This is the 152nd installment of The Labyrinthian, a series dedicated to exploring random fields of knowledge in order to give you unordinary theoretical, philosophical, strategic, and/or often rambling guidance on daily fantasy sports. Consult the introductory piece to the series for further explanation.

A quick note: The NFL regular season is less than three months away, which means it’s basically already here. As a result, I’m going to start writing more about football and less about . . . whatever it is I write about in these pieces.

In other words, expect to see fewer Labyrinthians for the next seven months and more pieces like my recent round-by-round analysis of 10 NFL pivot plays in the new DRAFT best ball leagues.

Not that the The Labyrinthian isn’t important — but nothing is more important than football.

Except for the DFS power of mantric thinking.

“I Forgot My Mantra”

As I’ve mentioned before, I like Annie Hall. I married my wife because she once said it was her favorite movie.

You’re not any more normal than I am.

If you’re still reading, let me tell you about the first time I saw Annie Hall. The summer after my freshman year of college, I took a five-week intro to film theory course. We’d watch movies in class and then take tests (that were actually much harder than you’d think they would be). Already 25 years old when we watched it, Annie Hall was surprisingly a big hit in the class. It felt like an old movie, but it was still funny as f*ck.

We laughed at Christopher Walken talking about driving into oncoming traffic. We laughed at Woody Allen sneezing on the cocaine. We laughed at Marshall McLuhan telling the pontificator who teaches at Columbia University that he knows absolutely nothing. All of that might sound weird and/or random and/or boring, but, trust me, it was funny.

There was one scene in particular that slayed us. Allen and Diane Keaton (or, technically, their characters) are at a Hollywood party, and they’re walking through a large house. They’re talking about whether Woody finds Paul Simon’s girlfriend attractive, and as they keep walking (off the screen) the camera settles on a 25-year-old pre-fame extra who immediately looks like Jeff Goldblum.

He’s talking on the phone, and he says this: “Yeah, I — I forgot my mantra.”

Here it is in its brief glory:

This clip is only two seconds, but we laughed for probably a half-minute. The laughter went in waves. We laughed, we would almost be done laughing, and then someone would start laughing again, so we’d all laugh some more. That happened at least twice. I’m 97 percent sure if there were a way of visualizing our laughter pattern it would be a fractal. I don’t know what that means but it sounds smart and maybe right.

Why did we find this clip so funny?

First, Goldblum is a funny actor. He has great comedic delivery, and the way he delivers that line is just so Goldblumian.

Second, it was funny to see Goldblum as a young extra randomly appearing in a movie and having only one line. In 1977, Goldblum was basically nobody. He was still 10 years away from marrying Geena Davis, 13 years away from divorcing Davis, 16 years away from breaking out in Jurassic Park, 19 years away from starring in Independence Day, and 25 years away from being irrelevant again. I can’t speak for the others in the class, but seeing him randomly pop up like a jack-in-the-box for two seconds in a movie at the beginning of that wonderful cycle struck me as hilarious.

Third, Goldblum gave that one line everything he had. It was his Kramer-in-a-Woody Allen-movie “These pretzels are making me thirsty” moment, and — d*mmit! — he was going to give it his best shot. Like the volatile Tyreek Hill getting one touch from scrimmage in a game and turning it into a touchdown, Goldblum was going to make the most of his one opportunity. He didn’t just say, “I forgot my mantra.” He put his hand on the wall. He swayed back and forth. He added verbal tics by starting his line with “Yeah” and repeating the word “I.” Basically all that’s missing is him running his hand through his hair. There was just something about his “I’m a young starving actor” earnestness in delivering his one line that was . . . yes, “delicious” is the word to use. It was delicious.

Fourth — and maybe most importantly — the line itself was great. Remember, this fit of laughter was 15 years ago. What college students gave a sh*t about mantras 15 years ago? Here’s (I think) the subconscious mental impressions that make this line funny:

  • Who cares about a mantra?
  • Why would this guy care about a mantra?
  • He cares because he’s a superficial Hollywood phony.
  • How did he forget his mantra?
  • He doesn’t care enough about his mantra to remember it.
  • Why is he calling someone to say that he forgot it?
  • He wants the person to remind him of the mantra.
  • Who is he calling?
  • Someone he probably pays to give him b*llshit.
  • How does he have the phone number of his Transcendental Meditation instructor so handy?
  • He’s called the instructor before needing to be reminded of his mantra.
  • How is he able to reach his instructor while at a party?
  • The instructor sits around next to the phone waiting for dumb*ss students to call so they can be reminded of their mantras.
  • If he doesn’t care about his mantra enough to remember it why does he care enough to call his instructor during a party to be reminded of the mantra?
  • He’s at a f*cking Hollywood party and wants to impress people by talking about meditation and his mantra.
  • Aren’t practitioners of Transcendental Meditation not supposed to tell others what their mantra is?
  • How the f*ck would I know? — but I think so.
  • If he’s at a Hollywood party, why is he on the phone wanting to get his mantra instead of talking with some California bimbi?
  • He’s a superficial Hollywood phony — but he at least knows that he can’t talk with California bimbi if he’s not talking about meditation.

I could go on, but you’ve already stopped reading by now, so what’s the point?

Also, there’s something funny about the thought of Goldblum in a movie calling someone to say, “I forgot my mantra” — because if you asked me, “What one Hollywood has-been is likeliest at some party in his life to have called up his guru asking to be reminded of his mantra?” . . . my second guess would be Goldblum. (My first would be Mike Myers: The dude hasn’t starred in a film in a decade because his last movie — The Love Guru — was such a sh*t sandwich.)

Anyway, this is a piece (sort of) about the importance of having a DFS mantra.

But, Before That, Another Story

The Little Engine That Could is a children’s book that was published in the 1930s. I don’t know if anyone actually reads it to their kids anymore, but my parents read it to me all the f*cking time when I was little, which might explain why I’m such a pessimist/realist.

There were different versions of the story that circulated before Arnold Munk (using the pseudonym “Watty Piper”) penned the definitive incarnation, but the basic story (if I remember correctly) is something like this:

A small engine pulls a long line of train cars over a steep mountain. The end.

This being a children’s story, the little engine isn’t just an engine. It’s a machine imbued with the characteristics of thought and emotion. The little engine is hesitant, unsure of whether it’s up to the task of doing what more capable engines have opted not to do.

How does the little engine find the strength to pull the train up the mountain? By repeatedly saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” As the little engine progresses up the mountain and the work becomes harder, it continues to say with conviction, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” as if the energy he exerts to say the words fuels his ability to trek.

Finally, he reaches the top of the grade, and then as he starts coasting down the other side of the mountain he says, “I thought I could.”

Historically, readers have taken from this story the following lesson:

Through bravery, determination, hard work, the power of positive thinking, and everything else that makes ‘Merica the land of the free, anyone can accomplish anything, especially if you’re a machine with the hidden capacity to haul a sh*tload of tonnage. They don’t make machines like they used to — with Carnegie steel.

On the one hand, it’s an inspiring message. On the other hand, that’s not what I take away from the story.

To me this story shows the power of mantric thinking.

The Mantra

I could bother to google “mantra” and then write down whatever random definition of it I find online, but I won’t since you should already know what a mantra is: It’s a slogan, motto, maxim, catchphrase, etc., that through vocal repetition helps you become aligned with yourself, your surroundings, and maybe even the universe and/or whatever deity you believe in currently.

It’s a saying — like “I think I can” — that enables you to find your inner strength.

This might be controversial and maybe wrong, but here it is: I don’t think mantras need to be positive. I think it’s less important that you have a positive mantra and more important that you are obsessed with something enough to have a mantra about it in the first place.

Let’s return to The Little Engine That Could. What’s important (in my opinion) isn’t that the engine thinks positively. What’s important is that he thinks about nothing other than his task. His work consumes him — or, rather, he consumes his work. He’s driven by a purpose as he drives the train. His focus on the work — that becomes his mantra.

By the way, I think the little engine is male, but I might be remembering that incorrectly. You can never be sure. No one’s an expert when it comes to locomotive genitalia. If the little engine turns out to be female, that’s cool too. Guys probably aren’t the only people who should have machines for role models.

Back to the story: What makes the little engine successful (I argue) isn’t that he’s positive. It’s that he’s obsessed. For him, obsession manifests through positivity — and maybe that’s because he’s just naturally positive. Maybe he was made that way. But not all positive people are successful and not all negative people are failures. There are some people who are driven primarily by negativity, but they still have success. Why do they have success? They’re motivated. They’re obsessed with accomplishing whatever they’re trying to accomplish.

A few thoughts:

  1. I do think mantras can be productive, but they’re also representative. A mantra indicates a preexisting commitment to success.
  2. Not all mantras need to be positive. Some can be negative — or at least stated in the negative. Positive people are likely to have positive mantras; negative people, negative mantras. That’s fine.
  3. People often confuse obsessive thinking — or mantric thinking — with positive thinking. You don’t need to think positively about something to have success at it. You just need to think obsessively about it.

Now’s a good time to remind everyone that I’m a negative person who’s not a licensed therapist or self-help con man. These are just my thoughts.

A Tangent on Negativity

Again, all of this is coming from a guy who thinks that negativity in DFS is crucial. I don’t think anything is inherently wrong with negativity. Without it, we’d live in a proton-dominant world without electricity. Maybe what’s wrong with the Sith isn’t that they draw their power form the Dark Side but what they do with their power. I imagine that in some universe it’s possible for someone to be in touch with the darkness in the Force without killing a bunch of Jedi younglings.

The prevailing wisdom in life is that positivity is superior to negativity. It might be in the aggregate, but some people naturally tend to be more negative. For them, negativity might work better than positivity.

To clarify: Some people confuse positive thinking with thinking that something is possible. The former I would call “optimism.” The latter I would call “realistic thinking.” Believing that something is possible — and thinking about the degree to which it’s possible (the odds of its occurrence) — is always beneficial. When I talk about positive thinking, that’s not what I have in mind. Believing that something can be accomplished isn’t the same as thinking about it through an affirmative perspective.

You think positively when you use optimism as the emotional fuel that drives you toward success. You think negatively when you use pessimism (or at least negatively framed thoughts) to drive you.

Example: Let’s say that you’re having sex with someone — it’s your first time to have sex with this particular person — and you want to show yourself to be a capable performer. If you’re a positive thinker, you might say to yourself (hopefully not aloud but in your head), “I’m the greatest lover in the entire world, and I’m going to show what I can do.” If you’re a negative thinker, you might say to yourself (again, not out loud), “Whatever you do, don’t f*ck this up by doing something stupid like farting.”

I’m convinced that both approaches can work. My first semester of college, I was so driven by the fear of failure that I got a 4.0 GPA. If I had started the semester by saying to myself, “I think I can get all A’s,” I probably wouldn’t have gotten all A’s. It’s not as if I had an actual mantra that I repeated to myself every day, although I kind of did: “I will not fail.”

What’s important about the little engine isn’t that he says, “I think I can.” He could’ve just as easily repeatedly said, “I will not fail.” What’s important about him is that he’s obsessively determined to push himself to accomplish what seems impossible.

This Is an Article About DFS

Someone has to win large-field guaranteed prize pools. You might think it’s impossible for you to win — but somehow every GPP has a winner.

At one point, FantasyLabs Co-Founders Jonathan Bales and Peter Jennings (CSURAM88) were just guys obsessed with climbing the mountain of fantasy sports. Now they’re both on the other side. Bales is probably more negative: He majored in Philosophy at a small liberal arts college and once tried to make street performance and/or oil painting his career. Pete is probably more positive: I’ve never seen anyone attempt to make more out of a three-day vacation than that guy did on the Labs trip to Orlando. (Of course, Pete also accidentally ran his face into a wall, so that’s what comes from being so positive; have I mentioned that I’m a negative *sshole?)

What’s important isn’t that Bales is negative and Pete is positive. What’s important is that both are driven to excel. When they’re not thinking about how to make Labs better, they’re 100 percent focused on DFS. They’re immersed in our Tools and Models. They’re looking for players with high Plus/Minus values and Upside Ratings in our Trends tool. They’re evaluating exposure patterns and sharp plays in our DFS Ownership Dashboard. They’re looking for subtle edges on our Vegas Matrix. They’re crafting rosters with our Lineup Builder.

When Bales isn’t working out and Pete isn’t going to Goo Goo Dolls concerts, they’re obsessing about everything (anything) related to sports.

I doubt either one of them has an actual mantra — Pete might have one — but both of them employ mantric thinking: They’re deeply focused on DFS. They think of it to the exclusion of almost everything else.

Success is never certain — but what is certain is that you’re extremely unlikely to have success in DFS (or anything) if you’re not committed to the grind.

A Final Story

I don’t have a mantra per se — but I do have a phrase that pops into my head whenever I’m exerting myself and need/want some extra energy/motivation: “Grind.”

There also might be another word that follows “Grind” — a word that makes reference to mothers — but I probably don’t need to share it.

When I have an article to write that I don’t feel like writing: Grind. When I’m exercising and feel my muscles starting to tire: Grind. When I wake up after getting just a few hours of sleep: Grind.

There are some people who lead successful lives because they have balance. I’m not one of those people. I honestly don’t know if I know any of those people. To me, balance is either an illusion or a misnomer.

The closest I ever come to having balance is carving out a little time to read, exercise, listen to non-sports podcasts, watch TV and/or Harry Potter movies, and talk with my wife, family, and friends . . . while still thinking about everything through the perspective of a sports degenerate.

Even when I’m not thinking about sports, I’m thinking about sports. That’s mantric thinking. It’s the most powerful DFS tool on the market — and it’s free. Grind.

Also, I almost used a picture of a bare-chested Goldblum as the featured image for this piece.

I’m sorry, and you’re welcome.


The Labyrinthian: 2017.57, 152

Previous installments can be accessed via my author page or the series archive.