I remember when I first wanted to get good at basketball. Like anyone of course, I Youtubed Kobe Bryant moves and tried to learn them. I remember thinking that his advice was generic and inapplicable. His advice, however, is actually really good advice, it was just that it was inapplicable for me. That’s how many people view strategy; their inability to value it isn't because the strategy itself is bad (although sometimes it is) but because they don’t have the referential compression to understand it and see how they would apply it. With those Kobe videos, I was still new to basketball, I could barely shoot the ball let alone do a post up—fadeaway jumper...
This perception of generic advice was very similar to my early days of attending business conferences. At the end of the conference I would ask my fellow friend/audience member what he thought of the keynote and they would say something like, “Wow, it was so good. Thinking of retargeting pixels as a form of long term branding, that’s going to be amazing for my business”, and I would be thinking What? why can’t he tell me something that I can actually do today.
Only after I got better at basketball and learned fundamental movements, could I appreciate Kobe’s strategic choice of moves. Since I now know how to do a spin or finish with a reverse layup, I can string them together. I can appreciate the strategy behind that combo: your defender thinks you’re going to drive hard baseline, so instead you spin back into the paint, since you’re in the paint the big will come in to block your shot so you reverse layup using the rim as protection.
And as for my understanding of business, back then I didn’t even know what retargeting pixels were, and I still don’t really know what they are. But I’ve practiced running Google ads and Facebook ads, and I know how to use the Divi theme for Wordpress, and I’m decent at writing copy so basically I just write three ads and copy and paste the script that Google gives me near my contact form. Quick note: I haven’t actually done that yet, and I intend to implement it soon.
And the result, well, it’s not perfect, and will take refining, but the point is I can scrap something together, and when I can do that I can appreciate simplistic advice that sounds heady and do higher level work.
“Square your feet and chest to the basket”, they say. “Keep the ball to the right of your eye, keep your elbow in, and your arm straight”, they say. If you ask, every coach and every basketball player will tell you that those things lead to proper shooting form.
But those things don’t lead to accurate shots.
None of the top shooters in the NBA shoot like that. Not Kobe
I just got a good email from a friend about emotions and biochemistry. It got me thinking.
Envy and schadenfreude are common emotions. People like seeing their opponents fail.
Is it possible to get over that? Would it be desirable to get over that?
I think envy and schadenfreude and hatred are usually a detriment to people feeling them. This is obvious enough when you're playing a positive sum game - because Positive Sum Games Don't Require Natural Talent, and have a near infinite opportunity for success. Disciplines like inventing, engineering, finance, entrepreneurship, mathematics, and the natural sciences work hand in hand. Every win by an inventor opens lots of doors for engineering, finance, entrepreneurship, math, and science. And indeed, for other inventors.
A lot of people mistake positive sum games - like the economy at large - for a zero sum game. They think that if you get money, they'll get less money. Of course, it doesn't work like that, as our exponentially growing standard of living shows. Even if someone loses a local conflict (to gain market share in a new technology, for instance) they can still go on to invent and innovate in a new field.