Moontower #20


James Holzhauer put Jeopardy back in the spotlight this year. He almost broke Ken Jenning’s record cumulative winnings of $2.5 million in less than half the attempts. Putting his dominance in context would almost dehumanize him. His average daily win of $77,006.75 is higher than the previous single-day record of $70,000. He owns the top 16 highest daily wins ever with the record now set at $131,127.

Bobby Fischer was a good not great chess player at age 12. At age 13, he played “the game of the century”. A performance that would have been studied and marveled at if Fischer was an adult. At age 14, he won the world championship. He did all of this without a coach. (courtesy of the Adam Robinson interview I referenced last week).

Stephen Curry. Under-sized and under-recruited, the Warrior’s point guard has forced us to reimagine what we can expect from a shooter. In his 2015/16 MVP season, he dropped 402 3-pointers shattering his own prior record of 272, set 3 years earlier. The chart that circulated after the season showed just how obscene it was. As of this past October, Curry had 6 games in his career with 11 or more 3-pointer. That feat has only been recorded 7 times prior to him in NBA history. I took Zak to a game for the first time this season and it happened to be one of them. Curry scored 51 points in 3 quarters before calling it a night.

If you watch kids play basketball in the Bay Area they all emulate their hero. Chewing on their mouthpieces and chucking long 3s, these kids are innocent but naive. They see themselves as the next “baby-faced assassin” instead of Lebron who may as well be the Incredible Hulk. Curry is skinny and looks small on tv (he’s 6’3 so not exactly turning heads at Safeway either). I hate to say it, but sorry kids. Gladwell, you should cover your ears too. More went into reinventing the 3-pointer than just practice. Coach Steve Kerr, himself one of NBA history’s best marksmen not to mention a teammate of Michael Jordan, has called Curry’s eye-hand coordination the best he’s ever seen. Curry is an outstanding golfer and Kerr speculates that Curry would be a force on the pro tour if that was his focus (maybe we’ll get to find out when his ankles get too old for hoops). Curry’s younger brother plays for the Trailblazers and his father contributed enough to the Hornets early years to win a Sixth Man of the Year award. Pretty sure there was some mitosis involved with those skills.

Whether it’s a quantum leap in a game, discipline, or individual we demand a reason. Genes and genius can suffice but don’t satisfy. It’s more like magic.

I had zero mental model of how he created that piece in the same timeframe we all had…it seemed like the skills required were completely different. You could not simply scale up my abilities and get [his]…It seems to require completely different mental inputs entirely. The feeling I get, as a very good bodypainter looking at Sanatan’s work, is that I am looking at magic. And that, in fact, is my definition of magic – competence so much more advanced than yours…alien mental models [are at work].

– @utotranslucence

You feel like its magic because you are bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Using bodypainting competitions as a backdrop (I encourage you to google Sanatan’s creations) read her mental approach to getting better at anything. The intuition and counterintuition is worth exploring for yourself and it shows a possible door to extreme performance relative to whatever you may have previously considered possible.

Her essay.
Version with my highlights here.

And some of my thoughts inspired by and adjacent to her essay.

Climb Higher

​You’ve got your mindset in place for leveling up some aspect of your life. Now what? Patrick O’Shaughnessy recently interviewed David Epstein, author of the Sports Gene and now Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. His measured approach, numeracy, and integrity as a researcher shine through as he shares what he has learned about learning. It has been one of my favorite interviews this year. Patrick wisely acknowledges that our culture rewards discovery not replication so predictably science, especially social science, is replete with research whose overstated claims take on a life of their own.

My notes and link to the podcast here.  Some ground covered:

  • While extensive practice is critical the 10,000 hours meme is oversold. Find out why.
  • Same with grit. Tenacity is important but the study of grit is misunderstood.
  • Learning hacks supported extensively by research.
  • For parents, you will want to learn about “premature optimization”
  • The downside of overspecialization, or what Jacob Viner called a truffle hound — an animal so bred and trained for one narrow purpose that he wasn’t much good at anything else. How can we balance the risk and rewards of specialization?

Last Call

  • Mapping the189 freeway shootings that have occurred in the Bay Area in the past 4 years. While gun violence is actually down overall in the past few years locally the migration to the freeways has been stark.
  • My old firm Susquehanna is into games, math, and betting. Their blog (and firm culture) is pretty interesting especially if you want to step through the process of handicapping the final score to a baseball game.
  • A quick follow-up on the loneliness thread from Brian’s weekly letter (which I’m a fan of btw. He does awesome visual dives into a single topic each week):If you live in New York City and are looking to switch things up + meet some new peeps (and not just for romantics), I highly recommend checking out the Joy ListJillian Richardson’s company & every-Monday newsletter. I first discovered The Joy List about a year ago and have been an avid follower / fan of what she is doing since then (going to quite a few of the meet ups myself). In short, she is focused on helping other people find happiness and combat loneliness in-person first. 

    Last week, his letter used data from Tinder and other data sites to form a picture of recent relationship trends.

From my actual life 

Appetite for Destruction and Lies are the first 2 cassettes I ever bought. John and I have had a minor obsession with 1980’s LA rock culture for at least a generation. This weekend, we finally made a pilgrimage to the hallowed land — the Sunset strip in West Hollywood. A few highlights:

  • An obligatory tourist move: hiking behind the Hollywood sign. Google maps will mislead you since you technically have to trespass to do it. Here’s the tutorial video.
  • Friday night we hit Night+Market. Thanks Jason for the repping my new top Thai spot. The sangria and chicken sando are musts.
  • We followed Thai food with Dresden the vintage bar now immortalized in Swingers. Effectively buzzed it seemed like the perfect time to lose my scooter virginity. This guy got me to the Greek. For nearly 2 miles we just zoomed past thousands of concert-goers trudging up the hill to see Jack White’s Raconteurs who would have blown the roof off the place if it wasn’t already an open-air amphitheater. After the blazing encore, we found our scooters exactly where we ditched them and rode the brakes the whole way back down the hill. Then realized we didn’t need to pay to activate the motors. Downhill, duh. $3 down the drain.
  • Saturday was a touring day. We used Getaround to rent a Maserati for $100 for the day. The car felt both gauche and low quality. A killer combo, perfect for interpreting the hair metal era. Getaround was simple. Use the app to reserve a vehicle in a radius, unlock the car from your phone, and return it back to the owner’s preferred radius.
  • We had lunch at Duke’s in Malibu (thanks Ted for the overwhelming hospitality) followed by a drink at Nobu. It was Monaco wealth colliding with a movie star gene pool. It gives you what you want and the beauty of the restaurant and location befits the crowd. We did not fit in. John reminded me that we still have a full set of ribs.
  • Saturday nite we wrapped by going to see a lineup of rock bands at the famous Whiskey A Go-Go. The crowd unsurprisingly skewed older, was decked out in 80s fashion, and was super-friendly. The venue is amazing. You are close to the stage, the music is loud, the bands are full of energy and just hanging out with the intimate audience after their sets. 4 hours blew by for me. John closed the place and might be a co-owner now. We hung out a bit with my favorite act of the evening, Niterain, who were on the last few hours of a 14-day visa. They needed to get on a plane to Norway stat.

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