NLP

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.

Good2Great

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?

Foundation

I finished Asimov’s Foundation yesterday and I really enjoyed it. I had zero expectations, I knew it was something about sci-fi but that’s all. I have heard from Asimov before but never had the change or interest to read anything from him as sci-fi wasn’t one of my favourite topics in the last years. But I am glad I did. To be honest, I didnt have the feeling that it was sci-fi. It seemed to me that all the issues plotted in the book (that was written in the 40s) belonged our current time. It is a small book and hook you quickly. I am planning to read the rest of the books and see how it goes.

Another thing it impressed me was the amount of books (nearly 500) he wrote in his life based in the intro and wikipedia. He was really focus in his craft!

A Solas

A very good friend recommend me this book. And I actually needed to read something about it. Being alone is normal for me. It is one of the reasons I can do all I want at the end of the day. But still, I am a human being and you need some interaction. The last months have been tough because work, lockdown and my lack of communication skills. But mainly work.

This book has been a reminder from others books I have read from Rafael Santandreu that really changed a lot of thing about me. It was really helpful. It got me to my next stage in life.

But again, sometimes you have to remember why you believe in what you believe. Being alone, being solitary in general is seen as something bad/negative by society directly or indirectly (family, friends, books, movies, music, etc) And then we add our own judgement.

I need to recognize my main reason to be alone is the fear of rejection. Mainly with girls.

But in the last years I learned to love myself as I am, to be happy as I am, to be comfortable as I am, to be content with my life, to be content to be alone.

I have read in many places that if you are not happy with yourself, how you can be happy with somebody else? I truly believe in that.

And once those concepts took hold me, I felt better and even managed to find a girlfriend and live together! Difficult to believe some time ago, but happened. And it happened because I was comfortable being alone, I was enjoying my life. Again, I am not the most sociable person, and I used to punish me for that. But I accepted that is nothing wrong with that, you remove a lot of negative from you. Then you walk lighter.

And this book’s focus in being alone and relationships. And for me it is very clear that I prefer to be alone that in bad company. But I need to make the effort to open up, not being afraid.

So it is a question of balance, extremes are rarely good.

And this is the book all about: find the pleasure being alone, love yourself and whatever comes, it comes.

Stock Operator

This book was recommended by last employer CEO. It is based on the life of a stock trader Jesse Livermore from the early XX century.

One of the first shocking things in the book is in the introduction. This is a book about speculation.

That tells you a lot what was the market before, and what is today.

He made millions trading, lost them, recover, and at the end commit suicide. Still the book has good points for a trader point of view. I will never be a trader, because long term, very few, win.

I like his beginning in the trading world. He was very good at the bucket shops and he was forbidden to trade once he beat the house each time. Like in a casino.

One thing I realised about his trading in bucket shops is, his actions didn’t have impact in the market so it was a very reliable technique. But when he moved to the real market, he struggled. It is like the Schrodinger’s cat, until you dont trade, dont know if the stock is going to go up or down. And the other one, is the execution time. Low latency in those times were via telegraph lines, and they were critical. It is seems Western Union started in that business. If you have to buy many shares, very likely you will not buy all of them at the same price (it will go up, so it will be more expensive for you) and it will take some time. So for that period of execution, you are a bit at the mercy of the “market”.

There are many references to other early grate traders, scandals, crisis, etc. It was interesting how the American Civil War was financed by selling bonds to the European markets and then how during the WWI, all Europe gold came back to USA to finance all the arms needed for the war.

War is business. And then, they tell you is patriotic.

Another curious thing, is the trade of cane sugar. There was so much sugar that it was needed a market for it so it wouldn’t crash… then it was invented our “sugary breakfasts” and the chocolate bars!

At the end, I noticed that the whole trading experience could be repeated in our days without much difference. Maybe without the excess like the Wolf of Wall Stree movie/book.

Our Planet

This week finished a book from David Attenborough. It is impressive how much the population of the planet has increased since he was born (1937) until 2020. Based on the book is from 2.3 billion people to 7.8 billion. And how much the wildnerness has decreased in the same period (from 66% to 35%). Keeping mind we had two WW in XX century…

The first two parts are quite pessimistic with all the damage we have caused. But then he offers option for the present to save the future.

The main focus is recovering wildnerness in the world. We need to move to a more sustainable economy (it is not going to be pretty for the super rich and powerful countries) where growth can’t be the only measure (NZ has done something about it). We need to use less (the richest person is the one who has less needs said my grandmother), reproduce less (hello religions!!!). We need to use clean energy. This is a hard topic. Batteries and solar panels need to be more efficient, cleaner to fabricate and recycle. Most of the components have to be mined…. But yeah, the sun energy is a big deal. How much we can get from deserts?

For Nature itself, recover the oceans with policies to avoid over fishing and let recover the wildnerness. The book give the example of Cabo Pulmo and Palau as examples and the benefits of doing so. Better fishing, more sources of income. Win-Win.

Reduce the farmland footprint and let the forests recover their strength (with all the fauna included). This focus in meat consumption. I dont believe becoming vegan is the solution but eating meat every day is not needed. Our grand parents didnt eat meat everyday, that was a luxury. And not long ago, you had to pay the Church for eating meat (“la bula”) So I strongly believe in eating more green (but not manufactured stuff….). I dont see the point of cutting more trees to grow soy for producing meat-life products instead of raising cows. It seems 60% of farmland is dedicated to only beef, crazy. This is quite connected to the global populations too. Imagine if India were a beef-eating country….

Improve agriculture with regenerative farming. I believe in this, although I feel quite naive and romantic about this subject. It is a dream to have your terrain with several types of fruit trees producing good products every year, depending on the season, having your vegetables growing among them, and bees!. And not using any pesticide. Dream. I am pretty sure the yield wouldnt be very constant but this is built for balance. You have several crops… In a world with less people and not based in extreme-capitalism (surplus surplus!!!!) it would work (I hope)

The book says we are reaching our population peak but I dont believe, because religions dont want that, nationalism dont want that. But this is one of the last shift and I guess more difficult one. Changing/adapting ourselves.

If we allow it, life finds a way, like in they city near Chernobyl. It has been recovered by the forests!

At the end of the day, it is always the same solution. Balance. The virtue is in the middle (it seems Aristotle said that).

This time is not different

I had this book in the pipeline. It is a bit technical but is interesting as it tries to provide data for several centuries about financial crisis. That is quite challenging not just because governments from middle age didn’t have much accountability but even nowadays the authors struggled getting hard number regarding domestic debt.

The book was written about the subprime crises in 2007-8 so that’s the main focus to proof that the event is not that different from other crisis. And it is remarkable how many crisis I have been through since 1980s without really noticing (but my parent sure they noticed…)

The book preface is super direct. The one common theme to most crisis is the excessive debt accumulation (governments, banks, corps, consumers). Even during a boom. So debt-fueled booms are not very healthy. And it was proved during the subprime that the financial markets dont correct themselves.

One of the most interesting points of the whole book is the evolution of default-prone countries (like France and Spain) to “stable” ones. This graduation process is long and hard, and not many pass the exam. As well, there are a lot figures about deb before 1929 crash, post WWII to put thing in perspective.

So it was interesting read mainly for the historic background and our psychological naivety during crisis times. At the end of the day, the economic is a cycle.

McPeace

MM is one of the few people I read/folllow and his newsletter (and books) is one of the best in my opinion. And today I had a laugh about this week entry. I have never heard about the impact of CO2 with obesity but who knows. The funny part was the theory about the “world peace period” is mainly chased by the big corporations (McDonalds, Dell, etc) because war doesnt make profit for them. In one side, makes sense, USA-China are like a old married couple, standard war is not profitable. Just do it somewhere else.