The Ascent of Money

Somehow I had low expectations about this book, but I have been totally delighted with it. It is one of the best books (mainly in economy) I have read recently.

It is about about the evolution of finance in the world from the small tablets in Babylon to today’s crypto-currencies.

The shows how the economy development in the world started to speed up when the Spaniards starting to bring tones of silver (Potosi) to Europe (and obviously they didnt make the most it). Still the economy was based in hard currency but after this ,banks, insurance, stock exchanges, bonds and other financial products started to develop in Florence/Venice (Renaissance), Amsterdam, London and Paris. Still early advances were done in the Middle Ages like the case of Fibonacci who wrote the formula to calculate the compound interest of an investment.

I liked the reference to Mary Poppins film regarding a bank run. I actually didnt remember the movie very well but was interesting to make sense to the story.

As well, there is basic example showing how money is created based on debt (based on the fact that the banks dont have to keep your deposit only a small percentage).

It is clear that we dont have that much info about the economies of 4000 years ago but based on the book, the finance has evolved like a living thing. It has become more and more complex,like us, with time. And each crisis has improved it. And each main empire, kingdom, etc in history was strongly connected to an advance it is financial/economy system.

As well, there are good references about finance and war, like the America Civil War, WW1, Napoleon wars, etc

Another topic that was very interesting is the creation of welfare systems (and how different are some of them like Europe, USA and Japan) and the evolution of the pension system. I was really surprised about the example of Chile (when it become a dictatorship) as the first country introducing the private pension system that has been exported to many other countries (Idea from Milton Friedman) And how Argentina was one of the top 10 economies in the early XX century and how things turned sour and became a defaulting machine.

There is a big part of the book focus in the subprime crisis, from the origins, development and aftermath. It is interesting that one of the factors was the “democratization” of home ownership in USA that helped to create the bubble. And how really globalization has made the world not as strong as we thought.

I have managed to make connections to other books I have read before about politics, psychology and economics so it is interesting to see similar and different opinions in several subject (mainly the subprime crisis)

As well, this book was initially published during the Subprime crisis of 2008 and the revision I had, just added two new chapters for the years up to 2018. The final part is mainly about the relationship USA-China post subprime (and Trump), Europe (Brexit), how China is taking the lead in financial technology (so that means they will (or already are) the next empire) and the explosion of crypto-currencies.

The Qur’an

I am not a religious person. I just follow my own philosophy. But I am curious about the Qur’an from a social and historical point of view. I think after watching “V for Vendetta” when Stephen Fry was praising the beauty of a Qur’an, that I told myself I had to read it one day. It is like some Bibles from the Middle Ages, they were master pieces. Actually, a couple of years ago I read a biography about The Prophet Muhammad. It was very good for understanding the social circumstances and how Islam developed. So I bought this version. The intro was interesting for preparing for what was coming. I knew the Qur’an was formed by “suras” and I thought they would come written chronologically but it is not. It seems the first announced suras are actually the last one written. And I learned that exegetes are experts in interpretations of (mainly) religious texts. And in like in any holy book, there are things that only God can explain based on the exegetes expertise.

To be honest I had some expectations. I though it would similar to the bible and quite poetic. The first suras were quite long. One of them touching a lot of subjects from inheritance, divorce, etc.

I was surprised that the Children of Israel are the chosen ones. When you see all the news in that region….

As well, there are many references to the People of the Book: Jews, Christians, Sabenas and Magians. And The Quran confirms that the Torah and the Evangelis are sent by God. So why so much trouble about the three?

I was surprised that Abraham, Moses and Noah are mentioned a lot of times. Then a bit less Jesus and Mary. So you can see a lot of connections between the Judaism and Christianity.

As well, there are a lot of comments about Judgement day, God punishments to people who rejected God via other prophets (Lot, Thamud, etc). I was looking for an entry about The Prophet and the mountain, but didnt read it. As well, it is confirmed that God created everything is 6 days. Another subjet is the hijad. The word itself is not mentioned in the translation but I only could read one clear statement about it (47:6). When there are other subject that are repeated much more often: prey to god, follow god, fear god, etc.

In general, the picture I got from the Qur’am (about customs, habits, education, etc) and what you see in the world is quite different. But this is what it is, interpretations. The same would happen if I read the Bible.

Reinventarse – Ramon y Cajal

This book was quite quick and easy to read. And to be honest, I had a bit of high expectations as it was commented by some friends.

Most of the concepts weren’t new for me. I could find connections to other books or concepts that I have already read like “Thinking Fast and Slow“, Flow, Buddhism, meditation, “The body keeps the score“, etc.

And there is a reference to Ramon y Cajal that now I fully get it:

Todo ser humano, si se lo propone, puede ser escultor de su propio cerebro”.


Totalitarianism – Reading

I havent finished this book yet. It was something recommend from another book or autoher I follow so I bought it and started reading it. But after watching a video from one of the few authors I follow, I realized that I dont have to finish it.

The subject is interesting, but I didnt have any background about the book and I didnt expect much Antisemitism content although after reading about the author, it made sense. It is a 600+ pages book and after several chapters I realized that there were many concepts repeating. I had the feeling that most of what I was reading could be summarized in a few pages. And I struggled going through the book. I found interesting details though but I think it shouldnt be that difficult.

I have completed two out of three parts and I will get back to it step by step.

The book is divided in three parts: Antisemitism, Imperialism and Totalitarianism.

The first part was a bit more interesting for me as there were many historical facts regarding the Jew people spread around the word, culture, habits, etc. As well, about social facts in countries/emperies like Prusia, Austria-Hungary, etc. It was interested about the banking/financial influence of Jew families in several countries and for several centuries like Rothschild. And how this financial dependency on Jew families was lost. A point that is repeated many times, is the lack of integration of Jew people in the each society and the different conspiracy theories about them ruling the world… (you dont need Covid for creating conspiracies).

One figure that is highlighted is Benjamin Disraeli who was UK Prime Minister, Jewish born (although not follower) and claimed the empire for Queen Victoria.

Then in France, the Dreyfus affair, it is showed as another example of the complexity of the integration of Jew people in the societies and one of the main antisemitism acts in the early century that had the French society divided.

The second part is a focused in the next “evolution” of European societies to the Imperialism, mainly in Africa. And how the “winners” and “losers” took their role. France, UK, Belgium and Italy took most of Africa. For example, Germany had nothing… There are many interesting details about the Boer society in South Africa, how it started, how it evolved and how it ended in a war. The book says that Boer emigrants took the social structure of the local tribes and the attempt of control from the British Empire and the creation of society like in Europe was a total clash for them.

As well, in this part, there are many comments about the Nation vs State struggle. Something like the the imperialism raised the concept of Nation and defeated the state. I dont think I understanded properly. As well, there is an important point about the immigration and how was a source of problems for lack of acceptance, lack of integration, etc. So again, nothing new that we dont see nowawayds. We have learned nothing

Another point is the pan-european movements. Something like the pan-Slav (Russia) and pro-Germany movements that it seems it was one of the striking points for Far-Right regimes in Europe and the raise of Communism. And something I didnt know about the Balkans: Congress of Berlin

I have the feeling that I am missing out many details as the book is quite dense.

The Obstacle Is The Way

I have read before about Stoicism and from the author but somehow I needed a refresh and this book helped me.

The books is a kind of a how-to for Stoicism in XXI century. It is divided in three parts:

  • Perception: See the world how it is, imperfect. Focus in the present, dont obsess in the future. Don’t make it personal.
  • Action: Get your discipline, practice persistence, iterate, repeat. Failure is part of the game.
  • Will: build you core values, they are inside you, they support you, that’s what you can control. Anticipate (think negatively), Amor fati (love everything that happens), mortatility.

While I was reading the book, I was thinking about my current problems / issues at work and personal life. I felt a bit weird because depending on how I interpreted some points in the book, I thought I was doing the wrong thing regarding changing jobs. But then I realised, this was just a battle, another stage in the path, another boulder in the way. Sometimes you can climb the boulder, after a lot of hard work. But sometimes, you fail, miserably. So learn from it and move on. And actually that happened yesterday climbing, I managed a hard route after several weeks working on it (and I was shocked that It wasn’t that difficult) but then I failed in another one that I was always scared to try (because it was beyond my level a.k.a comfort-zone…) I made some good progress, but not enough to complete and it was going to removed too.

So at the end, it is seeing the world as it is, imperfect. Not taking it too seriously, that was my mistake at work (again).

So let’s see how it goes the next chapter. But I see clearly that I should try to review this book or similar a bit more often to refresh myself and keep up to date my internal citadel.


I have never been very keen of Sci-Fi novels but I can read nearly anything. Some months ago, one big boss mentioned that one of the things he did during one of the lockdowns was to re-read Dune. So I added it to my list and finished it last week.

I was hooked. Thinking that I struggled with NLP, this was a blessing.

I felt it was a mix of ecology, religion, politics and a bit of love. This book was released in 1965 but it feels timeless.

But now, like with Foundation, I want to keep going with the next books.


After some time, managed to finish NLP. This is Neuro-Linguistic-Programming. First time I read about it was in The Game as a technique for picking girls. From that book, I learned only one thing, you have to go for it, everything else, it is just glittering, it doesnt matter it is about a girl, a job, whatever. And just several weeks ago, in a email from Edmond Lau, he mentioned he was learning about it. I have read Edmond’s book and it was good and most of his emails are interesting. But I dont think I am putting his advice into practice. Anyway, I was curious about NLP, and bought a book that had some positive references.

The first part made reference about our cognitive process: the part we are not conscious, the amigdala, the flee-or-fight response. Concepts similar to “Think Slow, Think Fast“. A lot of concept relay in “anchoring” positive experiences and increase them. I struggled with that part.

As well, there is another part about social interaction. That is more about body language and how to communicate and understand the position of the other person. These concepts are useful for negotiations. The Disney example is quite good. It seems Disney followed the below process, taking the role of each character one at each time, to define his new ventures.

  • The dreamer: The one for whom all things are possible
  • The realistic: The one who sort things out
  • The critic: The one who picks up the pieces that don’t fit.

One thing I found interesting was about the SEAL training. Dr Eric Potterat introduced some modifications in the training to increase the graduation rate. It seems it worked. His technique was:

  • Focus on RIGHT NOW: Something I am trying to do. Create small steps, complete, next.
  • Imagine how good it will feel: This is something difficult to digest as it sound too “positive” but yes, I am think it could work. Based on the above, create mini-victories with each step.
  • Breathe Deeply: Totally agree with this since I read the book from Win Hoff.
  • Cheer yourself: I take this one too. I used to be too negative, but if you are honest with yourself, this is actually positive.

In general, it took me a bit to finish it but I think I learned a couple of things.


I finished this book during the week. It is about how good companies became great ones. They set some tough requirements as 15y performing below market and then after a transition point, 15y performing three times above market. The book was completed by 2000 so just in the middle of the .com bubble so I would be curious what the result would be now (and after the subprime crisis in 2008). And all of them are companies trading in USA and public markets. As well, for each candidate there is a counterpart to demonstrate how two companies in similar circumstances, became one great and the other not.

To be honest, from the eleven companies passing the exam, I knew five: Gillete (shaving stuff), Kimberly-Clark (paper based things), Phillip Morries (tobacco), Fannie Mae (mortgages, that collapsed in 2008 crisis..), Wells-Fargo (bank). And I was surprised for the lack of other big names.

It is interesting the history of each company and most of them related to very different sectors. So there is no really lucky strike as the study covers nearly 30y history of a company.

So the goal is to identify the traits that all these great companies had to made that transition.

The book treat the following points in each chapter:

  • Level 5 leadership: Leaders no super-stars. They are ambitious about their company and not just during their tenure. I like the example of those CEOs, people who didnt have big head and just looked through the window to explain their success. So it is that mix of humility and will that “create” them.
  • First Who, then What: Your biggest asset is the good people, no just people. So having the best ingredients and knowing how to use them, you will get a great meal. As well, you need to get rid of the no good people. This is something the level5 leader has to accomplish. So hiring is a critical part (or have the process to form these people) and dont hire until you have your candidate. And looks like money wasnt the main thing to get or maintain the good people in your bus, comparing with the counterpart companies.
  • Stockdale Paradox – Confront the brutal facts, yet never lose faith. This is based on the experience of a Vietnam war prisoner. “The optimistics” were the ones who didnt make it out. All these companies faced a challenge that after passing it, became great. They didnt ignore the reality but believed they could go through.
  • Hedgehog Concept: This is the concept I struggled more to understand. This is based in the hedgehog and fox paradox. In summary, the fox tries many different things to hunt the hedgehog, but the hedgehog always sticks with the same plan (become a spiky ball) to defeat it. So this is based on Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) from my point of view. So see the complex world and simplified it, you focus in the essential and ignore the rest. From the business perspective this translate into the three circles:
  1. What you can be the best in the world at (and what you can’t be the best too)
  2. What drives your economic engine:
  3. What you are deeply passionate about: This is not just get passionate about something, you need to have it before. Wrong example.
  • Culture of Discipline: If you have that, you dont need hierarchy and motivation. This is based on disciplined people, disciplined thought and disciplined action. Two interesting points in this chapter are
  1. Budgeting: Based on the hedgehog concept, it is just decide what areas to be fully funded and what not at all.
  2. “Stop doing” list: Again, this is another point in just focus in the important thing.
  • Technology Accelerators: You would think that technology made some companies great. But the summary here is, technology was just a tool. You buy the technology or develop it to stick with your hedgehog concept.
  • The Flywheel: “Revolution means turning the wheel”. So you need to push the flywheel. At the beginning is hard, but with time, once it gets momentum, get easier. So this is based on a compound investment of effort, and there is no miracle involved. And the results will speak by themselves. This contrary to the doom loop where you avoid the buildup, just implement big/radical programs, without thinking.

And what after being great? It is to last as great. This is another book from the author that was written before this one about this concept.

So, based in the book, all these concepts make a great company, but it is not the recipe to last forever.

Gillete was merged by P&G in 2005. Fannine Mae didnt do very well during the mortage crisis in 2007/8. Tobacco is not healthy business, etc.

In summary, interesting book, as I used to think only the “big” corporations, famous CEOs were great companies (at revenue level) and here you can find more successful companies (at revenue level) with much less glitter around beating them very badly those for long runs.

The Antidote

During this holidays, I finished “The Antidote“. I think I bought it based on some article from Mark Mason. I was a bit sceptical because I didnt really understand the concept of “Positive Thinking”. In the first chapter, got the point quickly.

Main subject is focused on the wrong approach to extreme positivism and how could be better to focus in the negative, because the way we are defining happiness, we are sabotaging ourselves. That can be difficult to swallow and even more difficult to explain for me. But it is mainly based on the concepts of Stoicism and Buddhism. You are not your feelings, you are not thoughts, and you can’t control others or anything external to yourself. We can’t remove suffering from the world.

As well, there is another chapter for goals. I think it is important to set goals, meaningful ones, for your life but the some extreme (again) goalsetting is counterproductive.

One thing I liked is how we put in a pedestal successful people, how we write and read about them, how we try to find the magical formula for that. But we never read about the failure. And it was quite interesting to read that there is a museum for failed products, that is rarely visited from product managers, marketing executives, etc. The older I get, the more I realised that the kind of success we cheer and read in our cut-throat capitalism, it is just a mere coincidence and probability. I am pretty sure we could find hundreds of examples from people who have the same treats as those successful ones, followed the same process, and failed miserably. So yes, embracing failure and being comfortable with it, is something I believe (and I need to put in practice more often)

As well, the book talks about insecurity and death (memento mori). For the insecurity subject, he makes a lot of references to the “Wisdom of Insecurity” that I have already read but to be honest, I struggled with it. And again, the extreme obsession with security, it is counterproductive, and it is a return again to Stoicism/Buddhism concepts. And for the obsession with death, we are missing the point of leaving the current moment, and accept that is part of “life”. The book mentions “The power of Now” although not directly in this chapter. I have that book in my pile but struggled with it in the very beginning and had to put it back. I will have to give it another go.

In general, I liked the book, it was better than I expected. It touches a lot of subjects that are important for me and I want to follow and I needed a refresh, as I think I lost track lately.

Braiding Sweetgrass

Tonight I finished reading this book. I had some expectations. I though it was going to be similar to other book I read about forests. But this one goes deeper. It is history of human culture, in this case North America Indian Natives, and the bonding with Mother Earth, with Skywoman. The dark past, trying to remove their identity, the struggle to recover that connection to your roots and to Mother Earth.

I really understood the real Thanksgiving. I always thought it just was a new way to sell more. But the reality, it is our appreciation to the gifts we receive by Nature: air, water, food, shelter, etc. Everything. It is a recognition of equals. It is a dependency. Nature is not it. We are the same entity, we are alive. We need to look after ourselves. And we need to show gratitude. And gratitude is more and more a very important word. I started to understand it with meditation, and I realize that is more important that I initially thought.

And this is a further example of how much disconnected we are from Mother Nature. I have read in other books of psycology about depression that the disconnection we find in our current society is partly our lost link with our natural surroundings.

We can learn so much from Nature if we make the effort. I liked a lot the example of the Three Sisters: corn, bean and squash. How these different plants work together.

And the constant fight against Windigo, the greed, our dark side.

There is hope to get better. But we need a big wake up call to do really something. I doubt the current cut-throat capitalism, religions will really help.

At least, keep the covenant of reciprocity that is at our reach. But I wonder, I am really doing something about it?