Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Three Take-Aways: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better.” – Essentialism

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” – Essentialism

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, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, that I found impactful.  This also serves as a way for me to recall influential points in the book.

  1. Trade-Offs & Boundaries

Trade-offs and boundaries are good things.  Acknowledging that everything is a series of trade-offs will help you not try to do it all and be more thoughtful about where you do spend your energy.This one is pretty intuitive for me, maybe because of my training as an engineer.

However, I can definitely work on setting better boundaries.  The pandemic and work from home have not helped keep clear boundaries.  This is one I will need to work on a bit.  

“Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound.”

“Mastering this Essentialist skill, perhaps more than any other in this section, requires us to be vigilant about acknowledging the reality of trade-offs. By definition, applying highly selective criteria is a trade-off; sometimes you will have to turn down a seemingly very good option and have faith that the perfect option will soon come along.”

“Essentialists, on the other hand, see boundaries as empowering. They recognize that boundaries protect their time from being hijacked and often free them from the burden of having to say no to things that further others’ objectives instead of their own.”

  1. Priorities

However, before you can really evaluate trade-offs and set boundaries, you need to have a clearer sense of your priorities and values.  Without knowing what you want to focus on, want to accomplish, want to contribute etc., one cannot effectively prioritize.  

“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

“What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest, to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like? What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less?”

“The first type of nonessential you’re going to learn how to eliminate is simply any activity that is misaligned with what you are intending to achieve.”

I most definitely need to spend some time on this one.  Here were two good thoughts about figuring this out.

“To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.”

  1. Step Back And Apply An Editorial Mindset

There is a reason newspapers and book publishers use editors.  Sometimes, you need someone who can step back, look at the bigger picture, and apply a critical eye.  Editors use their judgement and guiding principles to apply selection criteria about what should be included and what should not.  And they strive to ensure the included content is accurate, truthful, and consistent with the voice of their publication.  And a good editor seeks to bring out the best in their published content.  We should all spend time applying those editorial areas of focus to our own lives.

“Doing less is not just a powerful Essentialist strategy, it’s a powerful editorial one as well.”

“What I mean is that a good editor is someone who uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life to the ideas, setting, plot, and characters.”

“Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyperfocusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture. You can apply the skills of a journalist no matter what field you are in—you can even apply them to your personal life. By training yourself to look for “the lead,” you will suddenly find yourself able to see what you have missed.”

Off-Leash

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I like dogs.  And most animals for that matter.  My wife tried to kill a spider in our bedroom the other night, and I yelled at her, and intervened to perform a rescue and recovery mission to the back porch. 

However, off-leash does not give your dog permission to sniff my crotch.  Or anywhere else on my body.  

My. Personal. Space. Is. My. Personal. Space.  Whether or not your dog is tethered to you.  

Your dog’s “way of saying hi” might intersect with my way of saying “stay away from me”.

I was a competitive distance runner long enough to have fought off a wide variety of four legged animals.  So, if your dog comes at me unexpectedly.  I am betting on the human to come out on top.  We have been doing it for thousands of years.  Keep that in mind, if your dog is not socialized and is not tethered to you.

Off leash does not equal out of control.  Just because McDonald’s has a playground, doesn’t mean my eight year old can eat your french fries.  Same goes with your dog in public multi-use spaces.

Influential Reads – June 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Waiting for the right time is seductive. Our mind tricks us into thinking that waiting is actually doing something.”  – Farnam Street

Half way through 2021.

Updated stats through June:

ArticlesBooks
January654
February491
March643
April532
May970
June542
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total38212

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

  1. CDC eviction moratorium: Supreme Court leaves ban in place through July – “The ban has just been extended another month, until the end of July, and the Biden administration said it will end then.”
  2. A Working Narrative – “The future of remote work is also, however, easily linked to general labor concerns, the role of work in American lives, corporatism and the social contract with our present system of capitalism.” SMS here: The current conversation at the executive level in my company seems to be missing the point that some portion of the employee population has now experienced remote work and does not want to go back to the office for that reason – unrelated to COVID concerns.
  3. 20 of the Best Adventure Quotes of All Time, Courtesy of Author Bill Bryson – “What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die of course. Literally shit myself lifeless.”
  4. On the Crisis and Inflation, Barron’s Shows How the Past Can Be Prologue – “Americans may take the chance to go on more vacations and go to more concerts and movies in the next few years, but they probably won’t be getting more haircuts or more takeout.”
  5. Infrastructure Finally Gets Its Week. But Inflation and Jobs Haven’t Gone Away – “So, there’s the bipartisan package totaling $559 billion to fund unambiguously needed projects for transportation, power grids, broadband, and the like, which will be financed without tax increases but by unused past spending authorizations, increased IRS enforcement, and things like selling off part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.”
  6. We Were Shocked – Shocked! – that Massive Stimulus Caused Inflation – “So clearly, the big mismatch between supply and demand in this cycle is the problem. And it isn’t just in used cars and trucks. It isn’t just in hotels and airfares. In fact, it is a myth that there is a small set of categories that are inflating wildly while other prices are inert.”
  7. The Fed Pulls Back on Its Ultraeasy Stance. Volatility May Follow – “Yet the admission of this seemingly self-evident fact took markets by surprise.”
  8. Overwhelming Moab – “The common theme is incredible recreational experiences and towns that are a bit off-kilter.”
  9. ‘Revenge Travel’ Will Be All The Rage Over The Next Few Years – “The term is also retribution against COVID-19 and how it is losing its power to control our lives, including canceling travel plans.” SMS here:  You are not owed anything, and certainly not anymore than anyone else.
  10. The remedy for high house prices is . . . high house prices – “As always, sales lead prices. If sales continue to trend much lower, expect prices to reverse course soon.”

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.

Being On Vacation Is Not An Excuse For Being An Asshole

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Before you “revenge travel”, consider this.

I grew up in Florida.  I hate Orlando.  And most parts of Florida south of that point.  Too many tourists.

We have been here in Park City Utah for about 18 months now.  I am most certainly not a local, but I am grumpy like one.  And I understand why the locals are grumpy.  Too many tourists.  There is a reason on a weekend powder day, the locals are in line by 8:30a and back at the parking lot by 10:30a.  To the guys in the pickup truck from Idaho the road rage merged into us in the turn lane at the Canyon resort on a panic powder day – I hope you got stuck at the Orange Bubble lift line and all your powder lines got packed out.

Traffic laws also apply when you are on vacation.  Slow down.  Especially if you do not know where you are going.  Which obviously you don’t.  To the guy in the minivan that flipped me off on Moose Wilson road in Grand Teton last weekend because you had to yield for 30 seconds on the one lane bridge, I hope the pictures you took out the window of your van sucked.  Sucked more than having to drive a minivan.

There is also wildlife.  I want you to see a moose.  I think they are cool.  There was one sleeping in my neighbor’s front yard the other day.  So, the moose jam you are creating is not impressing anyone.  Respect the wildlife.  Act like you’ve seen some before.  And, you probably miss most the wildlife because of the previous point.

Locals also shop at the grocery store you are storming through like a hoard of locusts.  Grocery shopping is not a timed event.  Rather than be that tourist, learn to pre-order everything online for pickup.  One, it will save you a couple hours of your vacation.  Two, it will create a local job. 

But mostly, please remember that being on vacation is not an excuse for being an asshole.  You are not more entitled than anyone else, especially the people who live where you are vacationing.

Influential Reads – May 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“One of my favorite pieces of research finds that people fear asking difficult/sensitive questions far more than being asked difficult/sensitive questions.”  – Mark Manson

Ouch.  Got shut out on book reading in May.  I did binge watch a bunch of Netflix, while the family was visiting friends in California though.

Updated stats through May:

Read ArticlesBooks
January654
February491
March643
April532
May970
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total32810

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

  1. Margin of Safety by Seth Klarman – “There’s a fine line between diversification and over-diversification. 10-15 holdings is enough for Klarman.”
  2. Financial and Investing Resolutions for 2021, Part 1 – “One of the most fundamental rules of investing is to sell a security when the reasons you bought it no longer apply.”
  3. Intel Problems – “It is manufacturing capability, on the other hand, that is increasingly rare, and thus, increasingly valuable.”
  4. This is nuts, where are the profits? – “It’s not often you come across a chart that makes you immediately spit your peppermint tea out, copy and paste the link, and send it to all your finance banter WhatsApp groups (soon to be Signal, obvs).”
  5. How to write a user manual – “And if you manage a team or run a company, until you make the unspoken norms spoken, they’ll wreck havoc on your organization.”
  6. How to Lose Money When the Stock Market is at All-Time Highs – “Even when the stock market overall is up in a given year, there are almost always going to be a large number of stocks within the index that are down.” SMS here – it is likely going to work the other way too.
  7. Selling hours – “Many workers preferred a reliable regular paycheck, and owners decided to profit by investing in productivity and keeping the upside.”
  8. Severe Drought, Worsened by Climate Change, Ravages the American West – “According to the United States Drought Monitor, 84 percent of the West is now in drought, with 47 percent rated as “severe” or “extreme.””
  9. The Case Against Bitcoin – “A rising price does not tell you something is working.”
  10. Wise Words from Lou Simpson – “Over the long run appreciation in share prices is most directly related to the return the company earns on its shareholders’ investment. Cash flow, which is more difficult to manipulate than reported earnings, is a useful additional yardstick.”

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 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“You’re free when no one can buy your time.”  – Farnam Street

April was an interesting month. The biggest realization for me – which seems to be happening to lots of folks – is that “working from home” has some downsides that appear to be accumulating over the last twelve plus months.  These, I think, are exacerbated by quite a few exogenous stressors still out there (no, the pandemic is not over).  These have be gradually wearing on me, hopefully hit a low point in April, and have made me evolve my thinking on permanent work from home.  You will see quite a few reads below relating to my exploration of some of those topics and the broader influence of the pandemic.

Updated stats through April:

Read ArticlesBooks
January654
February491
March643
April532
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total23110

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

  1.  First-Quarter Roundup: Boom for Small Stocks, Bust for Treasuries – “Various reports put Hwang’s losses at $8 billion in just 10 days, perhaps the biggest hit ever taken in so short a time.”
  2. Lessons on winning and losing as an investor from “The Art of Execution” – “Shor’s most powerful point is that investment performance is largely dictated by what an investor does after they buy a stock, specifically by how they deal with both losing and winning positions over time.”
  3. Outgrowing software – “At a certain point, everyone has grown up with this stuff, everything is a software company, and the important questions are somewhere else.”
  4. Affluent Americans Rush to Retire in New ‘Life-Is-Short’ Mindset – “Their potential exodus from the corporate world, combined with a sharp increase in the number of business owners seeking to retire sooner than they anticipated, is a worrying phenomenon for companies that rely on their accumulated expertise.”
  5. Welcome to the YOLO Economy – “Raises and time off may persuade some employees to stay put. But for others, stasis is the problem, and the only solution is radical change.”
  6. The discard pile – “Walking away from something that we’re used to, even if it’s unjust or inefficient or ineffective–it usually takes far too long. Fear, momentum and the status quo combine to keep us stuck.”
  7. A Hater of Passive Investing Joins an ETF Firm to Wage His War – “In a nutshell, his theory is that passive investing is inflating a historically-unprecedented equity bubble that will crash when inflows inevitably flip to outflows.”
  8. 3 Valuable Techniques To Stop Yourself From Overthinking – “Our delayed return environment strongly influences our modern lives. We face lots of uncertainties every day, and being worried and overthinking is part of our nature.”
  9. An uncertain future – “I love old houses but my personality isn’t suited for them. They stress me out. (My ex-wife and I owned an old house too — she still lives there — and it caused me endless stress, as well.)”.
  10. Delight in Uncertainty – “Commit to dancing with it. Turning away from the uncertainty gives you certain predictable results in your life. What would it be like to do something different? Commit to doing something different: face it, be with it, dance with it.”

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 – March 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Whoa.  Where did the first quarter go?

There looks to be a light at the end of the COVID tunnel.  One vaccine down; one to go.  Apparently, there are some benefits of living in a state where a majority of people don’t believe in science.

It will be curious to see how people react to the potential end of the COVID pandemic.  I do fear a bit of a false reality though until further progress is made on the vaccine administration front.

And, don’t forget there are kids too.

Updated stats through March:

Read ArticlesBooks
January654
February491
March643
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total1788

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

  1. POWDER, GROOMERS, AND BUMPS – “Truly, there are two kinds of powder skiing: resort powder and wild powder.” Stephen here: And wild powder kicks my ass.
  2. Ski Tulsa – “I’m not aware of any city that does the reverse, but if Summit County floated a bond issue to pay people to leave, I would vote for it.”
  3. Your Thinking Rate Is Fixed – “If you’re a knowledge worker, as an ever-growing proportion of people are, the product of your job is decisions.”
  4. Beware of the Bubble – “A bunch of kids on Reddit have formed a gang called “Wall Street Bets” to manipulate stock prices in an ongoing series of pump-and-dump schemes.”
  5. How Many ‘Shortage’ Anecdotes Equal Data? – “There is an old saying that the plural of anecdote isn’t data.”
  6. The Employment Situation is Far Worse than the Unemployment Rate Indicates – “Employment in January of this year was nearly 10 million below its February 2020 level, a greater shortfall than the worst of the Great Recession’s aftermath.”
  7. Not a Housing Bubble – “In a normal market, it does not take much of a shift to create an imbalance. Housing here is both too little supply and too much demand; these look like temporary issues, not a longer lasting condition.”
  8. Speaking, the Family Business – “Over the last five years I’ve given about 400 talks, and around 2% of the time, it all comes off the rails.” Stephen here: Been there.
  9. Question #9 for 2021: Will inventory increase as the pandemic subsides, or will inventory decrease further in 2021? – “In 2020, inventory really declined due to a combination of potential sellers keeping their properties off the market during a pandemic, and a pickup in buying due to record low mortgage rates, a move away from multi-family rentals and strong second home buying (to escape the high-density cities).”
  10. The Opposite of 2008 | Epsilon Theory – “In 2021, the US housing market – together with a Fed that thinks inflationary pressures are “transitory” – risks delivering the mother of all inflationary shocks.”

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 – February 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

February had a lower reading count for a few reasons.  First, we had a much needed week of vacation that kept us busy and on the road a bit. It’s the first time we’ve really traveled outside of the area since October. Second, work has just been busy.  Third, I am reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, which I am enjoying but it’s taking me some time to get through the book.  The book is recommending a deliberate disconnection from digital distractions and I am beginning to feel that reading the news falls into that category for me. I am going to spend a bit of time reflecting on that.

Updated stats through February:

Read ArticlesBooks
January654
February491
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total1145

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

  1. Democrats eye big ACA changes in COVID relief bill – “Any attempt to control the cost of care would quickly erode any support from the health care industry.”
  2. AOC Won’t Stop Haunting Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – “You’re not ‘muzzled,’ Hawley. You’re just deeply unpopular, and aided insurrection.”
  3. Normalcy – “The damage of social media and Fox News propaganda remains: 73 percent of Republicans still believe the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud. The hate machines whir on.”
  4. Eventual Failure of False Beliefs – “I don’t even has to name the players, sites, or brands — you know exactly who I am referring to, the enablers of all those people who exist within a bubble of their own making, while steering utterly clear of reality.”
  5. Google’s next big Chrome update will rewrite the rules of the web – “When Google does remove them [third party cookies] in 2022, it won’t be first – but its huge market share does mean it will have the biggest impact.”
  6. A Subtle Mistake About How to Acquire Useful Career Skills – “A different style of project, however, does seem to work better: benchmark projects.”
  7. A Global Stock Fund That Couldn’t Care Less About the Growth-Versus-Value Debate – “For Global Focus, he starts his research by looking for structural change—either new companies doing something different or older companies doing something new.”
  8. Calculating the Rule of 40 – “Weighted Rule of 40 = (1.33 * Revenue Growth) + (0.67 * EBITDA Margin)” – Stephen here: I hate a charade.  Can we just admit that investors don’t care about profitability.  Growth, growth, growth!
  9. Texas seceded from the nation’s power grid. Now it’s paying the price. – “There are, in the contiguous United States, three major interconnected systems — one covering everything east of the Rocky Mountains, one for everything west of the Rocky Mountains, one for Texas.”
  10. Yoga for Cyclists: Five Poses to Make you Faster – “A strong core and back are essential capabilities for cyclists. Chaturanga is an exercise that can easily be integrated into your routine to target core strength, back strength, and upper body strength.”

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.

Mask Wearing Point System

Reading Time: < 1 minute

The purpose of a mask is to cover the airways to the lungs.  

Parts of the human body that part of the respiratory system and are airways to the lungs include:

  1. Nose  +5 Points
  2. Mouth +5 Points

A total of ten points is available.

For the avoidance of doubt, here is a list of things that are not airways to your lungs:

  1. Feet
  2. Ears
  3. Hands
  4. Elbows
  5. Knees
  6. Belly Buttons
  7. Arm Pits
  8. Chins
  9. Pets
  10. Other Inanimate Objects

There is no extra credit for covering any of these items. 

Additional points are deducted (-5 points) for covering these items in lieu of the either or both the nose or mouth.  Additional points (-100 points) are deducted for being a leader of this country and not knowing this.

Influential Reads – January 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

January 2021

Well, that month is over.  It went about as well as expected.

Updated stats through January:

Read ArticlesBooks
January654
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total654

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

  1. Stocks Are Allowed To Be Expensive Since Bonds Yields Are Low…Right? – “Many are just willing to clickautoinvest into stocks at any valuation level.”
  2. The office as we know it is over—and that’s a good thing – “According to a recent study by FlexJobs, 65% of newly remote workers don’t want to go back to the office.”
  3. Lessons From the Tech Bubble – “Unfortunately, the quip “it’s not a bubble if everyone says it is” just isn’t true. Investors were comparing the internet sector to tulip mania as early as mid-98. Bernstein held an entire conference on it in June 99!”
  4. Lunik: Inside the CIA’s audacious plot to steal a Soviet satellite – “The boastful Soviets had sent their Luna rockets on a world tour.”
  5. This Year I’m Not Setting Goals: I’m Creating Practices – “They are activities you choose to dedicate time to every single day or with a set frequency of your choice.”
  6. Bronte Capital Ganymede Fund Partner Letter December 2020 – “But “sold to naïve investors” is a basic tell.  This tell has not worked in 2020. Indeed, it is a way to lose considerable money as a shortseller.”
  7. You Should Be Recruiting Different Types of Leaders for Remote Teams – “Instead of valuing confidence and charisma, remote teams value leaders who are organised, productive and facilitate connections between colleagues.”
  8. A New Year is a Beautiful Fresh Start – “Start at One — this is one of my mantras this year.”
  9. Even the Best Investors Stink at Selling Stocks – “People who buy and sell stocks for a living aren’t just unskilled when it comes to selling—they’re the inverse of skilled.”
  10. A simple 2 x 2 for choices – “It’s useful to have a portfolio of projects, because not all of them are going to 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.