No, that’s not a typo. A… B… Z. I promise it’ll make sense in a minute.
I am a freaking weirdo, and I spend a lot of time thinking about mindset and processes and various high level “life hack” type subjects. A lot of it is a total waste of time, but occasionally you stumble onto things that really do help improve your life or just general way of thinking.
I listen to this podcast called “My First Million” because I’m into startups, business, interesting ideas and other stuff like that. Yes, I’m a nerd. But there were a couple sayings from an episode a while back that have just stuck with me. They were talking about things from a business or investing perspective, but I really do think it fits our crazy fantasy football space well too.
We have months to look at all this data, all these news reports, read various people’s opinions, projections and god knows what else. We are constantly trying to become smarter and make more informed decisions with the hopes of being able to craft better fantasy football teams. But what happens in reality is that it typically ends up being paralysis by analysis. And you’re far more often better off just keep it simple (stupid).
Here’s the episode if you want to give it a watch/listen (this segment starts around the 35 minute mark):
But what I think happens for many of us is that we never give ourselves a chance to even reach our end goal. Shit, we may not even define the end goal. Is your end goal to win Best Ball Mania 3? Or is it just to have some fun drafting teams over the summer? Whatever it is, you need to know it, and then you need to figure out the FIRST step. Not every step.
“Don’t even think about number 3, it’s not important.”
“If building a business is steps 0-10, and 10 is that your vision has been achieved, it’s good to have number 10. So everybody starts thinking about steps 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, but the only thing that’s important is number 1 and 10. Once you get done with number 1, you’ll figure out number 2. And until you get done with number 2, don’t even think about worrying about number 3. It’s not important.”
I don’t know what it says about me (probably something not good), but when he said that I instantly thought of that mindset within our fantasy football process. We spend all offseason figuring out who the best picks are, what are the optimal strategies, best positional allocations, and all this other stuff. We overload our brain with so much different shit that we just make things harder and more confusing for ourselves for a lot of draft season. We probably know what number 10 is (win this best ball tournament), but I don’t even think most of us take the time to figure out what number 1 is in our path to reaching number 10. We just start diving into target shares and last year’s advance rates and all sorts of other stuff that is, of course, helpful. But it probably fits somewhere in those middle steps between 1 and 10.
The other quote (which is obviously where I stole the title from) talks about this process very similarly, but in alphabetical as opposed to numeric terms:
“A, B, Z. That’s all you ever need.”
“You are at A, that’s where you are right now, and Z is the vision or the dream. You need to have that, that’s the North Star or whatever, and without that you won’t really have the motivation or know what you need to do. But where everyone gets paralyzed is they think they know steps C, D, E, F, G…. and they get paralyzed because they start thinking about step D, but they haven’t even figured out A to B yet. So, A, B, Z, that’s all you ever need. Where you are, you need to know that accurately, and the next thing you need to do, you need to know that. Then you need to know the end vision… and everything else is irrelevant.”
I’m probably just a nerd, but I freaking love that. And I think it’s so applicable for our fantasy drafts and fantasy football process. We get so inundated with all these different things that we end up paralyzed. There are thousands and thousands of fantasy football touts providing endless amounts of analysis, data, etc., so it’s incredibly easy to get swept up in the next thing that comes across your timeline. And maybe it is insightful, but it’s probably like step U, and you haven’t even gone from step A to step B yet.
And it’s important for everyone to figure out those steps for themselves. That’s part of what I think gets lost during the summer of Best Ball. We’re all human, and we are all attacking a basically unsolvable game against other humans. So just like building a business, the steps are going to be different for each person because each of us (like each business) are different.
But I do think paralysis by analysis is one of the biggest issues for most people in our space. It’s certainly a big issue for me. Everybody wants to be informed. Everybody wants to be smart. And everybody wants to win (even though some want to be right more than they want to win).
So we get these gigantic freaking best ball tournaments, we’re excited for all the drafts over the summer, and we just consume countless different pieces of content. Whether it be projections, structural strategies (like, say, Hero RB), historical win rate/advance rate data or simply just hanging out talking with our weird internet friends in discord. We’re drinking through a firehose and bouncing all over the place with some Step B to Step Y then back to Step E with no real rhyme or reason.
For me, it’s very simple… and I want to keep it very simple.
Before I ever consume anything or listen to anyone else, I create a very simple set of projections. These projections take into account a range of outcomes for every player and offense. From there, we move on to Step C, where I slot player’s into “archetypes”. (I actually probably spend way more time on this step because I think it’s the most important, but I’m working on a piece coming soon on the importance of archetypes, so more on that later.)
Those first two steps essentially give me my baseline. I don’t need all these articles, historical win rates or correlation matrices. I need to get from Step A to Step B and then from Step B to Step C.
We obviously don’t need to go through every letter of the alphabet here, and I personally haven’t even gotten that far anyway. Step Z is winning Best Ball Mania 3 for $2 Million for me right now, so considering it’s May 11th as I’m writing this, there’s no way I could have all the steps figured out yet.
But if I didn’t do those first steps, there’s no way I would be able to successfully implement the future steps and future information. I am a huge proponent of “strong beliefs, loosely held”, but the first 2 steps are where that baseline of beliefs come from. Not some article about this year’s sleepers or last year’s tournament results. We can always adapt and always go back to those first steps and tweak things based on new information, but the initial “strong belief” is precisely what allows us to do successfully. A big part of my process is listening to the other people in the industry I believe to be smart and trustworthy. But that can’t be my Step B. It has to be somewhere in the middle.
And like I said, this is all going to be very different for all of us. You don’t need to do your own projections. You can just grab them from somewhere else. Or maybe you don’t even care about projections. All of these steps are up for debate.
But the point is you can’t get to step Z (the end goal) without completing the other steps first. And you can’t get to any of the other steps if you don’t start by figuring out how to get from step A to step B.
A, B, Z. Nothing else matters.