Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mark Cuban and Joseph Schumpeter

Next time I teach Joseph Schumpeter, I'm going to quote Mark Cuban's account of "the sport of business." (Cuban is the billionaire founder of Broadcast.Com and the current owner of the Dallas Mavericks.) This revealing testimony distills everything that Schumpeter had in mind when he lauded the entrepreneur as the life-blood of commercial society. The death of this type of character--a death that Schumpeter prematurely foretold--spelled the death of commercial society. Next time I teach a class on the critics of commercial society, I'm also going to quote this passage. Can a society survive, cohere, flourish, if this type of character came to predominate? Would it be an attractive place to live? I doubt that Adam Smith, a man with a fine appreciation of tranquillity, would think that it was.

Relaxing is for the other guy. I may be sitting in front of the TV, but I’m not watching it unless I think there is something I can learn from it. I’m thinking about things I can use in my business and the TV is just there.

I could take the time to read a fiction book, but I don’t. I would rather read websites, newspapers, magazines, looking for ideas and concepts that I can use. I spend time in bookstores because 1 idea from a book or magazine can make me money.

I’m not going to go to dinner with you just to chat. I’m not going to give you a call to see how you are. Unless you want to talk business. Other guys play fantasy sports. I fire the synapses to get an edge.

That’s what success is all about. I’ts about the edge.

It’s not who you know. It’s not how much money you have. It’s very simple. It’s whether or not you have the edge and have the guts to use it.

The edge is getting so jazzed about what you do, you just spent 24 hours straight working on a project and you thought it was a couple hours.

The edge is knowing that you have to be the smartest guy in the room when you have your meeting and you are going to put in the effort to learn whatever you need to learn to get there.

The edge is knowing is knowing that when the 4 girlfriends you have had in the last couple years asked you which was more important, them or your business, you gave the right answer.

The edge is knowing that you can fail and learn from it, and just get back up and in the game.

The edge is knowing that people think your crazy, and they are right, but you don’t care what they think.

The edge is knowing how to blow off steam a couple times a week, just so you can refocus on business

The edge is knowing that you are getting to your goals and treating people right along the way because as good as you can be, you are so focused that you need regular people around you to balance you and help you.

The edge is being able to call out someone on a business issue because you know you have done your homework.

The edge is recognizing when you are wrong, and working harder to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The edge is being able to drill down and identify issues and problems and solve them before anyone knows they are there.

The edge is knowing that while everyone else is talking about nonsense like the will to win, and how they know they can be successful, you are preparing yourself to compete so that you will be successful.

That’s what makes business such an amazing sport. Everyone plays it. Everyone talks about how good they are or will be at it. Just a small percentage are.

Every single day someone has an idea. Every day someone talks about some business they want to start. Every day someone is out there starting a business whose entire goal is to beat the hell out of yours. How cool is that.

Every day some stranger from any where in the world that you have never met is trying to come up with a way to put you out of business. To take everything you have worked your ass off for, and take it all away. If you are in a growing industry, there could be hundreds or thousands of strangers trying to figure out ways to put you out of business. How cool is that.

The ultimate competition. Would you like to play a game called Eat Your Lunch. We are going to face off. My ability to execute on an idea vs yours. My ability to subvert your business vs your ability to keep it going. My ability to create ways to remove any reason for your business to exist vs your ability to do the same to me. My ability to know what you are going to do, before you do it. Who gets there first? Best of all, this game doesn’t have a time limit. It’s forever. It never ends. It’s the ultimate competition.

Monday, April 04, 2005

How to Stop the Rolling Maul

Due to the miraculous powers of Google, the Dave Gwydion website is now the first port of call for anyone interested in Rugby Union's "Rolling Maul." I won't bore readers with the reasons--they can read them here. I was thus pleased to read that someone else--someone who actually knows something about the laws of rugby union--had the same idea of how to stop the rolling maul. The laws suggest that the old Arsenal-style offside trap would work quite nicely against this abomination to the game of rugby union--although some of the contributors to the Newcastle Falcons website remain quite skeptical. Anyway over to Duncan Madsen of Newcastle's Evening Chronicle:

As the laws currently stand, the advantage lies almost totally with the attacking side who are allowed to obstruct at will, while the defenders are denied any legitimate ploy of counter-acting as they cannot legally pull down or collapse the maul, nor come round the side of it to get at the ball carrier.

This is the only legalised form of obstruction allowed by referees - and the quicker the lawmakers of the International Rugby Board outlaw it the better.

Until they do, we shall witness more of the same as the big packs like Bath, Leicester and Saracens throw gay abandon to the winds in a bid to strangle their opponents - unless and until someone has the wit to put a stop to all this nonsense by using the laws as they currently stand to the defender's advantage.

To understand where I am coming from, a little knowledge of the laws themselves is required.

Law 22 states: `A maul, which can take place only in the field of play, is formed by one or more players from each team on their feet and in physical contact closing round a player who is carrying the ball.'

Please note the words `each team' because if players are from one team only are involved, it is not a maul, so the offside law does not apply and the law of obstruction does.

Law 26 (1) (b) states: `It is illegal for any player: who is in an off-side position willfully to run or stand in front of another player of his team who is carrying the ball, thereby preventing an opponent from reaching the latter player.'

So if instead of engaging their opponents at a lineout, the defending side back off one or two metres, a whole new scenario opens up.

The attacking pack can either go forward to engage their opponents but then the ball carrier must expose himself to be tackled. However, if he isn't and tucks himself behind as he would in a so-called rolling maul, it is obstruction - the old flying wedge - and under Law 26, the offenders must be penalised.

Equally, the other option open to the defending side would be to come round the side of their opponents wedge and tackle the ball-carrier as there is no offside line as there would be in a maul.

This is not tosh and I have put it to a top Premiership referee who confirms my interpretation in its entirety.


Let me recommend an excellent new website devoted to debates over the EU Constitution. I've just added my two cents to a debate sparked by Raphael Paour's comments on the appropriate "left-wing" perspective on this Constitution.

Your anti-EU Constitution argument rests upon the unwarranted assumption that a more integrated European market is at odds with “social justice” (or some other set of left-wing values). Let’s assume, however, that social justice involves, at a minimum, improving the material well-being of Europe’s poorest citizens—who, for the most part, are now to be found in Eastern and Central Europe. An integrated market will likely benefit these Europeans quite substantially. (This is why "leftists" ought to lend their support to Bolkestein's efforts to open up the market for services in Europe.) It is thus not clear why we “leftists” must reject the EU Constitution, especially since this Constitution, if properly implemented, might help dismantle the many local national monopolies and corporatist rent-seekers (pharmacists, for instance—ever tried buying a bottle of aspirins on the Continent?) that currently prevent Europe from developing a robust, globally competitive economy. Your type of “leftist” makes a great mistake in thinking that Europe’s poorest citizens need redistribution rather than economic growth. Clearly they need both. But they will get neither if people like you have their way.

There is a further problem with your argument: you seem to suggest that the EU Constitution privileges one economic philosophy (market liberalism) over others. But this is clearly false. The EU Constitution reads as if it were written by a fractious committee (I wonder why?). It contains a confused rambling compendium of contradictory economic commitments. Compare the following:

The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security, and justice without internal frontiers, and a single market where competition is free and undistorted. (Article 1-3: 2)

The Union shall work for a Europe of just development based on balanced economic growth, a social market economy, highly competitive and aiming at full employment and social progress.
(Article 1-3: 3)

If the EU Constitution fails in France (as you hope) and in Britain (as it most certainly will), this failure will in large part be due to these confused and contradictory commitments, which allow left and right eurosceptics to present the EU as, well, confused and contradictory.

UPDATE: here is Raphael's very revealing reply:

Thank you for your answer which is very interesting. You say:

“Let’s assume, however, that social justice involves improving the material well-being of Europe’s poorest citizens—who, for the most part, are now to be found in Eastern and Central Europe. An integrated market will likely benefit these Europeans quite substantially.”

Euan was making the same kind of point in explaining that in the UK, the social rights brought by European norms are an improvement.

So, let’s say that the question becomes: should we, in France, accept to lose some rights in order for others to gain some? It’s a difficult question for someone who isn’t nationalist and it’s true that put in those terms I wouldn’t know how to answer it.

Your remarks about the fact that the constitution contains contradictory economic commitments are also very true. But in my view that doesn’t matter too much because no matter what these types of very large provisions say, what counts are really the institutions that have the power to interpret and apply them. The institutions count much more than the general declaration of rights for what we likely happen to social rights. The power of the commission is therefore very problematic; I may be wrong but I don’t see it implementing very social policies.

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