The first step towards transformation

If you’re going to make long-term sustainable improvements to your football betting philosophy, the first place you should start is with the content you consume.

Dealing with all the information the world throws at us is the biggest challenge of our times. We live in an era of unstoppable forces and social media is arguably the most irrepressible.

Twitter is the Lionel Messi of distractors. Log in for just ten minutes without a strict game plan to execute and you inevitably find yourself square on, face to face with a mercurial opponent and space in behind. You don’t stand a chance.

Ten minutes inevitably becomes an hour, and any targets you set for the day have gone up in smoke. Something will capture your attention and hold it hostage, a frsutration that lingers long after you have cursed your stupidity and logged out.

Fall into this trap every day for a week, or a month, or a year… you get the picture.

So the immediate question isn’t necessarily about what to consume, it’s about getting clear on what NOT to consume and creating habits or rituals that lead to painless avoidance of those scenarios.

The suggestion isn’t to abandon all social media, although that might be the best solution for some. It’s about moderation.

There’s a time and a place to both consume media and be social, but try to separate the two. Draw clear distinctions about times when it serves your needs and times when it doesn’t.

The main purpose of this blog, and many others that will follow, is to provide you with the maps and models to make better distinctions.

Like many things in life, approaches to football betting can be parsed into two broad categories: art and science. And, individually, we naturally fall somewhere in between those two polarities.

Where you lie on the spectrum is often a matter of personality and what’s good for someone else isn’t necessarily the best path forward for you.

You might consider your current approach to be 70% art and 30% science, in which case plan your research accordingly.

Don’t get hung up on the ratio. It’s an arbitrary assessment. The point is to gradually edge closer to more of what you should focus on and less of what you shouldn’t.

The key thing to understand is that you’re unlikely to be straight down the middle and you should strive to find the right balance, which doesn’t mean trying to take a 50-50 approach.

The right balance means finding the true source of your passion and spending enough time in your flow state to keep that fire burning brightly, but also mindful that true growth lies in pushing yourself to just the right degree on the other side.

So what constitutes art and what constitutes science?

In a nutshell, art is about interpretation and the narrative you absorb or create, and it’s meant to be subjective. It’s about being a good judge.

Science, by contrast, is about numbers and metrics, and the objective systems or algorithms you put in place to do the interpretation on your behalf.

Today, science is the side that most punters are fixated by – in particular, this new concept known as xG. You might have heard of it.

However, the quest for profits through quantitative analysis is nothing but an arms race. Everybody’s at it. Unless your background or education is steeped in the requisite practical skills, you’re probably well down the food chain.

Your time is precious, so don’t waste it trying to compete with bigger fish. That’s not to say getting busy with data analysis is futile, just don’t confuse working hard with working smart.

Drooling over every graph and table under the sun might make you feel better and more informed, but it’s essentially pointless if you don’t narrow your niche and operate to a bigger-picture framework. I’ll talk more about niches and frameworks in future blogs.

As for artistic approaches, consumption can mean many things, from communication with fans to video analysis. But for most of us, it usually means following events in the media.

Soon, I will write about my 15 years as a journalist, most of which were spent operating as a tipster for Sportinglife, Oddschecker, the Racing Post, Investobet, Betfair and most recently Matchbook. But also doing plenty for the conventional mainstream media.

You don’t need me to tell you what’s wrong with journalism nowadays. It’s a numbers game, where quantity and immediacy presides over quality and truth; another unstoppable force in the modern world that has scant regard for the best intentions of front-line reporters.

I take no pride in the fact that my standards as a tipster (and punter) decreased markedly in my last couple of years as a freelancer. But I try not to beat myself up about it. What I’m doing now is driven by a desire to put that right.

From your perspective, just understand this: quality journalism is all about the balance between input (research) and output (content).

More tipsters on the scene means more betting previews in more places, which becomes a vicious circle as the bigger companies feel compelled to increase volume and retain their market share.

That means the better tipsters do more work for less return on investment and, thus, do less quality research in order to make ends meet and keep up with demand. Nobody wins with that model, neither the content creator, nor the consumer.

The balance between input and output has been skewed, so the natural survival instinct is to take shortcuts (often without realising), shortcuts that enable you to talk a good game rather than play one.

Others might disagree but that was my experience.

Perhaps most important of all, you need to appreciate that the betting content you consume is mostly driven by bookmakers, exchanges and odds comparison websites. And their objective is entirely different from yours.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. The intentions of individuals within that ecosystem might be honourable but they are conditioned by underlying industry forces. Ultimately, their goal is to keep you focused on the outcome, not the process.

The last thing bookmakers want you to do is take a step back and think about what you’re doing.

They want turnover. And they want to keep you focused on those moments of being right or wrong, elated or disappointed. Outcomes are wrapped up in emotion and, as a punter, emotion is your biggest weakness.

So when it comes to consumption, you’re only as good as your filters.

If you consume too much performance data without context, too much click-bait journalism or too much bookie-driven betting analysis, this summer might be your best opportunity for a cull.

It’s worth losing a day to take charge of your Twitter timeline. I guarantee it will save you more than a day in the long run, and that’s without considering all the other long-term benefits on top of reducing the cost to your time.

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