Up until the early 2000's the world of college football recruiting was largely a mystery to the common fan. One day you just opened the newspaper and saw a list of names that signed with your favorite program. Then came the internet.
In the early 2000's you started seeing various websites pop-up exclusively dedicated to the 16, 17 and 18 year olds and what program would gain their services. Never mind that the majority of people working these sites and evaluating talent have coached a high-major college football game in their lives. It didn't matter, the pressure was on for every major program to get a top 5 or 10 class year in and year out. That after all was the only way to compete for a national title.
Enter the book Meat Market, which follows Ole Miss for a season leading up to signing day 2007. The team is led by Ed Orgeron, the same that won the national title with LSU in 2020, in his pursuit to fill out a dominant class and compete against the likes of LSU, Alabama, Texas and others. The book is comical at times, frustrating at others and leaves you openly rooting for Orgeron. Of course you know how it plays out in hindsight with Orgeron being let go after the 2007 season where he went 3-9.
What Did I Learn?
1. I've read this book several times over the years, so in my most recent read I wouldn't say I learned a lot. However, looking back on this in 2009 when I first bought it was eye-opening. I had a general idea of how recruiting worked and even worked side-by-side in Penn State's recruiting gate during the 2007 season. However, this made me take another look at the cut-throat nature of the SEC.
2. I knew little about Ed Orgeron, but immediately liked him. He didn't fit the mold of the average pretty boy southern gent with the visor. He is a get down and dirty grind it out kind of guy. He was my kind of guy and someone I respected reading the book. Players seem to love him and his style, but his knock was his lack of polish.
3. I didn't really have any clue how many total players you had to offer to put together a good class. When you're a 2nd-tier SEC program like Ole Miss you really have to cast a large net. The state of Mississippi, although football rich, isn't a well populated state. You've really got to cover the entire southeast United States to build a good class. The challenge with a wide net is in that era it was more difficult to maintain a relationship with a kid four states over than it is today.
4. You really get an eye-opening look at academic and specifically pushing kids over the line to eligibility in this book. There were several players committed to Ole Miss that weren't initially eligible. There was a lot of checking in to see where kids stood. I would imagine a lot of premiere programs skipped over a handful of the Ole Miss kids because the risk of him not qualifying wasn't worth the reward of him joining the roster. In this way Ole Miss tried to wedge their way into a niche. You got a decent look at southern poverty, especially with the poor black community of the south.
I found this book wildly entertaining, even being someone who holds an advanced degree in Sport Management. For those that aren't super familiar with the business of major college athletics, specifically the large money making programs of the Power 5 conferences there is nine-digits floating through these athletic departments on an annual basis. However, collegiate athletic departments are classified as non-profit entities so they are exempt from paying taxes. This allows the money that they make to go flowing back into the programs in the form of large coaching salaries, gaudy facilities and lavish amenities not open to the average student.
The vast majority of collegiate athletic departments are not profitable and rely on student fees from the regular everyday student to stay afloat. Even with programs operating in the red it isn't unusual for the highest paid public employee in the state to be a college football coach. The challenge is raised whether these athletic departments with un-profitable football programs should even continue with a program.
Gilbert Gaul did an excellent job researching the book and getting a lot of first-hand accounts. I will admit that my eyebrows were raised by some of the quotes and perspective he provided throughout the book. It is definitely worth the read.
What Did I Learn?
1. I was aware that Title IX made college programs create comparable programs to women and provide a number of scholarships comparable to the student body. What really jumped out to me in Gaul's book was how women's rowing has largely been a driving force to help match the 85 scholarship given to football programs. Women's rowing is a relatively cheap sport to finance and most of the girls that enter the sport have little or not experience in the water. They just happen to be tall and strong.
2. Gaul digs into why the SEC is so dominant at football. I won't ruin that chapter for you.
3. I enjoyed how the idea of whether student athletes get a real education. Often times schools tend to funnel kids into majors and colleges that best fit the needs of the football program's schedule. Does that really benefit the student in the long-haul? The NCAA's comical "we're preparing for life after sports" campaign comes to mind. Do they really mean that when it comes to football? Or are they just protecting their cash cow?
Anyone that has ever been in a serious negotiation knows that it can be a long drawn out battle that leaves both sides frustrated by the experience. You start a new relationship with one another already bitter about working with the person across the table. This isn't a good first step for either party.
This book introduces a process with three steps:
1. Take yourself out of your shoes and put yourself in theirs
2. Create a win-win for both parties
3. Think through the problem objectively
The challenge to accomplish the three steps above are to create an environment where both parties put their objectives on the table and work side-by-side to check off as many of the boxes as possible. Instead of being adversaries in a negotiations you should work as a team.
With all of the objectives on the table it is important to verbalize the position of the other person so you understand and they are aware that you understand their position. This should put them at ease to progress further into the negotiations. This is where creating a win-win scenario becomes a possibility.
Lastly, look at the problem objectively from outside sources. What are comparable values for the items found in the deal. For example, if you're in a media deal and the sales rep says they will send your offer to 50,000 people it sounds incredible. However, if their email open rate is only 10% you're really only reaching 5,000 people. If you find another example of a different company sending out an email to 25,000, but they have a 20% open rate they are also reaching 5,000 people. Find out what the cost for their email is and bring that back to the discussion.
What Did I Learn?
1. This book has taught me to be more of a team player when it comes to negotiations. Get through all of the small talk about weekends, weather, sports teams, etc. to find out what their goals are in the deal. You tend to leave a table more satisfied with the process than you were before you started. Sometimes you will run into an immovable force or someone that won't play ball. Wash your hands of them and find someone that will.
2. To be more prepared with what we want before going into the meeting. I've usually done a pretty good job of looking up information on a company I am about to meet with and comparable companies, but I can do better.
3. The challenge when you're in a negotiation with media outlets is that their objectives are simple: get the most money for the least amount of effort. You have to be careful that the objectives they put forth aren't superficial. For this reason you have to get them to care about you as a person and the product/service that you provide. Whatever objectives they say you should hold them to and try to accomplish. If they say they want to maximize your reach put it on the board. If they say, they want to make you visible in their audience, put it on the board. Hold them to it, not only in that initial meeting but throughout the life of the deal.
The scene is 1893 Chicago and the city has been awarded the honor of hosting the next great World's Fair. The previous host, Paris, really set the bar by unveiling the wonder that is the Eiffel Tower. An architect and his team are expected to not only meet, but exceed the wonder brought to the stage by Paris. Oh, and they have little time and money to do so.
The book predominantly features two main characters: the architect Daniel Burnham who was famous for his work around the world at the time and also a little known con-man from New England named Herman Mudgett better know as H.H. Holmes. Each chapter jumps back and forth chronologically for the most part to each character as the 1893 Chicago World's Fair is getting ready to open and operate.
The book chronicles the killing spree of H.H. Holmes as he cons people out of money, property and their lives. The book gets in depth with his killing spree and cashing in of the benefactors he took life insurance out on. He was described as very handsome and charming and he reminded me of Ted Bundy in the way he approached his crimes. In his creepy hotel he built in a kiln, secret passage ways, pots of acid and much more. Due to its proximity to the fair many people stayed in his dark palace.
Burham was a man under immense pressure to essentially come up with a beautiful city that is built on sand with a limited timeframe. He manages to pull it off, but not without several hitches and acts of God getting in his way.
What Did I Learn?
1. For those of you that know your history, you'll know that the Ferris Wheel was introduced at this fair and was a smashing success. Can you imagine launching the Ferris Wheel to the masses when you aren't even sure that the steel will hold up to all of the weight. I really found this to be a fascinating story within a larger story.
2. The fairs were really a spectacle in the way that Epcot's Around the World section of Disney World is set up. It is meant to give you a small taste of what other cultures are like. The organizers even brought in full villages of people.
3. I had always heard that Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was part of the fair itself, but that turned out to be untrue. In a genius use of guerilla marketing, Buffalo Bill rented out land next to the fair and sold out show after show taking advantage of the crowd.
4. I had always assumed that H.H. Holmes was an architect himself based on the fact that he designed his hotel. The truth is he was a medical doctor and pharmacist. When designed the hotel he hired many crews to one particular job and rarely paid them all that they were owed. No one outside of Holmes had any real idea the secrets his building held.
I've always been a fan of Neil Patel dating back to his time co-hosting Marketing School. At some point throughout their short daily episodes, which I listened to for years, Neil had mentioned this book. In the book, Neil, along with his co-authors Patrick Vlaskovits and Jonas Koffler, make you question your traditional 9-5 grind. The main purpose of the book in my opinion is to light a fire under the reader's feet to start tackling the small objectives that ultimately lead up to the goal.
Remembering the book I came across it in a discount section at a Books-A-Million on a vacation in Cocoa, FL. With some time to relax and visit some old haunts from my time interning in the area I was able to complete the entire book before flying home to Pennsylvania. The point of the book did not get lost on me as I've been slowly building my skills to take on freelance in digital marketing and data analysis. I would say this book was one of the key driving forces to me getting my Tableau Certified Specialist level.
What I enjoyed about the book was it wasn't this Ra-Ra motivational speaker BS you have heard a million different places. The authors were very creative in the way they presented their points and examples in each of the chapters. Two of the lessons from the book really stuck with me: "Habits Create Identity" and "A 5-9 hustle". You see I'm a huge creature of habit. I've never been one to want to stay after my traditional hours in the office, not because I dislike the job, but because it interferes with other goals of mine. If I am not disciplined getting my work done at my 9-5, then it doesn't leave time for that 5-9 hustle. For me, that is staying in shape and learning new skills mainly through Coursera, Udemy and YouTube videos. Staying in shape is simply getting to where you want to be and then maintaining that standard. The struggle to get there is harder than staying there.
What Did I Learn?
1. Reading through the book it really stuck with me how people get stuck in their 9-5 rut, complaining about their life and get complacent in their life. They don't try to change things, but will be the first to complain about it. What are you doing to fund a profitable passion of yours?
2. It's important to set goals or even checklists. Personally, I'm a bigger fan of time-blocking otherwise others feel free to book your time for you. If I can time block my check list, then I go home feeling satisfied with everything that I have done for the day. What is even better, is if I can make a list of what I want to block off for later in the week. The bigger the task, the longer in advance you need to block off the time. You feel great when you are working towards your goals and you should be rewarded for those efforts. If you're in a company that won't reward you for the steps you make forward, then they probably aren't a good company to work for.
3. I liked the concept of manufacturing your own luck through hustle. This has been key for me over the years putting in extra work that ends up paying off 3, 6 or 12 months in advance. A current example I have is my goal of creating enough hustle income to fully fund my Roth IRA every year. It is only $6,000 and certainly worth shooting for, but 60 year old me will be thankful for 30-something me if I can do it year-in and year-out.
4. Something I need to improve on after reading this book is keeping my head up and eyes open for opportunities. I would say I've gotten better at that in the last 18 months or so, but I could always do better. In the last few months, I've had countless people reach out to me with an interest in me doing some work problem solving for them.
I've always had a desire to understand another person's perspective. If you spend any time reading American history the name W.E.B. DuBois shows up a lot of the time. If this is the first time you're hearing about him, shame on you for a general lack of American history knowledge. The truth is he is pretty hard avoid, even if you're only casually looking. His work touched a lot of people over a number of generations in the United States. DuBois lived into his 90's and was well ahead of his time. You can read a little about him here.
This work, originally published in 1903 tackles a lot of issues in the black community and America as a whole. The section that was probably the most touching to me was Chapter 13: The Coming of John. It follows a young black kid named John as he travels to the north to receive his education with the hope that he will return one day. After starting his education in a lack than serious way he buckles down to complete his work. While in New York he comes across an old childhood friend, also named John, of his that is white and the son of the local judge from their hometown. The white man acts as if he doesn't know him while in public. Eventually black John returns to his home in Georgia to take up as a teacher for all of the black children in the community. Without resources he makes progress, until it is found out that he is teaching equality to his students as part of his lesson. This forces the Judge to come down and shut down the school. The story continues from there.
Many other topics and tackled within the chapters of the book including the struggle to set up education for freed ex-slaves and also the struggle to get justice after the Freedom Bureau was pulled out of the south following Reconstruction. This book is really worth the read, although it is a lot to take in and is written 117 years ago. Understanding it isn't as bad as texts like "The Scarlet Letter" however.
What Did I Learn?
1. I learned that it was a remarkably difficult struggle to set up education for newly freed slaves in the South. The Southern whites would rarely voluntarily give funds to the black schools. If they were publicly funded the ratio of funds would be anywhere from 4-to-1 all the way to 7-1 in proportion of white-to-black spending. It was difficult to find teachers, either from Northern whites coming down after the war or educated enough blacks. The black community was largely forced to create their own elementary, high schools and eventually universities. DuBois actually attended Fisk University in Nashville and Harvard, but he certainly was the normal story.
2. There was an agreement in place after the Civil War to give land and a mule to freed slaves, largely from the southern plantation owners. This didn't come to fruition for the vast majority of ex-slaves, who eventually went into sharecropping, manual labor or low level manufacturing positions. They went into these positions making a fraction of white workers, with no real hope of getting a promotion to management. This made it very hard to survive, much less build savings. There are countless people that were able to break away and finance a college education, but is often took generations to build the wealth to pay for it or to find someone who would give you funding. Basically what we refer to as a scholarship.
3. Sharecropping or tenants was a much worse relationship than I even imagined. This was for both poor white and black residents, although the whites were often given better terms. In a lot of situations you were expected to turn over half of your crop yield, pay rent for your housing and the land and also buy all of the tools and goods from the landowner at often inflated prices. This left little to nothing for the tenant of the land and really was spinning wheels.
4. DuBois went a little into the prison system, which was largely expanded after the Civil War to trap poor people and often blacks for minor crimes. They would be put on work duty for chain gangs and bid out for jobs picking cotton, agriculture, construction, etc. at a drastically low cost to the bidder. Those who died from exhaustion from working were lucky to get a proper burial and certainly weren't paid for their work. The money from the bids was often pocketed to more than cover the expenses to feed and house inmates. Where the proceeds went, no one really knows. Likely in someone's pocket.
"I Will Teach You To Be Rich" is my favorite personal finance book. Why? It doesn't treat you like you're a clueless adult like some books do and it isn't so technical that only a handful of its readers really grasp the lessons. It bridges a nice gap in the middle that anyone that is looking to get a handle on their personal finance should buy into.
I've actually read both editions of this book. The first I checked out of the Penn State on campus library, but I bought the newest edition for my own library. I will comfortably say that after reading the text the first time I made a couple of decisions that made me anywhere from $800-$1,000 in my first year. Pretty good return-on-investment, right?
I've always been pretty responsible when it comes to my finances. However, there is always room to get better. In this book, you don't have to give up your expensive activities (for me it is my gym), but you also need to find ways to achieve your financial goals before you go crazy spending or even worse borrowing through loans or credit card payments. This means investing up to your company match in your 401(K) or in my case a SEP-IRA. If you've already done that find a way to fully fund your Roth-IRA (up to $6,000 per year for those under age 50). Both are pretty sweet deals to grow your money and not make 65 year old you want to hop in a time machine and beat up 30 year old you with a cane.
The book goes into big purchases such as cars, home, marriages and more. Setting up a savings plan to pay for those goals should be part of your strategy if you see fit. Unlike many personal finance gurus the author doesn't shove home ownership down your throat. This is ideal for me, because I work in tourism and sports where there are only a handful of such organizations per region. For me, I would rather invest those funds rather than having the urgency of home ownership.
There are so many lessons to take from this book that I am only scratching the surface.
What Did I Learn?
1. The first thing I did after reading this book the first time is quit using my debit card for all of my purchases. I found a credit card with a strong cash back program and have used that for anything that I could. Most importantly, just because I have a credit card doesn't mean my spending habits change. All that changed was the route that I pay for. I also pay off my credit card in full each month meaning I get all the perks of cash back without the inconvenience of paying interest.
2. I opened up a high-interest online savings account. Most people work with a typical brick-and-mortar bank you can walk into. It's great to say "hi" to those folks and you absolutely should have a checking account through an organization like this in my opinion simply for the support of your community. However, I wouldn't stash my money in their savings accounts, CD's, money market accounts or anything else. When you do you're paying their overhead and getting a lousy interest rate in exchange for doing so. I found an online savings account that gives me anywhere from 20x-30x the traditional bank interest rate. It was eye-opening in my first month when my interest total was greater than a full year in my traditional bank.
3. I had just a SEP-IRA through work, which functions similar to a 401(K) meaning that my money doesn't get taxed until I take it out after I turn 59 1/2 if I so choose. However, I have enough extra money laying around that I opened a Roth IRA through Vanguard recently. The difference in this account vs. the other two I mentioned is that the money was already taxed when it was paid to me and will NOT be taxed when I pull it out in my ripe old age. I can contribute as much as $6,000/year into this account.
4. This is still one I am kicking around, but I love to travel. It might make sense for me to open a travel focused credit card to pay for my travel I already do and also my going out to eat. Obviously, you pay the dollar amount in full each month and keep the rewards that come with owning the card. At the end of a year or two, what kind of rewards will I be looking at. Will it be enough to cover most of a weekend getaway? That sure would be nice.
I happened to be in San Francisco for work and had heard about a relatively famous bookstore in the city called City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, so I had to stop in. The trip to the shop didn't disappoint. I was finishing up reading another book I brought with me from home here on the East Coast and needed something else just in case.
I've always had interest in Mexican drug cartels and the elaborate system of corruption and money they have flowing. The sad part is supplying drugs to the United States for consumption is one of the largest industries within the country. Many people with minimal education have few options to stay above poverty's grip. For example in the book the average American corporation factory worker makes about $60-$75/week. These are the companies that largely popped up because corporations in the United States no longer wanted to pay living wages, deal with unions or environmental regulations. However, what they pay is only a fraction of what one could earn by joining gangs or the cartel.
Further complicating the issue is that citizens can't generally rely on the police or military to protect them. Those organizations, at least in Juarez, are more interested in lining their pockets than they are with fighting the well armed and funded drug cartels. When there is competition for money at hand murder is sure to follow. The number of murders annually in Juarez between 2007-2010, which is what the book mainly covers, is startling.
What Did I Learn?
1. I learned a great deal about how dangerous it is to do a good ethical job and live in Juarez. Rarely are names of victims released, unless they are dead. Journalists are basically told to take bribe money to not report on what is really happening. One such reporter's experience was told where he reported the truth and his life was threatened. He drove to the United States border in fear and was thrown in prison despite coming to a check point and providing the proper documents. His fear was that he would be deported back to Mexico where it was only a matter of time before he was killed.
2. Throughout the book a former Sicario (hit man) told his side of the story from his teen years when he used to drive cars across the border for $50, to be financed by the cartel through his police training, getting into kidnapping, murder and lastly finding God. His story by itself is a full book.
3. I thought the author's points on myths that the American public believe was very interesting:
-The Mexican President is fighting a war against drug cartels
-The North American Free-Trade Agreement is a success
-That the Mexican army is fighting the cartel
-That violence is spilling across the border
-That there is a river of guns heading south
-That a wall will stop illegal immigrants and drugs
There is just something about TED talks and captivating speakers in general that gravitate crowds and opportunities to these people. The way that their stories and examples are something that you become passionate about in just a short 15-20 minute speech.
I got Carmine Gallo's "Talk Like TED" for Christmas last year, because I've always enjoyed the chats, have attended some and regularly watch them on YouTube. Throughout my career I've also done more than my fair share of public speaking. Anyone that has taught a class or given plenty of speeches has a certain level anxiety. For some that is embarrassing themselves in front of a crowd, maybe feeling stupid, but for me it is about boring my audience.
The problem is that not everything I find interesting translates to my audience in the form of enthusiasm. I've sat in their seat and the majority of people in power are frankly horrible public speakers. They spend too much time reading their slides, fixate on data and speak in technical jargons that don't translate to their audience. I'm very guilty of this working in digital marketing, specifically in the sports and tourism fields.
What Did I Learn?
My Top 5 favorite TED talks
I've always really enjoyed personal finance and taking lessons from the books I read. One of the first people that got me interested in personal finance was Dave Ramsey. In his book The Total Money Makeover Dave lays out a very clear path on the way to a wealthy and healthy life. Here are Dave's Steps:
There were very few things I disagreed with Dave throughout reading this book on. The two big ones were 15-year fixed rate mortgages and the concept of not having credit cards. I would say that you can make out on a relationship with a credit card company as long as you pay your balance in total every single month. For me personally, I get about $250-$350 annually in cash back for just living my normal life and never carrying a balance to the next month. Also, I'm more of a believer in a 30-year fixed rate mortgage with an absolute minimum of 20% down payment on the home. I just think this gives you more wiggle-room in case of emergencies and you can always pay well beyond your payment to chip away at your principle.
This was an outstanding read and is well done. It provides a road map for even the most clueless of consumers. I really enjoyed how Dave has been getting his steps in front of schools and churches to hit a lot of eyes and hopefully spark smarter consumer budgeting.
What Did I Learn?
About the Author
Andy Rupert is a Penn State (B.A. John Curley Center for Sports Journalism 08') and a Southern Miss (M.S. Sport Management 09'). He has spent his whole career working in sports and tourism digital marketing and metrics.