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Good Reading -- July 2019

Special 10th Anniversary Edition I started sending these "good reading" emails in August 2009. Time flies! To mark the occasion I'm going to pick my 10 favorite books, articles, quotes, and facts & figures. If you think something should be on the list let me know.

Quoted "At GM, if you see a snake, the first thing you do is go hire a consultant on snakes. Then you get a committee on snakes, and then you discuss it for a couple of years. The most likely course of action is — nothing. You figure, the snake hasn't bitten anybody yet, so you just let him crawl around on the factory floor. We need to build an environment where the first guy who sees the snake kills it." -- Ross Perot, with a classic soundbite on management. Perot recently passed at age 89. (Source, among others, is this excellent article featuring Jeff Gramm's excellent book, Dear Chairman.)

Facts and Figures

  • In 2018, 30 of the 44 most populous counties in America and eight of 10 largest cities (MSAs) saw more Americans move out than move in.

  • King County (Seattle) shrank for the first time in at least a decade; NYC shrank for the second straight year; Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) shrank for the ninth consecutive year. (Source: Census Bureau; see below.)

  • The Austrian Republic, founded 101 years ago, recently sold another "century bond." The new tranche yields approximately 1.17% and matures in 2117. “I was really surprised that [the new issue] went so well,” said a banker who was close to the deal. “Investors all believe that rates are not going to rise.” (Source: FT)



  • "We Didn't Cause the Crisis": David Sackler Pleads His Case on the Opioid Epidemic -- Bethany McLean writes about the family behind Oxycontin.

  • Your Professional Decline is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think. Here's How to Make the Most of It. -- Arthur Brooks offers many thoughts here, and more than a few are up for debate. But there is also a lot of timeless wisdom.

  • Would You Return This Lost Wallet? -- This is a fascinating study. I hope it holds up to scrutiny because the implications are very interesting. "It’s obvious: Someone finding a lost wallet is less likely to return it if money is inside, right? That’s what top economists, as well as regular people, usually predict, given what most of us assume about human nature. But according to a clever new study involving thousands of people in 40 countries, what most of us assume about human nature is wrong. The three-year study, possibly the largest real-world test of whether people behave honestly when given incentives not to, found they are actually more likely to return lost wallets containing money. And the more money, the better the chances people will return it." Another summary article is here, along with the original in Science: Civic honesty around the globe.

  • Why Workers Without College Degrees are Fleeing Big Cities -- The numbers are clear, and the implications are important. The divide between wealthy, educated big cities and their rural counterparts is big and it is growing. And the flows might be accelerating.

  • A related article about the lagging economic development in places like Winston-Salem, North Carolina is here.

  • "I really feel most comfortable in prison: A hedge fund ex-con finds it's hard coming home to Greenwich" -- There are more than a few fascinating aspects to this article. I didn't expect to like it and I almost didn't click on it, but then I couldn't stop reading.

  • The Yale Happiness Class, Distilled -- The "most popular class ever" at Yale, offered on Coursera, really can be boiled down into some simple, powerful thoughts (all of which are found elsewhere but condensed in this psychology class for undergrads).

  • People adjust to everything. Newfound wealth becomes ordinary. Pain and trauma are overcome. In short, people are adaptable, but they underestimate that adaptability when forecasting their future levels of happiness.

  • Buy experiences, not things. See above: more stuff won't make us happier.

  • Practice gratitude. A conscious effort to be grateful -- particularly for all the easy-to-forget bad things that did not happen -- is very successful in generating well-being. To go further, deprive yourself temporarily to get the gratitude rolling.

  • Comparisons kill happiness. Whining about the weather, scrolling best-life Instagram posts, stalking real estate listings for that bigger house across town -- all a recipe for misery.

  • The I in We: How did WeWork's Adam Neumann turn office space with 'community' into a $47 billion company? Not by sharing -- This article might capture the investment zeitgeist better than anything I've read in the past few years.​

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Email: info at anabaticllc dot com

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