If you ever feel really, really confident in your current beliefs, think about how you thought/acted just a few years ago. I know I’m not the only one who looks back and thinks, “Well fuck.” It’s like a fundamental component of being human to be horribly embarrassed by our former selves.
The fact that we can look back at any time in our lives and pinpoint multiple beliefs that we held that turned out to be incorrect—some in relation to very basic concepts about whatever—doesn’t give me all that much confidence that everything I believe now is accurate.
I suppose that might be a dumb thing to say for someone who’s supposed to be teaching others, so let’s just forget I wrote any of this.
Well, maybe I need to keep going now.
But seriously, I think we’re all pretty aware that we’ve been wrong quite often in the past, but why don’t we extend that thought process to conclude that some of our current beliefs are also wrong? When we do that, it changes the way we approach life, and by life, I mean daily fantasy sports.
Accounting for Fallibility
I talk about fallibility and uncertainty a lot, but I think understanding it is absolutely crucial in improving as a daily fantasy player. You don’t need to act as though any single belief you hold is wrong—just that it could be wrong.
A Scientific Approach to Fantasy Football
Science is marked by improvement. It works because theories that don’t hold up to scrutiny are discarded.
Your approach to DFS should be the same way. Even if you don’t have time to test your ideas, you should still always be asking “How might I be wrong in this area? How can I improve my process to make better decisions? What are the consequences of this belief or action being wrong?”
This concept is related to rejecting a black-and-white worldview and working in the realm of probability. Sports bettors and poker players need to do this all the time. Even if their actions are justified, they must consider what might happen if things go wrong. “Even though I have the best hand, how should I act knowing that it might still be beat?”
In a similar way, the simple act of considering that you might be wrong—or even that a correct belief could still lead you in the wrong direction from time to time—will alter how you approach the game.
Don’t Automatically Reject Others’ Viewpoints
This is pretty obvious; if you can’t be as certain that your beliefs are correct, you need to consider that others’ thoughts—even those who disagree with you—could be right. I’m not at all saying that you shouldn’t be relatively firm in your beliefs, but rather that you shouldn’t be so set in your ways that you’re unable to adapt to new information.
So how can you know when to hold firm and when to abandon your current belief for one championed elsewhere? That’s a difficult question to answer, but generally, I think there are two questions we need to ask ourselves before adopting any belief:
- Is it falsifiable?
This is a simple question, but the idea is that if we can’t falsify a belief, it really has no value to us. If I say that there’s a strong relationship between wide receiver weight and touchdowns, we can test that and potentially falsify it. If I say a wide receiver has “lots of heart,” however, that’s probably not falsifiable. Even if it were, it would be really difficult to quantify, and certainly it would be difficult to use it for No. 2…
- Can it help make more accurate predictions?
This is really what it comes down to: if I accept this belief, how will it help me in the future? I could get into a lengthy discussion about the nature of ‘truth’ and whether or not objective truth even exists, but for the purposes of fantasy sports, I think it’s obvious that we need to accept theories that can help us predict the future. Whether or not it’s “true” in some objective sense is kind of irrelevant; for our purposes, true equals useful.
When others with a track record of making accurate predictions—good luck finding many of those guys—propose an idea that flies in the face of what you think you know, you should at least be willing to listen.
The oddsmakers in Vegas certainly have a history of making accurate predictions. If they project Calvin Johnson at 120 yards in a given game and I have him at just 65 yards, it’s a good sign that I should reexamine my position. If I hear a homeless guy in Philly mumbling about Megatron’s upside, on the other hand, I’m probably more likely to listen not going to give it much attention.