Monday, January 30, 2017

Dealing with information overload -updated

A lot of  people have read Tim Feriss's best seller book, Tools of the Titans, and found practical advice from Tim's guests, which are some of the world's top class performers.

I think an important issue to those interviewed was answering the question of how to deal with the information overload, which, make no mistake, kills productivity, joy and creativity.

What is it that you can do to put a stop to the information overload ? There is an incessant, unforgiving barrage of news and information that's like a world on acid.

Do you just apply better filters to your email and social media feeds ? Are you able to self censure yourself to reading emails only twice a day ? What about those hundreds of emails left unread or unanswered every day ? There is a tremendous amount of noise that is waiting to capture your attention, emotions and pull your decision-making. Add to that the clunk and gutter that your significant other is experiencing.

If you fancy yourself a top performer, you need to:

Ruthlessly cut out 4/5th of the information overload. This is no easy job. There are no "top-of-hour" news, ","trending","fake" news or "alternative" news. There are only relevant information and relevant people some of the time. When relevant people babble in non-sense, you need to switch off. You don't need to know when your neighbor gets a cold unless you shake their hands every day. Social media giants have transformed us into social media addicts. (anyone ever heard of Trump...). This addictive behavior has resulted into short attention spans and incapacity of concentration, especially from younger users.

Every man carries about him a touchstone, if he will make use of it, to distinguish substantial gold from superficial glitterings, truth from appearances. And indeed the use and benefit of this touchstone, which is natural reason, is spoiled and lost only by assuming prejudices, overweening presumption, and narrowing our minds. - John Locke

How many apps do you have on your phone that you barely used ? How about how many that you use for 1 hour or more ? -Unless you use those for work, those are your your biggest time killers.

Updated 02/2018

Social Media is NOT Real Life

Do you believe that TV is reality ? If you answered yes, you need to question your sanity and have an Alzheimer's check up.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Snake in a suit

The snake came in today dapper as always dressed in his expensive navy suit.

What are we doing today ?

Listening to this big CEO and his "United States of ME."

He puts everyone on emotional quicksand.

Perfunctory management of human capital. Guy is great in the waste management department.

"He is so transparent in his self interest that I kind of respect him." [quote borrowed from The Big Short movie]

Sounds like anyone you know ? (Any resemblance to actual characters is coincidental)

What are we doing today ?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inaugurating the top strategist alive, Max Cantor

Today was Inauguration Day: The greatest strategist alive, Max Cantor, was sworn in (just kidding, the Inauguration was that of the 45th President of the United States).

I can draw a parallel between the victory of Donald Trump and the disorientation felt by the global elites at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I think global elitism is anathema. The days for setting up glorious agendas that don't matter are behind. Most people seem to have the basic understanding that individual effort is the lever that works, and refuse to let a wack-a-doo or two do their show for them.

Davos Demystified

What is Davos ? Davos is a networking event by invitation only. Pure and simple: networking. The hush hush you read about is non-sense. I give you the real scoop, like no Harvard behavior economist does. If you've active in any profession, you would have gone to conferences or meetings. Networking is essential in business. So why are topdogs [sic] like Marc Benioff of or Stephen Schwarzman go there for ? They need no networking, one might say. That is the wrong thing to say, they still need networking. They are out to spread goodwill toward their causes, making the link between business and NGOs, for example, or art and science.  The background is PROMOTE. Promote your business, cause or perspective. The danger at Davos that nobody tells you about is the herd mentality ! Davos is prone to the same flaw that abounds everywhere else: the sheep mentality. That's where Davos participants go wrong, creating the myth of the 'DavosMan or Woman'. Some Davos folks believe they're somehow responsible for the wrong or right turns of the world and they have grown into some "guardians" of the galaxy. The man who only takes care of his parcel in life suffers not such illusion. It is an extraordinary sense of self aggrandizement that, paradoxically, induces "taking title" to the "state of the world". It's like taking ownership to the wind.  People shun simplicity and dream of glorious pandemonium.The simple man from the past did not suffer from that self delusion.

I personally like the SuperReturn Conference, in my field, better. The vibe is different. It is a healthier, better working environment. Just like Davos, SuperReturn has different series on different continents and is coming up in February.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Greenlight Capital Q4 2016 Letter, L/S perspective

Greenlight Capital (GC) Q4 letter, is a good read-always and especially now. Einhorn has remarkable prescience and he didn't do too badly either. GC generated 9% of gross alpha for 2016.

He has lost money on shorts, shorting tobacco firm Reynolds American (RAI). Shorting tobacco "can be hazardous to portfolio health" and it was.

His leading long winners were CONSOL Energy (CNX), CC, Time Warner (TWX), GM, Michael Kors (KORS) and Apple (AAPL). He considers GM, now trading at less than 6X earnings, undervalued.

Greenhorn likes the prospects of Bayern (BAYN) whether it will complete a proposed merger with Monsanto or not.

Short: oil frackers, which are not helped by the proposed tax-cuts of the Trump Presidency since "they don't pay much taxes". O&G "drill-baby-drill" prospects in the Trump era would lead to investing more money while oil prices would still be down. GC is short on CAT. "Even in an U.S. infrastructure boom, CAT is overpriced."

GC is is also short the "bubble basket". That includes NETFLIX (NFLX) whose "domestic market has matured." Einhorn doesn't believe NFLX large investments in paid content creation have paid off. I disagree with that, I think as more content gets consumed on mobile, there's more for Netflix.

Gold is another holding for GC. Gold is a typical safety flight asset.

                                                      GM: Good Buy ?


Not responsible for errors. This site does not offer any investment advice, training or solutions. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Keep Moving

Someone once told me that legendary Sisyphus was not punished, but in fact, rewarded by the Gods by having to push up the giant boulder uphill for eternity. That someone even kept a Sisyphus man and boulder miniature replica on his desk. You can read about the various interpretations of the legend of Sisyphus, most of which see terrible punishment of unrewarded labor. What if Sisyphus boulder wasn't a horrible sweatshop job but the inevitable way of moving forward. Albert Camus concluded "one must imagine Sisyphus happy" as "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart." (Wikipedia)

King Sisyphus wasn't just accused of any violation: he stood guilty of assuming his cleverness surpassed that of mighty Zeus himself. Punishment is not punishment until one agrees to make it so. I think Sisyphus was more astute than given credit by most historians and scholars, with the exception of Camus.

If Sisyphus can push forward, what stops you from moving ? Have you "reached the top" ? There is another top. Improvement never stops. Improvement never fails.

And since it is MLK day today,

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Negotiations: Can't top this

"[You] can't top this" is a line I used to attain an advantage in countless negotiations. I'd set out my agenda, escalating point-by-point. You can't top this. I let it set so they have the last word.

Sometimes I throw my counter-parties a bone [no sweetener] to see if they bite.  If they don't bite I go back to square one. What's the difference between a bone and a sweetener ? A sweetener is something you cannot take back. A bone, if not accepted, leaves you under no obligation than you were before you offered it.

Case in point of a brilliant negotiator: Rex Tillerson, ex-Exxon CEO known to employ "temper tantrums and silent stare-offs" {WSJ) "Anger is a strategy, not an emotion." Tillerson avoided "projecting American superiority" when negotiating in far-flung places, he was "keeping it real" avoiding the emotional factor that would erode fair dealing.

"Keep your eyes on the prize", "Negotiating is a lot like dating", you often hear. In dating, women make the man prove himself.  Is that what you need to do when making deals ? Make the other party prove themselves ? It depends. If you want an emotional decision, make them prove themselves, but if you do not, stay away like hell. Patriotism or nationalism are not emotional motives to be triggered lightly. If you deal with the Russians or the Chinese and evoke nationalism, you quite possibly pulled the wrong lever. The host is always right in the host country.

At the negotiating table, everyone needs to be able to tap into their resources. If where [they] are right now is a pain point, I encourage them to let it out. "I'm here to help." I make it sure my counter-party knows that. If I'm dealing with a party that's so white-shoed they're sparkling, stick a fork in it and you're done. People "dry as a dead dingos donger" are not my favs.  I like to build people up. If someone looks like they're helpful but unsure of themselves, I want to see them empowered. In negotiations, if you empower people, you may have already won.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Opinion: Ray Dalio and the way Bridgewater Associates operates

If you're not familiar with a WSJ article on Bridgewater Associates (BA) culture, click the link. Today, Henry Blodget of Business Insider published a Q&A interview with Ray Dalio which represents Dalio's rebuttal to the earlier Journal report. I'll comment on BA's self described "idea meritocratic way" and Dalio's apparent critique of the original report.

I thought Bradley Hope's and Rob Copeland's WSJ report was fair, informative, judiciously researched and well put together. Of course, Dalio is struggling with having to organize a bureaucracy of 1500 or so employees and his problems are not unique but very much common.

The WSJ piece is good journalism that does not deserve criticism as "biased news". Here are my observations on Dalio's Q&A and the way he described operating at BA :

1. Peoples management should not be the employee focus. While the "culture of radical transparency" is a seductive idea, spending time reviewing co-worker and personnel files is a waste of time for employees that work outside HR and that are not your immediate supervisor.

2. The letter where the employee wrote "I love you Ray" is not the letter he should have quoted in the interview.

3. Ray has some 210 Principles laid out into three sections -it is good to have a layout, a structure. I will discuss those in greater detail when I have some more time, but I already have a problem with "Don't pick your battles'. Fight them all." I think Dalio is trying to engender himself into Eastern philosophy. My opinion, as a strategist, is that you need to pick your battles so that you don't expend energy needlessly. Examples: What do you win if you fight a fool ? Or do you go into a battle with an adversary that's bigger and stronger than you ? I think fighting other peoples battles is a foolish way to live.

4. Let's suppose Ray has this idea to get everyone on the TM (Transcendental Meditation) train, and offers the course for free (it was around $1000 when I took it years ago), so that folks don't even have to pay for it. We know Ray practices and values that practice. Substitute for meditation with anything else, say, fencing, anyone ? that is deemed "beneficial" by management. What you will have is some folks hopping in for fear of not standing out. Someone might get criticized at the next video meeting. "How was TM ? Oh, well, not for me." Ummhh -wrong answer. Two points down. My point is the hunt for points (pun indented, BA has the points score system) doesn't necessarily create better people despite its best intentions.

5. The "idea meritocratic way" is not a fail-proof method. In a large organization there will inevitably be better employees and weaker ones riding the coattails. People are not supposed to be static. What I mean is BA should administer their personality and skills tests repeatedly, so that they can hopefully see shifts, next year, or next quarter, etc.

6. BA is using big data trying to homogenize its employee population. That's not unique to them, It's been seen and done in most large organizations.

7. Blodget missed to ask a very important question, which is how do Ex-Bridgewater employees fare after they leave. How successful are they ? How good are they when they open their own shops ? Answering that gives a better picture on how effective BA's ops manual is.

8. Dalio dodged the question Blodget asked on what he thought about Trump not accepting what some journalists write about him. "journalists...they try to write the truth in a fair way, and our President Elect, Donald Trump, doesn't like it or believe it. Have they done their job?" Dalio goes on rambling about how "the President must operate by rules..., if you pull rank, you lose all credibility, etc.". On this blog I wrote how Trump became the President of the United States by not playing by the rules. Also, we learned though the journalistic work at the Washington Post that Trump might have had a role model earlier in life, a shyster by the name of Ray Cohn.

9. It is not the job of the one that's interviewed to figure out the mindset of the person who's interviewing him. Why expend energy unnecessary ?

10. So is it See you Ray at the World Economic Forum in Davos this month ? Probably not. Also, for those of you that are looking for jobs at BA it's fair to say your chances are very close to none, since the firm has an internal hiring priority process system (as have many in the industry).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

CES 2017. In need of an office break ? Some Keto Chocolate Ice cream ?

If you're looking for Keto Chocolate Gelato /No ICECREAM Machine needed ! you'll need to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the comments...and be your own pastry chef.

CES2017 is going on in Las Vegas. Are you there ?

In need of an office break ?--->