It’s hard to accept the idea that it is time to make a change and move on.
I was reminded of that by listening to two wonderful interviews with Michael Lewis, who has written a dozen great books and inspired me to write many times. Steven Dubner recently interviewed him on the Freakonomics podcast to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his classic book, Moneyball, about baseball General Manager Billy Beane and the Oakland As, who revolutionized the sports world by going against the veteran baseball scouts and looking differently at players and the game.
After that, I listened to Steve Levitt’s interview with Lewis, in which he talked about writing his first book, Liar’s Poker, about Wall Street life and working at Salomon Brothers for three years after graduating from Princeton.
Lewis said he had been a huge success, gaining the Rothschild family as a customer for the firm. But he had no taste for the lucrative games played by investment bankers. He followed his dream of being a writer, even though his Salomon superiors told him he would become rich on Wall Street and that he was crazy to throw away the opportunity of a lifetime.
Lewis has written for 25 years about people willing to forsake the well-worn, safe path, to try something new. Billy Beane had a budget half the size of rich baseball teams like the Yankees and Giants. He struggled to field teams that were better than mediocre because of his limited resources.
Finally, in desperation, he decided to scrap conventional baseball dogma by bringing in a young assistant who had never played baseball, Paul DePodesta. DePodesta used statistics to analyze what worked and what didn’t, rather than evaluating players primarily by their looks. Suddenly baseball seemed totally different to Billy. As a former player himself who was a top draft pick, he knew that looks were deceiving because he was a washout as a pro baseball player.
The thrust of what Michael Lewis had to say as well as Dubner and Levitt who interviewed him and injected their own observations, was that most people are afraid of change. They are born into a tribe, they stay forever in a job or marriage they don’t like, and they are scared of jumping ship.
On the business front, I often, but not often enough, ask myself if the way I have always done things is the way I should continue doing them.
I have always regarded longtime employees as a great asset for a firm, but maybe I’m wrong about that. Elon Musk just paid $44 billion for Twitter and then fired half of the employees. Possibly he has it right. Musk is willing to put self-driving vehicles on the road, knowing that some wacko will go 90 miles per hour and get himself killed. He wants the data from leading the pack.
On the other side, how many people play it safe in jobs that bore or frustrate them, waiting for their pension or 401k to mature. How many people endure marriages that are unsatisfying because the unknown of being alone is so scary or they think it will be bad for their children?
I find that the used machinery business is interesting and challenging, but I sometimes wonder if I could have been a Michael Lewis.
As we head into 2023, perhaps you should ask yourself what changes you should make to enrich your life. Is there a group you could join, a charity you could contribute to, a coach who could help you? Maybe you need some therapy to get through a tough period in your life?
The unknown is scary, but maybe sticking with the known indefinitely is even scarier?
Question: What was it like when you changed jobs or got divorced?