Chaos Monkeys Takeaways from a Coach’s Perspective

Chaos Monkeys from a coach’s perspective, is not the first book I’d recommend off the shelf. A friend of mine who works in the tech start-up world recommended it. He did not say why and I did not ask, but I read it cover to cover. After reading five hundred pages, I had been entertained and gained a new perspective on Silicon Valley and start-ups. There are many connections to a start-up and a basketball team, so I thought I’d list what I found valuable.

Single-Minded Focus

A successful start-up founder as Antonio Gacria Martinez put it, “Monomaniacally focuses on one thing and one thing only at the expense of everything else in life.” A few weeks back I read Ray Dalio’s book Principles and it reminded me of what he had said about how you cannot have everything you want, but you can have anything.

Sacrifices must be made. Martinez left his girlfriend and ultimately his kids because of his startup company. It calls into question where drawing the line to pursue a goal or passion needs to be drawn. Sifting through social media is a different use of time than attending to family or religion. While I would not endorse the path that landed Martinez in this book opportunities at Facebook and Twitter among other places, I think there is a huge call for self-discipline to attain audacious goals.

Climbing the Ladder

A repeated theme for Garcia’s career in Chaos Monkeys was taking something he had done in the past and using it to climb the ladder in the future. On the surface, it’s not a revolutionary idea, but I can remember after completing undergraduate work thinking that I was set for a job. To set himself apart to Facebook, he struggled tremendously at his own start-up. The experience and the failures that he got from this though gave him the perspective that Facebook found attractive enough to hire him.

In a similar way, I think about Jay Wright’s rise to be Villanova’s head coach. It started by working a camp. He initially applied to work at Villanova’s summer camp with Rollie Massamino and got rejected. At the time he was also a coach of a JV Division 3 program at the University of Rochester. While recruiting, he ran into a high school coach that was good friends with Coach Massamino and backed his way into the camp. The rest from there is history.

Making Decisions

Martinez and the two techies that he worked with at their start-up struggled to make decisions. Getting three people to make critical decisions and get unanimous agreement was impossible. This proved costly. As he described in Chaos Monkeys,

“Such decisions aren’t data-driven collaborative conclusions, driving by spreadsheets and pie charts. No they’re bold, intuitive, bet-the-company moves decided by one individual, similar to a ship’s captain in a storm or a Wall Street trader in the midst of a market move. You live and die by such decisions, and they may well be wrong, but it’s more fatal to not make decisions than to make them.”

On the basketball court, the same is true. The player that hesitates to shoot has already missed. Whenever a player takes a bad shot, the first question should be, did you think you were going to make that? If the answer is yes, then they are halfway off the hook. Earlier this year Zach Lowe wrote a blurb about decisiveness that I found invaluable.

“Royce O’Neale can play. He has played Alec Burks right out of a damn job. He is the latest proof that decisiveness turns blah athletes into speedsters and fringe guys into rotation players. When O’Neale catches the ball, he instantly either drives, shoots, or passes. Even making the wrong choice can be better than holding the ball, or dribbling ponderously to nowhere. Start making the right choice more often, and you’re onto something.”


Reading Chaos Monkeys is part of a series of books read toward a goal I have of reading 37 books during the off-season (an average of one per week). Here are my takeaways from other books that have been read so far.

The Principle Circle – Jamie Gilbert

Chasing Daylight – Eugene O’Kelly

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

Principles – Ray Dalio

Attitude – Jay Wright

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