The Numbers Edge

In “The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer Is Wrong” authors Chris Anderson and David Sally begin their argument with a quote from Bill James:

“In sports, what is true is more powerful than what you believe, because what is true will give you an edge.”

Change “sports” to just about any aspect of your life and this still rings true. “In business…” or “In personal relationships…” what is true is still powerful and still gives you an edge. The introduction of their book declares that the numbers are at the center of changing the game of soccer:

It is numbers that will challenge convention and invert norms, overhaul practices and shatter beliefs.

Part of the argument is that paying attention to the numbers gives you an edge, but in closing they also highlight that numbers are increasingly just another aspect of the game. When the young sons of the authors play soccer video games a part of the game they argue about is the value of any player as they make trades and set salaries. The numbers, and largely the financial numbers, hold a truth that will give you an edge.

Again, as in “sports” so in other aspects of our lives. My friend Chris Dancy is the “the most connected guy in the world” and has optimized his life based on personal data. He has strapped himself, his home, and his dogs with sensors in order to gain an edge by using the numbers of so much data.

Of course it’s not easy and it’s not cheap. Soccer has global revenue of $28 billion yearly, and so companies have stepped in to provide data analysis as a paid service. Dancy has had to work alone and is strapped with thousands of dollars of sensors he then records and integrates into his life. There is complexity in setting up, recording, and interpreting the numbers.

Luckily for us there is one place in our lives where we all create objective numbers. Money. The data around how you spend your money is easily tracked and the truth about how you spend your money is powerful and can change what you believe about your own life. Once you look at that data you can start to make changes and gain an edge. Just like in soccer.

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