“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places youʼll go.”
— Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
I Like Headers, Don’t You?
When I’m not writing 9,400 words on random two-game slates, I try to read. In fact, reading is one of the most important activities we can do as engaged thinkers and strategists — but it’s often sacrificed because people don’t make time for it. They’ll make time for other activities — like drowning their Facebook friends and Twitter followers in a salty sea of informational noise — but they themselves won’t bother to read much of substance.
Also, I understand that there’s a delicious irony here: You just read a sentence about how people tend not to read.
My writing is nothing if not unintentionally ironic.
Imagination, Data, Et Cetera
In the last couple of Labyrinthians, I’ve established something of a self-serving straw man dichotomy: On the one side are facts and data, and on the other side are imagination and truth. In the best of worlds truth and fact — imagination and knowledge — work together and reinforce each other. In this world, they often don’t.
FantasyLabs co-founder Jonathan Bales frequently talks about the benefits of being a contrarian in daily fantasy sports. To me, the distinction between being imaginative and being a contrarian is almost nonexistent.
Here’s a passage from my last Labyrinthian:
In DFS, contrarianism is essentially imagination in action. Stripped down of all the theorizing and posturing that surrounds it, contrarianism — at least in practice — might be nothing more than the willingness to let the imagination wander the oceans of possibility long enough to land on shores of foreign thought.
Contrarianism is the imagination’s brainchild.
No one should be contrarian just for the fun of it, but instances always exist in which contrarianism is warranted, and it’s almost impossible to be contrarian if one has not cultivated the imagination. I have thoughts on how to cultivate the imagination that I’ll probably share in a future Labyrinthian. Right now it’s enough to say that far too many DFS lineups fail because they lack imagination.
This is the piece in which I talk about cultivating the imagination.
Read a Book (or a Blog)
I don’t want to sound too much like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, but reading is a way of escaping from the mundanity of daily life.
Also, I’m not convinced that “mundanity” is an actual word, but I didn’t want to use “mundaneness” because it felt too . . . mundane.
I don’t mean to say that reading will literally help people escape from their daily responsibilities, etc. Reading on its own might not change the circumstances of existence. But reading can help people think differently about the world they inhabit — and that difference, that change in perception, could be the first step toward an altered life.
To the extent that imagination is a means to contrarianism and contrarianism can be an avenue to DFS success, it’s worthwhile for DFS players to invest time in reading inasmuch as reading inspired imaginative thought.
What to Read?
Great, you’ve decided to read more! Now what should you read?
There are three types of DFS content:
- Immediately actionable
As much as possible avoid sh*tty content.
As for the other kinds of content . . . think of yourself as an
axe ax axe in the forest of DFS. The immediately actionable pieces cut down trees. They perform the present tasks that need to be done. Our daily NBA Breakdowns and DFS Scouting Reports fall into this category of content. They are always relevant to the time-sensitive matters at hand.
The philosophical pieces are also important. They’re actionable, even if they’re not explicitly and immediately actionable. Remember, you’re an axe. The think pieces keep the blade from getting dull. Over time, they provide a sharp edge.
[Insert here (bullsh*t) story about the woodcutter.]
At its best, The Labyrinthian is about the act of thinking. I would hope that this series sharpens the blade. If it doesn’t . . . how did you make it this far in the article?
Here’s the main point: Some DFS content is focused mainly on knowledge; other content, wisdom. Sometimes there’s overlap; sometimes not. Both types of content are important.
There’s also a whole world of content that has nothing to do with DFS, and that content deserves consideration.
This is just my opinion, but it’s a waste of time to read something like f*cking Twilight or Game of Thrones. I mean, waste your time in that way if you want, but don’t read those texts thinking that you’ll actually get a benefit. As a general rule don’t read anything that’s been made into a movie. Instead, read stuff
like Moneyball and The Big Short I guess not written by Michael Lewis.
So what non-DFS material should you read?
[Insert here obligatory Nassim Nicholas Taleb paragraph.]
Also, sometimes I just go where the wave of the internet takes me. For instance, five minutes ago I was on the online Oxford English Dictionary surfing for word porn and I noticed an article entitled “20 Words from the 1920s” or something like that. I thought, “Cool, I don’t know much about words that were invented in the 1920s,” so I clicked on the link.
Because of that, now I know that the word “sexpert” is a colloquial portmanteau from the ’20s, and my life is richer. I’m speculating that the phrase was created to describe Zelda Fitzgerald, but I don’t really know.
The point is you should never pass up the opportunity to read a quick article on something about which you know nothing.
How to Read?
Here’s an example of what — and how — to read.
I wish I were joking, but I’m actually serious. Every day even if just for a few minutes I try to read some (real) news — it’s so exciting that Beyoncé is pregnant with twins! — and, since news nowadays basically consists of politics, I quickly peruse some political blogs to see
how they’re spinning what they’re saying.
Here’s the key to all of this: The supermajority of my reading is on sites with which I know I’m inclined to disagree. Why? Because doing so helps me read actively. It forces me to think. It requires me to ask two fundamental questions:
- What if this argument is right?
- What are the odds that this interpretation of current events is wrong?
Those questions make me continuously evaluate and engage.
And the bizarre masochistic act of reading political content I dislike also (in theory) helps me empathize. I’m reminded of a paragraph from the last chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird:
Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
Being imaginative — being contrarian — is all about being able to think outside of your own brain. The ability to entertain different (and potentially conflicting) points of view is at the root of imagination.
What I’m Reading Now
I’m currently reading and about to finish Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens, a former Rhodes Scholar and Navy Seal and the new Governor of Missouri. I saw the book months ago — before I knew that he was running for the governorship and what his political affiliation was — and I thought, “OK, cheesy subtitle aside, I’d like to know what a Navy Seal has to say about success and life, because I don’t have that perspective, and I could probably use the idea of ‘resilience’ in a Labyrinthian,” so I bought the book . . . and then I forgot about it during football season.
Anyway, I’m reading it now, and I came across an anecdote about one of Greitens’ Navy Seal trainers and his thoughts on interpersonal interaction:
In BUD/S training, Will Guild taught me a simple idea about what we know in relation to other people. He said there are four kinds of knowledge:
• THINGS THAT we know and that others know as well; these things are known.
• THINGS THAT no one knows; these are unknown.
• THINGS THAT we know and others do not; these things are hidden.
• THINGS THAT others know that we don’t know; these things we are blind to.
Without help from others, we can be blind to a lot of what we need to know, including knowledge about ourselves.
Will made this point in the context of talking about elite performers and elite units. In Will’s experience, he said, most truly elite performers are accessible, friendly, and humble. He found that these elite performers found ways to make connections between themselves and others, in part because they wanted to learn from other people and to lessen their own blindness as much as possible.
A good text is not unlike a friend: It has the potential to reveal to you that which you didn’t know about the world and especially yourself.
The point of reading is to gain insights and perspectives that your lived experience hasn’t given you yet. It’s a way of living outside of yourself.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Voldemort’s first horcrux is a book.
A Quick Anecdote
My freshman year of college I read Frederick Douglass’ Narrative for the first time. I don’t remember much about it except that . . .
- Douglass was a badass.
- As a slave, he wasn’t legally allowed to know how to read and write, and so he learned in secret.
In Douglass’ own words, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Reading isn’t just a privilege. It’s a responsibility — to yourself and also your bankroll.
The Labyrinthian: 2017.9, 104
This is the 104th 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. Previous installments of The Labyrinthian can be accessed via my author page.