If You Know the Way Broadly, You Will See It in All Things

In my last blog post, I mentioned a quote by Van Gogh: "If one is the master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things." This is a quote and an idea that resonates with me. I was very intrigued to hear a similar quote while listening to the Joe Rogan Podcast . Rogan said he has a tattoo that reads: "If You Know the Way Broadly, You Will See It in All Things." The quote is by the legendary Samurai Miyamoto Musashi. So, as the Arte Suave Economist, maybe I'll use the Musashi quote in the gym and save Van Gogh for dinner parties.

Let me tell you a story about why these quotes resonate with me. I was sitting in a conference room waiting for the Experimental Economics Reading Group to start. I was sitting next to a guy named Ed Cokely. Eventually, Ed asks me how many push ups I can do (normal conversation for a psychologist and an economist). I tell him between 75-100. He says: that's a decent amount, what do you think the record is? I reply: 1000. Ed says: better guess than most, but it is closer to 10,000. I reply: WOW, while thinking to myself: This guy Ed is full of shit.

Well, Ed was correct. The record for legit consecutive pushups is 10,507. I later found out that Ed was a student of Anders Ericsson, the "expertise/genius" guru. My takeaway from a periphery look at Ericsson's work was: genius is expertise, expertise is not innate, expertise comes from deliberate practice, everyone can deliberately practice, anyone can become a genius. In terms of athletics, this surprised me, but did not shock me. I should say that it does shock some people. One of my favorite things to witness in a BJJ gym is the guy that starts out as a wimp with garbage physical attributes but the heart to train hard week in week out put a beating on a more "talented guy" that quits for months at a time. I was much more shocked by how this changed my view of what it meant to be "smart." I was of the belief that if you were smart you were smart and if you were dumb you were dumb and that is the end of the story. I was absolutely wrong.

It takes deliberate practice and a strong coach to attain expertise/genius/mastery, but once you know the way, you will see it in all things.

Here is a nice Musashi documentary if you want to know more about him:

You Know a Thousand Moves and You Suck at Every One of Them

Old Carlson Gracie Team Gi Patch: "This is not Disneyland"
"You know a thousand moves and you suck at every one of them" is an old quote from Carlson Gracie Sr. Most people read this quote, get a nice laugh and move on. Most  Brasilian jiu jitsu guys understand this quote in the context of jiu jitsu. If you ask a random BJJ player what Carlson was getting at, he will likely tell you: "Some guys spend all their time trying to figure out the newest craziest move, but anybody with a few solid moves will kick their ass." The random BJJ player is correct, but there are many places that this sentiment is useful.

In trite academic terms, Carlson's quote is about depth vs breadth. Carlson is clearly a proponent of depth of knowledge. I am also a proponent of depth of knowledge in both teaching students economics and in practicing BJJ. The most soul-sucking thing I have heard other professors say is: "I'd really love to do this exciting stuff, but it takes so much time and I have to cover a lot of material." So, the professor is going to be in class wishing he/she was doing something else, the students are going to sense the lack of passion and mirror it, no one is going to be happy, but man, a lot of material is going to get "covered." Wouldn't it be a lot better to get students really interested in the subject so they want to learn more?

Robert Frank had a lot to say about this at Google. The entire talk is good, but 3:00 to 8:00 is the part I hope you will watch (even if you are a non economist)

My next blog post will be more about depth and attempting to attain mastery. My view is very similar to a van Gogh quote:
“If one is the master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things.”  -Van Gogh

By the way, Carlson would never have told me. "You know a thousand moves and you suck at every one of them" I don't know a thousand moves, I just suck. If you are curious, there is one move I dont suck that bad with. Here is a vid of Jeff Glover wrecking fools with my favorite move.....The Darce Choke (video starts getting good at 1:05).

What is an Arte Suave Economist?

Promotion to Brown Belt (Faixa Marron)
An Arte Suave Economist is someone that is guided by the main principle of Jigoro Kano: Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort. Jigoro Kano was an educator and the originator of Judo.

Over the years, it has become clear to me that Kano was on to something with his combination of Judo and Education. As an Economics Professor, and a practitioner of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu/Brasilian Jiu Jitsu, The Arte Suave, I am able to transfer much of what I learn as a student of Brasilian Jiu Jitsu to the academic setting. I am also able to put into practice what I preach to my economics students.

I will use this blog to further describe these ideas. But first, a minor introduction. The Arte Suave Economist is Russell Engel. I am an Assistant Professor of Economics at Sacred Heart University. Prior to that, I was a student at Florida State University under Mark Isaac and Tim Salmon. I have been training Gracie Jiu Jitsu for...... a while. So that you can put a face to a name, I have posted some photos. 

The awesome guy presenting me with my brown belt is Marcio Stambowsky. I have the honor to count Marcio as not only an instructor but as a true friend. Marcio is legendary when it comes to Gracie Jiu Jitsu, but if I start writing about that, I will be here all night.

The next photo is just so you can see me in all of my nerd glory. It was taken at the 7th Gulf Coast Economics conference. John Taylor is a famous economist, but Ryan is Marty Lyons nephew, so it isn't clear who the second coolest guy in this photo is.
Ryan Murphy, John Taylor, ASEconomist
Lastly, Please watch the video of Joe Rogan describing why everyone should train in The Arte Suave.