Monthly Archives: August 2022

Three Take-Aways: Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Rockefeller equated silence with strength: …’success comes from keeping the ears open and the mouth closed.” (pp. 174)

This was a beast of a book: 676 pages not including Acknowledgments and Notes.  I fought a valiant fight and eventually made it through it.  The book was an interesting take on the industrialist period and Rockefeller’s contribution to it, but not gripping.

Three take-aways from the book:

  1. Legacy

“As architect of the first great industrial trust, he proved the ultimately fragile nature of free markets, forcing the government to specify the rules that would ensure competition and fair play in the future.” (pp. 667)

Rockefeller’s legacy has oscillated a bit depending on the time and viewpoints.  A point made in the book about Rockefeller and other industrialists (a.k.a. robber barons) of that period, is that they operated in a business environment that was radically different than the one we have today.  Many of the laws around corporations and capitalism did not exist, or took a much different form.  And so, defensibly, many of the industrialists felt that they were pioneering and stabilizing forces in their industry rather than anti-competitive.  In hindsight, we look at their actions with a much different lens.   

  1. Timing of Wealth Creation

“Beyond his talents as a businessman, Rockefeller benefited from a large dollop of luck in his life, making more money in retirement than on the job.” (pp. 557)

Compounding.  The eight wonder of the world.  If you read about Buffet, the pattern is similar in terms of wealth creation.  Rockefeller made more money after the Standard Oil breakup than before it.

  1. Personal Finances & Philanthropy

“Rockefeller engaged in strenuous rituals of austerity, and he grimly sought to simplify his life and reduce his wants.” (pp. 504)

“They [his children] were expected to spend a third of their money, save a third, and donate a third to charity.” (pp. 629)

Rockefeller was not ostentatious like some of his contemporaries – at least relatively speaking.  In fact he was almost humorously frugal, which stemmed from a fairly religious (Baptist) belief system.  And he required his kids to follow suit.

Rockefeller Sr. also pioneered a model of philanthropy imitated by many of the wealthy today.  And he was notoriously private and hand-off regarding most of his philanthropic works – including the University of Chicago and some of what are now National Parks – like Grand Teton.

A few other recent book reviews:

  1. Range
  2. Principles
  3. That Wild Country
  4. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
  5. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  6. Fortune’s Formula

Excel Templates & Other Free Stuff

Reading Time: < 1 minute


Financial modeling and excel are skills that I am good at.  I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

And at times, I have posted some templates and workbooks that I find useful or use a lot.  Hopefully, they will save you a bit of time.

Here is a current listing:

  1. Excel Template: Stacked Bar Chart with Total
  2. Excel Template: Football Field Chart
  3. Maturity Schedule

These are all downloadable on Gumroad at no cost.  

Drop a note in the comments if there is something excel that you would like to see.  No promises.  

Remember, you get what you pay for…

Grand Teton N.P. Map

Reading Time: < 1 minute

We love Grand Teton Natoinal Park. We’ve had many adventures there. See some highlights:

  1. Camping In Grand Teton N.P.
  2. Teton Canyon
  3. Camping In Grand Teton National Park #3
  4. Winter in Yellowstone N.P.

Recently, we had some family come out this way and I put together this interactive Google Map of the Grand Teton area with a bunch of points of interest, places where we have had good wildlife sightings, and camp spots.

This was a heck of lot easier than trying to explain where some of these places are, since they area by definition, in a fairly undeveloped area.

I will update as we have more adventures….

Influential Reads – July 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Predicting the future is harder than misremembering the past.” – Cliff Asness

I have been pretty quiet this summer, since I have no special insights into what the future holds.  There are things that I think are likely to happen.  Or should happen, but probably won’t.  But the error bars seem pretty wide at this point.

I keep coming back to the fact that there have been massive flows driving asset prices over the last few years.  And that seems to still be the case.  The Fed is on track to ramp up their balance sheet reduction in September and that will most certainly be interesting to watch unfold.

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

  1. Drinking Too Much Is an American Problem – “The social context of drinking turns out to matter quite a lot to how alcohol affects us psychologically.”
  2. The Bid/Ask Spread in Venture Capital – “When the bid/ask spread exceeds 5 or 10%, the market seizes up, like a combustion engine without oil. No one trades. Investors pack their vests into a rolly-suitcase and head to the beach.”
  3. Trout savant in a big black cape – “Even with that cape, Sheridan Anderson was always a stealth man.” SMS: Mrs. SFTE is attempting to turn me into a fisherman.
  4. June CPI report: bad, bad, bad, bad, bad – ” As I have been saying for 9 months, house prices (black) lead OER by 12-18 months, meaning we were likely to see the highest YoY% increases in OER ever. “
  5. Summary of My Post-CPI Tweets (June 2022) – ” And the Median CPI y/y chart is unambiguous at this point: still accelerating.”
  6. Tech and War – “If a country, corporation, or individual assumes that the tech platforms of another country are acting in concert with their enemy, they are highly motivated to pursue alternatives to those tech platforms even if those platforms work better, are more popular, are cheaper, etc.”
  7. JPMorgan’s Aronov Ignores the ‘Cash Is Trash’ Chorus – “But the reality is that if you have been in cash for the last five years, you’ve essentially outperformed the Bloomberg Aggregate index year-to-date, over one year, three years, and, depending on the day, yes, even five years. “
  8. 3.5% ASAP – “Be patient. 12 month Treasuries at 2.7% are better than your money market fund and almost all other alternatives.” SMS: The spread between MM funds and Tbills seems nonsensical to me.
  9. Brain Food: Good Advice – “You have to learn to quit being right all the time, and quit being smart all the time, and quit thinking this is a contest about how smart you are and how right you are, and realize that you are here to make a positive difference in the world.”
  10. Elon’s Out – “Musk seems to get a lot of joy out of using Twitter, and pretending to buy Twitter is a good way to create drama on Twitter.”

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.

Top clicks across the site last month:

  1. Financial Model vs. Operating Model
  2. Cash
  3. Solamere Trail Loop
  4. EBITDA Is Not A Good Proxy For Cash Flow
  5. Excel Tips: Football Field Chart

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