How Organizations Get Rich - This month’s best read is from a speech given by Jared Diamond in 1999 titled How to Get Rich but it’s not about how individuals get rich. It’s about how businesses or countries can get rich by implementing two ideas.
Jared looked through history which is really just a large amount of experiments of what works and what doesn’t work over time to find out why some groups of people got rich and why some didn’t. Jared found some examples which include a German beer company, a Japanese food company, and the countries that make up Europe, China and Tasmania to demonstrate how it happens.
The two ideas are:
The appropriate use of fragmentation
Unity within groups and not being isolated
“We can extract from human history a couple of principles. First, the principle that really isolated groups are at a disadvantage, because most groups get most of their ideas and innovations from the outside. Second, I also derive the principle of intermediate fragmentation: you don’t want excessive unity and you don’t want excessive fragmentation; instead, you want your human society or business to be broken up into a number of groups which compete with each other but which also maintain relatively free communication with each other. And those I see as the overall principles of how to organize a business and get rich.”
Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping The World - I’ve recommended Morgan Housel’s articles many times and this time is no different. He wrote another great article; this one being on the big things that will shape the world over the next several decades.
These 3 forces are: demographic shifts, wealth inequality, and access to information.
Big shifts have always had major effects on the world and as Morgan Housel writes, “An irony of studying history is that we often know exactly how a story ends, but have no idea where it began.”
What are the 3 major shifts that affected the 1900's? They were World War 1, the Great Depression and World War 2 with Morgan adding extra emphasis in this article on World War 2 since it is most likely that that war had the biggest effect on how the rest of the century turned out.
Morgan goes into more depth on his reasons why and he also goes into more depth on how and why demographic shifts, wealth inequality, and access to information will all have the biggest force on the rest of this century.
Markets Are Eating the World - In this article Taylor Pearson discusses the evolution of markets and how improvements in technology have had such a big impact on the changes in markets. One big technological change to markets was the invention of money which had a huge effect on markets because it allows a wider range of people to trade with each other. Another big change we are all familiar with is the internet which probably had the biggest effect on the markets that we interact with today.
The internet opened up a much wider range of sellers/buyers and a much wider range of goods to be traded. Before the internet there was no eBay which allows people to buy and sell rare collectibles such as baseball cards from people 1000’s of miles away.
EBay led to the invention of PayPal which allows buyers to get the items they buy a lot quicker because before PayPal the most common way of making payments to sellers was by personal check or certified check. It took days before the check arrived at the seller’s mailbox and if you sent a personal check it took even more days because the seller then would wait for the personal check to clear their bank.
PayPal’s great idea of creating a way to make payments online led others later on to follow suit and create others ways to pay online such as Zelle, Venmo (now owned by PayPal), and eventually Bitcoin and cryptocurrency which uses a blockchain to process payments.
Taylor also discusses in this article how blockchain can have a huge impact on corporations and markets in the future but one of my favorite parts was his discussion on the impact that the invention of the mechanical clock had on markets and people’s worklife.
The Future of Electric Cars v.s. ICE Cars - Vitaliy Katsenelson is the CEO of Investment Management Associates based out of Colorado. He has done a lot of great writing on his investing blog which can be found at www.contrarianedge.com. I’ve read a lot of his articles in addition to all of his emails that he sends out periodically.
His most recent post is the most interesting and best one that I’ve read so far.
Vitaliy has written a little bit about Tesla and the electric car in the past since he put down a deposit for the Tesla 3 but in this article he really goes into depth on where he sees the EV industry and the oil industry progressing to, how an electric vehicle actually works compared to an ICE car, the future of self-driving cars, his thoughts on Elon Musk, the future of Tesla and a lot more.
I highly recommend reading it. Since it is such a long article (45 pages), Vitaliy lets you subscribe by email so you can read 1 chapter a day or he also sends you an email with the full pdf if you want to read the full paper at once. I started out reading one chapter a day but it was so interesting that after a couple of chapters I just printed the whole report, sat down and finished the rest.
Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System - A system is a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network. Whether you recognize it or not there are systems all around us. Even in places that you may not even realize at first glance.
Some places that we encounter that have systems which may not be so obvious at first are local government services such as sanitation, the ATM machine that spurts out your cash, the water that runs through your faucets, the daily operations of the company we work for, the distribution of produce to your local supermarket and how some of the macroeconomic decisions are made that affect your mortgage rate.
In this interesting article written by Donella Meadows who is known for her two influential books The Limits to Growth and Thinking in Systems: A Primer, Donella focuses on leverage points in systems. Leverage is a way of getting more with less so when Donella is discussing leverage points she is looking for ways to intervene in a system that give a larger output but have a smaller input.
The Psychology of Prediction - The future is uncertain and making predictions are hard yet we all need to make some predictions in order to better prepare for it. If you think predictions are easy then you are in denial. Predictions involve a lot of known and unknown information, bias, and moving variables that can result in your prediction to change from one outcome to another over the course of a couple hours or days depending on the time frame and on the new information that becomes available.
In this month’s Best Reads of the Month, Morgan Housel describes 12 of the common flaws, errors, and misadventures that happen inside people’s heads when they make predictions.
Here are some parts that I found insightful:
“It is hard to think of the history of the twentieth century, including its large social movements, without bringing in the role of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. But there was a moment in time, just before an egg was fertilized, when there was a fifty-fifty chance that the embryo that became Hitler could have been a female. Compounding the three events, there was a probability of one-eighth of a twentieth century without any of the three great villains and it is impossible to argue that history would have been roughly the same in their absence. The fertilization of these three eggs had momentous consequences, and it makes a joke of the idea that long-term developments are predictable.”
“Credibility is not impartial: Your willingness to believe a prediction is influenced by how much you need that prediction to be true. If you tell me you’ve found a way to double your money in a week, I’m not going to believe you by default. But if my family was starving and I owed someone money next month that I don’t have, I would listen. And I would probably believe whatever crazy prediction you have, because I’d desperately want and need it to be right.”
“Predicting the behavior of other people relies on understanding their motivations, incentives, social norms and how all those things change. That can be difficult if you are not a member of that group and have a different set of life experiences.”
The picture above is just one of many fascinating trends from a presentation that Mary Meeker gives every year based on her deep research and analysis of what is going on throughout the internet. Mary Meeker is the general partner at the venture capital firm Bond Capital.
In 2008, adults in the USA spent 2.7 hours per day on the internet but ten years later they now spend 6.3 hours per day. Internet usage in this statistic pertains to all devices such as mobile, desktop/laptop, and all others.
This statistic shows how much the internet has affected all of us since 6 hours a day is about 25% of all of our days. This is a lot when you consider that another 7–8 hours a day are used for sleeping.
In her presentation, Mary Meek also shows the enormous influence technology companies have on the world now that 7 of the world’s 10 most valuable companies are tech companies which include Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Alibaba, and Tencent. Also discussed are trends on internet advertising, interactive gaming, customer acquisition costs, e-commerce and more.
Rani Molla does a good job summarizing some interesting ideas from Mary’s presentation on Vox and then links to the presentation on the most important internet trends of the year at the end.
A Great Collection of Book Summaries and Ideas - I usually recommend an article or a blog post each month for my Best Reads of the Month but this month I am going to do something different. I am recommending a whole website because there are so many great ideas and articles from this site that I have been reading these past couple of weeks.
The website is actually based on an idea that I had for my own website. The creator, Blas Moros, has read an enormous amount of books and does a fabulous job taking some of the best ideas from each book and creating summaries. There are loads of great summaries on his website from some of my favorite books such as Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin.
Since we tend to forget a lot of what we read over the years, this website makes for a great tool to help remind us of the important ideas from some of our favorite books. It also makes for a great website if you are unsure if you should start reading a book. You could read the synopsis and the reader reviews but reading blas’ summaries makes for a great compliment.
A Collection of Wisdom from Warren Buffett - Warren Buffett is an iconic name in the investment business. Many investors from just starting out to the most experienced have looked to him for advice on not just investing, but life advice as well. He is full of useful wisdom that can help anyone live a better all-around life.
Every single year Warren holds his company’s annual shareholder meeting in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska where 40,000–50,000 people travel from all over the world to attend. This last Saturday, May 5th, was the company’s most recent annual meeting so I decided to add a couple of documents filled with wisdom from Warren Buffett for April’s Best Reads of the Month.
The first document, which can be found as a downloadable link in the "LR Downloads" section, is one that I just came across today, May 7th, and just started reading. It is filled with loads of questions and answers with Warren Buffett throughout his life on various topics such as investment valuation, oil, charity, career, education and so much more. I want to give a huge thank you to Nick Webb who is listed on the last page for going through all the hard work to compile 566 pages of wisdom all in one place and a huge thank you to Whitney Tilson who Nick gives credit to for compiling a majority of the content in Nick’s pdf through note taking.
Warren has had a huge influence on my life and so many others, so if you aren’t familiar with him then there is a lot to learn in these documents. In addition to the compilation of frequently asked questions to Warren, I’ve posted a video to the most recent Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting where Warren and his longtime investment partner, Charlie Munger, fielded questions from the audience; Warren Buffett’s most recent letter to shareholders; a link to a website filled with all of Warren’s letter to shareholders and a compilation of content put together by CNBC with loads of advice from interviews they had with Warren over many decades.
Hope you enjoy!
Warren Buffett FAQ: https://www.mikegorlon.com/fileshare
Most Recent Shareholder Meeting (Video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCwIAnjAqiM
Most Recent Shareholder Meeting (Notes): https://www.investopedia.com/5-takeaways-from-the-berkshire-hathaway-annual-meeting-4686363
2018 Letter to Shareholders (Published Feb 2019): http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2018ltr.pdf
Link to all of Warren’s Letters to Sharholders: http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/letters.html
Compilation of Content from CNBC: https://buffett.cnbc.com/warren-buffett-archive/
What the Hell is Going On - The world is changing. That is for sure. And it’s changing at the most rapid pace that our species has ever experienced. The article for this Month’s Best Read of the Month goes to one written by David Perell who I am not familiar with but has does some really good writing on his website www.perell.com. Large disruptions and changes in any subject really grab my attention and in this article David Perell does a fabulous job of covering three big subjects that we are all familiar with that have been turned upside down over the past 70 years.
Those subjects are commerce, education and politics. These areas have been turned upside down due to the way information is disseminated today compared to how it was 70 years ago or even 30 years ago. There used to be a huge asymmetry in the way information was disseminated but today that no longer exists.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the sellers — whom were mostly giant companies who got bigger and bigger — had the majority of the information and consumers had very little. That changed with the invention of the internet. Consumers in commerce are much more informed today. Just look at this picture below showing the rapid increase in the amount of information that there is in the world.
It’s amazing! The amount of information generated in 2001 exceeded all of the cumulative information that was generated in all of our existence prior. And then even more remarkable is that the information generated in 2002 doubled what was generated in 2001.
And this has led to more informed consumers who have been able take advantage by making smarter decisions when purchasing goods and services. It has also led to students no longer needing to be so dependent on universities. Once upon a time they would have to go to the university library or meet a knowledgeable person to speak with to gain access to information to learn. Now so much of that learning is done on the internet. And it has had a huge change in the way we all live. Especially for politics as well.
“The Broadcast era was shaped by high barriers to entry, which centralized the entire media industry. At the peak of the Broadcast Era in the 1960s, fewer than 25 companies monopolized the information cables of radio, television, books, magazines, and music.
There were four television networks, five book publishing houses, five record companies, and seven motion picture studios that controlled most of what America consumed. Powerful and authoritative, these media conglomerates shaped the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. They shaped narratives and controlled ideologies. Information flowed in one direction, from producer to consumer…..
Narrative control is no longer monopolized. The arbiters of truth have fragmented. Millions of people, historically constrained by the reach and spread of their ideas, can theoretically reach anybody in the world with an internet connection. The truth has always existed, but until recently, we haven’t had the means to uncover and distribute it.”
“Today’s elite no longer have the cultural shield that once made it harder for outsiders to take a crack at them… Probably the single biggest change in American life has been a dramatic decline in the cost and inconvenience of getting information… An informed populace, however, can also be a cynical populace, and a cynical populace is willing to tolerate or maybe even support cynical leaders. The world might be better off with more of that naive moonshot optimism of the 1960s.” — Tyler Cowen
AR Will Spark the Next Big Tech Platform – Call It Mirrorworld - This is a very interesting article from WIRED that makes a prediction of what the next big tech revolution will look like. The author, Kevin Kelly, of the article was WIRED’s founding executive editor and he gives an interesting take on where he sees the tech future progressing. It involves an intersection of the digitized world that we know today as the internet, and the real world. He refers to it as the mirrorworld.
The mirrorworld is a representation of the real world in a digital form. Right now, we have a digitalized world and a real world that run parallel to each other but in the mirrorworld, the digital world and the real-world will meet. It will be driven by augmented reality. Picture being able to put on an augmented reality headset and being able to work from home as you roam around your office in digital form while you see your other coworkers who are also roaming around the office in digital form even though they are still at home just like you.
Or picture putting on an AR headset and being able to travel the world from your home. You put the headset on, go on Google Earth and unlike Google Maps where all the buildings and the streets are 2 dimensional, everything is now 3 dimensional. Kevin also sees a situation where instead of just being able to search text like we do on Google search in the digitized world, we will be able to search physical objects or physical space. Think of running a Google search for benches by typing in “find me all the places where a park bench faces sunrise along a river.”
Right now, there is lot of talent, money, time, and effort already being invested into building this world as you are reading this post. And that is rightfully so because Kevin sees the winner of this next tech revolution as becoming one of the wealthiest and most powerful people and companies in history.
“It is already under construction. Deep in the research labs of tech companies around the world, scientists and engineers are racing to construct virtual places that overlay actual places. Crucially, these emerging digital landscapes will feel real; they’ll exhibit what landscape architects call placeness. The Street View images in Google Maps are just facades, flat images hinged together. But in the mirrorworld, a virtual building will have volume, a virtual chair will exhibit chairness, and a virtual street will have layers of textures, gaps, and intrusions that all convey a sense of “street.”
"Augmented reality is the technology underpinning the mirrorworld; it is the awkward newborn that will grow into a giant. ‘Mirrorworlds immerse you without removing you from the space. You are still present, but on a different plane of reality. Think Frodo when he puts on the One Ring. Rather than cutting you off from the world, they form a new connection to it,’ writes Keiichi Matsuda, former creative director for Leap Motion, a company that develops hand-gesture technology for AR."
“’Augmented reality is going to change everything,’ Apple CEO Tim Cook said during an earnings call in late 2017. ‘I think it’s profound, and I think Apple is in a really unique position to lead in this area.’"
"New technologies bestow new superpowers. We gained super speed with jet planes, super healing powers with antibiotics, super hearing with the radio. The mirrorworld promises super vision. We’ll have a type of x-ray vision able to see into objects via their virtual ghosts, exploding them into constituent parts, able to untangle their circuits visually. Just as past generations gained textual literacy in school, learning how to master the written word, from alphabets to indexes, the next generation will master visual literacy. A properly educated person will be able to create a 3D image inside of a 3D landscape nearly as fast as one can type today. They will know how to search all videos ever made for the visual idea they have in their head, without needing words. The complexities of color and the rules of perspective will be commonly understood, like the rules of grammar. It will be the Photonic Era."
Sam Altman on How to be Successful - Sam is an entrepreneur, investor, programmer, and blogger who is most famous for being the president of Y Combinator and for co-founding a location-based social networking mobile app called Loopt. He started as a part-time partner at Y Combinator until 2014 when he was named president.
Y Combinator is a seed accelerator which in other words is a program that provides connections, mentoring, and capital in exchange for ownership (equity) to young companies. Y Combinator has been very successful and just to touch upon some of their past investments, here are a couple of very well-known companies that they have seeded: Airbnb, Dropbox, Zenefits, and Stripe. In addition, Sam himself has personally invested in Airbnb, Reddit, Pinterest, and Stripe.
Sam has a website where he blogs on his thoughts every once in a while, and today I came across a post he wrote about success. We all have our own idea of success but most of us think about it linearly as opposed to exponential. The big difference between exponential success and linear success are the huge differences in returns due to compounding.
In this blog post, Sam discusses 13 ways to put yourself in a much better position to achieve outlier success which I listed below followed by some quotes that I enjoyed.
1. Compound yourself
2. Have almost too much self-belief
3. Learn to think independently
4. Get good at “sales”
5. Make it easy to take risks
7. Work hard
8. Be bold
9. Be willful
10. Be hard to compete with
11. Build a network
12. You get rich by owning things
13. Be internally driven
“Most people get bogged down in linear opportunities. Be willing to let small opportunities go to focus on potential step changes.”
“I think the biggest competitive advantage in business — either for a company or for an individual’s career — is long-term thinking with a broad view of how different systems in the world are going to come together. One of the notable aspects of compound growth is that the furthest out years are the most important. In a world where almost no one takes a truly long-term view, the market richly rewards those who do.”
“Self-Belief is immensely powerful. The most successful people I know believe in themselves almost to the point of delusion.”
“Self-belief must be balanced with self-awareness. I used to hate criticism of any sort and actively avoided it. Now I try to always listen to it with the assumption that it’s true, and then decide if I want to act on it or not. Truth-seeking is hard and often painful, but it is what separates self-belief from self-delusion.”
“’I will fail many times, and I will be really right once’ is the entrepreneurs’ way. You have to give yourself a lot of chances to get lucky.”
“Don’t save up for too long, though. At [Y Combinator], we’ve often noticed a problem with founders that have spent a lot of time working at Google or Facebook. When people get used to a comfortable life, a predictable job, and a reputation of succeeding at whatever they do, it gets very hard to leave that behind (and people have an incredible ability to always match their lifestyle to next year’s salary). Even if they do leave, the temptation to return is great. It’s easy — and human nature — to prioritize short-term gain and convenience over long-term fulfillment.”
Part 1 - On Writing Better: Getting Started: http://jasonzweig.com/on-writing-better-part-1/
Part 2 - On Writing Better: Sharpening Your Tools: http://jasonzweig.com/on-writing-better-part-2/
Part 3 - On Writing Better: Becoming A Writer: http://jasonzweig.com/on-writing-better-part-3/
Writing is hard. I’ve thought about why it’s so hard and why our minds have this habit of going into writer’s block mode so often and I’ve concluded that it is because our minds just aren’t wired to write. After all, we evolved from a single-celled species like so many other animals, yet we are the only animal that uses writing as a form of communication. And also, humans have been around for 200,000 years yet we only have found recorded written language going back to 3200 BC. That makes up only 3% of our existence and language also evolves over time which means that the writing that was used during the BC period or even 100 years ago is much different than it is today.
Writing just isn’t hardwired into our brains like eating, reproducing, and breathing are. These 3 actions come naturally to us and all 3 of these actions feel good unless they are being way overdone, but writing doesn’t come naturally to us. It is a skill that must be learned and practiced to be good at. It takes time and a lot of hard work.
When I subscribed to the Wall St. Journal a couple years ago there was a column written by Jason Zweig that I used to always read. I enjoyed his thoughts on the markets as well as his writings in the updated version of the popular investment book The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Back when I used to read his columns, I didn’t think much about him as a great writer. It wasn’t until I started doing some writing myself that I realized how great he really is. He’s been writing for a long time and currently does about 50 columns a year for the Wall Street Journal in addition to all of the books he’s written such as his most popular one called Your Money and Your Brain or his most recent one called The Devil’s Financial Dictionary.
I happen to come across some interesting blog posts from Jason Zweig on his website this month. In these posts, Jason discusses his methods and ideas on how to become a better writer and since becoming a good writer is such a complex topic, he spread his advice out into 3 different blog posts so for this month’s Best Reads of the Month I’m sharing 3 different links.
But before you start reading them, here are 3 really good ideas I highlighted from his 3 blog posts:
“I also know why I write: to learn. For me, writing is like peeling the onion of my own ignorance. The clearer and simpler I try to make my thoughts as I set them down, the more I realize how little I know and how much more I need to read, how much longer I need to study, how many more people I need to talk with, before I can finally write without feeling like a complete impostor or intellectual fraud. In my columns, that often means coming back to the same topic again and again until I finally figure it out.”
“Good writing is full of wonder; it marvels at the glory and stupidity and frustration and pain and beauty of being alive. You can’t write anything if you don’t feel something. You have to want to tell people what you feel, what you care about, what you believe, what you know; if you don’t have something you’re on fire to tell us about, you shouldn’t be writing.”
“Instead of trying to sound distinctive, just sound like you. Your style is yourself; how you write is who you are. Appealing to someone who’s never read you before is exactly like going out on a first date: The worst thing you can possibly do is to pretend to be someone other than yourself. Don’t try to be serious if you’re funny, funny if you’re serious, a mathematician if you’re a poet, or a poet if you’re a mathematician. Don’t show off a vocabulary you don’t have; don’t hide a sophistication that you do have. My dad used to say, “If you try to make an impression, that’s the impression you’ll make.” Straining to sound unique can end up making you sound just like every other wannabe — and nothing like yourself.”
Peter Kaufman on the Multidisciplinary Approach to Thinking - “To understand is to know what to do.” That is what the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said and is how Peter Kaufman started his 2018 speech given to the Cal Poly Pomana Economics Club about multidisciplinary thinking. I’ve been studying a lot about multidisciplinary thinking and trying to expand my mental models since I believe that understanding the big ideas in life and being able to apply them across various subjects is very beneficial to becoming a better decision maker and living a better life.
This transcript, transcribed by Richard Lewis of Latticeworkinvesting.com, is one of the great speeches I’ve ever read. I kid you not. It’s very informative and it increased what I know about multidisciplinary thinking even when I’ve been reading about it since I graduated college back in 2011. Peter Kaufman believes that one can be very good at business but still fail in life because of the inability to understand the big and important ideas in life. But increasing one’s understanding of those ideas and being able to apply them across various subjects will help understand more so we know exactly what to do and in turn decrease the mistakes we make.
Here are some of the ideas I really enjoyed from the speech:
"So why is it important to be a multidisciplinary thinker? The answer comes from the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who said, ‘To understand is to know what to do.’ Could there be anything that sounds simpler than that? And yet it’s a genius line, to understand is to know what to do. How many mistakes do you make when you understand something? You don’t make any mistakes. Where do mistakes come from? They come from blind spots, a lack of understanding."
"All you have to do, if you want everything in life from everybody else, is first pay attention, listen to them, show them respect, give them meaning, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Convey to them that they matter to you. And show [them] you love them. But you have to go first. And what are you going to get back. Mirrored reciprocation. Right? See how we tie this all together? The world is so damn simple. It’s not complicated at all! Every single person on this planet is looking for the same thing. Now why is it that we don’t act on these very simple things?"
“For answering the question, why would people not go positive and not go first when there’s a 98 percent chance you’re going to benefit from it, and only a 2 percent chance the person’s going to tell you to ‘screw off’ and you’re going to feel horrible, lose face, and all the rest of that. And that’s real. That’s why we don’t do it. He said there’s huge asymmetry between the standard human desire for gain and the standard human desire to avoid loss.”
How This All Happened - The American economy has changed a lot since the 1950s. That is obvious but what may not be so obvious is that although it has changed a lot, there were events that occurred in previous periods that led to what happened in the next period.
In other words, what happened in the 1950s is what caused certain events to happen in the 1960s and what happened in the 1960s caused certain events to happen in the 1970s and so on. And as the author of the popular blog The Collaborative Fund and the author of this article, Morgan Housel, puts it, “My goal isn’t to describe every play; it’s to look at how one game influenced the next.”
This blog post really was a very interesting read on how one generation of Americans went from being savers due to fond memories of the Great Depression to spenders due to a thriving economy coming out of World War 2 and more lenient credit regulation all the way to debtors due to an overheated economy with even more lenient credit regulation and lower interest rates which eventually led to the housing bust in 2008.
What is also interesting from this post is the discussion on how income went from being very evenly distributed in the 1950s-1970s to very unevenly distributed throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s and how the disparity in income distribution didn’t change how Americans spent their money very much. The old story on keeping up with the Jones’ still held up.
“But a central theme of this story is that expectations move slower than reality on the ground.”
Top 10 U.S. Government Investments in the 20th Century American Competitiveness -Innovation is what drives our world forward. It increases production, it allows us to use resources more efficiently, and it makes our lives easier and less complicated.
There has been a lot of innovation throughout the 20th century and I bet you won't recognize some of the great ideas that the government funded to give us some big returns. I certainly didn't recognize some.
The greatest innovations of the 1900's according to the Center for American Progress were:
1 Ellis Island
2 Panama Canal
3 Hoover Dam
4 GI Bill
5 Marshal Plan
6 Interstate Highway
8 Apollo Space Program
9 Elementary and Secondary Education
10 Human Genome Project
What I learned About Life at My 30th College Reunion - I really liked this one. The author recently went to her 30 year reunion from when she graduated Harvard in 1988. After seeing and catching up with so many of her classmates from her class, she shares "30 simple truths she discovered from her reunion."
I had only my 10 year reunion from high school last year and reading this makes me ask myself, "where does all that time go?" It flies by so fast and we only realize it after its gone. Reading this right now has helped me appreciate youth more. It has also got me thinking slightly more about decision making over my next 23 years, which is the amount of time I will need to live before reaching my own 30 year college reunion.
Here are just 3 of 30 truths Deborah shares that I enjoyed:
#1 No one’s life turned out exactly as anticipated, not even for the most ardent planner.
#15 No matter what my classmates grew up to be… at the end of the day, most of our conversations at the various parties and panel discussions throughout the weekend centered on a desire for love, comfort, intellectual stimulation, decent leaders, a sustainable environment, friendship, and stability.
#17 Drinks at a bar you used to go to with your freshman roommate are more fun 30 years later with that same freshman roommate.
A Template for Understanding Big Debt Crises - I've written about Ray Dalio before and I've recommended other pieces of writing by him and I am doing it again for my September best read of the month. Ray has been one of the most successful hedge fund managers by building the largest hedge fund in the world. He wrote the best-selling book Principles and he just released this new book on understanding how big debt crises occur and what steps governments can take to alleviate them. And the best part about it is that it's free.
Ray has spent an enormous amount of time studying previous debt crises in history and has noticed patterns which have a habit of repeating themselves. That is part of what Ray discusses in this book. The patterns that he sees from studying the past and how governments react. There are two types of big debt crises: deflationary and inflationary. He delves deeply in to the different stages and what governments usually do to prevent their country's crises from getting worse. He also discusses in detail some of the previous debt crises in history such as The Great Depression and the 08 US Housing Crisis. I've starting reading it and it is a challenging book but I highly recommend it.
And even if you don't plan on reading it now, remember what I said earlier. It's free! Just click the link above, enter your email, go to your email inbox and download it.
The Untold Story of Notpetya, The Most Devastating Cyber Attack in History - Andy Greenberg from Wired recently wrote a very detailed and interesting article about a piece of malware that is estimated to have caused over $10 billion in damages. The malware is assumed to have been created by a group of Russian hackers and sent to infiltrate the IT systems of a software company in Ukraine. The malware then spread to the IT systems of numerous multinational companies such as Merck, Mondelez, Maersk, and TNT Express. The story is a fascinating behind-the-scenes read of how a shipping company saw their computers abruptly stop working and the measures they took to restore their entire network. The world is much more connected today than it has ever been before and that has made certain areas of it very fragile.
The malware originated in Ukraine but spread to places as far away as the UK and a shipping terminal in New Jersey. It even shut down a credit card payment system at a gas station which resulted in the driver not being able to get gas since he didn’t have any cash. There were lots of hours and days spent trying to fix all of the issues that the malware caused. It is being referred to as the most devastating cyber-attack in history and unfortunately with all of the reliance and significance we place on IT systems to run our daily lives, it most likely won’t be the last.
The Race of Our Lives Revisited - I posted one of Jeremy Grantham’s quarterly investment letters back in January 2018 so this isn’t his first appearance on my Best Reads of the Month list. He is a very deep thinker on the markets but also on the environment and humanity. I’ve been paying a lot of attention to what he has been writing about lately on the damage that we have been doing to our planet.
Global warming has become a much bigger concern over the past 10 years and Jeremy is one of the biggest supporters of doing something about it not later but right now as opposed to the “kicking the can further down the road” mentality that has prevailed for so long on this issue.
As you can tell from the title of his paper, “The Race of Our Lives Revisited”, he is deeply concerned about how we will maintain ourselves in the future because of the evidence that our ability to grow food is in jeopardy due to the destruction of the soil and other consequences of global warming.
In this thoughtful 35-page white paper, Jeremy backs his claims with facts and evidence by providing measurements, photos, and graphs. He also discusses the roles that solar, wind, and battery storage will have to play to help us fight the consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels.
Why The Best Things in Life Are All Backwards - This post from Mark Manson comes directly from his blog and it discusses an interesting idea called the backwards law which Mark wrote about in his best-selling book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, and which I recently wrote about in my last blog post.
The backwards law is about realizing that the more you chase after something, the more you end up getting the opposite result or feeling worse off than before. This is somewhat counter intuitive to what we’ve been told throughout our lives. Most of our lives we have been told that the harder we work and the more effort we put in, the better off we will be. But Mark discusses how this is true for menial tasks but not for actions that are psychological such as our mental health and our relationships.
“The backwards law’ [is] the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-centered and shallow you become in trying to get there.” Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
Compilation of Content from Michael Burry - Michael Burry was a medical doctor turned hedge fund manager in the early 2000’s. He ran the fund Scion Capital where he shorted the real estate bubble by using credit default swaps. The fabulous business author who wrote Liar’s Poker and Moneyball, Michael Lewis, wrote about Mr. Burry’s success in his best-selling book The Big Short which was eventually turned into a movie where Michael Burry was played by Christian Bale.
This pdf contains a compilation of content from Michael which includes some of his letters written to his investors when he was running his fund. It delves into what he was thinking before the real estate crash, how he saw it collapsing, and how he profited from it. It also discusses Michael’s investment strategy.
It’s a long pdf and can’t be read in one sitting, but well worth the investment for any serious investor willing to understand what was going through the mind of one of the best investors so far of the 21st century.
While almost everyone was ignoring the froth in the real estate bubble, Michael was not only warning of the troubles, but he found a way to short it which wasn’t easy because of the way the market was set up. It took an enormous amount of research, intelligence, contrarianism, and courage.
This is What Love Does to Your Brain - I came across this article by Sean Illing about love and the brain from Eric Barker’s Barking Up The Wrong Tree weekly email. It was so interesting that I decided to make it my second addition to my Best Reads of the Month for June. The article is from Vox and is called This is What Love Does to Your Brain.
Sean interviews Helen Fisher who is a biological anthropologist, author of six different books, and chief scientific adviser to Match.com. Helen answers several thoughtful questions on how our brains react to different circumstances of love. The questions relate to casual sex, differences in gender sexuality, brain scans of humans falling in love, what makes a happy marriage or relationship, suicide after breakups and others.
Here are some interesting parts below:
“You can think of love as an intense obsession, but it’s really an addiction. You think about [your partner] all the time; you become sexually possessive; you get butterflies in the stomach; you can read their emails and texts over and over again.
But I say it’s an addiction because we found that, in addition to the dopamine system being activated in the brains of people in love, we also found activity in another part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.
This part of the brain is activated in all forms of behavioral addiction — whether it’s drugs or gambling or food or kleptomania. So this part of the brain fires up in people who have recently fallen in love, and it really does function like an addiction.”
“Sean Illing: What do we, as a culture, get wrong about male and female sexuality?
Helen Fisher: A lot. We think men want to have sex with everything that walks, but that’s not true. They’re much more picky than people think.
I think we also got it wrong that women are not interested in sex. Among people under the age of 40, women are apparently just as adulterous as men. Women in college have more sex than men in college do, largely because women have the pick of the place when they’re in college, and men don’t.
But the idea that men need or desire sex more than women is a fantasy.
I’ve been telling women’s magazines for 30 years that men fall in love faster than women do because they’re so visual, and they fall in love more often. Men like public displays of affection more regularly, which sounds romantic but isn’t.”
Curiosity and What Equality Really Means - Atul Gawande is a surgeon, public health researcher, and best-selling author. He has made numerous contributions to the field based on his extensive research and generosity to share his wisdom. He wrote about the importance of creating checklists in order to minimize errors in medicine and other aspects of life. Behind this link is a commencement speech that Atul delivered to the UCLA Medical school on Friday June 1st. Atul discusses the importance of curiosity and how it is vital to being empathetic and treating others as equals.
Here are a couple of quotes that I highlighted from his speech:
"Regarding people as having lives of equal worth means recognizing each as having a common core of humanity. Without being open to their humanity, it is impossible to provide good care to people - to insure, for instance, that you've given them enough anesthetic before doing a procedure. To see their humanity, you must put yourself in their shoes. That requires a willingness to ask people what it's like in those shoes. It requires curiosity about others and the world beyond your boarding zone."
"Once we lose the desire to understand - to be surprised, to listen and bear witness - we lose humanity. Among the most important capacities that you take with you today is your curiosity. You must guard it, for curiosity is the beginning of empathy. When others say that some is evil or crazy, or even a hero or an angel, they are usually trying to shut off curiosity. Don't let them. We are all capable of heroic and of evil things. No one and nothing that you encounter in your life and career will be simply heroic or evil. Virtue is a capacity. It can always be lost or gained. That potential is why all of our lives are of equal worth."
Dollar Street - This website was recommended by Bill Gates and is a very interesting tour of how families living in different parts of the world live. The owners of this website visited 264 families in 50 countries and collected 30,000 photos. They show the monthly income for various families and various pictures that depict their living standards. Some common pictures shown are their toilet, bed(s), roof, hands, exterior view of home, electronic devices, and streets/pathways.
Lessons You Won't Learn In School - This article comes from the June 2018 issue of Psychology Today. It offers 10 pieces of wisdom on how to improve your perception of the world to help you live more successfully and feel better about yourself. Here is a small part of the article that I found very informative:
"Every Buddhist knows - and mindfulness techniques actualize the knowledge - that emotions are not an accurate reflection of reality (in fact, there's no such thing). Feelings are no more than passing ephemera - and so are flops and fiascos. Resilient people do not define themselves by their adversity. They understand that bad times are temporary affairs."
One Decision Separates The Wealthy From The Non-Wealthy - Benjamin Hardy discusses two different economies in this article. The "Time-Effort-Economy" and the "Results Economy." Most people are in the "Time-Effort-Economy" where they are working for a salary or an hourly wage and are focused on getting a task done and staying busy. Few people are in the "Results Economy" and there is a reason for this. The "Results Economy" has a lot more risk to it because you aren't guaranteed an income. You are only paid if you deliver results. No surprise that this is the economy that entrepreneurs are a part of, and according to Dr. Thomas Stanley, the people that are in the "Results Economy" are the ones that are more courageous and wealthy.
My 10-Year Odyssey Through America's Housing Crisis - When the Wall Street Journal wanted to run an article that looked at the housing market 10 years later they turned to Ryan Dezember who lived it. He got married and bought a charming cottage on coastal Alabama only to watch the price he paid fall below the amount of the mortgage he borrowed from the bank a couple of years later. What follows is the journey this Wall Street Journal writer went through during the greatest crisis since the Great Depression.
Ideas That Changed My Life - Vilfredo Pareto was an economist who discovered the 80/20 principle which simply states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule, is seen all over the place although the result may not always be 80% and 20%. Sometimes it is 90/10 or 70/30 but the overall idea is that a large amount of the outcomes come from a small amount of the inputs. And what Morgan Housel does in this interesting piece is discuss how although there were many ideas he came across over the past years, there were very few that were so big that they really changed how he thought and viewed the world.
Bill and Melinda Gates' 10th Annual Letter - I'm always a fan of reading Bill and Melinda Gates' annual letters to see their take on the progress that our world is making. We see so much news that is pessimistic because that is what the media likes to publish since it grabs out attention and sells, but despite this negative view there is a lot of optimism out there as well. One positive statistic that Bill and Melinda mention in this year's letter is that the number of children that died in 2000 has been cut in half compared to last year. In 2000, 10 million children died compared to 5 million last year and this large decrease is the result of giving poorer countries access to better immunization. There are a lot of other interesting stats and views in this letter as well. This year they focus on answering the 10 toughest questions that both of them get.
Bracing Yourself For a Possible Near Term Melt Up - Jeremy Grantham is GMO's chief investment strategist and is one of my favorite investor's opinions to read. I've been reading his viewpoints for the past 5 years and they are always interesting. This report uses data going back to the early 1900's as well as Jeremy's experiences living through previous bubbles to discuss whether or not a bubble is starting to form in the markets today (January 2018).
A First Hand Account of What Actually Happened The Night When Van Gogh Cut His Ear Off - I found this really interesting. It's the story of what actually happened when Van Gogh cut his ear off and it's told by his friend and mentor Paul Gauguin. It makes me wonder what causes so many of the great genuises to become so crazy.
How Long Have I Got Left - Paul Kalanithi was completing his residency training in neurological surgery at Stanford. He was studying for the past 10 years and was treating patients whom were diagnosed with cancer. He was a doctor. Then one day he wasn't. He was diagnosed with cancer and went from being a doctor to a patient. In this NY Times editorial, Paul discusses what was going through his mind very soon after he first found out that he had cancer.
Tim Ferriss's Interview With Ray Dalio - Tim Ferriss interviews Ray Dalio about his new book Principles and his journey in managing the largest hedge fund in the world today with $160 billion in assets under management.
10 Things I Would Do If I Were 21 - An excerpt from Frank Crane's book The Business of Living where Frank gives readers advice on what to do if he were 21. The advice is very valuable and provides great long term benefits. It has to do with improving your mind and health.
Howard Marks's Memo, "There They Go Again" - Howard Marks writes his latest memo on where he believes we stand in the stages of the market cycle. He also gives input on some of the major asset classes such as bonds, real estate, stocks, and exchange traded funds.
To Stay Married, Embrace Change - This article gives some good advice on marriage. This paragraph gives a really good idea of what the article is about: “Several long-married people I know have said this exact line: ‘I’ve had at least three marriages. They’ve just all been with the same person.’ I’d say Neal and I have had at least three mariages: Our partying 20s, child-centric 30s and home-owning 40s."
10 Things Ben Had To Give Up To Heal His Anxiety - The abundant mindset that Ben talks about was a new way of thinking that I learned from this article and I've been trying to apply it myself. Here is a great quote from the abundant mindset section: "However, to heal, I had to change to an abundant mindset. I had to view the world as a beautiful place that was overflowing with goodness, rather than one in which I had to hold my chips close to my chest for fear that they were the only ones I would ever be given."
Bill Gates's Advice For New Graduates - I am always open to hearing advice from Bill Gates because of his incredible work ethic, and he is always looking to improve his learning ability. In this blog post, Bill shares some advice for today’s graduates. An interesting part is where Bill Gates mentions that intelligence isn’t as important as he once thought it was. It also takes many different forms. A second interesting mention is where he talks about how he wished he knew much earlier what true inequity looks like. He didn’t see true inequity up close until his late 30’s when he visited Africa with his wife.