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Friday, 8 January 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.

 

If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate.



2021 - The year of the Stockdale Paradox

The Stockdale Paradox is a concept that author Jim Collins found a perfect example of in James Stockdale, former vice-presidential candidate, who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive as a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was one of the highest-ranking naval officers at the time.

During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he'd make it out alive. Held in the clutches of the grim reality of his hell world, he found a way to stay alive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism.

Stockdale explained this idea as the following: "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

In the most simplest explanation of this paradox, it's the idea of hoping for the best, but acknowledging and preparing for the worst.

https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/stockdale-paradox-confronting-reality-vital-success

 

How to make decisions - By Barack Obama

I think you should read the whole article and not just the below snippet.

 

In just a few short weeks on the job, I had already realized that because every tough decision came down to a probability, then certainty was an impossibility — which could leave me encumbered by the sense that I could never get it quite right. So rather than let myself get paralyzed in the quest for a perfect solution, or succumb to the temptation to just go with my gut every time, I created a sound decision-making process — one where I really listened to the experts, followed the facts, considered my goals and weighed all of that against my principles. Then, no matter how things turned out, I would at least know I had done my level best with the information in front of me.

Even in situations where you have to act relatively quickly, as was frequently the case during the financial crisis, it helps to build in time to let your thoughts marinate.

It’s not always clean and straightforward. But as my mother would say to me, “The world is complicated, Bar. That’s why it’s interesting.”

https://barackobama.medium.com/how-i-approach-the-toughest-decisions-dc1b165cdf2d

 

 

The Amazon fake reviews racket

Fake reviews have been an issue for Amazon since its inception, but the problem appears to have intensified in 2015, when Amazon.com began to court Chinese sellers.

But the ensuing rush to the marketplace has spawned thousands of indistinguishable goods (chargers, cables, batteries, etc.). And it has prompted sellers to game the system.

“It’s a lot harder to sell on Amazon than it was 2 or 3 years ago,” adds Naim. “A lot of sellers are trying to find shortcuts.”

Steve Lee, a Los Angeles-based vendor, is among them: “You have to play the game to sell now,” he says. “And that game is cheating and breaking the law.”

A recent ReviewMeta analysis determined that in March of 2019 alone, Amazon was hit with a flurry of more than 2 million unverified reviews (that is, reviews that can’t be confirmed as purchases made through Amazon) — 99.6% of which were 5 stars.

“They’re almost all for these off-brand, cheap electronic products: Phone chargers, headphones, cables,” says Noonan. “Generic things that are super cheap to manufacture, have good margins, and get a ton of searches.”

https://thehustle.co/amazon-fake-reviews

 

Zoom background books for shelves available for wholesale!!

Books by the Foot, a service run by the Maryland-based bookseller Wonder Book, has become a go-to curator of Washington bookshelves, offering precisely what its name sounds like it does. The Wonder Book staff doesn’t pry too much into which objective a particular client is after. If an order were to come in for, say, 12 feet of books about politics, specifically with a progressive or liberal tilt—as one did in August—Wonder Book’s manager, Jessica Bowman, would simply send one of her more politics-savvy staffers to the enormous box labeled “Politically Incorrect” (the name of Books by the Foot’s politics package) to select about 120 books by authors like Hillary Clinton, Bill Maher, Al Franken and Bob Woodward. The books would then be “staged,” or arranged with the same care a florist might extend to a bouquet of flowers, on a library cart; double-checked by a second staffer; and then shipped off to the residence or commercial space where they would eventually be shelved and displayed (or shelved and taken down to read).

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/26/books-by-the-foot-washington-dc-covid-books-440347

 

First principles in thinking

First principles thinking, which is sometimes called reasoning from first principles, is one of the most effective strategies you can employ for breaking down complicated problems and generating original solutions.

“I tend to approach things from a physics framework,” Musk said in an interview. “Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, okay, let’s look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminium alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fibre. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two per cent of the typical price.”

Instead of buying a finished rocket for tens of millions, Musk decided to create his own company, purchase the raw materials for cheap, and build the rockets himself. SpaceX was born.

Within a few years, SpaceX had cut the price of launching a rocket by nearly 10x while still making a profit. Musk used first principles thinking to break the situation down to the fundamentals, bypass the high prices of the aerospace industry, and create a more effective solution.

https://jamesclear.com/first-principles


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