Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Influential Reads – September 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” ― The House at Pooh Corner by A.A Milne” 

Writers that can consistently and frequently write new and interesting pieces always impress me.  I am pretty thrilled if I have what I consider to be one new and unique thought a month.  Then have the luck to capture that fleeting moment down in writing. And, that generally turns into the Winnie the Pooh moment described above. 

That previous paragraph may be an awkward way of explaining why I have been fairly quiet these days, on top of just being busy at work.

For similar reasons, reading was a bit off this month – although I did notch some easy reads.

Correct, I am a touch out of order on the Travis Mcgee series, but that does not seem to matter too much.

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

  1. You’re not good at this. – “Zero percent interest rates plus fiscal and monetary stimulus with housing up 40% and stocks at an all-time high was a ridiculous policy.”
  2. Entering the Superbubble’s Final Act – “The current superbubble features the most dangerous mix of these factors in modern times: all three major asset classes – housing, stocks, and bonds – were critically historically overvalued at the end of last year.”
  3. A Housing Bubble and Kim Kardashian: More Troubling News for Markets – “Pumped up by Federal Reserve expansionary policies, the public’s wealth in equities and residential real estate has ballooned, relative to the economy, even faster and more furiously than during the housing bubble of the 2000s and the dot-com daffiness of the 1990s.”
  4. Three Things I Think I Think – It’s Breaking – “At 7% the math is totally broken. “
  5. Grim (equity) tidings – “A Fed paper says tax and interest rates can’t fall much further, and that bodes poorly for stocks.”
  6. Quantitative Tightening Is About to Ramp Up. What It Means for Markets. – “Market pricing is determined by supply and demand, and in the coming years, there is going to be a tremendous supply of Treasuries coming from two sources.”
  7. Seeing Red – “Is China our enemy or competitor? The answer is yes.”
  8.  Would You Still Buy A Tesla? – “I used to be a fan of Elon Musk, no longer. The guy is irrational, and he believes the rules don’t apply to him. And he acts like he’s the only one who owns the truth, who can move us into the future, and that’s just hogwash.”
  9. Pillow fight – “That’s like going to a Dallas Cowboys football game at AT&T Stadium, seeing 80,000 fans dressed in silver and blue with stars painted on their faces, all cheering wildly when the Cowboys score. Then, based on that experience, determining everyone across the nation is a rabid Cowboys fan and the 82,500 people at MetLife Stadium cheering for the Giants simply just can’t be real.”
  10. One Of The Smartest Things Anyone Has Ever Said To Me – ” I was finished with my Righteous Indignation phase and had settled more into a phase I would maybe call Please Just Don’t Hit Me With Your Car.”

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

Updated stats:

Read ArticlesBooks
January891
February1100
March1023
April1032
May1343
June740
July822
August1127
September724
October
November
December
Total87822

Bears Watching: That Sound

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Multiple choice question.

That giant sucking sound you hear is:

  1. The Fed reducing its balance sheet (i.e., quantitative tightening).
  2. Enormous amounts of paper gains in all sorts of artificially inflated assets vanishing.
  3. Both

Influential Reads – August 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“So much advantage in life comes from being willing to look foolish in the short term. ” – Farnam Street

Happy Labor Day.  After you read this, go outside and ride your bike or something.

Seven books last month!  And I spent some good time reading through aging articles on my list (see How I Read) and culling others to help make my list a bit more manageable.  I am also working on a categorization scheme to guide my reading & research prioritization in the months ahead.  More on that at some future date.

So, I found the John MacDonald Travis McGee series.  So, in the vein of these two thoughts below, I made up some ground on my reading goal.

“I think it’s good to read ambitious books. But if you only get ambitious books (or worse, you force yourself to finish them before reading fun ones) you’ll kill any potential joy for reading you might have. So always have “fun” books—light, easy reads that make you feel good in addition to weightier tomes. That way you can switch between styles depending on whether you want challenge or relaxation and never give up the habit of reading.” – Scott Young

“Yet, many people—even those with a voracious reading habit—make the same mistake: They hardly, if ever, read fiction. They even brag about it! They’re too busy. They don’t have time for “art.” There’s plenty of “real” stuff—the characters in fiction that bear little resemblance to the world we know? I don’t have time for it. But fiction, like all wonderful art, is filled with beautiful bits of insight about the human condition. It can change your life and teach you just as much as any non-fiction book. Actually, no, it can teach you more! It can shine a light on universal truths that non-fiction, bounded by the facts and figures of its specific world, often cannot (to say nothing of the research that connects literature with improved empathy, reduced stress, and hone social skills).” – Ryan Holiday

Here are a few highlights from the series:

  • “Savagery, venom and guile are good survival quotients.”
  • “There is as much danger in overestimating as in underestimating the quality of the opposition.”
  • “These are the slums of the heart. Bless the bunnies. These are the new people, and we are making no place for them. We hold the dream in front of them like a carrot, and finally say sorry you can’t have any. And the schools where we teach them non-survival are gloriously architectured. They will never live in places so fine, unless they contract something incurable.”
  • “Somebody has to be tireless, or the fast-buck operators would asphalt the entire coast, fill every bay, and slay every living thing incapable of carrying a wallet.”
  • “Being a beach bum takes money. If you want to do it with flair. If the money comes in regularly, then you’re working for it, and you lose your status. I have to come by it in chunks now and then, to protect my way of life.”
  • “The old city was being filled with these tall tasteless rectangles, bright boxes which diminished the people who had to live and work in them. People kennels. Disposable cubicles for dispensable people.”
  • “Self-evaluation. It is the skin rash of the emotionally insecure.”
  • “Temptation does not deliver most of us into evil, because temptation is a constant and evil is a sometime thing with most of us.”
  • “The incomparably dull tract houses, glitteringly new, were marching out across the hills, cluttered with identical station wagons, identical children, identical barbecues, identical tastes in flowers and television.”
  • “My friend Meyer, the economist, says that cretins are the only humans who can be absolutely certain of their own sanity. All the rest of us go rocketing along rickety rails over spavined bridges and along the edge of bottomless gorges. The man who believes himself free of any taint of madness is a damned liar.”
  • “The stars were bright. A dog-thing hollered a hundred miles away. Somebody walked over my grave.”

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

  1. Recession Is Already Here for Many Small Businesses – “That’s for good reason. Some analysts say that while a mild fall in demand has weighed on energy prices, the drop in gas prices is largely due to the government’s release of strategic petroleum reserves.”
  2. Finding persistent invisible systems – “But plastic persists as a commercial solution, because the system is invisible and resilient. Each member of the system does what they do, usually for good reasons.”
  3. Brain Food: Appearing Foolish – “To be a good manager, you want things to run smoothly. And insights are not ways of running smoothly. Insights are disorganizing and disruptive. And so, that’s a major reason that organizations, without even intending to, block the insights that come their way.”
  4. Brandon Sanderson’s Advice for Doing Hard Things – “I can do hard things. Doing hard things has intrinsic value, and they will make me a better person, even if I end up failing.”
  5. Latticework: The New Investing – “Hagstrom makes a case that a successful stock picker must be ready to shift models and look at the markets from different vantage points with the passage of time.”
  6. Welfare Queens – “The Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”) is being hailed/hated as a climate bill, but it’s really just the most recent investment by Eagle Capital”
  7. The Climate Bill Is About to Reshape Global Energy – “The age of renewable energy, by comparison, is coming on with lightning speed.”
  8. I Beg to Differ – “The basic idea behind second-level thinking is easily summarized: In order to outperform, your thinking has to be different and better.” and “Readily available quantitative information with regard to the present cannot be the source of superior performance.”
  9. The Fed Is About to Ramp Up Balance-Sheet Shrinkage. It May Get Dicey. – “Starting next month, those caps will rise to $60 billion and $35 billion, respectively, meaning the pace of balance-sheet runoff is about to double”
  10. A Simple Way to Introduce Yourself – “That’s it for the self-introduction framework. Present, past, future. Eloquent and effective”

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. Excel Templates & Other Free Stuff
  3. Solamere Trail Loop
  4. Operating Model Tips
  5. EBITDA Is Not A Good Proxy For Cash Flow

Updated stats:

Read ArticlesBooks
January891
February1100
March1023
April1032
May1343
June740
July822
August1127
September
October
November
December
Total80618

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

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

Updated stats:

Read ArticlesBooks
January891
February1100
March1023
April1032
May1343
June740
July822
August
September
October
November
December
Total69411

Influential Reads – June 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“The best way for investors to learn from mistakes is to let others make them, then read about it.” – Scott Barlow in The Globe and Mail 

A belated Happy Fourth of July…

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

  1. Bill Miller: An Investor’s Evolution (Part I) – “He found that the “source of excess return had little to do with pure accounting factors such as low p/e or low price-to-cash flow; it had to do with changes in the return on capital.””
  2. Time to Stop Believing Deficit Bullshit – “There is a rational middle between Zero deficits on one side and Modern Monetary Theorists on the other. We can fix our infrastructure, extend broadband to everyone throughout the country, even work to moderate climate change — and the economy will be just fine.”
  3. The Cantillon Effect: How the Rich Get Richer – “In other words, the “flow path” of the new money through a system matters.”  SMS here: The flow path of money leaving the system probably matters too.
  4. House Money – “There has been an unfathomable amount of money made in crypto over the last decade. But it’s not the amount of money made that is most shocking. It is the velocity at which it occurred, and the age group that benefited most.”
  5. Where does the wealth go when asset prices go down? – “The short answer is: It didn’t “go” anywhere. It vanished. It stopped existing.”
  6. Selling to yourself: the private equity groups that buy companies they own – “At the heart of the deals is a broader issue that is becoming more significant as stock markets tumble. Companies owned by private equity groups are facing the same pressures as their listed peers, as interest rates rise, supply chains struggle and an economic downturn looms. Critics of the industry believe some of these deals could be a way of hiding from this reality.”
  7. One Experiment Ends and Another Begins – “So this is in no way unforeseen. The prediction in advance was that this behavior would provoke very high inflation. And the MMTers said “pshaw.” They were wrong, and that experiment is over. The next person who mentions MMT, you are entitled to run out of town on a rail.”
  8. Right answer to wrong question – “For the first time in the history of Park City skiing, the planning commission has said “no” to resort upgrades. A ski town saying “no” to more skiing is a turning point. “
  9. The Challenging Middle – “Be wary. This present cycle is so unusual – pandemic lockdown, fiscal stimulus, overdue wage increases, inflation spike, supply chain issues, ongoing global pandemic, and a Fed overreaction (even panic) – that prior cycles do not fit very neatly. “
  10. Fed Starts Experiment of Letting $8.9 Trillion Portfolio Shrink – “After doubling in size through asset purchases in the first two years of the pandemic, the balance sheet will be reduced at a pace that’s almost twice as fast as after the last financial crisis. While the process officially commences on Wednesday, the first US Treasury securities won’t run off until $15 billion mature on June 15.”

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. Operating Model Tips
  4. EBITDA Is Not A Good Proxy For Cash Flow
  5. Solamere Trail Loop

Updated stats:

Read ArticlesBooks
January891
February1100
March1023
April1032
May1343
June740
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total6129

Influential Reads – May 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“I’ve realized a new reason why pessimism sounds smart: optimism often requires believing in unknown, unspecified future breakthroughs—which seems fanciful and naive.’” – Farnam Street

Apologies for the delay here.  We drove from Florida to Utah with some stops in Carlsbad Caverns N.P., Guadalupe Mountains N.P., Santa Fe, NM and Mesa Verde N.P.  That took some time.

Speaking of time, economic / market developments are occurring quite a bit faster than I would have predicted 30 – 60 days ago.

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

  1. How Much Further Can We Fall? – “In 2017, the average company traded at 5.4x forward compared to 7.93x as of this morning. There’s precedent for another halving.”
  2. Sunk costs at work – “Quitting is underrated.”
  3. Was the 1966-1982 Stock Market Really That Bad? – “It’s interesting to note that the 1966-82 period of low stock returns, high inflation, and high wage growth is basically the exact opposite of the current environment of high stock returns, low inflation and stagnating wages.”
  4. If You Think Free Speech Is Defined By Your Ability To Be An Asshole Without Consequence, You Don’t Understand Free Speech (But You Remain An Asshole) – “And when you look closely at the actual debate, it always comes down to “I want to be a disrespectful asshole to people I don’t like, and I don’t want to face any consequences for it.””
  5. This Time Wasn’t Different – “For instance, over 40% of all stocks had no earnings over the last 12 months.”
  6. Sunday Reads …The Glut of Overpriced Companies in The Private Markets – ” but now we have a private market filled with hundreds of Unicorns from Softbank and its clones that will have to work through the system.”
  7. Brief Comments on the TerraUSD and Tether Stablecoin Breakdowns – “To be explicit about our dim view of crypto, it’s taken literally hundreds of years to make simple-minded banking not-too-dangerous for the financial health of its customers. There is no reason to think that crypto promoters are going to design a better and certainly not a safer mousetrap any time soon.”
  8. 13 Strategies That Will Make You A Better Reader – ““You must linger among a limited number of master-thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.””
  9. What Should Accompany Stocks: Cash or Bonds? – “Thus, while intermediate-term Treasuries should typically be used to offset the risk of a stock portfolio, there is some logic to holding a shorter portfolio today: say, a mix that consists half of five-year notes and half of Treasury bills.
  10. 15 of the Craziest Charts Right Now – “And it’s not just a handful of stocks that are getting killed.”

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. Email: Don’t Get Fired
  3. EBITDA Is Not A Good Proxy For Cash Flow
  4. Excel Tips: Football Field Chart
  5. Operating Model Tips ()

Updated stats:

Read ArticlesBooks
January891
February1100
March1023
April1032
May1343
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total5389

Influential Reads – April 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Humility is the voice inside your head that says, ‘anyone can do it once, that’s luck. Can you do it consistently?’” – Farnam Street

Apologies for being a bit quiet.  In addition to a busy work period and decamping Utah and driving cross country to Florida, we seem to be in a period of time with particularly wide error bars.  So, wait and see looks like a pretty good approach to me.  I am extremely curious as to where the world is in six months.

On the reading front, I finally finished Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.  And have been attempting to clear out the always present backlog of saved articles.  More on how that works here.

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

  1. No News Is Good News – ” Personally, I vote for going cold turkey and simply walking away from the whole idea of news and the illusion of staying informed.”
  2. Take that two and a half percent and run – ” I would buy the hell out of the two-year at 2.5% but not the ten-year at the equivalent yield. “
  3. Paradoxes of Life – “The most persuasive people don’t argue—they observe, listen, and ask questions.”
  4. Bonds to Buy After an ‘Epic Rout.’ – “The iShares 20+ Year Bond exchange-traded fund (ticker: TLT), which holds long-term Treasuries, is down 14% this year, against a 5% drop in the S&P 500  index. Municipal bond closed-end funds are off 15%.”
  5. The Importance of Slugging Percentage in Investing – “But what matters more is how much money those winners make compared to how much the losers lose.”
  6. A Q&A With Mary Meeker: How Tech-Trend Guru Sees the World Now – “What macro issues worry you? It’s a long list.”
  7. Is U.S. Booming or Busting? It Depends on the Data You Examine. – “Trucking activity has plunged 50% in the past 10 weeks on flat unit retail sales and already excessive inventories, according to a research note. “
  8. There Will Be No Soft Landing. Why a Recession Is Inevitable. – “The debate over where the economy is going should be recast. A soft landing at this point is wishful thinking. “
  9. What Does the Bond Market Rout Mean for the Stock Market? – “The speed and magnitude of the bond market correction is something investors simply haven’t had to deal especially at the same time stocks are in correction territory.”
  10. Back to the Future of Twitter – “First, Twitter’s current fully integrated model is a financial failure.”

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. Email: Don’t Get Fired
  3. EBITDA Is Not A Good Proxy For Cash Flow
  4. Excel Tips: Football Field Chart
  5. Operating Model Tips

Updated stats:

Read ArticlesBooks
January891
February1100
March1023
April1032
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Total4046