Simplify, Spoon-Fed, What Is Money?

February 26, 2021

“Against boredom, even gods struggle in vain.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

"Living things tend to change unrecognisably as they grow. Who would deduce the dragonfly from the larva, the iris from the bud, the lawyer from the infant?

Flora or fauna, we are all shapeshifters and magical re-inventors. Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves."

- Poet Diane Ackerman on reinventing yourself

“The task is not so much to see what no one has yet seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.”

- Arthur Schopenhauer 

A. Simplify

One of the things I try to do weekly is to take complex ideas and simplify them. As Einstein is rumoured to have said: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Businesses can often be simplified into a picture, this is the business strategy for Amazon’s retail business:

Simplify: How the Best Businesses in the World Succeed by Richard Koch (best known for his work on 80/20) gave me a new mental model with which to think about businesses.

Richard Koch loves taking businesses and ideas apart and narrowing them down to their essence. His work on the Pareto Principle or 80/20 is well known.

The gist of Simplify is that for a business to really succeed they have a choice, they can either a) Proposition Simplify or b) Price Simplify.

The book looks at businesses ranging from IKEA, Ford, McDonalds, Spotify, Dyson Uber and Apple and breaks down their business strategy to see how the businesses were able to inflect their growth curve by simplifying their business in one of those two ways.

The diagram below summarises the book.

If you want to grow your market size, you can either price simplify by cutting prices by at least 50%. This allows you to go after the mass market. Or you simplify your proposition (reduce friction, make things easier) and go after the premium market.

This is what happened in the smart phone market with Apple going for proposition simplicity, and Samsung going for price simplicity. Apple is the premium brand, that is used by fewer people but captures a higher price point, while Samsung’s Android phones are 50% cheaper, allowing it to capture the mass market.

The books covers the great simplifiers, how to simplify and the discusses the rewards of simplifying. If you really step back and look at the biggest, most successful businesses you can see that this is what they did to succeed.

For example look at the next generation (Uber, Coinbase, Airbnb, Spotify, Dyson) of proposition simplifiers, they have all followed this playbook.

Or the next generation of price simplifiers (Robinhood, Google, Facebook):

Are you going to price simplify or proposition simplify?

B. Spoon Fed

One day in December I found myself eating six different supplements. You know the usual Metformin, Magnesium Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, and probably a few that I am forgetting……

How had I gone from taking one multi-vitamin to this?

Serendipitously, a book arrived in the mailbox in January:

Tim Spector is a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, and a consultant physician at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals. He has also written four other books. His expertise lie in epi-genetics and microbiomes.

There are a few big ideas in this book, with the main thrust being that there is little good evidence for many of our deep-rooted ideas about food.

The book in 23 short chapters, busts 23 myths about food. The ones most interesting to me:

  1. Nutritional guidelines and diet plans apply to everyone

  2. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

  3. Taking vitamin supplements improves our health and prevents disease

  4. Food labelling helps us make healthier choices

  5. Veganism is the best diet

  6. All meat is bad for us

  7. Exercise will you make you thin

His conclusion:

“We have to be more selective in the information we believe about food, which is mostly fed to us or distorted by people with a vested interest, and often based on weak data or science. We should never believe anyone who says there is only one simple cause or fix, which only they know about. We need to ignore or challenge anyone who says cutting out substance X or buying that special supplement will cure us or make us shed pounds. Let us not be deflected from improving our diet by messages that say we simply need to do our 10,000 steps, or do more walking or yoga, as exercise is a useless tool for weight loss.”

Here is his Twelve-Point Plan:

After reading the book, I stopped all my supplements. Increased the diversity of my diet, and tried a glucose monitor (thanks Arek W for the intel) for two weeks to see how my body reacted to different foods.

For those that want to dive deeper here he is doing a long form discussion:

C. A Few Things Worth Checking Out:

1. The best thing I’ve been binging on the last few days has been “What is Money” podcast with Robert Breedlove and Mike Saylor. If you are a fan of history and big ideas then you will love it. Everything from anthropology to energy covered here. Wow! Please give it an hour of your time.

2. Tim Ferriss had Katie Haun to discuss the Dark Web, Gangs and Investigating Bitcoin. Katie is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

Previously, she spent a decade as a federal prosecutor with the US Department of Justice, where she focused on fraud, cybercrime, and corporate crime, alongside agencies including the SEC, FBI, and Treasury. She created the government’s first cryptocurrency task force and led investigations into the Mt. Gox hack and the corrupt agents on the Silk Road task force.

3. My old friend Dylan Grice shared his views on why The Stage is Set for a Bull Market in Oil.

4. The Fourth Turning and Reimagining the American Dream with Mike Green on the Gestalt University.

5. Everyone is asking, are we in a bubble? Ray Dalio discussed it here.

6. Jeremy Grantham has been on every podcast talking about the markets, most recently on Invest Like The Best.

I used to read these forecasts with great detail when I was younger. I don’t see how these can happen, with what corporate and state pensions need to fund their deficits. Taxes won’t fill these holes.

7. Robert Sapolsky (author of the behemoth Behave) on Why We Behave the Way We Do.

8. For those that love hedge fund letters, here is a good reddit with links to many Q4 2020 letters.

9. I’m reading Bill Gates new book - How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. So far I’m not impressed, think his heart is in the right place, but there aren’t any new ideas or solution here. This FT article by him summarises most of it.

Reminds me of the old saying that most books could just be blog posts.

10. I’ve started reading Think Again by Adam Grant (author of Originals and Give and Take). The book is a discussion on why we should re-think what we believe. On that note, let me leave you with this: