Monthly Archives: October 2020

Book Report: Good To Great

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Level 5 leaders display a workmanlike diligence – more plow horse than show horse.” – Jim Collins

This is meant to be more of a book report, than a review.  In particular, I want to highlight three lessons from the book, Good to Great by Jim Collins, that I found impactful.  This also serves as a way for me to recall influential points in the book.

I went into this book with few expectations.  I picked up my copy at a second hand shop years ago just because it was a title and author I recognized.  Hardcover books are a weakness of mine. The book was written circa 2001, so some of the material is a tad dated.  Maybe one of the biggest criticisms is one of the “good to great” examples went out of business since then: Circuit City.  However, I still found the main messages mostly timeless.

However, three topics that did alter my perspective were:

  1. First Who…Then What.  

“We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy.  We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats – and then they figured out where to drive it.”

I have generally hired for horsepower.  A students are generally A students in any setting.  I have worked in a couple businesses that are obsessively focused on only hiring A+ players.  While this message can be a touch self-serving, I will say having the right people on the team makes a huge difference, and having the wrong people is such a drag.  So, spending the time on hiring is extremely important.

  1. A Culture of Discipline. 

“When you have disciplined people, you don’t need hierarchy.  When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy.  When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls.  When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great performance.”

This is something I wrestle with frequently but thought this was a helpful way of thinking about it.  I generally have found that good people armed with the right goals and information end up generating outsized accomplishments.  My motto has been – hire good people and mostly try not stay out of their way.  And, this seems to be a similar thought process.  Also, I have never seen dictatorial leadership styles as very scalable or robust.  Instead, they tend to generate fear, resentment, and an outsized focus on politics.

  1. Hedgehogs vs. Foxes. 

“The key is to understand what your organization can be the best in the world at, and equally important what it cannot be the best at – no what it “wants” to be the best at.  The Hedgehog Concept is not a goal, strategy, or intention; it is an understanding.”

“Strategy per se did not separate the good-to-great companies from the comparison companies.  Both sets had strategies, and there is no evidence that the good-to-great companies spend more time on strategic planning than the comparison companies.

“No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop.  There was no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no wrenching revolution.”

I thought this was illuminating as well and sort of dovetailed with the first point.  Do not go looking for some silver bullet strategy.  Figure out why you win, and just grind on it.  There are no short cuts.  

That’s A Bunch of…

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I was watching a little late night television on Youtube the other week and was surprised by something.  The show I was watching, Late Night with Seth Myers, had some clips of a Fox News segment with Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer.

The segment was basically Giuliani making some claims that he had interviewed some (unidentified) doctors who said Former Vice President Joe Biden had several hallmarks of having dementia.

Well, if Biden has dementia, that is newsworthy.

What isn’t newsworthy is Giuliani’s statement. It’s a bunch of baseless bullshit. 

What’s even more out there on the bullshit continuum, is a media outlet presenting that as news.  

You know I have some news too.  I firmly believe that in a former life, Mrs. SFTE starved to death.  This is based on how much food we take on camping trips and interviews with several doctors1 who “told” me that she has all the hallmarks of someone who has starved to death in a former life.  

  1. By doctors, I mean two of my daughters stuffies – J.J. the bison and Pollie the polar bear.  And now this article is sourced 1000% better than the Fox News segment.

That’s A Bunch Of…

Reading Time: < 1 minute

In a popularized line of bullshit that hits close to home, it’s not the politics impacting the coal and oil industries.

Democrats struggling to face fact that their plans would all but end fossil fuels

It’s economics.  

Solar energy reaches historically low costs

Covid-19 is accelerating all the trends Big Oil was dreading

So, yeah.  Put that in your pipe…and don’t do anything to release carbon into the atmosphere.

Influential Reads – September 2020

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As an antidote to current events, I was forced to go on a Carl Hiaasen binge.  

Updated stats through September:

ArticlesBooks
January794
February781
March962
April964
May1273
June493
July780
August933
September593
October
November
December
Total75523

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. Pandemic trends – “Really, if we are going to get through this without psychological damage, we need to maintain some semblance of social contact. In other words, would it kill you to say, “It’s a beautiful day, eh? Have a good one.”
  2. It’s Time to Narrow the Income Gap. Future Prosperity Depends On It. – “The answer is debt. The only way that workers can sustain consumption growth when their incomes are stagnant is by borrowing, either directly or through the government’s budget deficit—which is exactly what the data show.”
  3. Credit Is Tightening. Why That Matters for the Economic Recovery – “But away from the capital markets, there are signs of tightening credit, according to a report from Macro Intelligence2 Partners. Banks have been imposing more stringent standards for borrowers, especially for consumers, a change borne out by the Fed’s Senior Loan Officer survey.” – How does this end you ask?  The answer lies somewhere with credit.
  4. Small-Business Failures Loom as Federal Aid Dries Up – ““Why didn’t we use the time that P.P.P. bought us to design the kind of program that would be commensurate with the national challenge that we’re facing?” Mr. Lettieri, of the Economic Innovation Group, asked. “That’s all P.P.P. was. It was a mechanism to buy time. It was never the long-term solution.”
  5. The Next Frontier – “We argue that before World War II dramatic reductions in transport costs expanded the supply of land and suppressed land prices.”
  6. What comes after Zoom? – “I think this is where we’ll go with video – there will continue to be hard engineering, but video itself will be a commodity and the question will be how you wrap it.”
  7. This Meditation Exercise Builds Mental Muscle and Cures Procrastination () – “The reason this meditation exercise will work for many of you is because it trains a really specific mental skill, the Awareness-Focus Loop.”
  8. Foreign Stocks’ Lost Decade – “As it turns out (and as should be no surprise) differences in earnings growth explain most of this gap.” – Wait, earnings matter?  Tell that to Pets.com.  Oh wait…checks notes…uh oh, I think I’ve been doing this wrong.
  9. Simple trick can deliver outperformance in emerging markets ETFs – “Active emerging market equity managers are potentially able to systematically beat the flagship indices by using one simple trick — avoiding state-owned enterprises.”
  10. A Lesson From TR & Taft on Pursuing a Life You Like – “Throw off your Taftian insecurities and fully own and embrace what you personally enjoy.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.