Good Reading -- February 2019
New writing effort I'm writing about once a month on a range of business- and investing-related topics. I'm trying to improve my writing and all feedback is welcome. I will post everything on the website and on Medium (https://medium.com/@pordway), and I'll also distribute via email. Thank you in advance for the help! Quoted "The business schools used to pose it as a conundrum. They would say, `Well, who comes first? Your employees, your shareholders, or your customers?' But it's not a conundrum. Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that." -- Herb Kelleher Books
The Rebel Allocator -- I didn't know what to think about this book. A novel about capital allocation? To my surprise I read the whole thing and liked it. The format won't be for everyone, but this is a unique and thoughtful treatment of fundamental topics in business and investing. I also agree with Charlie Munger that this would make for a great screenplay. (Munger read the book and called the author, as told by Jason Zweig.) The author sent me a galley copy, but I would gladly buy or recommend this book (especially for/to students and especially in the current environment).
Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion -- This book is more than 20 year old, but it well worth the time to re-read it if you first went through it a decade ago like I did. I'd put this in my top 10 business biographies, especially for pattern-recognition -- the overlap with other great businesses is impossible to miss. Others in the category:
Sol Price (a direct influence cited by HD)
Made in America (Sam Walton also had a direct influence on HD)
Pride in Performance
Half Luck and Half Brains
Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won -- This book is several years old but it is fun to read and has something for everyone (especially the Moneyball and sports-analytics crowd). Thanks to Sam for the thoughtful gift!
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President -- I really, really liked the author's first book, and this one gets just as many rave reviews on Amazon, but it didn't quite click for me.
The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson's Archives: On a Presidential Paper Trail -- Robert Caro is one of the best historians and writers in the world, and this article is one of the best things I've read in a long, long time. It looks at some behind-the-scenes details of his research on Lyndon Johnson, but it's about a lot more than that.
“Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page.”
"I will never forget that night. It was the first time I had ever gone through files. I felt at home. As I went through the memos and the letters and the minutes of meetings, I could see a pattern emerging. There are certain moments in your life when you suddenly understand something about yourself. I loved going through those files, making them yield their secrets to me."
"I am constantly being asked why it takes me so long to finish my books. Well, it’s the research that takes the time—the research and whatever it is in me that makes the research take so very much longer than I had planned."
"Why am I publishing these random recollections toward a memoir while I’m still working on the last volume of the Johnson biography, when I haven’t finished it, while I’m still—at the age of eighty-three—several years from finishing it? Why don’t I just include this material in the longer, full-length memoir I’m hoping to write?The answer is, I’m afraid, quite obvious, and, if I forget it for a few days, I am frequently reminded of it, by journalists who, in writing about me and my hope of finishing, often express their doubts in a sarcastic phrase: “Do the math.” Well, I can do that math. I am well aware that I may never get to write the memoir, although I have so many thoughts about writing, so many anecdotes about research, that I would like to preserve for anyone interested enough to read them. I decided that, just in case, I’d put some of them down on paper now."
A Lifetime of Systems Thinking -- This essay by Russell Ackoff is excellent. I read this twice, and I'll read it again. (A big thanks to Alix for sending this to me!)
Byron Wein Discusses Lessons Learned in First 80 Years -- Lots of good wisdom here.
Herb Kelleher -- American lost a business icon and a national treasure in January.
Interviews: 60 Minutes (from 1989), How I Built This, A View from the Top, Herb Kelleher on the Record (a great interview in Business Week from 2003), Strategy + Business in 2004.
Various obituaries: NYT, Washington Post, Forbes (by the authors of "Nuts!"), Bloomberg
Profiles: Fortune in 2001, Texas Monthly in 1989,
Only Two Things Matter for the Stock Market... -- Roger Lowenstein with a good reminder on long-term investing and what really matters. See also: "A lesson for the Democratic left from Adam Smith."
The NACD honors Larry Cunningham with a lifetime achievement award. The shout-outs from Buffett and others, along with Larry's short speech, can be seen on YouTube.
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