Do You Trust The Process?
Much has been made of the Trust The Process movement. I’ve seen it everywhere on Twitter ever since Joel Embiid has taken the league by storm. I knew it was related to the work of former 76ers general manager, Sam Hinkie. And I knew he penned a manifesto several months ago that got a lot of publicity. But I’m going to admit something – I never read it, until now.
It feels kind of dumb of me to write about a topic that was the center of the sports world nearly nine months ago. In the words of comedian Jim Gaffigan, it’s like the friend who just saw the movie Heat and wants to talk about it now, even though you saw it six years ago. But this is my blog and I’m going to write about whatever I want.
If you haven’t already read Sam Hinkie’s manifesto, I encourage you to. It’s 13 pages long and will take some time to go through, but I came away with a newfound respect for the man. I was so blown away by his honesty, forward-thinking, and intelligence. His words were so impactful that I literally sat in bed for two hours reading all that I could about him. Hinkie is not your typical general manager. He graduated from Stanford with an MBA and worked his way up the NBA chain. He came into the 76ers organization with a clear plan. His work reminded me of Billy Beane and the Moneyball concept, where Beane’s only chance at winning was to take conventional wisdom and throw it out the window.
Hinkie’s manifesto reads like a DFS guide for dummies. In it, he dedicates a section on having a contrarian mindset. He writes the following:
“If you want to have real success you have to very often be willing to do something different from the herd…To get more wins, you’re going to have to take them from someone else. Wins are a zero-growth industry…and the only way up is to steal share from your competitors. You will have to do something different. You will have to be contrarian. Howard Marks describes this as a necessary condition of great performance: you have to be non-consensus and right. Both.That means you have to find some way to have a differentiated viewpoint from the masses. And it needs to be right. Anything less won’t work. But this is difficult, emotionally and intellectually. Seth Klarman talks about the comfort of consensus. It’s much more comfortable to have people generally agreeing with you.”
Hinkie is right, isn’t he? In the DFS world, we talk about fading the chalk all the time in order to gain a leg up on our competition, but most humans aren’t born to naturally stray from the herd. There is comfort in numbers and comfort in going with traditional wisdom. This is my biggest struggle as a tournament player. But I love Hinkie’s quote of Howard Marks because it clarifies that if you decide to be contrarian, you have to be right as well. Fading the chalk for the sake of fading the chalk is actually counter-productive if you’re wrong. You have to have conviction that your contrarian ways will actually produce better results if you’re indeed correct about the situation.
So what exactly does being contrarian look like? Hinkie goes on to provide examples for us:
“To develop truly contrarian views will require a never-ending thirst for better, more diverse inputs. What player do you think is most undervalued? Get him for your team. What basketball axiom is most likely to be untrue? Take it on and do the opposite. What is the biggest, least valuable time sink for the organization? Stop doing it. Otherwise, it’s a big game of pitty pat, and you’re stuck just hoping for good things to happen, rather than developing a strategy for how to make them happen.”
If you watched the movie Moneyball, this is exactly what Beane did to build a playoff caliber team. Beane found value in players like Scott Hatteberg and focused on on-base percentage, which was an undervalued statistic. For Hinkie, he was convinced he needed to build through the draft (Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Richaun Holmes, T.J. McConnell), leverage overseas opportunities (Dario Saric), and like Beane, find value in those who were undervalued such as Robert Covington, whom he signed to a multi-year deal after short stints with the Rockets and in the D-League. In terms of DFS, it might mean finding stats that the DFS community undervalues or hasn’t even used yet. Perhaps you’re able to find a way to consume content or late news more efficiently than competitors. Maybe it’s pin-pointing which current DFS axiom is actually untrue through further research and testing (for example, I’ve been conditioned to always play two among Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, or LeBron James if one sits, but should I reassess this axiom)?
Hinkie’s manifesto touches on several other topics, many of which are worthy of more time. But his views on being contrarian stuck with me, not just as a DFS player, but as a father, husband, son, brother, and worker. I don’t want to live a life following the herd in areas where I’m convinced that the herd is going the wrong way. This may lead to the discomfort Hinkie refers to above, where perhaps family or friends question your zigs when you should be zagging. In terms of real life, maybe it’s moving to a different city than where you were expected to reside in. Maybe it’s pursuing a different major than all your friends are studying. Maybe it’s learning to sacrifice and lay down your needs for the needs of a child or spouse, even though the world we live in tells us to live for ourselves. For Hinkie, being contrarian meant following his vision and Trusting The Process. The Process led to him being removed as general manager because maybe it was too revolutionary for others, but the fruit of his work are finally being seen years later.
My initial goal of this post was focused on the idea of having you reassess your DFS research processes and being more contrarian in the fantasy sports world, but I get the sense that Sam Hinkie would want us to look beyond DFS. Maybe today is a good time for us to stop and reevaluate the processes we’re sleepwalking through. Are they the processes we truly want for ourselves, or are we just following the herd?
Feel free to give me a follow on Twitter or let me know your thoughts in the Comments below. Thanks for reading.