risk in a healthy, collaborative way.

That means recognizing that failure is a monumental part of success.

Almost everyone fails at least a dozen times before seeing, reaching, or achieving the success they hoped for in the beginning. Norwegian folk-pop band Kings of Convenience sang about this in their song “Failure”

“Failure is always the best way to learn,
Retracing your steps until you know,
Have no fear your wounds will heal.”

“Failure” by Kings Of Convenience

At the end of Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast featuring Charles Feltman titled Trust: Building, Maintaining, And Restoring It, Brown asks Feltman for a piece of leadership advice that’s so remarkable he just must share it with us.

Feltman replies, “Make the environment, make the relationships, make the team safe enough so that people can fail and learn, and fail and learn, and fail and learn.” 

But creating that sense of safety requires a foundation that supports it. It not only requires thought leaders and entrepreneurs to promote thinking differently, it requires those ideas to permeate throughout the organization.

“Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions. And if I say it to anybody, I’m ostracized. I’m a leper. So that’s why I’m cagey about this with you.”

Jonah Hill as Peter Brand in Moneyball

Brand recognized that there were fundamental issues within sports in how teams were managed, and saw that a different approach–one employing of mathematics and statistics–could create a winning team.

But it extended beyond just picking the team. It wasn’t enough.

Above I noted the third pivotal moment: drilling deeper into the numbers to statistically and strategically approach how the game was played not only on the team’s numbers as a whole, but how they stacked up next to the team they were playing.

This type of shift was previously unseen in baseball, and it led the Athletics to an incredible winning streak.

A Never Ending Story

The business, leadership, and teamwork lessons you can take from a story like Moneyball are truly never-ending. Years later, the lessons we can take from Moneyball continue remain relevant and are great reminders to promote a culture of change.

That’s why time and time again you see patterns in what thought leaders discuss: flexibility and adaptation, failing until you succeed by trying new things, digging deep to find the root problem and doing so by asking questions—and not just that, trying to find the right question to ask.

That’s why all those years ago, Jeff Vaughan of Vaughan Premier handed a copy of the movie to his entire management staff, of which I was a part.

Jeff had a mantra that I love and continue to live by and remind myself of to this day: We thrive at the intersection of chaos and innovation.

I could let loose and keep going, but I would just start talking in circles, so I’ll just leave it at this: 

In business, as entrepreneurs, as leaders, we must constantly be willing to seek outside opinions. We must constantly be reading (or listening to) new resources and literature. We must constantly be growing and changing and adapting ourselves so we can promote new ideas and have that trickle down to our team in a culture that thrives in change.

That will just help us on the path to success.

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Wes Anderson teams up with Prada

Prada Candy

I remember stumbling upon Wes Anderson’s famed two-minute epic American Express ad way back in 2006. Featuring his signature quirky style and, following the final scene in The Royal Tenenbaums, filmed in its entirety in one take, this advert has become my all time favorite.

It has humor (he grabs a sandwich and proceeds to ask an assistant for his snack; her reply – You’re eating it), celebrity (yes, that’s Jason Schwartzman), and a .357 with a bayonet. Watch it below:

Well, Wes Anderson has teamed up with another well-known name: Prada. With the new ad – or should I say ads, as there will be three – Anderson teams up with Roman Coppola to promote Prada Candy L’Eau.

Prada Candy L’Eau, Part I

Prada Candy L’Eau, Part II

Prada Candy L’Eau, Part III

Outside of the branding at the film’s onset and outset, there is nothing that says – or screams – Prada, but you get it. It’s one of those shorts that you simply want to watch over and over, and it’s very cool. When it’s done, you can’t help but wonder about the frangrance’s scent, how it would waft forth from a mysterious beautiful woman (or your dearly beloved).

Each concludes with the über hip “L’idole” by 60s French-pop artist Jacques Dutronc. Watch a live performance of the video below (p.s. the stumbling goes with the lyrics: joking, not drunk):

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Kickstart This: Arrested Development Documentary

Arrested Development

Anyone who knows me has likely experienced a moment when I awkwardly attempt to reference Arrested Development or a quote from the show and correlate it with a current situation.

A particular favorite is the (originally) Dwight Yoakum -as- Johnny Treebark saying “And that’s why you *insert thing you shouldn’t do here*” (later a recurring thematic statement by the one-armed lesson-man J. Walter Weatherman).

I feel strange saying it, but Arrested Development has shaped much of my adult life. I credit the show for turning the mutual attraction between me and my soon-to-be-wife Andi into love. Introducing her to the show was the original foundation for our relationship.

We have literally watched the entire series over 30 times in near six years of being together; these days, it’s what we fall asleep to each night.

To say I was excited last year when Netflix announced will back and release a new season is the understatement of the century.

In an article today, Mashable talked about an Arrested Development documentary that’s in the works by two superfans simply known as Jeff and Neil.

A couple of Arrested Development superfans did what seems impossible to most superfans: they got interviews with the cast, writers and creators of everyone’s favorite canceled Fox sitcom. Now these Bluth-hunters need $20,000 to put their loose seals in order and release the documentary.

Donate to the project via its Kickstarter page. The page goes into more detail surrounding why the duo needs $20k:

After five years, we’re finally close to releasing the documentary. Our final step is to pay the network for photos from the set of the show. These photos are extremely relevant to the story, and we can’t move forward with the release of the documentary until our fees are paid to the network. This is where you come in. Help us pay the network fees so every Arrested fan can see this documentary!

Here’s the video Jeff and Neil made for their Kickstarter campaign:

It has only been a few days, and the duo has already raised over three-fourths of what is needed to cover those costs. It’ll reach its goal by tonight.

My reasoning: When I originally read the Mashable article, donations had just topped $15,500. Half an hour later another $1k had been added. I’m about to hit “Publish” (an hour after originally reading the article) and donations read more than $17,500.

A big *STEVE HOLT* to Jeff and Neil is in store (hopefully in the form of doubling their money and getting them a little extra cash for taking on the feat). And another *STEVE HOLT* to the sole donor who pledged $553 Mr. Manager donor level.

Here’s the documentary’s trailer:

I’ve been fascinated by the Kickstarter movement and hope to one day soon assist with a project on the platform. There are a growing number of articles out there about how best to use Kickstarter for your project; in particular (being a music fan), I really enjoyed this Mashable article on 9 Essential Steps for a Killer Kickstarter Campaign.

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