Don’t Let Them Put You in a Bucket

People naturally want to put other people into a bucket. There are of course the obvious examples of race and gender. These stereotypes are so powerful that they can cause you to under or “over” perform on a math test, depending on what stereotype is invoked. [1]. But then there are the more subtle ones:

  • He’s so good at writing, he couldn’t possibly be good as an engineer
  • She’s an athlete so she’s obviously going to be hyper competitive about this project
  • That team fell apart last year in the playoffs, they’re just bad under pressure

Continue reading…


Take More Naps and Other Talent-Building Ideas

Five years ago, I stood in a bookstore for about an hour and read half of a wonderful book called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyne. It had come out around the same time as a few other books in a similar vein of developing expertise and 10,000 hours etc but just grabbed me and didn’t let go.

Part of it was that Coyne went out into the field and visited “talent hotspots” that developed elite performers across many disciplines: soccer stars, violin prodigies, chess champions, etc. The stories he came back with are concrete, have a human element to them, and deeply resonate with my own experience. Continue reading…


My Reading Notes on The Success Equation: Untangling Luck vs Skill in Business, Sports, and Investing

Today’s reading notes, as part of #WkofBks and Day 6 of the Your Turn Challenge is The Success Equation, Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing.

I think this is a fascinating topic because we all know that both factors are highly relevant for a lot of high performance activities, but they are not easy disconnected. I’ve won a NCAA championship, started and folded a venture-backed company, and invested money in various asset classes so there’s a lot of personal interest here.

These reading notes began life as an “Ignite-style” 5 minute presentation with slides automatically progressing every 15 seconds — which I gave on a Monday morning presentation for Percolate. The words below are essentially what I said during that talk.


My book presentation is on The Success Equation, by Michael Mauboussin, who’s Head of Global Financial Strategies at Credit Suisse. The book is about understanding and managing the role of luck vs skill in complex activities. We’ll start off with a quick quiz. Continue reading…

How a Gymnastics Coach Became a Single-Digit Handicap Golfer in Six Years

Is athletic ability something that’s transferable? Deion Sanders was an outstanding baseball and football player, but Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, struggled in his short-lived baseball career.

I spent over a decade as a nationally competitive gymnast and learned a ton about performing under pressure, overcoming fear and mastering skills. I owe much of my success to my amazing coach, Levon Karakhanyan, who trained me for the last 3 years of high school and helped me earn a spot on the US Jr. National Team. (He also is the only man I have truly feared because he was … aggressive about correcting my mistakes and making sure I finished every last rep of my strength conditioning. And yes, there were serious consequences if I cheated.)

In 2007, Levon picked up golf as a hobby but quickly made leaps and bounds in his play. He is now a single digit handicap golfer (about 7.3), which puts him in the top 16% of all golfers in the US who keep a handicap, which is even more impressive when you consider that most golfers probably don’t keep a handicap at all.

And he’s done all this while being the Head Coach for the boy’s program at NESA and raising a young son. He’s now

In the interview, Levon and I discuss:

  • How he got started as a gymnast himself
  • What differentiated him from other gymnasts
  • Why patience was a key quality of becoming a better coach
  • How he found the time to practice while holding down a full-time job
  • Why the ratio of practice to competition matters so much 
  • Jason:  Levon, let’s start with gymnastics.  You’re my gymnastics coach.  When did you start doing gymnastics?
  • Levon:  I was about six years old in Armenia.
  • Jason: Did they pick you up from a program?  How did they find you?
  • Levon: My parents were very concerned about me doing all kinds of crazy things.
  • Jason:  You were a really active as a kid so they wanted to put you in a gym.
  • Levon: Yes.  My aunt actually had a friend who worked in a gymnastics facility, after her complaining about me doing crazy things, she said,”Oh, it looks like he might be just the right person to do gymnastics.  Why don’t you bring him over so they can check it out and see if he’s good.”
  • Jason: So were you a good gymnast as a kid? Did you immediately …
  • Levon:  When I came, it was a selection process.  They wouldn’t pick anybody.  They were impressed.  They put me on the bars.  I did 10 pull-ups, and they said, “Enough,” and they were pulling me off the bars, and I was still trying to do more pull-ups.
  • Jason: You were pretty strong as a kid.
  • Levon: Yes.
  • Jason: Did you have good air sense? Were you able to pick up some of that like the skills? Did you learn skills quickly, do you feel?
  • Levon: Yes, relatively quickly. It was a long process from that point. Many years of training and everything else.
  • Jason: You liked gymnastics too.
  • Levon: Oh, yes. Absolutely. It was a lot of fun. I could do everything that I wanted to do instead of everybody telling me, “Oh, stop doing that.” Everybody was like, “Oh, yes. Do more.” Continue reading…