A Few Things: Kai-Fu Lee, How To Be A Curiosity Sherpa, Fat Leonard, Where is Energy Headed, Chris Sacca & Harry Stebbings

October 17 2021

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

- Joseph Campbell

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

- John Wooden

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

- Lao Tzu

A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out:

1. Will I see you in Madrid in November? If you are a Family Office, you should definitely check out Club B. I’ll be there.

2. One of my favourite new people on the internet is Tom Morgan. He was on the Value Hive podcast discussing: How To Be Curiosity Sherpa.

Tom has a great way of combining big ideas, and they discussed a number of big ideas here: destroying mental models, closing the gap between the map & territory, what is the potential global phase change?, NFTs, DAOs, and bubbles and the flow of networks.

3. We discussed Daniel Yergin’s The New Map in January, and he was on Bloomberg discussing the Energy Markets and why prices are headed higher.

4. Billion Dollar Whale and Blood and Oil have been some of my favourite books of the last few years. Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, the authors of Billion Dollar Whale are now working on Project Brazen - breaking new stories.

Their latest is Fat Leonard, an insane story of corruption in the Navy.

I have been absolutely loving their podcast series. Prepare to be shocked and entertained.

5. Robert Plomin, the author of Blueprint, was on the Infinite Loops podcast discussing: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are.

We discussed his book Blueprint a few months back (highly recommended).

6. Great HBR article on what motivates life long learners. Thank you Nicolas B for sharing.

We discovered that rather than fear, employees who learned and grew in this way tended to exhibit what we have called the passion of the explorer. This passion is a very powerful motivator for learning.

As we observed in the employees we studied, the passion of the explorer has three key elements:

  • Explorers have a long-term commitment to achieving impact in a specific domain that excites them — anything from factory work or financial services to gardening or big wave surfing.

  • They are excited in the face of unexpected challenges. Explorers view these hurdles as an opportunity to learn and achieve even greater impact. In fact, if they’re not confronted with enough challenges, they get bored and seek environments that will give them more.

  • When confronted with new challenges, explorers have an immediate desire to seek out and connect with others who can help them get to better answers faster so that they can increase their impact.

Our study showed that people who are passionate in these ways learn much faster than those who are motivated by fear.

But here’s the challenge for organizational leaders looking to instill this passion in their employees. That same research we did revealed that, at most, only 14% of US workers express this form of passion in relation to their work.

Why are the numbers so low? And is it possible to change them — to instill this passion in your people? Or are some people just incapable of being passionate in this way?

I believe that we all have the potential for this form of passion. Go to a playground and watch children 5-6 years old. They have all of the elements required: curiosity, imagination, creativity, and a willingness to take risks, and connect with others.

Instead, I believe that the reason that the numbers are so low for adults is that most of us have been discouraged from pursuing something that is intrinsically human so that we can fit in to institutions that want us to become cogs in a machine, following the process manual to the letter, faster and cheaper. That’s because employers have traditionally been suspicious of this form of passion. Passionate explorers ask too many questions, they deviate from the assigned script, and they take too many risks.

Cultivating the passion of the explorer enables innovative thinking in the organization at a whole new level. The institutions that restore our humanity in this way will unleash a much more powerful form of learning among all workers that will lead to exponentially expanding opportunities. But harnessing that opportunity requires us to move beyond fear and to find and cultivate the passion of the explorer that lies waiting to be discovered in all of us.

7. How humanity doubled life expectancy in a century - TED talk by Steven Johnson. It’s probably not what you think.

We discussed how to live to 150 and Sergey Young 2 weeks ago.

8. A beautiful piece exploring Earth’s history and why birds can fly over Mount Everest. Thank you Azeem.

9. You have heard me talk about Uranium in the last few weeks, and with the world focusing on climate change and energy prices rising why are nuclear plants being shut down:

B. AI 2041: Ten Visions for the Future

Kai-Fu Lee wrote his latest book: AI 2041: Ten Visions for the Future, with his friend and well-known science fiction writer, Chen Quifan. It uses stories to make the world of AI accessible.

The book covers technological scenarios, extrapolating out 20 years to 2041, and Chen Quifan put them into stories – followed by an explanation.

I recently heard him speak at a Pi Capital event where he discussed what’s focused on and his views on AI.

Kai-Fu is investing in these 6 mega trends:

  • Computer Vision: Already being applied in everything from autonomous vehicles and Augmented Reality to facial recognition and surgical procedures

  • Natural language processing: AI algorithms have beaten humans in computer vision,  the next frontier is natural language.

  • Robotics: The next big thing. China can only remain the world’s factory if it maintains its lead in automation.

  • Transportation: We will be seeing a revolution in smart cities and autonomous vehicles (AV). They are investing in AV companies that are working directly with municipal governments, including on safety. This makes AVs “highly monetizable and not very dangerous.”

  • Manufacturing: Going forward, energy becomes a question of manufacturing. The winners will be those that make the best solar panels and batteries. Batteries are a big investment theme for him.

  • Life sciences: We are seeing big advances in areas such as mRNA, genetic sequencing and  multiomics. These breakthroughs are all digital in nature, so they are “begging for AI to be applied.” 

His broader thoughts on AI versus human intelligence were intriguing:

AI has developed a great way of reasoning for itself, but this is “totally different” from the human process.

There are currently two schools of thought on AI:

a) Deep learning and data driven methods will continue to do more if we just tweak them and add data.

b) For AI to do more, we must add human cognitive capabilities.

To him, both schools of thought are valid. Nevertheless, over time he has “completely switched” to the data-driven camp, having started his PhD very much in in the human cognitive camp.

We have not made too much progress on what makes human intelligence possible, but we know much more about what intelligence means. We also know that there are two distinct ways to make intelligence possible – the human way and the AI way. This is “phenomenal progress.”

Thinking visually, there are two separate circles that denote human and AI intelligence with some “significant intersection” between the two. Over the next 20 years, the AI circle will get so much bigger than the human circle; AI will become much more powerful. But there will still be many things that humans can do which AI can’t do.

He did a good job on the Hidden Forces podcast if you want to skip the book.

If you want to go deeper into human and AI could work together, I really liked this Wait But Why post on Neuralink and the Brain.

Thank you to Tania R for amazing notes.

C. The Tech and Crypto Section:

1. Why Web3 matters according to a16z.

2. My friend Dror Poleg is always ahead of his time. His latest titled: Invisible Hierarchies, is a great discussion on the War for Talent and why corporations may disappear.

3. Coinbase will allow you to buy NFT’s soon, you can get on the waitlist for access here.

4. Climate tech is the hot new thing and Chris Sacca is probably the right guy for the job.

5. I’ve been trying to learn more about Climate tech - Carbon Capture & Removal is a big part of that.

This Founders Field Guide discussion with Jonathan Goldberg (ex-GS & Glencore) of Carbon Direct has a great discussion on the opportunities in commodities, with a deep dive into carbon capture and trading. Thank you Max L for the recommendation.

Do you recommend anything for me to get smarter on climate tech?

Twelve years living in England and thirteen years of marriage to an English woman…..I’m still figuring this out. Are you?

Snowden on CBDCs, Marko Papic on Geopolitics & China, Rory Sutherland on Alchemy, How To Find Meaning In Our Lives

October 10, 2021

“The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.” 

- Oliver Wendell Holmes 

“The art of living lies not in eliminating but in growing with troubles”

- Bernard Baruch

“It is a preoccupation with possessions more than anything else that stops men from living freely and nobly”

- Bertrand Russell

“One of the best rules anybody can learn about investing is to do nothing, absolutely nothing, unless there is something to do.”

- Jim Rogers

"We've long felt that the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune tellers look good."

- Warren Buffett

A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out

1. The Pandora Papers: Millions of leaked documents and the biggest journalism partnership in history have uncovered financial secrets of 35 current and former world leaders, more than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories, and a global lineup of fugitives, con artists and murderers.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained the trove of more than 11.9 million confidential files and led a team of more than 600 journalists from 150 news outlets that spent two years sifting through them, tracking down hard-to-find sources and digging into court records and other public documents from dozens of countries.

2. Ed Snowden wrote an excellent piece on Central Bank Digital Currencies titled: Central Banks Digital Currencies will ransom our future. I agree.

3. My friend and favourite market strategist Marko Papic, was on the Meb Faber show discussing geopolitics and the markets. He discussed the implications of Evergrande and why Marko does not believe China will try to takeover Taiwan and the implications of rising food and commodity prices and whether that will cause social unrest around the globe.

We had discussed his book Geopolitical Alpha in detail, in October 2020.

4. Dawn Fitzpatrick, CIO at Soros Fund Management shared her Market Outlook.

5. I’m a big fan of Rory Sutherland, and did a summary of his book Alchemy on twitter:

6. Dr Clay Routledge was on Modern Wisdom podcast discussing “A Psychologist’s Tips for Finding Meaning”.

The big ideas:

a. Know that you have agency and power to change. Know that you can make a difference.

b. Find bigger purpose, be a part of something bigger than you. Some thing that allows you to think and act beyond just the short term.

c. Be a part of something where you are needed, where you add value to others, where you matter to others. Where your existence brings meaning to others.

As he admits himself, a lot of this sound like life in the 1800’s when we lived in small towns and villages, with many generations under one roof, our friends and family nearby and religion a bigger part of our lives.

7. The surprising thing Google learned about its employees - and what it means for today’s students. Thank you Yaser for the share.

Key paragraphs:

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.

Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard.

8. Freakonomics Radio: Why Is U.S. Media So Negative?

9. Citadel CEO Ken Griffin Sounds Off on Everything from Cryptocurrencies to President Trump.

10. Exchanges at Goldman Sachs Podcast: The Impact of Rising Natural Gas Prices.

11. Or a more direct take on what higher natural gas prices could do to food prices by Doomberg:

To keep the chemistry lesson as simple as possible, you need natural gas to produce ammonia and energy from fossil fuels to mine for phosphate. You need ammonia and phosphate to make fertilizer. You need fertilizer to grow food at scale. You need food to keep the peace.

As you might expect, the price of fertilizer – already under pressure from gyrations in the natural gas sector globally – skyrocketed higher on the news that China is halting all phosphate exports. Farmers will either raise prices dramatically or go broke. Inevitably, we’ll see an unhealthy mix of both.

Inflation in the food sector, already running hot, is set to go vertical. The combination of higher costs, lack of supply, labor shortages, and broken logistics has set in motion a crisis which can no longer be avoided. Prepare accordingly.

12. This made me think of our discussion of Rene Girard’s Mimetic Desire and the Scapegoat.

13. Where can Brent / WTI go?

2. Four Thousand Weeks

There are probably 3-4 books over the last ten years that have really impacted and changed how I looked at my life.

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman is one of them.

There are a few big ideas in this book:

The Efficiency Culture:

We live in efficiency culture, where it’s about doing more and more things. But as we rush to tick things off our to-do list, we are actually doing each thing in a very cursory way. Each task becomes small, irrelevant and something we are just trying to get done to move to the next thing.

None of the actual tasks matter. Only the next task matters. So if nothing that you are really doing matters then does your life really matter?

You Get The Life You Choose:

To give our life meaning, we must choose what stuff will mean to us. We have to choose what we will sacrifice our life for. No choices mean more tedious things will find their way into your life.

Make the choices of what you will do and what you will not do. Commit to what matters to you. And agree to miss out on certain things. Use time rather than let time use you.

His thesis is that we run from tasks to tasks because we don’t actually want to decide what we want to do with our life.

He has a great story about writing down a list of 25 things you want to do with your life. It’s possible many of you have done this exercise. Warren Buffett has talked about it as punch card investing.

Oliver’s thesis is that when you select the top 5 things you are going to do with your life, the problem to watch out for is the other 20, because they are what will take you away from the top 5. The top 20 are dangerous to you achieving the top 5.

All Life is Borrowed Time:

Being busy with stuff is a way to forget our finitude. We don’t have to choose if we don’t ever take a time to think about it. But to live a good life we must choose.

Be in the moment.

All life is borrowed time.

We are always preparing, thinking about the future. It’s always about what’s next, what’s in the future. It’s never about being here today. There is no perfect tomorrow. So be here. Today is all that really exists. The rest is just in your head.

Questions I am pondering:

1. Are you holding yourself to, and judging yourself by, standards of productivity or performance that are impossible to meet?

2. In what ways have you yet to accept the fact that you are who you are, not the person you think you ought to be?

3. In which areas of life are you still holding back until you feel like you know what you are doing?

“To rest for the sake of rest—to enjoy a lazy hour for its own sake—entails first accepting the fact that this is it: that your days aren’t progressing toward a future state of perfectly invulnerable happiness, and that to approach them with such an assumption is systematically to drain our four thousand weeks of their value. ‘We are the sum of all the moments of our lives,’ writes Thomas Wolfe, ‘all that is ours is in them: we cannot escape it or conceal it.’ If we’re going to show up for, and thus find some enjoyment in, our brief time on the planet, we had better show up for it now.”

—Oliver Burkeman (“Four Thousand Weeks”)

C. The Tech and Crypto Section

1. Devin Finzer is the co-founder and CEO of OpenSea - the NFT Marketplace. He was on Founder’s Field Guide - An Everything Store for Digital Assets.

2. Investing in Innovation & Deeptech with Josh Wolfe at SALT.

3. Gabby Dizon of Yield Guild Games discussing Play-to-Earn (P2E) Gaming on Modern Finance.

What you want in life is to be in control of your time. You want to get into a leveraged job where you control your own time and you’re tracked on the outputs. If you do something incredible to move the needle on the business, they have to pay you. Especially if they don’t know how you did it because it’s innate to your obsession or your skill or your innate abilities, they’re going to have to keep paying you to do it.

If you have specific knowledge, you have accountability and you have leverage; they have to pay you what you’re worth. If they pay you what you’re worth, then you can get your time back—you can be hyper-efficient. You’re not doing meetings for meetings’ sake, you’re not trying to impress other people, you’re not writing things down to make it look like you did work. All you care about is the actual work itself.

When you do just the actual work itself, you’ll be far more productive, far more efficient. You’ll work when you feel like it—when you’re high-energy—and you won’t be trying to struggle through when you’re low energy. You’ll gain your time back.

- Naval Ravikant on work and controlling your time.

Have a great week.

A Few Things: China vs US, FED Trading Scandal, The Energy Crisis, Bruce Lee's Wisdom and What Are Family Offices Thinking

October 3, 2021

“The most important decision you make is to be in a good mood.”

- Voltaire

“We have a terrible fear that if we stop for a moment we will miss something. The exact opposite is true.”

- English journalist Simon Barnes

“A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.”

- John Maynard Keynes

“People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid.”

- Søren Kierkegaard

A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out

1. Fascinating All-In podcast with Chamath, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks and David Friedberg with Balaji Srinivasan discussing the role of de-centralization and China/US breakdown. The really interesting stuff starts 16mins in: comparing and contrasting the US and China's future outlook.

The most fascinating thing about listening to this is seeing the Silicon Valley narrative around China changing quickly. It comes with a lot of self flagellation about every one missing the rise of China and what China could do to us. These guys sound defeated.

2. Have you been watching the FED insider trading scandal, leading to the resignation of Richard Clarida and Robert Kaplan?

This article argues that Jerome Powell is finished.

The insider trading scandal at the Fed is going to trigger a bank run on Powell’s political prospects. Already, the prediction markets are starting to sniff this out. The chart below from PredictIt shows the betting odds that Powell gets another term. We don’t give investment advice here at Doomberg, nor are we experts in technical analysis, but that chart sure doesn’t look healthy to us. And for good reason.

3. China Orders Top Energy Firms to Secure Supplies at All Costs. We could have a tough winter ahead. Will inflation be transitory or permanent?

China’s central government officials ordered the country’s top state-owned energy companies -- from coal to electricity and oil -- to secure supplies for this winter at all costs, according to people familiar with the matter.

The order came directly from Vice Premier Han Zheng, who supervises the nation’s energy sector and industrial production, and was delivered during an emergency meeting earlier this week with officials from Beijing’s state-owned assets regulator and economic planning agency, the people said, asking not to be named discussing a private matter. Blackouts won’t be tolerated, the people said.

4. This NYT article discusses a new FED paper on how little we actually know about how the economy works.

All of this makes it a challenging time for central bankers and other shapers of policy. “If you’re a policymaker and you don’t have robust confidence in the parameters of the game you are managing, it makes your job a whole lot more difficult,” Mr. McCulley said.

But if you are in charge of making economic policy that affects the lives of millions, you can’t simply shrug your shoulders and say, “We don’t know how the world works, so what are we supposed to do?” You look at the evidence available, and make the best judgment you can.

And then, if you think it turns out you were wrong about something, publish a sassy paper to try to get it right.

5. Matt Ridley on the Roots of The Energy Crisis: “This current crisis is a mere harbinger of the candle-lit future that awaits us if we do not change course”.

6. Prof. Galloway had a thoughtful article on the emerging crises among young men in America.

While men enjoy numerous inherent and societal advantages — from deeper voices to private clubs — there are actually significant obstacles facing boys. It starts early, with small differences. For example, 80% of kindergartener parents expect their girls to attend college, while 77% of parents expect their boys to. But such small differences expand over time. The disparity in parental expectations grows by 10 percentage points by fifth grade. Boys act out more than girls and face harsher discipline, especially in single-parent homes, where boys are 13 percentage points more likely than girls to have been spanked in the past week. Overall, 1 in 4 boys experience at least one school suspension in the eighth grade, compared to 1 in 10 girls. School suspension is predictive of college attendance and college completion, and boys, normalized for behavior, are twice as likely to be suspended. (Black students are also more likely to be disciplined, and black boys face even greater disparities.) Finally, in the nation with the world’s highest incarceration rate, men are imprisoned at 14 times the rate of women. And 70% of prisoners didn’t complete high school.

7. Thinking better: The Art of the Shortcut by Prof. Marcus du Sautoy.

Finished reading this great little book last week. It’s filled with different tricks, shortcuts, heuristics that mathematics can teach us. It’s a history, creativity and maths lesson rolled into one.

It’s a hard one to summarise, so check out this 19 min video of Prof. du Sautoy discussing Shortcuts.

8. The SALT conference was in NY, in early October, they had panels on everything from Longevity, The world in 2050, Crypto and Sustainable Infrastructure Investing.

Here’s the whole library on YouTube.

B. What Are Family Offices Thinking About

We organised a round table with a few Family Office CIOs last week to discuss what was top of mind and what they were doing about it.

We had CIOs joining from Dallas to Munich.

Here are the 3 big takeaways:

1. Inflation is a concern - what if it's not transitory? How do you position a multi-asset portfolio for a world of rising inflation and interest rates. It's definitely not a traditional 60/40 portfolio.

A number of CIOs looking for "Alt alts" - strategies that can provide uncorrelated returns in the portfolio.

This is a good paper a CIO shared.

2. Do Commodities belong in the portfolio - whether due to inflation or just years of underinvestment, we could see rising commodity prices across the complex. How does one take advantage of that and what are the right commodities to be long? Crypto currencies, Gold, Oil Futures and Commodity Indices are all part of this conversation.

3. What are expected returns across asset markets going forward. This is a perennial issue. Multiples continue to go higher and rates are anchored lower. What returns should one expect in the decade ahead across asset markets? Are double digit returns even possible in a multi-asset portfolio. Most are anchoring to 6-8% real returns across their portfolios.

What do you expect from markets in the next decade and what are you doing about inflation?

C. Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living

Bruce Lee is a fascinating person and he had a big impact on my child hood.

A friend had recommended his book: Striking Thoughts, which is a collection of 825 aphorisms.

Here are some that spoke to me:

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Emptiness the starting point. — In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.

Because one does not want to be disturbed, to be made uncertain, he establishes a pattern of conduct, of thought, a pattern of relationship to man etc. Then he becomes a slave to the patter and takes the pattern to be the real thing.

Organised institutes produce prisoners of concepts. I no longer am interested in systems or organisations. Organised institutes tend to produce patternised prisoners of a systematised concept, and the instructors are often fixed in a routine. Of course what is worse is that by imposing the members to fit a lifeless preformation, their natural growth is blocked.

A choice method imprisons the mind. A choice method, however exacting, fixes the mind in a pattern. A choice method is the cultivation of resistance, and where there is resistance there is no understanding. A well-disciplined mind is not a free mind. Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it.

The need to progress - Do not hold on to what you have. It is like a ferry boat for people who want to get across waters. Once you have got across, never bear it on your back. You should head forward.

D. The Tech and Crypto Section:

1. This could go down as the seminal piece on Bitcoin and DeFi. “Only The Strong Survive: A Philosophical, Technical, and Economic Critique of Prospects in “Crypto” Beyond Bitcoin”

Written by a PM at Ballie Gifford and a US HF, they discuss the core properties that make Bitcoin work, and that these properties are lacking in alternative “crypto assets”. They discuss their concerns that “crypto” has not shown a path to establishing a basis for justifiable real-world value.

In the end, they conclude that Bitcoin is the only real asset given Proof-of-Work (PoW) and that a Bitcoin “Stack” is coming.

This video mentioned in the document is worth a watch on what the future of development looks like on Bitcoin.

2. Meltem is one of my favourite Crypto people and she was on Twitch TV discussing the Good, Bad and Ugly of Crypto (video starts at 4:15).

3. Kyle Samani of Multi-Coin Capital was on Business Breakdowns discussing Solana.

4. Rodney Brooks, the creator of the Roomba, throws cold water on the idea that AI will surpass human intelligence in the near future.

“The choice you can make is to stop believing you’ll ever solve the challenge of busyness by cramming more in, because that just makes matters worse. And once you stop investing in the idea that you might one day achieve peace of mind that way, it becomes easier to find peace of mind in the present, in the midst of overwhelming demands, because you’re no longer making your peace of mind dependent on dealing with all the demands. Once you stop believing that it might somehow be possible to avoid hard choices about time, it gets easier to make better ones. You begin to grasp that when there’s too much to do, and there always will be, the only route to psychological freedom is to let go of the limit-denying fantasy of getting it all done and instead to focus on doing a few things that count.”

- Oliver Burkeman (“Four Thousand Weeks”)

“As I’ve gotten older...I could not help but notice the effect on people of the stories they told about themselves. If you listen to people—if you just sit and listen—you’ll find that there are patterns in the way they talk about themselves.

There’s the kind of person who’s always the victim in any story that they tell—always on the receiving end of some injustice. There’s the person who’s always kind of the hero in every story they tell. The smart person—they deliver the clever put down. There are lots of versions of this. And you gotta be very careful about how you tell these stories because it starts to become you.

You are, in the way you craft your narrative, kind of crafting your character. And so, I did at some point decide: I am going to adopt self-consciously as my narrative that I’m the happiest person anybody knows. And it is amazing how happy-inducing it is.”

- Michael Lewis

Have a great week.

Gates & Fink on Clean Energy, Living to 150, The Future of Gaming, The Next Decade's Dominating Theme

September 27, 2021

Welcome to the +50 new subscribers since last Monday’s email! If you’re reading this but haven’t subscribed yet, do it!

Each week, I write an email that mixes technology, markets and worldly wisdom picked up from a +21 year finance career.

“Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Intelligent individuals learn from every thing and every one; average people, from their experiences. The stupid already have all the answers."

- Socrates

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old; they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

- Gabriel Garcia Marquez 

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

- Carl Sandburg

A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out

1. Bill Gates, Larry Fink on the Clean-Energy Push and what they are doing about it.

2. Daniel Ek of Spotify was on Invest Like The Best, discussing how the next set of big companies will be built tackling atoms, not bits. He then dives into the big problems of our time, and the changing European venture landscape.

3. If you are a Family Office, you should think about joining a bunch of us in Madrid this year for Club b. It’s the only Family Office conference worth going to, and it’s organised by my good friend Peter Fletcher.

B. Living to 150

Saw Sergey Young present two weeks ago at Pi Capital (you should think about joining) and read his new book over the weekend: The Science and Technology of Growing Young.

Sergey founded the Longevity Vision Fund to support entrepreneurs and scientists in accelerating life-extending technological innovations and making them more accessible to people. He’s on the Board of Directors of the American Federation of Aging Research (AFAR) and sponsors the Age Reversal XPRIZE, a global competition for curing ageing.

Here are the 6 big ideas in the book:

1. For most of humanity we have been working on eliminating early death and we’ve been very successful in doing this. In the last 100 years the average lifespan has more than doubled, from 35 years old to over 70. But the maximum lifespan has stayed the same: about 120 years (the oldest person reached 122).

2. The Longevity Horizons. Technologies and medicine available today will give us the opportunity to live to a happy and healthy 100 years old. Looking ahead longevity innovations can be divided into what is “available now”, “near horizon” and “long horizon.”

3. The Near Horizon. These technologies will be available in the next 10-20 years. They will help us to live to 150 years. There have been amazing advances in gene editing and gene therapy. 30 years ago, it took the US 13 years and $3 billion to sequence a human genome; today you can do it for a couple of dollars and in a few hours. Today, we are all participating in a global experiment in gene therapy, because Moderna and other Covid vaccines are the result of gene therapy.

Other Near Horizons that are here: Organ Regeneration & AI Drug Discovery

4. The Long Horizon. These innovations will be available in the next 25-50 years. These are things that will enable us to live significantly longer, but will raise a lot of ethical questions. This is a world of human avatars and human brain-AI integration. It involves the genetic modification of humans to become a different species, one that combines humans and machines.

5. The Big Players. Big tech is coming into healthcare. Young believes that, 10 years from now, the biggest healthcare companies in the world will be Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Healthcare is the only industry big enough to give them room to grow for the next two decades.

6. What can we do today? Eat better, which means more plants, no processed food, reduce animal products and sugar, eat early and less often, both high intensity and low intensity exercise, quit bad habits (smoking, drinking, texting while driving), reduce stress, be mindful. Schedule regular health screenings.

C. The Tech and Crypto Section:

1. Chris Dixon at a16z discussing why Blockchains are the new app stores.

2. Great post on understanding blockchain’s Play to Earn model.

3. Why the Future of Venture Capital Will Be Decentralised - just as people are getting deep into VC, the game is quickly changing.

4. Asia Tech Strategy Podcast: How Hillhouse Capital Invests In and Digitizes Chinese Companies.

5. Gaming is a bigger industry than music and movies combined and its changing and growing much faster. The two big trends in gaming are: social and blockchains.

Social: Justin Waldron was on the Founder’s Field Guide, discussing the Future of Social Gaming with Patrick O’Shaughnessy.

Blockchains: Arianna Simpson of a16z was on the Bankless podcast discussing why in the future all games will be blockchain games.

6. The players are the artists; the game is the venue. The gaming industry is changing.

The old business model was: subscribers x ARPU.

The new model is: GTV x Take Rate.

Ultimately, the future business of gaming isn’t based on maximizing Subscriptions times ARPU. It’ll be maximizing Gross Transaction Value times Take Rate. Games of the future will still lean on their own design and creative gameplay to command a high take rate, but they’ll need the cloud to bring down friction as much as possible, in order to spur as much GTV as possible. As with mobile gaming, most high-end games will be free to play soon enough; any lever you can pull to increase traffic and GTV will get pulled.

7. Identifying 100x Opportunities Early w/ Jason Choi (GP of Spartan Group) on the Profit Maximalist podcast

D. What Will Be This Decade’s Dominating Theme:

E. The Queen’s Gambit

I watched the Queen’s Gambit this summer, and since then have been hooked on playing Chess every day. It’s an all consuming game.

Even if you don’t like Chess, it’s an amazing and beautiful story. My father in-law bing watched the whole season in one night!

Did you enjoyed this piece? Let me know by hitting the like button or sharing it.

Thank you!

A Few Things: A Meaningful Life, Uranium, Chaos Under Heaven, Investing In The Future

September 19, 2021

Welcome to the +50 new subscribers since last Monday’s email! If you’re reading this but haven’t subscribed yet, do it!

Each week, I write an email that mixes technology, markets and worldly wisdom picked up from a +21 year finance career.

“You have to have time to think. It’s so easy to get so busy that you no longer have time to think and you pay a huge price for that.”

- Charlie Munger

“Any idiot can face a crisis; it's this day-to-day living that wears you out.”

- Anton Chekov

“Choosing a spouse and a choosing career: the two great decisions for which society refuses to set up institutional guidance.”

- Alain de Botton

A. A Few Things Worth Checking Out

1. An average human only gets about 4,000 weeks of life on Earth (4,000 / 52 = 77). It’s terrifying how short that makes life feel. Since my 30’s, I’ve had this nagging sense of not having enough time. Have you?

Recognising our mortality makes time management even more important and, from this well of insecurity and fear, the recent productivity movement has sprung.

The usual to do lists, morning routines, time-saving habits all have their place in a happy life but an obsession with these routines and drivers can, pretty quickly, end up being counterproductive as the habits formed tire us out even more, lead us to be disappointed when we break them and, most importantly, make us focus on trying to achieve far more than we ever possibly can.

That final point is the crux of a recent book from Oliver Burkeman titled Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals.

His take is that despite knowing we have limited time left on this ball of rock, the key to better time management isn’t doing more – it’s doing less.

Drawing on the insights of philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers, Burkeman delivers a beautiful and profound guide to time and time management, especially designed for busy people who feel as if they’re never doing or achieving enough. It introduces tools for constructing a meaningful life by embracing mortality and finitude. 

The 3 big takeaways:

A. Learn to say NO! Find and focus on what is truly important to you in the long run.

B. Rather than making to do lists, make do not do lists (this has helped me a lot)

C. Find time to just be idle, no tasks, no goals, just be (this is HARD for me)

Since you are busy, you will probably want to listen to his podcast episode on Modern Wisdom.

Another great book on this subject is Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

2. The Uranium story continues to play out. A few things worth looking into.

A. Bloomberg’s Trillions podcast discussing Uranium.

B. Sprott held a webinar titled - Uranium: A Key Element for a Net-Zero Carbon Future

C. Harris Kupperman was on the Market Huddle podcast discussing Uranium (last 20 mins)

3. The financialization of America continues.

4. Over the weekend, I shared a few lessons & strategies I picked in my career on Twitter, it ended up going viral.

B. Chaos Under Heaven

Just finished reading Josh Rogin’s Chaos Under Heaven this week and heard him speak in London 2 weeks ago.

Josh is a foreign policy and national security columnist for The Washington Post and political analyst for CNN. His favourite subject and the focus of his book is China.

A few big take aways:

1. We live in a multi-polar world: The discussion is regularly framed as the US-China relationship but that is the wrong way to think about it. Instead, it’s about the international response to China. Countries all over the world are dealing with many of the same challenges. China is too deeply intertwined with the US and its allies for this to be how USSR and the Cold War played out.

2. We lost the bet: For the past 40 yrs a bet was wagered in US relations with China. At the end of Obama’s administration, it was acknowledged that that bet had been lost.

The bet: through cooperation with China and integrating them into our systems and institutions, that they would eventually become liberalised economically and, ultimately, politically.

Under Xi Jinping, China decided to go a different way.

Rather than the West trying to shape them, increasingly their engagement is directed at shaping our systems. It’s clear that, from day one, Xi is seeking to shape the world in a way that accommodates China.

Part of the reason the US lost the bet is our hubris. We thought that the US could shape China’s development in China. The US doesn’t have that ability to shape China or other countries in its image.

3. Resetting the relationship: Trump tried to reset the US-China economic relationship. His thesis was that the US was getting screwed by China on trade. He had a firm idea of what he wanted to do on China but he never directly communicated it to the American people. Everything that we saw from the Trump administration is communicated via someone else in Trump’s administration.

Rogin identified 5 factions within the US, ranging from the super-hawks to hardliners to the Wall Street clique.

4. Biden’s Turn: The Biden administration arrived against this backdrop. Biden's administration can be divided into 3 camps: those who seek a continuation of the Trump policy; the optimists - who don’t want sanctions imposed on China; and in the middle, the political team, which includes Biden. The political team usually wins.

Rogin’s bet is that we head further towards autarky and decoupling for both US and China to protect themselves economically from the other, but nothing that looks like what we had with USSR.

5. The Big Day? We are headed to the G20 Summit in Rome on October 30th. This could be when we see a big shift in US policy towards China.

You can catch him discussing his book earlier this year.

He was also on the Joe Rogan show:

Leave a comment

C. The Tech and Crypto Section

1. One weekend and two magazine covers for cryptocurrencies and DeFi. Is this a sign of the top or does the main stream just not understand crypto?

2. Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s Business Breakdowns featured: Sky Mavis, the gaming studio behind Axie Infinity. This is a game isn’t even officially released on any app store, and is still in its alpha test stage, and yet has more than a million daily active users, clocking in $10m USD of revenues on its marketplace A DAY.

3. Re-sharing Cathie Woods discussion on the Bankless podcast discussing “Investing in the Future” since its packed with goodies. Here are 3 big takeaways (paraphrasing the Bankless team):

A. DeFi is hollowing out the banks and the banks know it

Cathie listens to J.P. Morgan’s earnings call as a way to get a feel for the broader climate of the banking sector, and she was astounded to learn that loan growth during the economic recovery…was negative.


Because crypto! Given yield growth and demand in DeFi is absolutely exploding, even if that only causes a minor loss in revenue for the banks, this loss still has a meaningful impact on growth expectations for the entire banking industry. Stock price is set on the margin. Marginal growth rates matter. 

And what if the regulatory pressure we’ve seen lately is because the banks are scared. What if DeFi’s threat to the banking sector is reverberating back as regulatory threats towards DeFi?

Cathie’s implying this may be the case.

It wouldn’t be surprising given the banking system is one of the most entrenched incumbents there is…

B. ETH staking could become the new “risk-free rate”

Chris Burniske asked Cathie is she could “envision a future where Ethereum’s risk minimized rate offers a new baseline for valuing internet assets?”

This is the idea that ETH’s staking rate might be used as a new benchmark for digital asset portfolio performance, but Cathie took it further by contrasting the reliable yield of staked ETH versus the ‘unhinged’ monetary policies of central banks. 

This is elevating ETH beyond just an internet-native economy, and toward the status of a global macro force, akin to the U.S. bond market.

3. DeFi will accelerate innovation in non-crypto sectors

Part of ARKs core thesis about why the future is so much closer than the market thinks is that the growth in each technology platform has the power to accelerate growth in all others.

Cathie identified Ethereum’s capital coordination powers with ‘The DAO’ collecting $150M of $ETH in 2016, and has been an outspoken proponent about how DeFi offers ‘friction-free finance’. 

What happens to the pace of innovation when financial and capital coordination tools are made free and open? 

"For me, success is not a public thing. It's a private thing. It's when you have fewer and fewer regrets."

- Novelist Toni Morrison on the measure of success

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