A Man for All Markets by Edward Thorpe

I finished listening to A Man for All Markets. It’s an amazing book on a number of fronts.  Here’s a few of the impressive bits:

  1. There’s a lot of people who write memoirs like this that seem a bit over the top. But Thorpe is a bit of an over the top genius generally credited with the creation of card counting in blackjack, risk arbitrage and hedge funds and wearable computers.
  2. He might have won the Nobel prize but decided on a different path. Thorpe had to decide whether to be a businessman or a professor first. When he published his book Beat the Market he showed how to correctly price options. Instead of pushing this further, Thorpe decided to trade on his findings. Eventually others published what became known as the Black Scholes model for option pricing which eventually won the Nobel Prize..
  3. Thorpe seems to have known everyone in finance, from Warren Buffett to Bernie Madoff (who he knew was a fraud decades ago). He even talks about how Buffett used to challenge people to a game of dice with non-transitive dice.

Overall I really loved the audiobook. Thorpe narrates the book himself and does a pretty darn good job. This is from an 85 year old man worth about $800 million.


Inertia or “How Did I Get Here?”

This is one of my favorite quotes from Nick Hornby’s book High Fidelity:

You see those pictures of people in Pompeii and you think, how weird: one quick game of dice after your tea and you’re frozen, and that’s how people remember you for the next few thousand years. Suppose it was the first game of dice you’ve ever played? Suppose you were only doing it to keep your friend Augustus company? Suppose you’d just at that moment finished a brilliant poem or something? Wouldn’t it be annoying to be commemorated as a dice player? Sometimes I look at my shop (because I haven’t let the grass grow under my feet the last fourteen years! About ten years ago I borrowed the money to start my own!), and at my regular Saturday punters, and I know exactly how those inhabitants of Pompeii must feel, if they could feel anything (although the fact that they can’t is kind of the point of them). I’m stuck in this pose, this shop-managing pose, forever, because of a few short weeks in 1979 when I went a bit potty for a while. It could be worse, I guess; I could have walked into an army recruiting office, or the nearest abattoir.

In the past I totally know what he meant. These days, I’m feeling pretty good!

Audible Daily Deal

I love Audible’s Daily Deal. For between $0.99 and $4.99 Audible has one deeply discounted book available per day. I get an email from Audible every day to stay on top of this. It’s a fun little thing for me to buy a few times a month that gets me really excited. I’ve found a number of fun things to read like As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride written and read by Cary Elwes (Wesley), The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage by Brene Brown, Cabin Pressure (a British Radio Comedy starring Benedict Cumberbatch and a Dramatized version of Star Wars. All of these were great listens and things that I wouldn’t have listened to otherwise. I like the immediacy of a Daily Deal in a lot of ways, especially ones that cost about as much as a cup of coffee. Instead of choosing the best possible book to buy, I just have to decide “Do I buy this one or not?” Also, I get great pleasure in being able to purchase a book that I really want at a serious discount!

Tips Not Answers

From Lewis Menand’s review of Smart, Faster, Better, I learned that all self help books have the same goal — to get us to be the people we know we should be. These books don’t have have any new solutions — they just reiterate common sense through the current cultural or businesses lenses. Menand points out that Dale Carnegie’s famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People (which I love) could be summed up in the sentence “If you are nice to people, they will like you.” But, he continues, the purpose of these books is not “What would Jesus do? but How, exactly, would He do it?” Carnegie’s book has some great tips on how to be nice to people like, “Be a good listener and focus on what the other person is interested in.” To me, it’s a fundamental point that none of these books, as much as they try, have the answer — we already know the answer. But they do have some good tips and tricks on how help us anyway.

Trigger Yourself to Stay on Track

Marshall Goldsmith wrote a great book called Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts — Becoming the Person You Want to Be. He talks about how we react to our environment more frequently and powerfully than we’d like to admit. So Goldsmith places triggers in the environment each day to help drive progress on key goals. I’ve been doing this for about a year and it’s really life changing. If you’d like to try it yourself you can take his basic survey at Ask Me Every.

The Elon Musk Blog Series: Wait but Why by Tim Urban

The Elon Musk Blog Series: Wait but Why by Tim Urban (Amazon e-book, original web series). Tim Urban writes a great blog called Wait But Why? Elon Musk liked it so much he asked Tim to write about his companies. After months of work, many interviews with Elon and staff and 90,000 words Tim put together a very complete picture of the problems that Tesla (global warming) and SpaceX (global annihilation) are looking to solve and how they are looking to solve them.

Be Vulnerable to Build Stronger Connections with Friends

Brene Brown has a great recording of her seminar The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage. It’s a great follow up to her other work that I love. First you might want to check out her animated shorts on Empathy and Blame that are taken from her presentation at the Royal Society of the Arts. She also gave some great TED talks on The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to Shame.

Guilty Pleasure: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (Amazon, Audible) is a pruriently intellectual book on gossip, twitter and social media shaming. What happens when Lindsey Stone posts a picture mocking a sign at Arlington National Cemetery and it follows her for the rest of her life or when Justine Sacco tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” and it ruined her life. Ronson does a great job of going deep into the specific stories but also making some general points about what social media shaming is doing to society.

Misbehaving – The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler

Misbehaving – The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler (Amazon, Audible). Thaler is the founder of Behavioral Economics, inspired by Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky. In the book Thaler talks about how he got started in economics and started noticing how humans don’t act in the ways that economists expect them to. For example, in his first experience as a professor he got enormous pushback from students when he presented them with a hard test, with an average score of 72. Though the class was graded on a curve, this shouldn’t make a difference to anyone — but it did to the students. How did he learn to placate them? By changing the total available points to 137. Poof! The human students became much happier.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Amazon, Audible). I was expecting a teenage story similar to all the other comedy celebrity stories out there — like Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” But this book is so much more — chronicling Noah’s life through the collapse of Apartheid and seeing the culture through the eyes of a half black / half white man who doesn’t really belong to either culture.