Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

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.

Influential Reads – February 2019

February 2019

I’ve still not gotten around to writing about my process for collecting, filtering (Feedly), reading, saving (Evernote) and reviewing my reading list.  I actually made a tweak to the process in February that simplified a step and started using the desktop version of Evernote. More to come…

I’m realizing that I probably spend more time on “expiring information” (see Compounding Knowledge article below) than I should be, so I am evolving my system to focus on higher quality reading.  

I’m also going to be posting my reading stats (I am no Brad Feld):

Saved ArticlesBooks
JanuaryN/A2
February901

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

  1. Delta C.E.O. Ed Bastian: ‘Leadership Is Not a Popularity Contest’
  2. 3 Signs That Tell Me Its Time to Let An Employee Go
  3. How I’ve Made Email my Secret Weapon – I deleted all my folders in Outlook and can’t find sh*t
  4. We need to stop striving for work-life balance. Here’s why
  5. They Live!
  6. You Don’t Need Sports Drinks To Stay Hydrated
  7. Compounding Knowledge
  8. The Slipstream of Comfort
  9. The Online Gig Economy’s ‘Race to the Bottom’
  10. The 12 Signs a Cheap Stock Is a ‘Value Trap’

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.

Book Report: High Output Management

“I take notes in just about all circumstances and most often end up never looking at them again. I do it to keep my mind from drifting and also to help me digest the information I hear and see.” – Andy Grove


This is meant to be more of a book report, than a review.  In particular, I want to highlight three lessons from the book, High Output Management by Andy Grove, that I found impactful.

Maybe this is well trodden territory, but I wasn’t that familiar with the book.  This article by Ben Horowitz led me to the book.

In general, I enjoyed the book.  It took me a bit to get going. The Breakfast Factory was not gripping reading for me.  But once I made into the managerial sections, the take-aways and reading flowed much quicker.  My undergraduate training is as an engineer, with an emphasis on systems, so there was much to relate to here in terms of thinking.  There were some topics that I considered less relevant to those of us managing smaller organizations. For example, I’m less concerned about dotted line relationships across my company and more concerned about the fact so many lines lead back to the same person – my Director of Engineering is also our Director of IT and the Director of Security and the Director of Whatever Comes Up Next.

However, three topics that did alter my perspective were:

Stagger Charts.  I adopted this one before I even finished the book.  It’s been useful as I’ve started to dial-in my forecast model for my new business.

“Another sound way to anticipate the future is through the use of the stagger chart, which forecasts an output over the next several months.The chart is updated monthly, so that each month you will have an updated version of the then-current forecast information as compared to several prior forecasts”

“I have found the ‘stagger chart’ the best means of getting a feel for future business trends.”

Meetings: The Medium of Managerial Work.  Maybe I was in a place where I was open to this message.  In my prior company, I felt most meetings were a waste of time.  Or maybe more precisely, something where I generally walked away with having only gained more more work and now less time to actually get it done.  Generally I was already in the know for most things (not much new to learn) and it seemed like most decisions were not made in formal meetings (no reason to spend time debating a topic).

In my new role, meetings have taken on a new dimension.  There’s much more of a two-way value proposition going on.  

“Earlier we said that a big part of a middle manager’s work is to supply information and know-how, and to impart a sense of the preferred method of handling things to the groups under his control and influence.  A manager also makes and helps to make decisions. Both kinds of basic managerial tasks can only occur during face-to-face encounters, and therefore only during meetings. Thus I will assert again that a meeting is nothing less than the medium through which managerial work is performed.  That means we should not be fighting their very existence, but rather using the time spent in them as efficiently as possible.”

Performance Appraisals.They key for me is the forward-looking point of view Mr. Grove imparts here.  

“But what is the fundamental purpose?  Though all of the responses given to my question are correct, there is one that is more important than any of the others: it is improve the subordinate’s performance”.

It makes a lot of sense.  It’s not a box to be checked or a way to memorialize historical accomplishments or areas for improvement.  The appraisal should be focused on improving performancing in the future.

I read this right in the middle of a round of appraisals.  It would have been nice to have read it prior to authoring the appraisals, but I was able to make some adjustments before delivering the reviews and hopefully take a more constructive tone than I might have otherwise.

All in all, definitely worth a read.  I see myself re-reading parts of this book as I encounter new challenges or come upon another round of employee reviews.  I’d also like to spend some time working through the “One More Thing…” exercises at the end of the book.

Influential Reads – January 2019

More on my process for collecting, filtering (Feedly), reading, saving (Evernote) and reviewing my reading list later.  

As part of evolving that system to add some more structure, I will be posting the most influential reads I have encountered over the past month.  That does not mean they are the best reads, that I necessarily agree with them, etc. It means they have helped to influence and evolve my thinking – essentially the primary purpose of reading, right?

In addition to incorporating the step of going back and reviewing all my reads from the month, by limiting the list to ten, the process will utilize a theme that I’ve been employing on a more frequent basis lately.  That is to inject a constraint. It’s like air in a balloon. Hint: gases expand to fill their containers.

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

  1. New Year, new mantra
  2. Why to Take Notes
  3. You Should Adopt the Boring Habits of Successful People
  4. The game-day caffeine routine that powers the NBA’s most frequent flyers
  5. Updating My Favorite Performance Chart for 2018
  6. Switch Your Devices to Dark Mode to Give Your Eyes a Break
  7. The Insane Numbers Behind Cycling’s Most Masochistic Race
  8. Gundlach Warns U.S. Economy Is Floating on ‘an Ocean of Debt’
  9. The Biggest Valuation Spread in 40 Years?
  10. Intro to The Media Bias Chart

There were a lot of great articles at the end / beginning of the year.

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.

Year In Review

As part of my reading “system”, I periodically look through all the things that I have read and saved.  It’s a nice refresher to look back over what I thought was important at one time. Things might have played out differently or my perspective may have evolved.  Regardless, I find it a useful exercise to go back and look through the reads that I have saved.

More on my process for collecting, filtering (Feedly), reading, saving (Evernote) and reviewing my reading list later.  

Here are the top reads from 2018 that influenced my year in some way:

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.