“Are you listening or are you just waiting to talk?”
- General Tony Thomas, Invest Like the Best 3/8/21
Inspired by this incredible quote, I have been thinking a lot about listening recently. In conversation, I sometimes find myself so focused on how I want to respond that I miss what the other person is saying. This bad habit hinders my goal of continuous learning and so I am working to improve my listening. Here are three sources that I have found useful:
The Billionaire's Vinegar: Benjamin Wallace (HT Jeff Kalicka from Mangrove Capital)- An interesting story that weaves history (Thomas Jefferson’s wine obsession), the intricacies of a niche market (obscure fine wine collecting) and the impact of a variety of cognitive biases.
By my count, this story exemplifies the following biases from Charlie Munger’s Psychology of Human Misjudgement : Liking & Loving, Envy & Jealousy, Reciprocation, Influence from Association, Social Proof, Authority-Misinfluence, and Lollapalooza. Also, it’s a fun read for people who enjoy wine.
Setting the Table: Danny Meyer (HT Elliot Turner from RGAIA)- Renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer shares the lessons he learned in building iconic restaurants like Union Square Café, 11 Madison Park and Shake Shack. His philosophy of Enlighted Hospitality provides many useful lessons for businesspeople in all industries who are looking to better serve their customers, employees and other key stakeholders.
How Katie Ledecky is Better at Swimming than Anyone is at Anything- This article is almost 5 years old but remains an incredible profile of one of the premier athletes in sports and her drive for perfection as she toiled to shave hundredths of seconds off her times when she was already winning by several seconds. At the time of the article, Ledecky had dominated an unprecedented variety of events in women’s swimming by the largest margins seen in international sports despite have a physiology that the USOC described as “remarkably unremarkable”. I also loved the final quote from her coach in response to an article that about Katie’s training secrets… “Just do the damn work”.
How I lost $10,000,000: Andrew Wilkinson- People generally only like to share their success stories, especially on social media where it appears that every investor has market trouncing returns and no errors. I believe however that there is much more to be gained from studying failures instead of successes and loved Andrew’s tweetstorm about his failure at Flow. A must read for every investor and anyone who is thinking about starting a business.
The Man Who Invented the Zamboni- As a hockey player and fan, this article scratched an itch given the amount of time I have watched Zambonis circle the ice. This story describes an inventor who kept tinkering to solve problems and ended up transforming an industry. He’s also one of the few inventors who can say that his name became synonymous with his product.
What They Were Saying About Amazon in 1999- A fun trip down memory lane to see what Wall Street was saying about Amazon in 1999. This clip a valuable reminder of the importance of management because the strategic changes they make will have a huge impact on future results. The Amazon of today (AWS, Prime, Marketplace) is wildly different than the online bookstore that these investors were discussing in 1999 and its clear that those management decisions have driven a lot of additional value.
Unaided Eye Can See 0.000004% of the Milky Way- We can only see a tiny part of our own galaxy and it is estimated that there at least ~125 billion galaxies in total (with some estimates being materially higher). The scale of the universe always blows my mind.
A Short History of Nearly Everything: Bill Bryson- A Short History provides a fascinating tour of the history of a large number of scientific topics and theories. From deep discussions of physics to geology and everything in between, Bryson delivers a ton of information in a very readable (and often funny) package. A great combination of information and entertainment.
The Inner Game of Tennis: W. Timothy Gallwey- While the focus of this book is tennis, it is truly applicable for anyone seeking to improve their performance in any athletic or performance endeavor. Gallwey provides both theory and specific insights to help improve any kind of performance.
What Are You Laughing At? : Dan O'Shannon (HT Dan McMurtrie from Tyro Capital)- For anyone who has ever been curious about the structure of a joke. It also falls under the category of books that are not ostensibly about investing but will certainly help make you a better investor.
Reverse Engineering the Source Code of the Pfizer Vaccine- A fascinating article that takes a detailed look at the source code of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine similar to the way one might deconstruct a computer program. I had to read it several times but it was an incredible look at DNA/RNA, the production of vaccines broadly and the specific Pfizer vaccine.
The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al- It feels weird to describe an article about Weird Al as a portrait of an artist given that he only sings parodies. But this article is a great look at a craftsman who had an incredible passion for perfecting his music. I especially loved the discussion of Weird Al’s obsession with tweaking lyrics to find the exact right combinations.
Ric Elias- Peter Attia Podcast (HT Graham Duncan from East Rock Capital)- Ric was a passenger on the US Airways Flight that landed in the East River. In this discussion with Peter Attia, he reflects on how that experience changed how he lived his life. One of the few podcasts I have listened to more than once and I have incorporated a few of Ric’s concepts (ex. be a “collector of bad wines”) in my daily life.
Rob Delaney on Grief- Actor/comedian Rob Delaney’s short discussion of losing his son Henry to brain cancer manages to be incredibly sad while also being a life-affirming reminder of what is truly important. It makes me want to find someone I care deeply about and give them a hug.
Brazilian Pianist in Bionic Gloves- As a result of numerous injuries, Brazilian pianist Joao Carlos Martins lost the ability to move his fingers and could not play the piano for over two decades. Recently, he was given a pair of bionic gloves which allowed him to play again. A great example of the progress being made.