🎉Welcome to the 16 new subscribers who joined since last week!🎉
Greetings from Chandler, Arizona!
Thank you to Cody, Bo, Ryan, and Jim for sharing last week’s newsletter on social media. It means so much to have you all share my work. Thank you.
Before we get into the meat of today’s newsletter, I have one major announcement.
In case you haven’t heard, I’m hosting a private workshop on July 29th called Building Your Competitive Edge.
This workshop is for you if you’re looking to accelerate your coaching career using skills and knowledge you already have.
During the hour-long workshop, you will build a plan to:
- Escape unnecessary competition by identifying what makes you unique
- Solve common problems in a unique way that gives you an advantage over other coaches
- Share your skills and knowledge in a way that attracts interesting people and opportunities to you
This 3-step process is the same framework I’ve used in my own career that’s helped me get into professional baseball, and right now you can get it for the special introductory price of $49.
Spots are limited and filling up fast, so don’t delay.
Moving on…Here’s what we’re going to cover in today’s newsletter:
- How buffalo hunting methods can make you a better coach
- How our players’ behaviors are shaped by the environment
- And how we can use sports as entry points into understanding culture
Book of the Week
In last week’s newsletter, I shared some general thoughts about how knowing how to ethically influence people is a competitive advantage for coaches.
This week, I want to dive a little deeper into one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence: social proof.
Salesman Cavett Robert famously pointed out that “95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.”We get our desires from others.
Because of this, social proof is a powerful influential tool.
When we’re unsure of what to do, we tend to look to the actions of others for what to do. This behavior isn’t unique in humans.
In Influence, Cialdini tells an amusing story of how Native American tribes used social proof to hunt buffalo:
There are two features of buffalo that make them especially susceptible to erroneous social evidence. First, their eyes are set in their heads so that it is easier for them to see to the side than to the front. Second, when they run, as in a stampede, it is with their heads down low so they cannot see above the herd. As a result, the Indians realized, it was possible to kill tremendous numbers of buffalo by starting a herd running toward a cliff. The animals, responding to the thundering social proof around them—and never looking up to see what lay ahead—did the rest. One astonished observer to such a hunt described the deadly outcome of the buffalo’s obsessive trust in collective knowledge. In this way, it was possible to decoy a herd toward a precipice, and cause it to plunge over en masse, the leaders being thrust over by their followers and all the rest following of their own free will
The hunters didn’t have to convince every individual buffalo that there was a reason to run.
They just had to get a critical mass of buffalo running in the right direction. Picking up on the social cues around them, the rest of the buffalo would follow suit, eventually tumbling to their death.
For the hunters, it was time to call a feast.
As we apply this to coaching, we can see how the most important thing is not to convince every player to do something. We just have to focus on getting a big enough group to adopt a behavior. The principle of social proof will take care of the rest.
Let me give an example…
Let’s pretend that your star player is resistant to a new technology that you’re trying to roll out. You know he would benefit from using it but he’s not easily convinced. You’ve exhausted your attempts at explaining things rationally. No data, charts, or fancy graphs have convinced him that this is good for him. What should you do?
One option would be to put him in a workgroup with his friends or guys he admires who you know use the technology.
The principle of social proof suggests that seeing his peer group using the technology would make him more likely to use it himself.
Now, I’m not saying that it’ll work 100% of the time. But as with the buffalo, creating the conditions for social proof to work matters much more than we think.
I love how Cialdini wraps this idea up:
“No leader can hope to persuade, regularly and single-handedly, all the members of the group. A forceful leader can reasonably expect, however, to persuade some sizable proportion of group members. Then the raw information that a substantial number of group members has been convinced can, by itself, convince the rest. Thus the most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favor.”
It’s not always necessary to carry a bow and arrow to kill your dinner. Sometimes, all you need to do is get the herd running in the right direction.
Article of the Week
The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
This graph (annotation mine) measuring economic confidence between Republicans and Democrats fascinated me.
“Look at what happens in 2016 on this chart. The rate of GDP growth, jobs growth, stock market growth, interest rates – go down the list – did not materially change. Only the president did:
As you can see, people’s confidence in the economy is largely shaped by who’s in the Oval Office.
Our perception and beliefs about our environment matter much more than we give it credit for.
Just like American voters having larger confidence in the economy when their party is in the Oval Office, our players look to their environment to shape their beliefs–how they should think, plan, and act.
Some environments will drive larger “player confidence scores”, drawing out their best. These environments tend to be challenging, rich in feedback, and exploratory.
Other environments tend to lead to lower confidence scores. These environments tend to be authoritarian, non-exploratory, and highly critical of mistakes.
All of this is to say that in human behavior, the environment often matters more than anything else.
Shape the environment, shape the behavior.
While the article is about money, you can find application to coaching in almost every one of Housel’s 19 psychological principles of money.
Read the article.
Podcast of the Week
Two Blundering Fools: David Perell hosts Tyler Cowen
[Click the picture to listen to the full clip]
I especially enjoyed this exchange between Perell and Cowen:
David: You seem to have a big love for basketball and the NBA, but besides basketball, what do you love about the NBA?
Tyler: It’s drama, right? It’s better than most theater, but it’s actually happening. So what really matters to the people? You don’t have to suspend belief. It’s an entry point into understanding a lot about America.
Tyler: The NBA in particular is an entry point to understanding a lot about race. The NBA is far more international than before and it’s a way of being in touch with parts of American life and commercialization and also media and television that otherwise I wouldn’t necessarily intersect with that much and it’s just plain outright fun…
…David: I’m curious to hear about what you said about NBA in America, sports in America. I was with some friends the other day and I argued that sports was actually the best way to learn about America and now I’m going to use your entry point theory. What do you have to say about that?
Tyler: I had breakfast with George Will a few weeks ago when I said to him, you know, today you probably understand the country better if you read the sports page than if you read the news page. It’s more like what people are actually doing. There’s something quite normal about sports. It’s also extremely bizarre. You care so much about like your team, which is arbitrary. Like these guys. They’re not from Washington. I don’t even identify with Washington. I don’t know them. They might be bigger jerks than the Boston Celtics and I root, you know, very hard for them to beat the Celtics and you realize how much of like human nature is expressive. How much some of it’s like politics. Uh, you know, how much in some ways sports, like mirrors hunting and some very old pastimes of male competition and bonding. It’s also a way of studying how statistics matter, what you can measure and not measure. Management, teamwork. Sports is a wonderful entry point for all these things.
Personally, I’ve always gravitated towards reading books that centered around sports. One of my all-time favorites is The Boys in the Boat.
But in recent years, I started to feel guilty thinking that I was isolating myself from the “real knowledge” that exists in “real” history books.
So, I tried to take my reading in more sophisticated directions, even going so far as to buy a book called On China. (It’s never been pulled off my shelf)
Returning to my earlier example, The Boys in the Boat gave me an entry point to study Nazi Germany. Written from the perspective of American athletes who competed in the 1936 Olympics in Germany, the book offers a great look into pre-WWII Germany as Hitler was rising to power.
Reading this book gave me the entry point I needed to learn more about Nazi Germany while not being bored to tears. I suspect that for most of us, finding entry points like this can help us expand our horizons.
As Shane Parrish at Farnam Street says, it’s time to let go of the learning baggage.
A better reading approach, for curious people like you and me, is to find enjoyable entry points that allow us to broaden our perspectives.
And fortunately, sports offer exactly that.
Photo of the Week
If you have a desire to start an online business (even a tiny bit), he’s worth a follow.
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Until next week,
P.S. – Have you heard about the Building Your Competitive Edge Workshop I’m hosting on July 29th? If you sign up now, you can save 37%! Spots are limited, so get your spot today.