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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lexulous Life Lessons: Don't Be Predictable

Recently, a friend who I play quite regularly mentioned that she was losing to me because she was getting lousy tiles lately. Before that, she won her fair share. I actually taught her how to play and she got to the point that she was a better player than me. I explained to her that the reason she was now losing to me was not because of her unlucky tiles, but because she had become predictable and I pretty much knew what move she was going to make most of the time. Being that I figured out her pattern, I basically set her up so I could make the moves I wanted.
Part of being good at anything is learning the ins and outs of the game. Figuring out what works, building your skill set and paying attention to the details. Focus also goes a long way to determining whether or not you will be successful. Without mastering these factors, at some point you will come to a level where others are better than you. There is always someone who is better than you, and even if you attain their level, once you surpass them and move forward there is a better challenge and you find out if you can climb that mountain as well.

But, no matter what level you attain, no matter how good you get, once you begin to interact with any one person, the key factor (all other things being equal) is that they (if they are paying attention) learn your pattern and know what you are likely to do.
Some key examples of this are found in sports. In baseball, if the batter knows what pitch is coming, no matter how hard you throw or how great a curve ball you have, he is likely to hit it. Part of the advantage is that uncertainty of what comes next. Here is a short excerpt from a pitcher who noted that in a game he pitched on Sunday.

 "He didn’t reveal his whole hand the first time through the order,” Farrell said after the game, adding that Cecil’s improved fastball command allowed him to better utilize his secondary pitches. “He kept the game under control, threw a lot of strikes and it was an encouraging outing for him.”
Cecil himself said his curveball is his most improved pitch — it’s tighter and has more depth — but his overall command is what makes the biggest difference.
“Just being able to control the ball a lot better, with all my pitches, and throwing to both sides of the plate.”
He stayed ahead in the count against most Phillies batters — especially early in the game — and while he didn’t overpower, he had the likes of Placido Polanco, Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz frozen and fooled by his breaking pitches.
Cecil, who threw 55 of his 87 pitches for strikes, said both pitches the Phillies went yard on were cutters. On Mayberry’s, he left it elevated in the zone, while to Thome he threw successive pitches with the same kind of movement, and the veteran simply caught up it. “Just bad pitch selection,” Cecil said afterward.

 -Brett Cecil on his pitching outing Sunday, June 17, 2012

In horse racing, some horses are always frontrunners and some horses always take back and come at the end. If you know a horse likes to go to the front of the race and you can prevent him from doing that easily or successfully, then you are likely to take away his chance to win. In that vein, if you are a frontrunner, sometimes it is better to not go for the lead, just so that others don't think they have a read on you. I remember a horse named Shady Hill Pride, who was noted for going right to the back of the field, sitting dead last until very near the end, then making one huge move and most of the time winning. He did this for years. It was his pattern. Every driver knew that and drove him that way. One day, a new driver was hired and he decided this one time to go for the front. No others in the race expected this of him and he simply surprised them and got away from them before they figured it out. After that, he varied his style and it was simply a matter of class that determined his success, not style. The horse could actually go very fast at the start, but no driver even tried that with him and the horse got very used to just going to the back of the field. Once he was put on the lead, it rejuvenated him.
Around the same time,  there was a horse called Billy Ocelot. He always went right to the front and raced that way. Sometimes he was successful and sometimes he was not. Other drivers knew if they made him work for the lead, he would still attempt to get it and would not finish well. His style completely determined his results. He rarely ever tried to race from behind. When he did, he just didn't try as hard.

 In basketball, it is common knowledge that certain players always want to make their move in a certain direction or shoot from a certain spot on the court. If you are such a player, then the person guarding you is usually going to defend you accordingly. That gives you the chance to take them by surprise, easily, by doing something they don't expect. As well, from that point forward, they can't cheat and guard you a certain way for fear you will beat them with what they are leaving you.
So, the life lesson for today is this: Get good at what you do. Learn the basics and learn from others, but once you achieve that level, don't be predictable. Don't let your opponent think they know what you are going to do. With respect to life,  don't be predictable if you can avoid it. Try new things. Change things up, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. It might not be the best move you can make,  but it can help you in the long run.

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