How to fail at almost everything and still succeed

A cool book that I recently finished is „How to fail at almost everything and still win big“ by the creator of the well-known Gilbert comic strips Scott Adams.

As he is an economist and an MBA by training, he started his career at a bank and began drawing comics in his free time before and after work. Some of his key advice really seems great. He argues that goals are for losers and that one should aim to implement a “system” that would encourage oneself to get into one direction.

For example: One could set a goal of losing five kilos of weight. That is what most people do and if they do, they will try to change their eating-habits in order to fulfill the prior set goal. Adams suggests to primarily change to focus away from the goal and establish a system which lets you eat healthy so that you automatically lose weight by following your system. These systems also need to be simple. But he explains how he thinks human brains are programmable like a moist computer, which helps to follow systems instead of goals.

He also introduces a “personal energy” metric, which is his most important metric. One should manage the own personal energy so that it is optimized, that means: Eating healthy, work out and schedule tasks. And from my experience it is true. A carbon rich lunch increases the probability that I will get tired in the afternoon. So investing more time to eat healthy, energizing food is a good time-investment.

I really liked the book, but some critical remarks: Adams does not try to lure the reader into a “just fail, until you win big”-fallacy. But still, sometimes you overplays his failures to some extent. He received a good university education with his economics degree and a MBA. He also received a lot of training by the bank during his spell there (public speaking, business writing), which would, in words of Cal Newport ( who wrote a great book called “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love”) count as “career capital”. Career capital increases the probability of success. And even Adams argues that every new (heterogeneous) skill (which just needs to exceed “average”) increases any success rate.

I think, this is true for many industries. As I am a football fan I heard about an injury of Kevin Grosskreutz (former Dortmund player, now for Stuttgart) today. He is a player who really lives said principle: I think if one would asses all his football skills (passing, first touch, finishing, anticipation, heading, tackling, etc.) he would be above average, but not near a world cup winning squad as he was in 2014. What makes him so valuable is that he can play every position on both wings in every role (attacking, defensive, supporting) and he can even play in the center of the pitch as a midfielder. Not to forget his skills as a goalie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZaCplknjs8

Football and statistics

I always wanted to know how football odds are calculated and this is why I started using some of my free time for football statistic analysis in this summer.

One interesting bet is the “do both teams score?”-bet as it is binary (and not a three item bet); so one of the things I wanted to look at is the distribution of the goals scored and conceded. I wanted to use the (normalised) Gini-Index to do this (it is one way, there are others as well). The results are present in the following table:

gini

The interpretation is as following: A high Gini-Value indicates a highly unequal distribution. For example: Bayern has a Gini-Value in conceding of 0.75, which can be interpretated as “The overall goals they conceded were highly unequally distributed to just some very few games”

Looking at Wolfsburg: “The overall goals they scored were quite equally distributed over all games”.

Looking at Dortmund and Frankfurt, these were good teams for the explained “do both teams score?”-bet as they conceded their goals quite equally over all games. Please note that this is not about the total amount of goals or conceded goals. That is why Paderborn and Hamburg for example do have quite high scoring values for the Gini in the first column.

Another statistic I wanted to look at were the ratios of “Shots on Target/Total Shots” (as a measure how well a team might get into promising scoring positions) and the “conceded shots on target/total shots” (as a proxy for the defence). Afterwards I just took the differnces in those numbers to gain a nice plot that you can see in the following figure.

differences

Gladbach did really well, nearly as good as Bayern. Also: Dortmund ist a quite interesting team in this kind of analysis. Their values in this plot as quite close to Paderborn, but they still manage to come up 7th.

Just looking at some plain numbers, they had 17 shots per game (median) which is 1st in the league (with Bayern). Also their median of shots conceded is 7.5 (2nd best in the league, only with Bayern on 1 with a median of 7 shots conceded per game). I think having the poor conversion rates in mind, they just had a lot of bad luck in the recent season. So probably they do not need to change that much after all,while the players still manage to win a good amount of games (maybe more due to individual skill).

EBSpreneuship 2014

On October 17th I attend the yearly EBS-Entrepreneurship conference. It was really well organized and quite interesting. The opening keynote was held by Carsten Maschmeyer.

He held a great speech with a focus on marketing and sales. I really liked his quote “if the product is done, then any company is just a marketing and sales machine”. That seems to be totally true. Neglecting constant product development for a second it is quite like this. Many founders seem to underestimate the sales component in their pitches and planes.

Ibrahim Evsan also gave a inspiring speech about digitalism. Further he likes to plan his day the second he wakes up in the morning and in the process he breathes 10 times to get focused. I shall try this, too.

Overall it was a great event which I might attend next year as well.

Contemporary Carlowitz

I was invited by the “Rat für nachhaltige Entwicklung” and the “Bertelsmann-Stiftung” to a three day conference in Berlin about sustainable development. I gave a short presentation on “Intergenerational justice concerning social ressources”. Later we formed groups and wrote a paper about how the German government can rethink their sustainability strategy. My teams’ idea was:

  • Traffic lights on every product that indicates how sustainable the product was manufactured and how “fair” the involved people are paid from their employer.

The traffic light is an easy to understand sign which works fine for this purpose. As a first step we want to generate a database with open access (open data) with all the sustainability data for products. It is quite pie in the sky, I know, I know. But it still is a great idea.

There were 50 young adults (from 18-30) with different and heterogenous backgrounds (engineers as well as economists or philosophers) and we worked a lot on our ideas.

We later pitched the idea to Klaus Töpfer, Jeroen A. Bordewijk (retired senior VP of Unilever), Marlehn Thieme , Aart De Geus and Caspar Von Blomberg. They really liked the idea, but said it would be a ton of work and a long road to go.

Our ideas and thoughts are going to be part of a study done by an expert group who will review the German sustainability policy. Some of our group are going to present our ideas at the Bundeskanzleramt in May (not to Mrs.Merkel unfortunately, only to Mr.Pofalla, but still it is great).

Check our the website of the confernece HERE!

You might hear from us in the future. Stay tuned. I might post some pictures lateron as well.

 

Update: A group just made a blog. Please check it out here. ImPulsDerZeiten

Gründerfoyer 23/01/13 with Thorsten Rehling from blau.de

On 23.01 I attended to a great event hosted by Dresden-Exists. They invited Thorsten Rehling of blau.de to speak about his career as an entrepreneur. I want to present some of his learnings here:

  • Think twice! The first solution that comes to your mind might not be the best.
  • “No” means “yet another impuls needed” (Nein = Noch ein Impuls nötig). Thorsten explained how you get around “brick walls” (“No”s) easily when you are just persistent enough. Brick walls are there for a reason: To keep other people out. Those, who do not want a thing badly enough. Please see this awesome speech by Randy Pausch.
  • Another Thorsten quote: “No one knows the market better than the entrepreneur himself”. Do not let investors or BAs fool you. You know shit when it comes to your market.
  • Complexity is a real opportunity. Complex markets or products are sometimes easier to execute. Thorsten founded Germany’s first private mobile telephone network. Quite a complex thing to do.
  • Sales is everything (self-explenatory)
  • Their recruitment strategy was: “Ambition, efficiency and no jerks”. He explained how his team had a great spirit and made 100 times of the sales their biggest competitor did. Blau.de had a sales team of 10 people. Their competitor had 100 people. So team spirit is quite important.

Oh, nice detail: He did his MBA in the US where he took an entrepreneurship class, met his co-founders and had the idea for his first venture. He was also part of the early Ebay team, directly reporting to the CEO. While still in entrepreneurship class he met Sergey Brin and Larry Page while they pitched their idea of what would later become Google in their class. Holy god!

Goal-Setting 2013!

Jeah, I finished this year’s process of goal setting! I made three categories of different aspects of life which are important to me as a person:

  1. Personal life-Goals
  2. Career based-Goals
  3. Social activity-Goals

I then thought of 12 achievable, but hard goals (not necessarily four per category). Then I listed each goal and made a list of what

  • The person I have to be to fulfill my goal, what kind of personality is needed or what mindset it needs to achieve the goal
  • I will be doing achieving this goal, what are the main tasks connected to my goal?
  • I will be having or what do I have to have to achieve the goal

An easy example: As I posted in December dreams have to specific to the utmost degree, I will start like this:

Goal: I want to lose 10 Kilos this year and I want to eat healthy stuff.

  • Be: Willing to play sports 2-3 times a week, take a walk more often (instead of a car/train), getting out of the personal comfort zone (“It is too cold/hot outside to play sports”)
  • Doing: Play sports 2 times a week, read about healthy food and start cooking, count calories and take a one hour walk at least once a week
  • Having: A better understanding and feeling for one own’s body, more self-esteem and I feel more attractive to the opposite sex. Also I will have worked a lot and actually SEE and FEEL the rewards, which is a great thing!

You can do that with nearly every goal. Some are doable within a year, some are not. Set realistic but hard goals! Overachieving feels great, too.

Some productivity goals for:

  • Leechblock: You can block certain websites in Firefox for time-spans and days of your liking. It blocks news sites as well as Facebook from Monday-Saturday from 8-18 for me. This regulated my internet behaviour and made me more productive.
  • HabitForge: It reminds daily via Email of your goals and asks if you succeeded today in achieve your goal. In the example from above it would ask: “Did you eat healthy today and at least took a walk or played sports?”. You can click “Yes” or “No”. 20 “Yes” answers in a row (daily!) will make the goal disappear (because you changed behaviour patterns then). A “No” will set your yes-counter back to 0. Awesome!

2013 is coming

As time passes, so do people, wishes, ideas,and goals.

I usually spend the first 2-3 days in a year to determine what I want to have achieved by the end of it. I will not post my goals here, but I will explain HOW I set goals. It is as important as the goals themselves. Oh jeah. A happy new year to everyone.

Setting goals is not hard. I usually follow this routine:

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • Why do I want to achieve this?
  • How can I do this? How can I start?
  • What do I need? What do I have to be?
  • What do I do, if I fail?

These five questions are the basic framework of my yearly goal setting process. The first question is about the WHAT. I am always as specific as I can be. If I wanted to lose weight it is not enough to say “I want to reduce weight”, I would frame it like “I want to reduce my weight by 5 kilos at the end of the year”. Being specific is a good thing.
The WHY is important for one’s perseverance. I always need good reasons to achieve goals (everything good is costly). Be absolutely sure about the true motivation of your goal. If you are not truly motivated you will not achieve anything. Also: This is the toughest question in this framework. It usually takes a lot of time. But the rest of the framework will be answered easisly then.

Example: Say, you would want to lose weight:

  • I want to lose 5 kilos by the end of the year
  • I want to feel better, have more self-esteem and be more attractive to women/men
  • I can start counting calories and stop eating junk food, I will also work out once a week
  • I will need a sport activity that is fun to me (I will check out swimming, running and basketball), I will also have to start cooking healthy foods and be steadfast to avoid sweets (where they are not possible)
  • I will donate 100€ per kilo overweight to a local charity

Be specific: Do not just want to “lose weight”, picture exactly how much. Do not just want “a good paying” job. Imagine a salary. Be clear and specific.

Be realistic. Keep in mind that change needs time and effort. Do not get frustrated by trying changing too much too soon. Everything needs time and so do you.

I will also present some goal-achievment tools here in my next post.