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    #145 Les Snead: Building a Super Bowl Champion

    Draft projections are speculation, actual performance after being drafted matters. Preparation is key. Controversies and media coverage can shed light on players from smaller schools and their potential.

    enAugust 23, 2022

    About this Episode

    LA Rams General Manager Les Snead dives deep into some of the strategies that made the Rams a Super Bowl Champion, including assessing character, how to draft the right player, the complicated nature of trading players, how to build a team, hiring the right coach, hidden performance, why it’s so important to be relentlessly curious, and so much more.
     
    A native of football-crazed Eufaula, Alabama, Snead served as a graduate assistant at Auburn University before he spent 14 years as an NFL scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons. He became the Rams’ GM in 2012 and over time built a reputation as an executive willing to make insightful draft picks as well as blockbuster trades, including his move to draft future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald in 2014 and to trade for superstars Von Miller and Matthew Stafford on the way to winning the Super Bowl in February.

    --

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Grit, perseverance, and meaningful mentorship can shape one's perspective and lead to success in life.
    • Setting a clear goal, breaking it down into achievable steps, and consistently working towards it is the key to success.
    • Success in professional sports requires adaptability and a focus on building a cohesive team, rather than just collecting talent. Continuously making adjustments and renewing the team's competitive spirit are essential for maintaining contention.
    • The Rams traded for Matthew Stafford because they believe he is a great quarterback who can help them win a championship. They value a quarterback who aligns with their coach's system and emphasizes quick decision making in a pro-style offense.
    • Team success relies not only on well-known core players, but also on the contribution of hidden players and their ability to create havoc and conflict for opposing teams.
    • To accurately evaluate a player's potential, it is important to consider factors beyond individual talent, including the team's scheme, teammates, and psychological pressure. Hidden production, such as leadership and motivation, also plays a significant role in a team's overall success.
    • Building a successful team involves considering both talent and need, as well as understanding the market and other teams' values. The right balance leads to a more effective and well-rounded team.
    • Effective coaching requires leadership, expertise, humility, and a focus on evaluating the overall qualities of players for building a successful roster.
    • Success in the NFL goes beyond physical abilities, with intangible qualities like passion, football knowledge, love of winning, conscientiousness, and composure under pressure being crucial for potential hall of famers. Evaluating players requires a thoughtful and individualized approach.
    • When assessing potential draft picks, teams consider factors beyond talent, such as maturity and willingness to grow. They utilize psychological testing and gather information from multiple sources to make informed decisions.
    • Draft projections are speculation, actual performance after being drafted matters. Preparation is key. Controversies and media coverage can shed light on players from smaller schools and their potential.
    • NFL GMs possess crucial in-depth information that the media lacks, allowing them to make more informed draft decisions based on extensive evaluations and research.
    • Collaboration and focus are essential for achieving success in professional sports, with individuals from different departments working together towards a common goal.
    • Success is not solely measured by individual accomplishments, but also by the positive influence and opportunities we create for others and the world around us.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The transformative power of hard work, determination, and mentorship.

    The lessons learned from a single mother and the experiences in football have shaped Les Snead's perspective on hard work and determination. Growing up with a single mom who had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet taught him the value of perseverance and the importance of putting in the effort to achieve success. Additionally, his involvement in football taught him the importance of earning what you want and the value of teamwork. The coaches he encountered throughout his life instilled in him inspiring one-liners and valuable life lessons that have stayed with him to this day. Overall, this conversation highlights the significance of grit, proactiveness, and the transformative power of meaningful mentorship.

    The Path to Success: Setting Goals, Consistency, and Continuous Improvement

    Winning battles and achieving goals requires intention, patience, and a well-designed process. Les Snead explains that in order to succeed, one must have a North star goal and break it down into smaller, achievable steps. Just like climbing Mount Everest, winning the Super Bowl requires consistent effort and progress on a daily basis. Complacency is not an option. Snead emphasizes the importance of engineering processes and designing calendars to stay on track and avoid falling behind. By understanding that winning is not a one-time event but a continuous journey, teams can maintain their competitive edge and strive for success year after year.

    Building a Cohesive and Adaptable Team in Professional Sports

    In order to maintain a window of contention in professional sports, teams must be adaptable and continuously build their roster. Les Snead emphasizes the importance of having the right players, coaches, and staff to compete and renew the team's competitive spirit. He compares this process to author Ryan Holiday's approach to writing books, where each new project presents a blank page and an opportunity to create something great. Similarly, in football, teams must make adjustments and adapt when faced with changes, such as a key player retiring or leaving the team. The focus should be on building a cohesive team rather than simply collecting talent, and continually making tweaks to improve and strive for greatness.

    The Rams' strategic approach to building a championship-contending team and their belief in Matthew Stafford's ability as a quarterback

    The Los Angeles Rams made the decision to trade for Matthew Stafford because they believed he was a great quarterback who could help them contend for a championship within their current window of contention. They recognized that having a quarterback who aligned with their head coach and play caller, Sean McVay, would give them an edge. The Rams value pro-style systems and believe they put a lot on the quarterback's ability to learn and process the game quickly. Unlike college and high school football, where the quarterback's responsibilities are simplified, pro-style offenses require quarterbacks to make quick decisions based on the defense's coverage. Additionally, the Rams have strategically built their team by pairing high-paid defensive players, like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, with other skilled players to create a balanced and effective defense. This approach allows them to win one-on-one matchups and disrupt the opposing team's offense.

    The Importance of Hidden Production in Team Success

    The team's success relies not only on the highly paid core players, but also on the hidden production of certain players that may not show up on the stat sheet. Les Snead explains that their team, similar to New England, lacks a middle class of players who are veterans but not highly paid. As a result, they rely on less experienced players on rookie contracts to contribute. Additionally, the conversation highlights the impact of players like Aaron Donald, who may not have impressive stats but create havoc and conflict for opposing teams. While some players may receive visible overproduction and undeserved credit, the team recognizes the importance of hidden production and the role it plays in their success.

    The Impact of Circumstances and Environment on Player Success

    The success of a player in a team is not just determined by individual talent, but also by the circumstances and environment they are in. Factors such as the scheme, teammates, and even the psychological pressure can greatly impact a player's performance. When evaluating players for contract negotiations, it is crucial to consider these elements and assess if they can replicate their success in a new team. Additionally, hidden production, such as the leadership and motivation a player brings behind the scenes, can have a significant impact on the team's overall success. Building a successful team requires careful consideration of these factors and aligning them with the team's goals and aspirations.

    Finding the right balance in team building

    When building a team, there is a balance between drafting for need and drafting for talent. It is important to collect players who can work together and contribute to the team's success. Sometimes, drafting a player who may not be an immediate need but adds value to a specific area can lead to a more balanced and effective team. Additionally, the team's coaching staff, scheme, and strategy play a role in determining positional value and the allocation of resources. Each team may have a different approach based on their specific goals and playing style. It is essential to understand the league's market and what other teams value to make strategic decisions regarding player salaries and team composition.

    Finding the right head coach for your team

    When hiring a head coach, it is important to find someone who can effectively lead and inspire players. This requires a coach who can confidently stand in front of the team, gain their trust, and motivate them to follow their guidance. Additionally, a successful coach needs to have expertise and tactical knowledge in their respective area of the game. They should also possess an element of humility, being willing to delegate tasks and admit when they are not an expert in a certain area. Trying to do everything can lead to exhaustion and dilution of their skills. Finally, when assessing players, it is crucial to consider both their physical talent and intangible qualities such as football character and personal character. By carefully evaluating these factors, teams can build a successful roster.

    Evaluating NFL Players: Physical Abilities and Intangible Qualities

    When evaluating players for the NFL, there are both physical and intangible qualities that contribute to success. The physical abilities required to play football are a given for all players in the league. However, the players who have the potential to become hall of famers have additional intangible qualities. These qualities include a passion for the game, the ability to process the complexities of football, a love of winning, conscientiousness, and the capacity to handle pressure situations. Additionally, the ability to make good judgment calls and avoid serious off-field issues is also a factor in the decision-making process. Evaluating and selecting players requires a case-by-case approach, considering the unique circumstances and potential risks involved.

    Evaluating potential draft picks: looking beyond talent and considering maturity, background, and growth potential.

    When evaluating potential draft picks, there are multiple factors to consider beyond just talent on the field. The team needs to assess a player's maturity, background, and willingness to grow and develop off the field. They utilize psychological testing, consult with experts, and gather information from coaches, teachers, and mentors to get a complete picture of the individual. The team believes in giving players second chances but also recognizes patterns of destructive behavior. Additionally, they pay attention to mock drafts to get an idea of where players are most likely to be picked, although they understand that these predictions aren't always accurate. Ultimately, the decision-making process involves a combination of data and intuition.

    The Importance of Performance and Preparation in the Draft Process

    Draft projections and speculations should be taken with a grain of salt. Les Snead explains that a player's projected draft position is mere speculation by third parties, while the actual draft selection is referred to as their IPO. However, what truly matters is the player's performance and growth after being drafted, which can be seen as their stock price. Snead emphasizes the importance of preparation and being prepared rather than being swayed by projections. Additionally, he mentions the bias that comes into play when evaluating players, highlighting the case of Cole Strange, an undersized player from a smaller school who proved his worth through strong performances at the all-star game and combine. The conversation also touches upon how the media's coverage and controversies surrounding draft picks can shed light on players from smaller schools and bring attention to their potential.

    The Underrated Knowledge of NFL GMs in Draft Decisions

    The media and general public often overlook the intimate knowledge and research that NFL GMs possess when making draft decisions. While the media may mock certain players or speculate about their abilities, they do not have access to the same in-depth information that GMs have, such as extensive physical evaluations and medical research. Some players may have hidden physical limitations or conditions, like arthritic knees, that impact their performance. Les Snead emphasizes the importance of seeking knowledge from other domains and applying it to football, citing his appreciation for a liberal education and the impact of reading on his mindset. He also expresses his fear of losing and his dedication to constantly learning and seeking an edge for the Rams.

    The importance of collaboration and focus in achieving success in professional sports according to Les Snead, a football team's general manager.

    Les Snead, the general manager of a football team, emphasizes the importance of collaboration and keeping the main thing, the main thing. He acknowledges that success in professional sports, like football, relies on individuals from various departments working together symbiotically towards a common goal. He compares this collaborative effort to Jim Collins' flywheel concept, where consistent effort and continual improvement compound to bring about breakthroughs and success. Snead recognizes that each department has its own expertise and focuses on specific tasks, but it's crucial for them to come together and align their efforts for the team's overall success. Additionally, Snead reveals that he thrives in stressful situations, suggesting that his calmness under pressure contributes to his ability to lead during challenging moments.

    Success and Impact: Beyond Personal Achievements

    Success is not just about personal achievements, but also about the impact we can have on others and the world around us. Les Snead reflects on his own journey and realizes that success goes beyond individual accomplishments in sports. It is about being a leader and creating opportunities for others to experience fulfilling and impactful moments. As he gets older, he also recognizes the importance of giving back and making a positive difference in the game that has shaped his life. Ultimately, success is about contributing to a better experience for everyone and working together across different domains to create a symbiotic and impactful world.

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    Watch the episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theknowledgeproject/videos

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    Watch the episode on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/theknowledgeproject/videos

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    (00:59:22) The five habits

    (01:05:09) Why does posture matter?

    (01:07:48) Relationship between biological health and sexual health

    (01:09:50) Hair-loss prevention

    (01:15:46) Sunscreen, plastics, and other miscellaneous impacts on aging

    (01:18:30) How will AI help us?

    (01:22:10) On success

    Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

    Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything

    Dr. Becky Kennedy shares the skills you need but didn't get taught on regulating emotions, setting boundaries, and the best sentence you can say when a partner tells you something difficult.

    While there is an obvious focus on parenting, the most surprising thing about this episode was how much of what we discussed applies to EVERY relationship in your life.

    Learn how to parent more effectively with less stress, repair after a disagreement, regulate emotions, and unlock the next level in all of your relationships. Listen and Learn

    Dubbed the “The Millennial Parenting Whisperer” by TIME Magazine, Dr. Kennedy is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be. She also hosts “Good Inside with Dr Becky,” the top kids and family show on Apple Podcasts.

    ---

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    Tom Gayner: Invest Like The Best

    Tom Gayner: Invest Like The Best

    Tom Gayner, CEO of Markel Group, reveals the lessons he’s learned from Charlie Munger and Berkshire Hathaway, how he invests, and the specific way he thinks about opportunity cost.

    Gayner shares the difference between good debt and bad debt, where he disagrees with Munger, and why he focuses on the basics.

    This intimate conversation offers a level of insight and honesty that Tom hasn’t offered anywhere else.

    Gayner is currently the CEO of Markel Group and the Director of The Coca‑Cola Company. He also serves as chairman of the Davis Series Mutual Funds board and on the boards of Graham Holdings and Markel.

    Listen and Learn.

    --

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    MetaLab: Helping the world’s top companies design, build, and ship amazing products and services. https://www.metalab.com

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    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone

    Blake Eastman: Learn to Read Anyone
    Blake Eastman has dedicated his entire life to psychology and nonverbal behavior.
     
    In 2009 he founded The Nonverbal Group, a  behavioral research and education company in New York City which conducts large scale studies on human behavior and uses a wide range of technologies to systematically deconstruct and improve human communication.
     
    Eastman dives deep into a number of subjects revolving around how we communicate with one another, including the ability to read nonverbal cues, his thoughts on big talkers vs. silent types, how we can communicate with our partners without complaining, the value of watching ourselves communicate on video, understanding the power structures and social dynamics at work, and so much more.
     
    Eastman has also served as an adjunct psychology professor at the City University of New York for six years where he taught General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Group Dynamics. He is also a former professional poker player and the founder of School of Cards, the first brick-and-mortar poker school in New York City.
     
    Listen and Learn

    --

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