Book Notes Digest #12
August 31, 2020
Just barely got this update out before month-end—with two full hours to spare!
I’ve been spending the last month thinking more about my reading and writing goals. Instead of viewing read books as a collection—baseball cards that go into the album—I want my reading to be more directed towards output (i.e. writing). Not sure where this shift will take me but, hopefully it helps me to be more intentional in my note-taking and less focused on amassing what I loving refer to as my “idea graveyard” (AKA my old Evernote ☠️).
Juvoni Beckford @juvoniOptimize for Action. Support with Learning. Learning can easily become a consumption activity. Make sure your focus is on producing & creation.
Until next month…
1 - Eleven Rings
"Michael Jordan used to say that what he liked about my coaching style was how patient I remained during the final minutes of a game, much like his college coach, Dean Smith. This wasn't an act. My confidence grew out of knowing that when the spirit was right and the players were attuned to one another, the game was likely to unfold in our favor."
After watching the ESPN documentary, The Last Dance, I picked up this book to get a different perspective on the Bull's success—I'm glad I did. Jackson goes into great detail about his coaching and leadership philosophies, which are widely applicable beyond basketball, or even sports.
First Jackson is a self-described "anti-lemming". He did things other coaches didn't do. He promoted mindful meditation, installed unusual rituals, and even had players, on occasion, practice in the dark. He ascribes this to growing up in a very religious family—as he discovered his own way in life, he realized that he could be different.
Next he borrowed ideas liberally from everywhere—other coaches, Buddhist monks, psychology professors, Native American folklore. Nothing was off-limits and he ended up a perspective on coaching a basketball team that was anything but traditional.
What did this look like in practice? Jackson did four powerful things:
He didn't use universal principles—he tailored his approach to the stage each individual team was in. This required understanding the team, and each player that was a part of it.
He didn't put people into preassigned roles. Instead, he created an environment where players could grow and express themselves within the team.
He helped players uncover what qualities they could contribute beyond just passes and shots. There are many players that don't look great on paper, that can become champions. They can fill a niche that complements the entire team in a unique way.
He heard the unheard - the pass that led to the pass that led to the shot. Jackson was constantly looking for this.
Ultimately he was all about understanding people, and intuiting what they could contribute to the team to make it great. I love the way he speaks about Dennis Rodman. Most of the narrative around Rodman has been 'wow what a wacky guy'. The way that Jackson speaks about him, is not from a position of fascination, but a position of compassion, of understanding. To me that's the source of Jackson's power—he became a sort of Basketball minister. He understood his teams and nurtured them in a way that few coaches had the time, patience, or emotional capacity to do.
One final lesson I really liked. On practicing, Steve Kerr said that Jackson, "delivered them from the mundane." The NBA seems glamorous, but it can become boring and monotonous, like any job. I love this concept of keeping things exciting, and interesting and think this lesson in particular can apply to a normal office job. Help teams escape the mundane.
2 - The Outsiders
"The business of business is a lot of little decisions every day mixed up with a few big decisions." - Tom Murphy, Capital Cities (16)
A nice homage to some of the great "Outsider" CEOs of the past century. Thorndike defines an outsider CEO as someone who delivered incredible returns (vs. the market and their peers), by being an "intelligent iconoclast" and making excellent capital allocation decisions.
I think that the biggest takeaway for me is the idea that the CEO's most important job (in many companies) is to be an effective capital allocator. Execution is often worshiped, but it’s this other, less glamorous job that can pay off in a big way if done well. In other words, sometimes you'd rather have a Katherine Graham than a Jack Welch (at least from a shareholder value perspective).
3 - Cable Cowboy
"There's a big difference between creating wealth and reporting income." - John Malone
John Malone grew TCI from a tiny backwater cable system to a massive empire worth billions. He did this through a focus on solid fundamentals and through his knack for dealmaking (he closed over 480 deals alone between 1973-1989—ages 32 to 48).
Malone's system was simple, but brilliant: Buy cable systems → Lower programming costs + increase cash flow → Obtain more leverage → But more systems. By helping the Street to focus more on cash flow and not EPS (he pioneered the use of EBITDA), he was able to engineer unstoppable growth.
Lots of lessons for entrepreneurs and future deal makers.