The Utility Infielder

  •   Comments

My favorite baseball player is Brock Holt, and has been since his first season with the Red Sox back in 2013.  Here is me last month wearing my Holt jersey that I wear to every game (note the #26 that he started out with, before it was retired for Wade Boggs a few years ago — Brock wears #12 now):

What I love about him are two things: 1) he does everything, wherever and whatever needs to be done, and 2) he plays with the best brand of baseball energy: hustle. He gets things done, when they need to get done, with nothing but positive energy.  It’s beautiful, and I picked up on it the first time I saw him play, back in 2013.  He is the ultimate utility infielder.

“Utility Infielder” can be somewhat of a derogatory term, because it basically means that you are not enough of a star to be a starter at any one position. But in my view, a great utility infielder can be the glue that holds a team together, and Brock is the best example of that I can think of.

The challenge of being a utility player is that nothing is guaranteed, nothing is certain, and nothing is defined. You might play first base one day, third the next, outfield after that. And then maybe not play for a week — and then get tapped to pinch hit in the bottom of the 9th with the game on the line.

For example, over the last month or so, Brock has done a bunch of pinch-hitting (coming into a game for a single at-bat), and has been Mr. Clutch, getting a bunch of big hits and home runs, including the pinch-hit homer that clinched the Red Sox playoff spot.

A great utility infielder can play any position, and play it well — well enough not only to get by, but to make great plays, consistently.  Here is a Brock Holt highlight reel, consisting mostly of plays from 2014 and 2015.  You’ll notice highlights from every position — not just infield but all the outfield positions too.  It also happens to include him hitting for the cycle, ending, of course with the most difficult of all to attain, the triple:

Lastly, a great utility player must do more than just make plays on the field — you’ve got work to do in the clubhouse and in the dugout, to keep the vibe up and the energy good.

My favorite Holt example of this was back in April of this year.  It was 34 degrees and the Sox were down 7-2.  I was at the game with a friend and our kids; the dads were ready to throw in the towel but the kids had faith and wanted to wait it out.  Brock Holt came to bat, and surprised the entire stadium when his walk-up song was “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (the really loud part at the end).  The whole stadium woke up and laughed.  He flied out, but that sparked a 2-out rally where the Sox scored 6 to take the lead.  It was amazing. Afterwards, Holt said: “It worked. It worked. It got us going.”  That’s what I’m talking about.

I guess I feel a kinship with Brock Holt, and high-hustle utility infielders everywhere, because I have always thought of myself as a one too.  Basically every job I’ve ever had, my approach has been: I’m just going to be helpful and do whatever needs to be done — and enjoy it.

There is a definite risk in being a utility infielder, in that by helping a little bit everywhere, you never get awesome anywhere.  That is a real risk. But my experience has more been that if you do everything and anything that needs to be done, do it well, enjoy yourself, and do your best to make your teammates better, opportunities will present themselves.

#proudutilityinfielder

Fear

  •   Comments

I have been helping my son, who is in 4th grade, with his math — specifically, multiplication.  He feels like he is a little bit behind, so we are working on it so he can get more comfortable.  It is going well now — we have gotten into a routine of spending 15 minutes per… Read more »

Form factor

  •   Comments

Over the past few weeks, I have varied up my computing habits a bit.  For a laptop, I have been using a Pixelbook, and I have also been spending more timing using an iPad Pro for work (vs my default of using a Mac laptop for everything). What I have discovered is that the form… Read more »

A little, and then a little more

  •   Comments

Back in May, I had what ended up being a major hand surgery — repairing a torn tendon and in the process reconstructing the end of my pinkie by grafting tendons borrowed from my ring finger.  As a result, I am now recovering from two injuries — the pinkie itself and the ring finger that… Read more »

Layers

  •   Comments

A central concept on the internet is Layering.  Each of the protocols in the internet stack talks to the layer directly above and below it — new protocols can be added as long as they speak the language of their layer.  Protocols at one layer can be upgraded so long as they don’t break compatibility… Read more »

Minimum Viable Economy

  •   Comments

One of my favorite things about the cryptocurrency / blockchain space is that our conception of “what it all means” is still very much in flux. Nic Carter just published a nice analysis of how the functional narrative around bitcoin has changed over time – (roughly) from e-cash, to e-gold, to private currency, to a… Read more »

The path to decentralization: self-destructing companies

  •   Comments

In June, the SEC gave some of its most concrete guidance to date that cryptoassets can start out as centralized projects, possibly initially sold under securities laws, and eventually become “decentralized” and thus no longer sponsor-controlled, and no longer sold or transferred under securities laws. It makes sense that a decentralized protocol does not fit… Read more »

Trust and fairness

  •   Comments

I was at an event last night, where the moderator, Preeti Varathan from QZ observed that there seemed to be a lot of cynicism in the blockchain / crypto space — in other words, that the whole thing was essentially premised on a distrust of existing systems (fiat currencies, large internet companies, etc). It’s an… Read more »

Compound interest goes in both directions

  •   Comments

There is no shortage of writing and punditry about the power of compound interest. As usual Naval has a pithy tweet about it: Play iterated games. All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest. — Naval (@naval) May 31, 2018 I have been thinking about this a lot… Read more »

just_work = true

  •   Comments

One of my former colleagues, Rob Marianski, and I used to have a running joke — we would be building and debugging something, and he’d finally say, “Oh, so you just want me to set just_work = true?”.  That was over 10 years ago, but it still gets me every time for some reason.  (as… Read more »

Focus

  •   Comments

Ryan Caldbeck is on fire on Twitter right now.  Ryan is the CEO of our portfolio company CircleUp, and he just joined Twitter for the first time earlier this year and is, I may say, feeling very comfortable in the medium.  Over the weekend he put up a great diagram-oriented tweetstorm with a bunch of gems… Read more »

Digital scarcity

  •   Comments

As readers of this blog can tell, I’ve been spending a lot of my time recently focused on cryptonetworks and blockchains, and in particular, working through the complex legal and regulatory issues involved. Explaining what cryptocurrencies, cryptonetworks and blockchains are is hard to do.  As Naval recently said on twitter: It is the mark of… Read more »

Zombies eating kitties

  •   Comments

On Tuesday we announced our investment in Cryptokitties, and, as you might expect, received a combination of enthusiasm and skepticism in response.  Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies already sound ridiculous to most people, and virtual “real” kittens made out of cryptocurrency take it a step further. But, as with many new technologies, these first use cases just… Read more »

A bigger container

  •   Comments

An idea I like from Zen Buddhism is becoming a Bigger Container.  My understanding of the idea is this: There are a lot of difficult/bad/sad/scary things going on in the world, ranging from serious global issues, war, famine, terrorism, etc; to things in your city like homelessness or joblessnes; to things in your family, like… Read more »

Cryptonetworks and why tokens are fundamental

  •   Comments

“Cryptonetworks” can help us build a more competitive, innovative, secure and decentralized Internet.  “Tokens” (also known as cryptocurrencies or cryptoassets) are integral to the operation of cryptonetworks.  As we design new laws and regulations in this emerging space, we should keep these concepts in mind, beyond the financial aspects that are today’s primary focus. In… Read more »

Teaching kids to invest

  •   Comments

I’ve written a bunch about why it’s expensive to be poor, why we need better tools for managing money, and how to move from a labor mindset to a capital mindset.  A big takeaway for me is that accumulating wealth isn’t just a functional activity, it’s a mindset that needs to be learned, and taught…. Read more »

How to make big problems small and small problems big

  •   Comments

Avoidance is to be avoided. — Nick Grossman (@nickgrossman) February 22, 2018 I’m on a plane right now.  I always find plane/train rides to be some of the best times to focus and get work done.  On this trip, I managed to get two “monkeys” off my back — little tasks that have been lingering… Read more »

You need a budget

  •   Comments

I’ve written for a long time about my desire to re-build personal finance infrastructure in ways that benefit people with the least money.  We see new personal financial products all the time targeting high value customers, but it still feels like they are ignoring a huge, and important part of the market: people scraping by… Read more »