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The Digest #91
Happy New Year!
“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”
— James Clear, Atomic Habits
Happy New Year!
Today marks the first day of 2022 and the second anniversary of the Rational Reflections newsletter. Over the past two years, there have been exactly one hundred emails sent out to subscribers. The newsletter recently surpassed 4,100 subscribers which was up 21 percent for 2021. It is more interesting to write for a larger audience, so thanks to everyone who has subscribed.
If you like the newsletter, you can share it with your friends or colleagues and if you find a specific post valuable, hitting the like button improves the newsletter ranking in Substack’s algorithm and makes it more visible to people browsing for content. As always, feel free to use the comment feature to provide feedback on any post.
In addition to the newsletter, over the past two years I have published fifty articles on The Rational Walk website. In general, I post longer-form essays on The Rational Walk website and reserve shorter format content for the newsletter. However, it is sometimes difficult to decide where to post content. So, for 2022, I have decided that everything I write will be sent out to Rational Reflections subscribers.
When I first started The Rational Walk thirteen years ago, almost all of the content was related to financial markets and investing. Sometimes I posted several short articles every day on transient topics in the news. I no longer do that type of writing because I don’t think it adds much value. Such content can be easily found elsewhere.
Although I still follow the investing world almost every day and will write about companies and markets from time to time, my focus in the future will be on history, philosophy, politics, current events, and book reviews.
Thanks again for reading!
Cultivating Habits in Good Soil, February 8, 2021. I read James Clear’s Atomic Habits early last year after reading many positive reviews. I am skeptical of most “self-help” literature, but Clear’s book provides great value with several actionable insights that could help you achieve your goals for the new year. (The Rational Walk)
Warren Buffett tells Bernie Sanders he won’t intervene in strike by Jacob Pramuk, December 30, 2021. On December 28, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders sent a letter to Warren Buffett to request Buffett’s personal involvement in a strike at a Precision Castpasts subsidiary. Warren Buffett sent a reply to Senator Sanders noting that Berkshire’s corporate headquarters will not interfere in the management of a subsidiary. He also mentioned Berkshire’s good labor relations in several subsidiaries and provided references of other Senators who Sen. Sanders could speak to about Berkshire’s track record. (CNBC)
30 Years After the Soviet Fall, Capitalism Kept an Imperfect Promise by Vitaliy Katsenelson, December 23, 2021. Prominent value investor Vitaliy Katsenelson tells the story of his family’s arrival in the United States in late 1991, right “off the boat” from Russia. “Money solves money problems. It doesn’t make people love you; your actions do. Money, just like education, is supposed to buy you choices. It should provide security. The first few years in the U.S., my parents worried how we were going to pay for groceries and rent. We don’t have that worry today—and that is liberating.” (Barron’s)
The $900 Billion Cash Pile Inflating Startup Valuations by Amrith Ramkumar and Eliot Brown, December 27, 2021. The world is awash in cash with interest rates deep in negative territory in real terms. So, it is not surprising that cash is finding its way into speculative situations, as this article describes. Some of these startups quickly seek to cash in via IPOs which generated a record year in 2021 but two-thirds of them now sit below their offer price. Nevertheless, broad market indices dominated by large capitalization stocks ended the year near record highs. (WSJ)
TikTok Diagnosis Videos Leave Some Teens Thinking They Have Rare Mental Disorders by Julie Jargon, December 26, 2021. Over the past few months, the Wall Street Journal has published numerous articles regarding the devastating impact of social media on young people. This is only the latest revelation of the harm that comes from social media firms that appear to care not at all about the mental or physical health of young people if some incremental advertising revenue is at stake. The problem is compounded when the perpetrator is a company domiciled in a communist country at odds with the United States. Americans can justifiably question whether at least some of the deleterious effects of TikTok are not accidental. (WSJ)
How Philosophers Think by David Perell. I think that this excerpt regarding the effect of social media is right on target: “As appealing as it sounds in theory, people are scared to think like a philosopher in practice. Social media has turned so many into public relations professionals who pursue likeability instead of truth. That’s why people speak along pre-vetted party lines and silence their edgy ideas. First to others, later to themselves. When anything you say online can be instantly accessed with a Google search, the costs of independent thinking aren’t worth the benefits to most people.” (Perell.com)
How Parking Destroys Cities by Michael Manville, May 18, 2021. This article resonated with me because a building in my neighborhood is set to be torn down and replaced. A major point of contention in the process involves the amount of parking that will be provided. “The trouble with parking requirements is twofold. First, they don’t do what they’re supposed to, which is prevent curb congestion. Because curb parking is convenient and usually free, drivers fill up the curb first, no matter how much off-street space exists nearby. Second—and more consequential—parking requirements attack the nature of the city itself, by subordinating density to the needs of the car.” (The Atlantic)
This Mini Berkshire Hathaway Flies Under the Radar. And Its Stock Is Cheap by Andrew Bary, December 30, 2021. This is an interesting article about Graham Holdings, the successor to The Washington Post Company which was renamed when the Graham family sold the newspaper to Jeff Bezos in 2013. Graham Holdings is a mini-conglomerate that Andrew Bary has written about before. Although comparisons to Berkshire Hathaway might be stretched, it is true that the Graham family has been heavily influenced by Warren Buffett over the years. Berkshire no longer holds its shares in the company. (Barron’s)
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