Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Influential Reads – October 2019

October was pretty unremarkable.

Updated stats through October:

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901
March390
April630
May393
June630
July790
August881
September513
October890
Total60110

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

  1. Hamilton pushed for impeachment powers. Trump is what he had in mind. – “Not only is Trump himself on trial, but he is also testing our constitutional system to the breaking point.”
  2. MARGINal – “I believe we are seeing the mother of all shifts from a focus on growth to margin.”
  3. Behind SaaS’s Choppy Day – “The broader selloff, however — coupled to an implied revenue multiple compression — paints a stagnant picture for SaaS companies more generally.”
  4. Why Hard Training Makes You More Impulsive – “Now we see that the arrow goes both ways, and that bolsters the idea that mental and physical exertion both draw on the same finite well of… something.”
  5. What The Downturn Will Probably Look Like in SaaS – “But second, enterprise customers all renewed.  Almost all of them.”
  6. The Art of Creating a Ritual for What Matters Most – “Our hours are precious and limited, and we can take care to only place the things that matter most into that limited space.”
  7. Stamina Succeeds – “the most successful have a lot more energy and stamina than do others.”
  8. Microsoft, Slack, Zoom, and the SaaS Opportunity – “This is why companies like Zoom and especially Slack are so valuable: they create new customers who are primed for growth; Microsoft, meanwhile, is mostly keeping its existing customers in-house.”
  9. How to build durable and long-lasting Atomic Habits – “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement”
  10. Let Children Get Bored AgainLet Children Get Bored Again – “Boredom teaches us that life isn’t a parade of amusements. More important, it spawns creativity and self-sufficiency.”

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.

Influential Reads – September 2019

I’ve been trying out the reading books from the library on a Kindle strategy and it’s increased the number of books I’m reading, but maybe decreasied the amount of sleep I’ve been getting.  Mrs. SFTE thinks it’s the blue light?

Updated stats through September:

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901
March390
April630
May393
June630
July790
August881
September513
October890
Total60110

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

  1. Underrated Skills – The entire article, read it.
  2. Yogababble – “Nope, similar to Chuck Norris, Christie Brinkley, and Tony Little, you sell exercise equipment.”
  3. On The Great Jihad And Other Possible Futures – “The differences between stocks will matter again. Why? Pricing power is why. Businesses with pricing power will survive and even thrive. Businesses without pricing power will struggle. Many will die.”
  4. Everyone has forgotten about why Donald Trump can’t win a trade war with China – “There seems to be a fundamental inconsistency between achieving that outcome and the Trump administration’s other economic nationalist priorities, which focuses on bringing manufacturing production back to the United States, even if that comes at the expense of everything else, including American farmers.”
  5. The Dow’s 1.6% Gain Hid Turmoil Beneath the Market’s Surface – “But those numbers entirely miss the point. It was a week when everything that had been working stopped working, when losers were suddenly winners.”
  6. The Endgame for the Bull Market in Bonds – “The worst asset to hold in this hypothetical bonfire of the currencies? A “sovereign bond with a negative yield, closely followed by paper money at zero yield, both with a theoretically infinite supply.”
  7. Cloud software is nuts, and it’s crashing – “Momentum — buying stocks that are going up — is the crucial factor here because the cloud companies, with their sky-rocket-in-flight share prices, are some of the stocks commonly found in this particular factor strategy.”
  8. Only the Fed Can Save Us – “Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve must stand up to Trump. If they don’t, the American economy is heading for disaster.”
  9. The Trade War Is About to Hit Your Pocket. Literally – “While 82% of intermediate inputs are already affected by tariffs, just 29% of consumer goods have had levies to date. That figure will now rise to 69%, and 99% when a final tranche is imposed on Dec. 15…”
  10. The upside down, inside out negative yield financial world – “If normal creditors and lenders cannot provide a reasonable story for their negative time value of money, we are left with an explanation that these negative rates are imposed on the markets as a form of financial repression by central banks.”

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.

Influential Reads – August 2019

Hey, a book.  Finally. I had to change genres to get it done.  But I thoroughly enjoyed Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.

Updated stats through August:

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901
March390
April630
May393
June630
July790
August881
September513
October890
Total60110

New feature – in order to add some perspective to each article, I’m adding a quote or comment for context.

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

  1. The Buzzkill News About Drinking Alcohol  – “The notion that one or two drinks a day is doing us good may just be wishful thinking.
  2. Why Cryptocurrencies Look Like a Bubble, and How Investors Can Brace for Lower Returns – “I have big tolerance for maverick risk.”
  3. Taylor Swift is smart enough to not let her shows sell out – “Although some naive critics derided the tour as a “disaster” for not selling out, Swift is laughing all the way to the bank.
  4. The Quote of the Decade – “You can’t talk about savers without talking about consumers. And the latter outnumber the former by orders of magnitude. Whatever people are not receiving from a low rates is being more than made up for in their mortgage and other items that are financed.” Got it, people should take out more debt and stop complaining about not earning anything on their savings.  If they have more debt than savings, it’s all good. If not, just go buy something on credit (e.g., a house, or a second home, or a couple cars). It really doesn’t matter so long as it’s financed. Brilliant. And, isn’t the second sentence going to become a problem at some point?
  5. Today’s Reckless, Irresponsible, Politically-Motivated FOMC Rate Cut – “There are very few legitimate reasons to cut rates from the low Effective Federal Funds rate of 2.38%. Some argue Underemployment is a reason, others say its insurance against an ordinary recession (?!), still others say it is needed to reduce the strength of the US Dollar.  To which I call bullshit.
  6. Reading and rabbit holes – “Follow the questions, not the books per se.  Don’t focus on which books to read, focus on which questions to ask.
  7. This is what leaders need to do to prevent work-life stress from taking over – “A leader I worked with previously used to say, ‘You should trust the people who work for you; if you don’t, they shouldn’t work for you.’ ”  Hmmm, this probably cuts both ways, don’t you think?
  8. A Clever Hack to Reading More Books – “But one thing has: an electronic library card tied to a Kindle. You can get one online, signup with your mobile phone number and start checking out books in less than five minutes.”  Yes, I commandeered my daughter’s Kindle.
  9. The Decision Matrix: How to Prioritize What Matters – “The decisions we spend the most time on are rarely the most important ones.
  10. How to Do Great Things – “You need to strive for excellence. This isn’t as easy as it sounds but it as an essential feature of doing great work.

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.

Influential Reads – July 2019

I continue to be shut out on books.  I’m reading Principles by Ray Dalio which I’m enjoying – just not moving through it very quickly.

Updated stats through July:

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901
March390
April630
May393
June630
July790
August881
September513
October890
Total60110

New feature – in order to add perspective to each article, I’m adding a quote for context.

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

  1. Sunday Firesides: I Have Kids – “The commute to work kind of sucks . . . but how awesome that you have a job.”
  2. A Decade of Low Interest Rates Is Changing Everything (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-23/a-decade-of-low-interest-rates-is-changing-everything) – “The 30-year Treasury bond, a favored debt security, yields about 2.5%—compared with an average 6.5% since the 1970s.”
  3. I Tried Emailing Like A CEO And Quite Frankly, It Made My Life Better – “So is the boss email also a power move, a way of asserting dominance? I doubt many bosses sit staring at their employees’ emails trying to figure out what “ok” really meant.”
  4. Want to cut your work hours in half? Create an A/B schedule – “So I tell my clients, they need to put on one hat–one role–at a time, and adopt an A/B schedule.”
  5. One Thing That Great Leaders Understand – “Leadership is about assembling a group of talented people who all want to work for your team and are motivated to work together.”
  6. Your First Thought Is Rarely Your Best Thought: Lessons on Thinking – “Shane, most people don’t actually think. They just take their first thought and go.”
  7. Smarter, Not Harder: How to Succeed at Work – “Incredibly successful people focus their time on just a few priorities and obsess over doing things right. This is simple but not easy.”
  8. Why We Struggle to Make Time for Solitude – “To do this, we have to stop letting the uncertainty rule our lives. It can be with us, a constant companion, and we can learn to be comfortable with it and even love it as it is. But it doesn’t have to drive us.”
  9. This Is How To Have A Long Awesome Life: 7 Secrets From Research – “All of the old folks say it before they eat. It means ‘Eat until you are 80 percent full.’”
  10. How to Do Great Things – “You need to strive for excellence. This isn’t as easy as it sounds but it as an essential feature of doing great work.”

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.

Influential Reads – June 2019

Well, that was fast – 2019 is half way over. I continue to start to read non-fiction books that I really want to read, but get bogged down in them, as they feel like work. The key is probably somewhere in the Motivation Over Discipline article below…

Updated stats through June:

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901
March390
April630
May393
June630
Total2946

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

  1. Jell-O Could Be the Secret to Stronger Bones and Tendons
  2. Goodbye, Chrome: Google’s web browser has become spy software
  3. Interest Rate Chasing in Your Savings Account – A Wealth of Common Sense
  4. How active listening can improve your work (and love) life
  5. How to Have More Focused Hours in Your Day
  6. GMO’s Montier on the rise of the dual economy
  7. Twelve Principles
  8. Book review: The Power of Less
  9. Motivation Over Discipline
  10. Execution is Everything

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.

Influential Reads – May 2019

An improved month of reading (sort of) with a caveat.  I turned to some old favorites (Carl Hiaasen) to lighten the mood and get back into reading some books – which is really the area where I should probably be allocating more reading time.

Updated stats through May:

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901
March390
April630
May393

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

  1. Strategy vs. Tactics: What’s the Difference and Why Does it Matter?
  2. Risk, Uncertainty and Ignorance in Investing and Business – Lessons from Richard Zeckhauser
  3. Lessons from Scott Belsky’s Book “The Messy Middle”
  4. The Errors That I Don’t See – Of Dollars And Data
  5. Does Norway Have the Answer to Excess in Youth Sports?
  6. Walmart is becoming a Technology Company
  7. The professor who beat the roulette table
  8. The Best Advice You’ve Ever Received (and Are Willing to Pass On)
  9. Jeff Bezos: Big Things Start Small
  10. Uber’s Rocky IPO, What Went Wrong, The Perils of Private

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.

Influential Reads – April 2019

What happened to April?

Updated stats through April:

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901
March390
April630

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

  1. The difference between a snafu, a shitshow, and a clusterfuck
  2. The Importance of Working With “A”Players
  3. Hustle As Strategy
  4. From Sloth to Zwift Star: Kevin Bouchard-Hall Embraces Riding Inside
  5. The Praise Paradox
  6. How Subscription Business Models are Changing Business and Investing (the Microeconomics of Subscriptions
  7. How The Patient Investor Sees the World More Clearly
  8. Getting Ahead By Being Inefficient
  9. Great Leaders Are Thoughtful and Deliberate, Not Impulsive and Reactive
  10. Perspective | ‘I want out of this body’: I can’t move, talk or breathe on my own. But I’m still in there thinking, remembering my old life

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.

Love, The Renters

We recently moved from the Cleveland area to Columbus.  We had lived in the Cleveland area for about seven years and somewhat reluctantly purchased a house during that period.  Mostly because we couldn’t find another rental house that met our needs for a reasonable price.

Note: Now that I’ve managed and paid for a full kitchen remodel and an entire exterior basement excavation, as well as paid egregious realtor fees, my definition of a  “reasonable price” has evolved.

The Columbus move was performed in fairly short order.  So we decided to rent for a number of reasons, including we were not that familiar with the area and purchasing a house would be one more complexity.

We found a single family house for rent by a couple where the husband has been working in Chicago and the wife was going to join him for a year.  Their youngest child had just graduated from a nearby college.

It’s a really nice situation.  Very nice house. Lovely neighborhood with lots of kids.  Good schools (although that’s the topic of another post). Walkable to a neat, historic downtown area.  Nearby parks and bike trails. Central to lots of things and within an acceptable commuting radius for me. (Neighbor cycles and owns a sprinter van – at my station in life – this is my definition of a friend with benefits)

Plus, renting right now is one less thing to worry about.  I’ve got enough responsibilities at work and at home. Mrs. SFTE is fine too – probably better than me –  mostly on the basis of Columbus, Ohio is likely not a forever place for us. And a home is a possession that ties you down.

However.

An interesting pattern has emerged.  We’ve become “The Renters.” That’s how we’re introduced around the neighborhood.  

Mrs. SFTE picked up on it first.  She would grumble, we have a last name, it’s the SFTE’s

It’s an interesting sociological study.  Apparently, not owning a house, is enough of a fact pattern to define us.  Or maybe said differently, owning a house in our current neighborhood seems to be a major part of the self-identity of our neighbors.

It’s fine.  We’re taking it in stride.  

Lowering Your Property Value One Month at a Time

I’m going to have t-shirts made next.

P.S. Given the changes the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act brought to deductions for state and local taxes, this might of actually been a financially beneficial move for us, although inadvertent. We didn’t have any mortgage interest expense. Ask me about my definition of “renting” money.

Influential Reads – March 2019

March 2019

Rough month for reading.  I’ve had some work stuff going on that’s seriously reduced both my time to read and my desire to read.

Updated stats through March:

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901
March390

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

  1. Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
  2. Seriously, stop throwing away your old clothes
  3. Finding the Right Mix of Visionaries and Optimizers
  4. Not Caring: A Unique and Powerful Skill
  5. Why Wall Street is betting on business software
  6. The lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are aiming at Realtors and their 6% fee
  7. The Deep Uncertainty of Meaningful Work
  8. The Aggregation of Marginal Gains
  9. 45 Steps to Success
  10. How the Tech Giants Make Their Billions

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.

How I Read

In this highly anticipated post (sarcasm), I wanted to talk about how I read.  But before I dive into that, I should talk a little bit about the goal here.

I read (outside of work) mostly to broaden or deepen my perspective.

Most of my reading falls into two categories that each have a little bit different flavor:

  1. Newspaper & Magazine Articles
  2. Books

For newspaper and magazine articles, I generally read on my laptop.  I’ve not converted to any type of e-reader, although I’ve read some reasons why those can work well, especially for annotating and highlighting.  There are a few publications to which I subscribe: Barron’s & Stratechery (Christmas Present). The rest of these sources are either blogs, newspaper, or magazine articles that I’ve found useful and track through Feedly.  Email digests just don’t work for me.

Side note:  I almost gave up my Barron’s subscription this year, but was “salvaged” by an astute customer service rep.

Books have been a challenge lately.  My eyes have been bigger than my stomach.  My pile of “want to read” books keep expanding.  But I keep choosing books that seem to turn into too much work and I get bogged down.  My current solution has been to focus on things I really want to read and ensure I alternate a heavier read, followed by a lighter read.  We’ll see how this turns out; my goal is to read 15 books this year. Holy crap, 113 books! Can I count my daughter’s bed time stories?

There are a couple areas that I think could be better.  

One, is throughput of higher quality content.  This includes a shift to more books and less articles.  This also includes making the input funnel more efficient at screening out lower quality reads.  I have found that I read the “news” as a distraction (or procrastination method) and generally don’t take much away from it.  

The other issue is that in pursuit of good content, you end up down a rabbit hole of links.  Oohh, look, a shiny thing. Wait, Patagonia is having sale. Oohh, look, another shiny thing. You’re right, I wouldn’t have believed that happened unless it was caught on video…

Two, is ensuring that I truly absorb the information.  With so much information blowing by me on a daily basis, it is pretty easy to only superficially digest things.  Sorry babe, yes I am listening now. So this involves taking better notes, reviewing notes, and filing good stuff away in an accessible way for later reference.  I could definitely use some help here.

Side note: I purchased the book, How To Read A Book, and it’s still in my “want to read” pile. Fail.

Ok, enough about that, here’s how I read today.

For internet based reading:

  1. Feedly – Aggregation
  2. Evernote – Reading & Reviewing
  3. Evernote – Classification & Reference

As I said earlier, I mostly use Feedly to aggregate and scan content.  The only real exceptions to this would be Bloomberg, Barron’s, and Stratechery.  Those I go direct.

My Feedly setup looks like this:

If you know me, you will be surprised to see that I have setup a series of folders based loosely on content topic.  I will add and remove sources periodically. The Debatable folder is for new content that I’m unsure about. A few of these sources are really digests themselves, but that’s ok. I risk missing some content but get the benefit of someone else doing the initial screen.

The goal here is to scan this once a day and identify things I would like to read.  Wait, no reading yet. That’s right. I try to separate the identification of interesting reads from the actual reading.  One, this is just generally more efficient to review all my feeds to see what’s out there in one sitting. Two, it prevents you from going down the rabbit hole.  Three, I find the buffer actually helps me prioritize as sometimes something that seems super interesting turns out to lose its luster with a bit of time.

Here’s where I made a recent change.  I used to mark ‘Read Later” in Feedly.  However, this doesn’t work for content not in Feedly.  So for that content, I was saving to Evernote. However, this was creating two piles of “Read Later” items.  So, I stopped saving in Feedly and now save all “Read Later” items to Evernote.

So that’s it for Feedly.  It’s really just my early stage pipeline.

Most my reading takes place in Evernote.  Recently, I installed the desktop version (I’m a PC).  Here’s what that looks like:

In a surprising turn of events, I have set up a series of folders.

The Read Me folder is where all new articles go.  Pro Tip: In your Evernote browser extension, set the default folder to always be this folder.  I also prefer the Simplified article format for most things as it removes a lot of the distractions.  Wait, Patagonia is having a sale…

Side note: Listen to Me is for podcasts.  I’m not a big consumer of these. I try. It’s not my preferred format.

Read Me is where I spend my time. When I have time to read, I choose from the articles saved here. No searching for content. Already filtered and somewhat prioritized.

Evernote allows me to highlight and add commentary.  The only thing I wish, is that I could actually add comments sort of like marking up a Word document, so I could actually just search my comments later.  I’ve not figured out a way to do this.

Currently, there are 152 articles in that folder.  More than I can get through in a month, without adding any more.  I could use a system for kicking stuff out of here. Seems that if I’ve not read an article after a certain point, I must have lost interest.  I’m sorry A better way to understand internal rate of return, you sounded very interesting and ambitious when I read your title, but that was two years ago.

My thought is a date based approach (maybe 90 or 180 days), but since I just migrated all my Feedly Read Later stuff into this folder (messing with the timestamps), that’s not going to work for while.

Once I read an article, it goes into the Monthly Review List folder.  At the end of the month, I scan my notes and file into an appropriate folder.

Pro Tip: Make sure you synch at least a few offline folders to your Evernote app on your phone, so you scan while in flight.  That’s a great setting to go back and look through old topics.

Books are another topic.  I do like my paper-based books.  Despite some hesitation, I’ve started highlighting and writing notes in the margins.  This isn’t really helping with accessibility later, so it’s something I need to think about.