I’ve long believed that a key and understated trait of creative generalists is the discipline to regularly and deliberately expose oneself to ideas, subjects, and worldviews that are either uncomfortable or even outright disagreeable. Not only is it important to learn widely all of the various things of interest but it is equally important to witness and consider many things that are not quite so easily understood or immediately interesting.
Like calculus, the challenging course I studied in college as part of my degree.
Like French, the elusive primary language of the city in which I live.
Like animal cruelty, the repulsive crime that makes my blood boil.
Like peak oil, the hopelessly huge global social and political issue.
Or like baseball, the sorta-fun-to-play yet boring-as-hell-to-watch pseudo-sport of mostly standing around watching a couple under-athletic dudes play catch. I’m not really a fan.
And yet, on the latter, I recently picked up and read Michael Lewis’s 2004 bestseller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. Brilliant book! It’s all about baseball (actually, more the business of baseball) and yet it’s not at all boring. 😉 Basically, Moneyball is the story of how in 2002 the Oakland Athletics achieved a spectacular winning record while having the smallest player payroll of any major league baseball team. Forced by new ownership to trim costs, A’s GM Billy Beane discovered and enacted a more mathematical and efficient approach to scouting, negotiating, and training pro baseball players; a transition from hunches to stats. What was really fascinating about this story was how it describes how an entirely new way of thinking was introduced – reluctantly at first and in sharp contrast to conventional and weathered thinking – and then ultimately embraced. It’s a story about how a transcending game-changing idea can trump traditional incremental innovations. Recommended read.