Opinions

Why to Work with Passion (selecting projects)

Many people come to me with ideas for projects. They have this idea for a great real estate application to sell their clients with, an anonymous messaging app, a way to make money in the options market, etc. And sometimes I might have an idea too but all too often I’ve found myself coming short because a lack of passion.

In the last year I feel I’ve been much more productive and happy by being selective about the projects I take on. I’ve been wrestling with a thesis, a job in data analytics, and completing small micro projects. My biggest issue has been deciding whether or not to work with this guy in developing an options strategy in the niche he has been working in manually. Initially I agreed. There is the potential for big money in this area but as I progressed into actually doing the work I could never go the extra mile. Those moments when the project seems doomed were stonewalling me. Moments when you just can’t get this algorithm to run fast enough or the UI to look good enough caused me to step back and take a break.

This pattern would go on for a while with making a little progress but at any obstacle I just didn’t have the drive to keep on. I kept telling myself it’s a great way to learn time series analysis. A great way to learn digital signal processing and make a lot money but that was no substitute for an inner drive.

Lately, I’ve called the quits on the options trading project. In that time I was talking to my brother about things he could do to transition into a data job and also pursue his sports passion. I told him he should get into sports betting so he can be make money besting people in their knowledge of sports. Also, while getting better at skills he could talk about in an interview. I told him to read Nate Silver’s chapter on sports betting (ch. 9 The Signal and the Noise) and implement the ELO algorithm and see how it does. After a while of me talking to my brother, I realized that I really wanted to do this too. I sat down one night during the NFL playoffs and learned how to grab the NFL data using beautiful soup and python. The next day I wrote ELO and learned how to backtest while watching sunday’s divisional games. Now I’m working primarily on NBA betting and identified a signal that is 60% win rate against the spread from live betting and historical testing of the model.

There have been so many times when I wanted to give up on the sports betting. I lost my first 7 bets when I put real money down. My family and friends think I’m a bit crazy but I’ve continued digging deep and succeeding. Whether it’s staying up till 2 AM grabbing data for injuries and building it into my model or reading about a better way to implement a decision tree model, I was excited enough to go the extra mile. Working in projects just for the money like the options trading or my old startup The Nice Package have all stymied and became time-sucks from a lack of motivation.

I think people measure success too strictly. Even if I failed at sports betting, by learning the predictive modeling pipeline of getting data, running a prediction algorithm, and backtesting, I’ve already gained skills that I’ve used at work. I can directly point to things I’ve learned from implementing my sports betting system that have helped my latest work project be wildly successful.

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