Monthly Archives: September 2021

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“In my life, I have given a fuck about many things. I have also not given a fuck about many things. And like the road not taken, it was the fucks not given that made all the difference.” – The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

This is meant to be more of a book report, than a review.  In particular, I want to highlight three key take-aways from the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: The Counterintuitive Approach to Living A Good Life by Mark Manson, that I found impactful.  This also serves as a way for me to recall influential points in the book.

The title is certainly catchy.  Maybe a bit gimmicky.  The content of the book turned out to be a little different than I was anticipating.  Not in a bad way.  It just was.  And a lot of the themes are ones that I have encountered elsewhere – not to say they are not relevant or important or presented with a unique perspective here.

Three take-aways from the book:

  1. Not Giving A F*ck

This is the theme of deciding what is important and not important in your life. You should care about things that advance your goals and priorities, and care significantly less about those things that do not.  As I have written previously, the harder part and the part I still need to work on is what are those goals.

Again, a bit gimmicky. But the heuristic of saying to yourself “I have no more f*cks to give here” is certainly memorable and helpful.  It has helped me in more than one meeting.

“Most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given. We give too many fucks about the rude gas station attendant who gave us our change in nickels. We give too many fucks when a show we liked was canceled on TV. We give too many fucks when our coworkers don’t bother asking us about our awesome weekend.”

“The idea of not giving a fuck is a simple way of reorienting our expectations for life and choosing what is important and what is not. Developing this ability leads to something I like to think of as a kind of ‘practical enlightenment.’ “

  1. Most Things Are Unimportant

Most of our lives are pretty small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  We would prefer not to think about this too much.  I would also add that our view of the world tends to be pretty limited and incomplete.

“All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. The scariest threats. Nonstop. Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That’s the bottom line. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average.”

“It’s these dynamics that plague us now. We are so materially well off, yet so psychologically tormented in so many low-level and shallow ways.”

  1. Problems & Negative Experiences = Meaning

This is a theme that I have encountered more and more in my recent reading.  And I wholeheartedly agree with the idea.  Problems are a feature, not a bug.  I stole that from somewhere.  

I really enjoy solving problems.  Even better.  I really enjoy solving problems on teams with people I respect.  This has been a good self-learning for me as I try to set some goals.

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

“Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance. Seriously, I could keep going, but you get the point. Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.”

“Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded. Happiness comes from solving problems.”

“True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.”

A few other recent book reviews:

  1. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
  2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  3. Fortune’s Formula
  4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  5. The Conscious Parent

Resulting

Reading Time: < 1 minute

A quick thought here.

Recently, there have been a number of articles comparing the performance of those investors who left a portion of their portfolio in “safer” assets coming out of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) versus those who took a more aggressive posture and were mostly or all in equities.  I will pick on this one:

Go To Extremes

I get it.  If you look at asset performance over the last ten years or so, the returns of U.S. equities look fantastic.  Holding anything but U.S. equities has been dilutive to portfolio performance.

Be careful though just focusing on the results of the last decade and making the leap that holding mostly U.S. equities was a good decision. Or that should be your strategy going forward.  That would be called “resulting”.

Resulting” is a poker term that refers to our habit of judging a decision based solely on the outcome it produced. – Thinking In Bets by Annie Duke

A good outcome is not necessarily the result of a good decision.  And vice versa.

Influential Reads – August 2021

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“No one values inflation protection because inflation has declined for 42 years.”  – Barrons

There are a lot of things going on right now that seem normal, because they have been going on for so long, no one remembers otherwise.  I’m not saying the market is going to crash imminently.  I am saying that it seems like most people cannot remember the last time that happened, that didn’t turn into a BTFD moment three days later.  And if the market does correct for more than three days, you will see fewer articles advising investors to be 100% in stocks.  Somebody smart once said, “But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.” (https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2009/11/25/the-10-dumbest-banker-quotes-of-all-time.aspx)  Oh wait, no one thinks that was a smart thing to say anymore.  At some point in the future, the risk will be an important part of risk adjusted returns again.

I added two more books to the list this month, but GoodReads is informing me that I am four books behind schedule of reaching my goal of 30 for the year.  However, GoodReads has never seen me binge read Carl Hiaasen.

Lots of articles again this month.  Maybe not a good thing.  The news is not so positive these days, so probably should spend a bit less time there.

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

  1. Get Ready for a Shift Away From U.S. Stocks – “We’ve already had 12% dollar depreciation since last April. And investors are way too exposed to the U.S. Our valuations versus every other asset class on Earth, with the exception of North Asia, are incredibly extreme, and the dollar’s overvalued.”
  2. How To Be Successful – “In a world where almost no one takes a truly long-term view, the market richly rewards those who do.”
  3. Advice to Grads: Be Warriors, Not Wokesters – “Be a highly skilled, devastatingly strong warrior who exerts their power by example and leaves their weapon in its sheath. Forgiveness is strength. Demonstrate it, every day. Be a warrior, not a wokester.”
  4. Give Your Brain Some Breathing Room – “I suggest the following compromise: check in on the news for 45 minutes, once a day, preferably in the morning.”
  5. The Most Important Number in Personal Finance – “The reason I prefer the LWR to something like income or net worth is that it controls for both the stock and the flows in your personal finances.  Your net worth is a stock (i.e. a snapshot of your accumulated wealth) while your income is a flow (i.e. a measure of how your wealth is changing through time).  They are both great, but limited.  ” Stephen here: This was an informative exercise.
  6. Howard Marks on economic growth in a ‘low return world’ – “We’re in an asset bubble. It’s everything. It’s not particular to high-yield bonds, or to bonds, or stocks. It’s real estate, it’s private equity, it’s everything. “
  7. Is valuing SaaS stocks a special form of the Petersburg Paradox? – “But the point is for individual stocks, there can be handful of stocks that can be valued at multiples so high that defies any logic, and still be able to beat the benchmark. The Petersburg Paradox is perhaps indeed the perfect description for such companies.”  Stephen here: But my guess is that most of the companies are not the companies that defy the logic.  Amazon twenty years ago. Yes. Every SaaS business out there today. No.
  8. Companies and Families Are Loading Up on Debt. It Could Be a Dangerous Trend – “What’s also surprising is that the BNPL model goes against perceptions that consumers are flush with savings, fostered by uninterrupted income for those who continued working during the pandemic and government stimulus payments to those not so fortunate, combined with the spending constraints during lockdowns.” Stephen here: There. Is. So. Much. Money. Every. Where.
  9. An Oral History of Adam Sandler, Pickup Basketball Legend – “Literally, it looked like he had them clothes since the 1990s, like literally the 1990s. “
  10. Wildfires prompt air quality alerts across the West – “If people have whole-home air-conditioning, installing high-efficiency filters and running the system can filter smoke that’s gotten inside.”

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.

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