Newsletter 12

I'll likely be toning down the book reading over the next couple weeks as I wrap up actuarial exams, but I still got through three shorter books this week. This week I'll be focusing on high quality content and wrapping up a couple of posts on the actuarial profession that I've been wrestling with. Reflect on the work that's most important to you. Go for a walk. Clear your head. Try writing.

Have a great week.



Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday - I was surprised at how much I wrote down from this book and spent time reflecting on. I listened to a podcast with the author a month or two ago, and the podcast didn't give this book enough justice. The example involving JFK was fascinating, but what really struck me was a few specific lines on escapism. Holiday says we should avoid escapism. Instead of disconnecting from reality, we should be mindful of what we're trying to escape from and find ways to reflect. He mentioned going on walks and wrestling with your thoughts. It reminded me a lot of Jobs. The book was enjoyable, and I plan on spending more time reflecting on it.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou - I've read a lot about Theranos prior to reading this book, but I figured it was time to read this as well. There is not a lot new to be gained that you can't find in more condensed forms elsewhere. The Dropout covers it well, and there's also a documentary on HBO. Reading Jobs a few weeks ago and now reading this, you can really tell how much Elizabeth idolized Jobs. The similarities are jarring. She had a similar reality distortion field, but she couldn't execute on her vision.

The Four by Scott Galloway - This was such an odd book. There are better resources to understand each of the companies and how they operate. The book transitions to taking those operating methods and tries to generalize them into concepts of successful companies. It then goes on to discuss concepts related to individual success. This book is a cash grab capitalizing on brand recognition and buzzwords. Avoid.


Some extraordinary episodes from this week:

How Instagram Delighted 1 Billion Users….but Almost Didn't - Starting Greatness

The water we swim in - Exponent

A New Way to Combat Bias at Work - HBR Ideacast

Trust Falls - Your Undivided Attention

Matt Clifford – Investing Pre-Company - Invest Like the Best

Steven Strogatz: Exploring Curiosities - The Knowledge Project

Don’t Do What You Like - Not So Standard Deviations


Peter Thiel on “The Portal”, Episode #001: “An Era of Stagnation & Universal Institutional Failure.”

Thiel is a controversial figure, but he's a smart guy that you can learn a lot from. This is long, but it's worthwhile (maybe speed it up to 1.5x).

Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow, Deep Learning, and AI - Lex Fridman

Lex has a unique interview style if you aren't used to him, but I enjoy his line of questioning and how he tries to hit on topics related to Kahneman's field while also hitting on some of the more philosophical and metaphysical questions that Lex enjoys asking.

Mark Blyth - Global Trumpism and the Future of the Global Economy

Mark has strong opinions related to political economics. He's a funny guy but also knowledgeable. If you're at all interested in economics and geopolitics, you should give this a watch.


Why I Keep a Research Blog - Anyone who starts off with quoting Feynman is okay in my book. The power of writing can't be understated. I'd recommend everyone to keep some sort of journal. That could be a blog or just a notebook. Write down your decisions and why. Write down the problems you're trying to tackle. It will be beneficial. I promise.

The No Code Delusion - I've been wrestling with similar thoughts in the actuarial domain. There are pros and cons to code and “no code”. I prefer a code approach, and there are ways of making it accessible to a larger audience if you develop it in a thought out way. I've run in to too much of this in my career:

Projects often begin with a “prototype”, to show the platform can do it. These are very quick to put together, and fulfil 80% of the brief. Success? Sadly, no - as coders know, the devil is in the details.

With someone else’s platform, you often end up needing to construct elaborate work-arounds for missing functionality, or indeed cannot implement a required feature at all.

Avoiding burnout as an ambitious developer - Burn out is something I'm all too aware of, and it's something we should all be cognizant of in our day-to-day.

you don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

We all should take the time to internalize this.

Three Theories for Why You Have No Time - I would tease out a fourth theory: you're lying to yourself and others. You do have time.

  1. Better technology means higher expectations—and higher expectations create more work.
  2. A lot of modern overwork is class and status maintenance—for this generation and the next.
  3. Technology only frees people from work if the boss—or the government, or the economic system—allows it.

Calculating Delta Risks and Hedges via Waves - A short paper from a few years ago talking about “waves” to calculate delta risk and hedges. The method is running scenario sensitivities. It seems like an intuitive approach.

Law of triviality - Most people in the enterprise can relate to this in one way or another.

The terms bicycle-shed effect, bike-shed effect, and bike-shedding were coined as metaphors to illuminate the law of triviality

We should all work on pushing back on this kind of thinking.

Visa, Plaid, Networks, and Jobs - It'll be interesting to see if Plaid ends up being integrated into Visa as Ben expects. It's an interesting move by Visa, but I wonder if they acquired them just for the ridiculous amount of consumer behavior Plaid has access to..

That's it for this week.

Are there any topics or concepts you'd like me to write more about? Send any suggestions to

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