Alex Raichev

Ira Glass on Storytelling


Ira's sage advice, which comes in four video parts, pertains to other creative endeavors as well.

Video sourced from YouTube here.

Author: Alex Raichev
Date: 2019-05-31
Tags: video, advice
Permalink, Comment

Poor Charlie's Almanack

I recently read Poor Charlie's Almanack, a collection of the wit and wisdom of investor Charles Munger. The book's content is summarized tolerably well in Munger's Wikipedia biography and the following free resources.

Munger's investment checklist

  1. Measure risk. All investment evaluations should begin by measuring risk, especially reputational.

    • Incorporate an appropriate margin of safety
    • Avoid dealing with people of questionable character
    • Insist upon proper compensation for risk assumed
    • Always beware of inflation and interest rate exposures
    • Avoid big mistakes and shun permanent capital loss
  2. Be independent. Only in fairy tales are emperors told they're naked.

    • Objectivity and rationality require independence of thought
    • Remember that just because other people agree or disagree with you doesn't make you right or wrong. The only thing that matters is the correctness of your analysis and judgment.
    • Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance)
  3. Prepare ahead. The only way to win is to work, work, work, and hope to have a few insights.

    • Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading. Cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day.
    • More important than the will to win is the will to prepare
    • Develop fluency in mental models from the major academic disciplines
    • If you want to get smart, the question you have to keep asking is "Why, why, why?"
  4. Have intellectual humility. Acknowledging what you don't know is the dawning of wisdom.

    • Stay within a well-defined circle of competence
    • Identify and reconcile disconfirming evidence
    • Resist the craving for false precision, false certainties, etc.
    • Above all, never fool yourself, and remember that you are the easiest person to fool
  5. Analyze rigorously. Use effective checklists to minimize errors and omissions.

    • Determine value apart from price, progress apart from activity, and wealth apart from size
    • It is better to remember the obvious than to grasp the esoteric
    • Be a business analyst, not a market, macroeconomic, or security analyst
    • Consider totality of risk and effect. Look always at potential second order and higher level impacts.
    • Think forwards and backwards. Invert, always invert.
  6. Allocate assets wisely. Proper allocation of capital is an investor's number one job.

    • Remember that highest and best use is always measured by the next best use (opportunity cost)
    • Good ideas are rare. When the odds are greatly in your favor, bet (allocate) heavily
    • Don't fall in love with an investment. Be situation-dependent and opportunity-driven.
  7. Have patience. Resist the natural human bias to act.

    • "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world" (Einstein). Never interrupt it unnecessarily.
    • Avoid unnecessary transactional taxes and frictional costs. Never take action for its own sake.
    • Be alert for the arrival of luck
    • Enjoy the process along with the proceeds, because the process is where you live
  8. Be decisive. When proper circumstances present themselves, act with decisiveness and conviction.

    • Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful
    • Opportunity doesn't come often, so seize it when it comes
    • Opportunity meeting the prepared mind. That's the game
  9. Be ready for change. Live with change and accept unremovable complexity.

    • Recognize and adapt to the true nature of the world around you. Don't expect it to adapt to you
    • Continually challenge and willingly amend your best-loved ideas
    • Recognize reality even when you don't like it, especially when you don't like it
  10. Stay focused. Keep it simple and remember what you set out to do.

    • Remember that reputation and integrity are your most valuable assets and can be lost in a heartbeat
    • Guard against the effects of hubris and boredom
    • Don't overlook the obvious by drowning in minutiae
    • Be careful to exclude unneeded information or slop. "A small leak can sink a great ship" (Benjamin Franklin)
    • Face your big troubles. Don't sweep them under the rug.

Munger talk: A lesson on elementary, worldly wisdom as it relates to investment management and business

Transcript here.

In this talk Munger introduces his latticework of mental models for worldly wisdom and recommends that you build your own. He describes several of his models, including compound interest and the basics of algebra, combinatorics, probability, statistics, accounting, microeconomics, and psychology. He doesn't enumerate all his models in this talk or in the rest of the almanack or on the internet, as far as i know. But you can get more ideas from Farnam Street's list of mental models, which is inspired by Munger.

Update 2018-01-26: Here is another collection of mental models assembled by Slava Akhmechet.

Munger talk: Academic economics: strengths and faults after considering interdisciplinary needs

Transcript here.

Munger talk: The psychology of human misjudgment

Transcript here.

In this talk Munger lists 25 human psychological tendencies (cognitive biases), some of their problems, and some of their antidotes. Hint: Add these tendencies to your latticework of mental models and use them in checklist mode to avoid disasters in judgement.

Below is an audio recording from an earlier version of the talk (circa 1995), in case you want to hear Munger's voice.


Audio sourced from YouTube here.

Author: Alex Raichev
Date: 2017-12-28
Tags: book, advice
Permalink, Comment

Lessons Learned from a Bicycle Accident

Last week i wiped out on my usual bicycle ride home from work. Nothing hospital-serious, but i did sustain three nasty abrasions (gory photo) on my arm and leg, red badges of negligence as i will explain.

During my recovery i learned several important lessons that i pass on here as advice in hopes that it may help you and my future self.

  1. If you want to take tight turns on a bicycle, check that the tires have enough air, e.g. have pressures within the suggested ranges printed on the sidewalls. Through carelessness i let my front tire deflate so much that it collapsed on a tight turn, pulling the bike out from under me and throwing me to the ground. Additionally, if you want to corner at high speeds, you should look through the turn, brake before entering, lean the bike in a separate phase, and exit with speed and confidence.

  2. If you have an abrasion, burn, or laceration, practice moist wound care to speed up healing, reduce pain, and reduce scarring compared to other wound care practices. More details from a hospital unit in Japan that practices the method.

  3. Moist wound care can be cheap and natural, according to various traditional practices, case studies, and clinical trials i read about on the internet.

    • To clean the wound, you can use clean water with a pinch of salt. Avoid strong antiseptics, such as iodine or hydrogen peroxide, because they are toxic to all cells, including the ones needed for healing.
    • To help prevent infection and keep the wound moist, you can apply virgin coconut oil to the wound topically several times a day, or maybe some other traditional ointments, such as turmeric paste, aloe vera, or honey. I found many historical and anectdotal reports and a little clinical research suggesting that these ointments help. For the first 48 hours of treatment, i applied UMF 15+ manuka honey to my wound, but after near continuous intense burning and little sleep, i stopped. The pain disappeared immediately and never returned. A few days later and for the rest of my treatment i used coconut oil. In the future i will avoid strongly antibacterial honeys.
    • To further keep the wound moist and protect it from dirt and scratches, you can use banana leaves or potato skins held fast to the wound with cloth bandages and secured by a clip. Be sure to sterilize the leaves or skins by boiling them for at least 20 minutes or steaming them in a pressure cooker for at least 15 minutes. You can also sterilize the cloth wrap by the same methods and then dry it out in the oven or sun; video instructions here. While you are hunting for banana leaves or potato skins, you can wrap the wound with plastic cling film, which is sterile and non-adherent. I would not use plastic wrap as a long-term solution, though, lest the plastic leech some toxic chemicals into the wound. I used banana leaves foraged from trees in my neighborhood and vouch for their merciful non-adherence. Here is some research on banana leaf dressing.
  4. Take internal medicine while healing. Zinc (from food or supplements) for boosting the immune system, vitamin C (from food or supplements) to help your body make new skin, and anti-inflamatories, such as fresh turmeric and ginger infusion, in case your immune response gets out of hand.

  5. Look out for signs of infection: extreme wound swelling, extreme pain, swollen lymph nodes, fever. The treatment above will help your immune system battle infection, but if it appears to be losing after the first few days of care, then you might need to enlist the help of strong antibiotics. In that case, seek trained medical assistance.

Author: Alex Raichev
Date: 2017-02-26
Tags: advice
Permalink, Comment

How to Eat Better

I think Ran Prieur sums it up well in the following points, which he elaborates on his webpage here.

Author: Alex Raichev
Date: 2017-02-06
Tags: advice
Permalink, Comment

Doomsday Planning for Less Crazy Folk

A good guide by Michal Zalewski here

Author: Alex Raichev
Date: 2016-04-01
Tags: advice
Permalink, Comment

The Retro Future

In his latest essay, Archdruid John Michael Greer offers advice on constructive action that individuals can take now amid the staircase decline of industrial civilization:

The essay can be found on his blog, The Archdruid Report, here and summarizes well the themes of the blog.

Author: Alex Raichev
Date: 2015-04-18
Tags: advice, resilience
Permalink, Comment

Advice from Ran Prieur

"For the record, here's what I practice and preach: 1) Make money the easiest way available to you, short of crime. 2) If you radically reduce your spending, you will not have to make as much money, and you might find that the sacrifices of low spending are more meaningful and empowering than the sacrifices of high earning. 3) The most valuable use of money, after basic survival, is to carve out a small space where you can pursue quality of life on your own terms."

Author: Alex Raichev
Date: 2014-07-27
Tags: advice
Permalink, Comment

7 Rules for Communicating Clearly and Concisely in Email

Written by Leo Babauta 2007-10-05

As email is the prevalent form of communication for many web workers, it’s gotten a lot of attention: how to handle your email, how to empty your inbox, email etiquette, and more.

But perhaps not enough time is spent learning about how to communicate with email. And more specifically, how to communicate clearly and concisely, two crucial aspects of communication that are often overlooked.

How many times have you received a rambling and incoherent email? How many times have you hit “Delete” because you have no idea what the person wants and no time to sort through the long message?

The truth is that people don’t have time for long emails, and they don’t have time to try to find out exactly what you want. You have to tell them, in as short an email as possible.

Misunderstandings are also a problem, because of the nature of email. People are often ambiguous, and their messages are interpreted differently than they intended, leading to a waste of time and energy.

Communicate clearly and concisely with the following rules.

  1. Use the minimum amount of sentences. I’ve been using the 5-sentence rule, but you can use more if needed. The question is: how many sentences are needed to communicate what you’re trying to communicate? Or how few sentences can you get away with. Cut it to that number, and no more. That ensures that you’re not wasting the time of the recipient, and that your email actually gets read (people tend to put off reading longer ones, and might even delete them).

  2. State what you want right away. Don’t write a long introduction, telling your life story, or any story for that matter. People aren’t interested. They just want to know what you want. So state that, in the first sentence. Skip the niceties. Don’t make the recipient wade through 10 paragraphs to find what action is needed for the email.

  3. Write about only one thing. There have been numerous times when I read an email, saw the action needed, and went and did it … only to find out that three other things were also needed to respond to the email. I’ve also responded to the first part of an email and not to others, just because I didn’t have enough time.

    If you write about multiple things, with multiple requests, you do two things: 1) make it likely that your email actually won’t be read or acted on; and 2) make it likely that even if it is acted on or responded to, the recipient will only do one of those things.

    Instead, stick to one subject, with one request. Once that’s done, you can send a second one, but don’t overwhelm the recipient if at all possible.

  4. Leave out the humor and emotions. These don’t come across well in an email. Even if you use emoticons. There’s just no way to express tone, inflection, etc. … and there’s no way to know if the recipient understands that you’re joking. If you’re communicating in person, you can see that the person didn’t understand the humor, and say, “I was only joking!” But not in email.

    So, unless you know the person well, and you know they’ll understand that you’re joking, leave out humor. It’s a risk that you don’t want to take.

  5. Use “If... then” statements. As email is a back-and-forth method of communicating, and it can take a day or more for a response (in some cases), you want to limit the number of times a message has to go back and forth. To do that, use “if … then” statements, anticipating the possible responses to your question.

    For example, if you want to know if a person has received a response to an inquiry, instead of asking if they’ve received a response, and then waiting for a reply, and then sending another email based on that reply, try doing it all in one email:

    “Have you received a response from Mr. X yet? If so, please finish the report by Tuesday and email it to me. If not, can you follow up today and let me know the response?”

    By anticipating the possible responses, and giving a desired action for each possible response, you’re cutting a lot of wasted back-and-forth time.

  6. Review for ambiguity, clarity. Once you’ve written an email, take a few seconds to read over it before pressing the Send button. Read it as if you were an outsider — how clear it it? Are there any ambiguous statements that could be interpreted the wrong way? If so, clarify.

  7. Revise for conciseness. As you review, also see if there is a way you can shorten the email, remove words or sentences or even paragraphs. Leave nothing but the essential message you’re trying to communicate.

Author: Alex Raichev
Date: 2012-04-24
Tags: advice
Permalink, Comment

Why no comments? I used to do public comments but found that moderating and maintaining them took too much time in front of the computer, time better spent playing outdoors. So these days I only do private comments, that is, you can email me comments regarding a post by clicking the 'Comment' link at the bottom of the post.