Note to Readers: In Stream, we suggest worthwhile reading material on a variety of topics, not all of which are directly related to investing. Some of the articles require you to be paid subscriber of those sites. However, it is often possible to read such articles by going to Google News and searching for the article’s title.
Some nice stuff we are reading, watching, and observing at the start of this weekend…
- Marcus Aurelius on how to motivate yourself to get out of bed in the morning and go to work…
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
- One blogger who never fails to inspire me is Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. I have been reading him for the past seven years, and have also found mental stimulation in most of what he has written. Like this post that Leo wrote on what he has learned in 10 years of Zen Habits…
It’s been a decade filled with learning for me … too many things to put into one post. But as I’ve been reflecting on it all, I have a dozen or so notes I’d like to share with you.
Some of the things I’ve learned, starting with personal lessons and ending with lessons about my business:
Focus on intentions rather than goals. As you might know, I experimented with giving up goals after being very focused on goals for years. It was liberating, and it turns out, you don’t just do nothing if you don’t have a goal. You get up and focus on what you care about. Read more here. Instead, I’ve found it useful to focus less on the destination (goal) and instead focus on what your intention for each activity is. If you’re going to write something … instead of worrying about what the book will be like when you’re done, focus on why you want to write in the first place. If you are doing something out of love or to help others, for example, then you are freed from it needing to turn out a certain way (a goal) and instead can let it turn out however it turns out. I’ve found this way of working and living to be freeing and less prone to anxiety or procrastination.
- Businesses, especially young companies, often face this dilemma of choosing between growth and profits. Take the eight-year old Uber for instance. Revenues have continued to grow quickly, but the bottom line isn’t pretty. In fact, the company was on track to lose about US$ 3 billion in 2016 on net revenue of US$ 5.5 billion, according to Bloomberg News. That’s remarkable for a startup that has raised more than US$ 11 billion with scant capital costs — it does not own a global fleet of cars or much of other hard assets. Uber itself is valued at more than US$ 60 billion.
“I think Uber thought, ‘We have this platform — this app, this technology — that can be leveraged anywhere in the world, so let’s just go and conquer the world,’” says Wharton management professor Exequiel Hernandez, who wrote two case studies on Uber for his classes, based on interviews with executives. “What Uber underestimated were the costs that didn’t have to do with their technology and their business model, costs that have to do with the politics of being legitimate, [addressing] regulatory resistance and even cultural differences across markets.”
- It might be at an inflection point with the ongoing data wars, but it won’t be a smooth transition for the Indian telecom industry that has seen a painful evolution…
The latest figures following Reliance Jio’s September 2016 launch show just how painful it could be. Earlier this week, Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest telco, reported its lowest consolidated net profit in four years—Rs504 crore for the third quarter ended 31 December, as against Rs1,108 crore for the same period last year. Some of this was no doubt due to the currency-swap initiative. But the impact of the Reliance-triggered price war—profits for Idea Cellular, the country’s third largest mobile phone operator, fell 88% for the quarter ended September from the same period a year ago—is likely to reverberate through 2017 and well into 2018.
- A question that has reared its head time and again – Is value investing broken? – gets answered well here…
No. Value investing is not dead. There’s a tendency for people – people of any time – to see the time they live in as unique, dangerous, different, unlike any other age. In some ways, they are always right. Some things really are different this time from all other times. But, mostly, they’re wrong. And what they are wrong about is reading a golden age of stability into the past.
- I have long written about the lack of ethics in the stock broking industry, especially with analysts’ incentives not being in line with their clients who buy their recommendations. Now John Huber has written a nice post explaining the theory behind this reality…
…analysts are much more incentivized to write glowing reports about companies with “buy” ratings than risk getting their access to management (and their bonuses) cut off:
“It’s a decision I have to make on my sell-rated stocks: whether I will forgo the opportunity for corporate access, which clients will explicitly pay for,” says Laura Champine, a retail analyst at Roe Equity Research. Some previous bosses at other firms told her to “just drop coverage” instead of putting out sell ratings, she says, while declining to comment on where that happened.
“When your compensation is in part based on how many meetings you set up in a given year, it’s really tough to stick to your guns,” says Eric Hollowaty, a former analyst at Stephens Inc. who covered consumer companies.
- Charlie Munger says, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time. None. Zero.” Most of us understand this concept well, but when it comes to following it, most of us fail. And time constraints is not the only thing you must blame for not reading. Reading is a skill that most of us stop practicing early in life. But it remains a serious skill that must be cultivated over the years. Morgan Housel has done a wonderful work in compiling thoughts from a few serious readers on how to read. Here are just two of those thoughts that captured my attention, one of which asks you to, well, stop reading…
Josh Brown, Reformed Broker: I try to read as much as possible but these days, I’m down to maybe 10 books a year. I have two kids under 10 and I can’t lie down on a couch with a book knowing that they’re growing up so fast in the room next door. I’ve resolved to get over the fact that I have to read less books during these years, and I’ll pick it back up to where I was in my 20’s as soon as they’re sick of me. As far as material, I like anything historical – literature, biographies, novels. I stopped reading so many financial books because I feel like there isn’t that much more to be said about fear and greed that hasn’t already been written. I don’t do the note taking thing anymore, although I will highlight sections on my kindle. I never remember to go back to them. I’m just trying to enjoy what I read now, it’s okay if I don’t retain every detail. Not sure you’re meant to.
Carl Richards, Behavior Gap: I have a crazy thought for you. There is a time to stop reading. I feel like I am entering one of those seasons. It is a season for creation. I *think *reading all the time might be a bit over rated. We all run around singing it’s praises, because Warren , and Bill, and Barack do it…We make lists, we compete on how many books we read (I read 52 a year…oh I read 52 a week). I know this sounds CRAZY, but all this reading can dampen the ability to listen to deeper wisdom that comes from being quiet and not consuming anything.
Reading might be like lifting heavy weights in the gym. The lifting doesn’t make you stronger. The lifting actually tears the muscles apart. It is the rest and recovery AFTER the lifting that makes you stronger. So lift. But then stop and recover.
- Vladimir Nabokov, the author of Lolita tells us –
Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it.
When we read a book for the first time, the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. Only on a third or fourth reading do we start behaving toward a book as we would toward a painting, holding it all in the mind at once.
Then, Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote this in one of his letters to his friend Lucilius –
Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. 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. Everywhere means nowhere.
One lesson I have learned over the years is that while it’s a good idea to read stuff across domains and authors, if you are unsure of what to start and where to focus your intellectual capacities on, consider the super-texts. Read them once, and then read them again…and again…and you will do just fine.
The idea is to not be in perpetual locomotion and jump from one book or author to another…but to sit back, contemplate, and relate the facts you read to each other.
But start reading if you haven’t already, and start now, or you would miss out on the huge compounding benefits of the same as years pass.
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