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.