How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and Random Musings

Warning – spoilers ahead.

After taking over a month to finish the Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons I was pleasantly surprised by the diminutive size of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Not only was it short, but compelling and easy to read. I decided to pick this one up based on a recommendation from the Tim Ferriss show, and I’m glad I did.

I love a good rags to riches story, which fuels a good deal of my fascination with biographies of famous business people, and How To Get Filthy Rich does not disappoint. Well, in a way I suppose it does. It’s not an instruction manual, but rather a first person narrative that begins on the dirt floor of a hut and chronicles the rise of an entrepreneur. It’s a fascinating perspective, especially for someone living in the cloistered world of suburban America like myself.

We love to bitch and moan about how “busy” we are, and how times can be tough. Well, it could always be worse. A lot worse as this story will show us. How to Get Filthy Rich shows to get ahead in rising Asia you have to be willing to overcome immense odds, staggering cruelty, be willing to engage in questionable business practices, and deal with a corrupt government, competition that will resort to physical threats and intimidation, and the odd twists that life throws at us all. It reveals an almost animalistic approach to business. The young man threads carefully through the shallows, avoiding apex predators. He scraps and scrabbles and slowly builds a small foothold. He catches a break and claws his way up the food chain. The hunted becomes the hunter, and now he is the predator, although bigger threats still circle ominously overhead. He builds his fortune, but never seems to find true fulfillment. In a ruthless world where we prey upon the sick and weak, the hunter eventually regresses back the hunted.

This is a powerful and startling account of life and death. There are some stylistic nuances that take a little getting used to. While I think it’s generally a beautifully written book with lots of powerful quotes, the author’s choice of language can be juvenile and puzzling at times. He also deviates from the story at the start of each chapter, and tells the reader that this is a self help book. He talks about him writing and you reading a lot. It didn’t bother me as we quickly settle back into the story, but I can see how it might irk some people.

Ultimately, I think the theme here for me is gratitude. To paraphrase Warren Buffet, if you are reading this from the United States then you have truly won the genetic lottery. It’s easy to dismiss that as most of us have not spent time in developing or third world countries, and we lead immensely sheltered lives, but the truth is most of us have cultivated little gratitude or empathy. I know that is true for me. A book like this gives you a window into another world, and it’s primal, shocking, and more than a little sad. The pursuit of financial independence is a privilege, especially if you don’t have to get ahead by paying bribes, engaging in morally dubious business practices, and hire armed guards in order to go about your day.

I don’t want to say much more, as it’s a short and simple book. Worth a read and especially so as I close the door on another weekend. And as I close that door I can’t help but feel a little anxiety for the work week to come. By the time Friday rolled around I was exhausted and could hardly think as the clock hit 4PM. My mind was numb and cottony yet still things were racing. I got home and laid in bed for a while and read. I tried a little meditation and I actually felt better. I should try to do that more often.

Saturday was mostly spent with family and looking at real estate. Fun but not particularly relaxing. Today I was able to hit the gym, run some errands and spend some time reading and lounging in the neighbor’s pool. I cooked some fat steaks for my girlfriend’s birthday and by the time everything was cleaned up it was 7. I finished off How to Get Filthy Rich and it left me in a reflective mood. One thing I didn’t do this weekend was write – until now. I didn’t get a cigar in either, which would have been nice. On the flip side, I also didn’t go into the office this Sunday for the first time in weeks, so I suppose you just have to take what you can get.

I’ve been going full steam for a while and feel myself wanting to take a more substantial break. It’s very hard to believe we are 3/4 of the way through 2016 already. Time is blurring by. Things are generally marching forward. It has been at least a couple months since paying off my student loans. Frankly it feels great not to have that looming over my head any more. It is one less thing to worry about. A goal completed.

I still have my small car loan (less than $4K) that continues to nibble at the edge of my mind, but I’m not in a huge hurry to take my cash and pay that off immediately. At this point in the loan most of the payments go to principal, so I’d rather just have the cash on hand. I want to keep some powder dry. Speaking of which, I have decided to divert some of my newfound excess cashflow to Vanguard funds in a brokerage account. An extra $300/week for the time being. I put it into Vanguards Target 2050 fund. I’ll write a post on my take on Vanguard Target funds one day. I like it for the time being, but also own their stand alone funds as well. I am looking at real estate, but everything on the MLS seems too high. It is disappointing but am OK with that. I’ll just bide my time and enjoy being mostly debt free for a while. I’ll be curious to see how quickly the cash piles up.

I also liquidated my small position ($2,000) in Vanguard’s total bond fund and put that money into a couple of high dividend stocks. More risky business, but I think holding bonds at this point is a little silly for me. I still have some bond exposure in my target fund so I’m alright with it. I’ll write more on that later. In the meantime I am going to start reading The Deep Blue Good-Bye by John MacDonald. Tomorrow is a new day, and a new opportunity. The Sunday blues quickly fade into a manic Monday, and there will be much to do this week.

Self Employment vs. Starting a Real Business – The Cashflow Quadrant

I finished listening to Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad: Cashflow Quadrant for the second time last month. Rich Dad Poor Dad is arguably one of most influential books on personal finance ever created, and for good reason. It’s a tremendous book that will inspire and awaken you. Cashflow Quadrant is a great read as well, and dives even deeper into some of the concepts Kiyosaki outlines in his original book.

I think the theory behind Rich Dad, Poor Dad is brilliant. Acquire assets, avoid liabilities. An “asset” is defined as something that makes you money. A “liability” is something that costs you money. Perhaps one of the more controversial aspects of the book is that Kiyosaki argues that your primary residence, if you choose to own one, is a liability, not an asset. This is because it costs you money (unless you are renting rooms or something). This concept flies in the face of the typical American dream, and the creed that “your house should be your biggest asset”. Housing is an expense, and your house should not be considered asset. Anyhow, I digress…

The original Rich Dad, Poor Dad also introduced us to the “Cashflow Quadrant”. His supplemental text dives much deeper. The Cashflow Quadrant identifies 4 types of people: Employees, Self Employed People, Business Owners, and Investors. Employees and the Self Employed work for money. True Business Owners and Investors have their money work for them. Ultimately to become financially independent you need to eventually either start a Business or become an Investor (preferably, do both!).

What was most interesting to me was the distinction between a Self Employed person and a Business Owner. I could argue that as a lawyer who owns his own law practice I am a “Small Business Owner”. The reality is I have simply created a job for myself. If I were to walk out the door of my law firm tomorrow and not come back for 6 months my “Business” would be dead. I’d face a pile of lawsuits for defaulting on my buisness’ financial obligations and for legal malpractice. A true Business is a system. That system, if it’s properly established, should be able to run itself or you should be able to hire someone to run it for you and still turn a profit. Even if you walk away from the business for a year. If you can’t walk away from your business for months, then you don’t have a Business. You have a job. I have a job.

This can be somewhat disheartening after being inculcated with the teachings of the educational-industrial complex for decades. The prevailing notion is to go to school and to get a good safe job. If you are decent at taking tests, then the prevailing notion is to go to graduate school and join a profession. Sit down, shut up, be a good boy, get good grades, pass all the tests, and then become a doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, or accountant. That way you can buy a nice house, finance a nice car, attract a spouse with a similar socioeconomic background and an equal or greater level of physical attractiveness as you, have 2.5 children, a dog, buy various shiny objects, pay plenty of taxes, enjoy 2.5 weeks of vacation a year, finance most of it, and post the highlights on social media. Disregard that nagging desire to be disruptive and independent, and sharpen your pencil because the teacher has something important to tell you. These are the keys to the upper middle class they say. Do these things and you too will achieve the American Dream they say.

That may be true, but the most successful and wealthy people in this world generally aren’t doctors or lawyers or accountants, they are business owners. People who have created systems that have scaled dramatically to help entire populations of people. They say if you want to become a billionaire, then you must figure out how to help a billion of people. It requires a totally different mindset from what the traditional path trains you for. Rather than to sit patiently in class and fall in line at school, so you can one day sit patiently in your cubicle and fall in line at work, to become a successful Business owner you must learn to think creatively and strategically to disrupt or make markets and serve the masses. You have to be more than good at showing up and taking tests. Those that can do that are the true .0001%. They are true masters of the economic universe. Even if you only learn how to help thousands or mere millions of people as a true Business owner, you are at the tip of the iceberg.

At this point, I am not going to abandon the practice of law. I’m about 4 years in, recently paid off my student loans, and am starting to get a feel for what it really means to be a lawyer. It’s a fascinating career, and the choice to practice litigation and to run my own little law firm has developed me as a person in ways that I would have never previously imagined. I have learned so much about myself, the practice of law, and about business. The job can also be exhausting and stressful, but the entire process has been a tremendous eye-opener for me, and it has been rewarding in many ways. Still, I do not suffer the illusions of grandeur that I have created a true Business. I haven’t. I have created a job for myself. It’s a relatively high paying and intellectually stimulating job, but it’s still a J-O-B. So in order to reach financial independence I must become an Investor or start a Business. Better yet, I need to do both.

If you are also Self Employed or an Employee and want to become Financially Independent, then you should become an Investor or start a Business too. If that’s of interest then I recommend both Rich Dad, Poor Dad as well as Cashflow Quadrant.

Book Review: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

I have read a handful of books over the years that have really resonated with me. To the point of changing my long term perspective and in some cases even my outlook on life. In college 2 of those books were How To Win Friends and Influence People and The Selfish Gene.

How to Win Friends changed the way I viewed social interactions, largely by being less selfish and focusing on the person I was interacting with. The concept of being genuinely interested in someone and listening to them, rather than merely waiting for my turn to talk.

The Selfish Gene changed the way I thought about plants, animals, and the intersection of biology and culture. Biologically all living things exist for the express purpose of passing their DNA along. That simple yet fundamental concept has informed every aspect of living world. It is easy to take a blade of grass for granted, but when you think about how everything serves the purpose of passing it’s DNA on, it creates an entire new perspective. It did for me at least.

It has been probably 10 years since have read both books, but the core concepts have remained with me, and I like to think I remain a better person for it.

I recently downloaded a copy of Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens”, and I think that this book is right up there with How to Win Friends, and The Selfish Gene. It’s framed as a book about history, and it’s an overview of the history of mankind, but it touches on all kinds of topics – including personal finance in a roundabout way.

The book starts in pre-historic times, and discusses the rise of our species Homo Sapiens. Our conversion from hunter gatherers, to farmers, to industrialists, to gods. Along the way he touches on all manner of subjects from a simple yet omnipotent perspective. I am not a huge history buff, but still found most of the book fascinating.

One aspect of the book that I found very interesting was Harari’s exploration of the “Myths” of mankind. The myths of religion, culture, sexuality, human rights, politics, economics, and law, to name a few. These are completely made up constructs. Figments of our collective conscious woven together and iterated upon over millennia. We talk about the rule of law, but really it is the fiction of law. A fiction we collectively have bought into, ultimately enforceable by the threat of bodily harm. As a lawyer I totally agree. At many times it does feel like practicing an alchemy of sorts. An alchemy supported by trillions of tiny bits of paper floating about and connecting us. Democracy is a fiction. Religion is a fiction. Capitalism is a fiction. And mankind loves to debate (and wage war over) the efficacy of these fictions.

Oddly enough Harari argues that the only universal fiction that the world has really bought into is money. That is the tie that binds us all together as a globe. He talks about the history of money, it’s origins and evolution. In that discussion he also talks about luxury:

One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it.

This is so true.

Ultimately, Harari argues that despite us living in an unparalled era of wealth, peace, and prosperity, people are no happier today than they ever were as hunter gatherers. In some ways be may even be less happy. Although we live longer, we are definitely less healthy. We spend less time with our families, and more time in the face of distraction. The world is a more complicated place, and although there have been great advances, we have become a slave to luxury. In deciding to become farmers, humans became slaves to agriculture. We eventually became industrialists, and humans became slaves to material objects. Now as we live in the information age, we have become slaves to the very information we seek. We can argue that each of these ages have ultimately brought advances to our quality of life, but I think we also need to admit how they have become a great distractor as well.

While this doesn’t mean I am going to abandon things like grocery stores or modern medicine, it’s a great reminder to be grateful for what we have, and to enjoy the journey because for most reaching the destination only means wanting more.

Exploring the concept of happiness further, Harari looks into Buddhism (a subject I know essentially nothing about). The Buddhists argue that suffering is caused by the behavior patterns of ones mind, and that suffering arises from craving. The only way to be liberating from suffering is to be liberating from craving. And the only way to be liberated from craving is to train your mind to experience reality as it is.

It’s an easy concept to distill into a few sentences, but it’s man’s oldest problem. Hardly anyone ever reaches nirvana. We are all compelled to want, and must consciously repress our biologically programmed craving for more.

Pretty heady and interesting stuff. It certainly has given me some things to chew on, and more than a little perspective. While the book may not provide the end user with any “tactics” for reaching Financial Independence, it does provide a wealth of meta information. As we work towards the goal of Financial Independence we have to ask ourselves what the real goal is. I think for most it’s the simplification of life and the shift from fulfilling obligations to exploring fulfillment itself. In our way there are a great many distractions, and if we can work to build up enough assets to meet our basic obligations of food, clothing, transportation, and shelter, it can allow us to exist and free of from many of the barriers we have erected in our minds as a society – if we permit ourselves to be content with the moment.

Ultimately, the greatest irony of this material world is that “not wanting” leads to higher level of personal satisfaction and happiness.

Sapiens is the best piece of non-fiction I have read all year, and arguably the best book I have read in a long time. Recommended reading for anyone, and especially poignant for those seeking FI.

Bumfuzzle – Just Out Looking For Pirates – Review and Thoughts

I stumbled across the website Bumfuzzle a few weeks ago. This is a blog about a young couple who saved up their money and now do a lot of slow travel. They have traveled around the world in cars, small RVs, etc. I vaguely recall seeing this blog before, but decided to dive deeper into their series on circumnavigating the globe in a sailboat.

This is a topic that is somewhat near to my heart, as my father has had a lifelong interest in boats, even going so far as to purchase a sailboat 10 or 15 years ago with the goal of eventually circumnavigating the globe (or at least taking an extended voyage).

Unfortunately, like most sailboat owners, the voyage never happened, and the most he would take the boat out for is an afternoon. After years of screwing around with this sailboat, he eventually sold it.

I recall a time when we lived approximately 1 hour away from the coast, and we would travel down to the boat on the weekends, mostly to do things like varnish the wood finishes and wax the hull. Boats, especially salt water going boats, are a constant uphill battle against the elements. They sit in the sun and salt and essentially rot to death 24/7. They require thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time to upkeep. Occasionally (very occasionally), we would spend several hours preparing the boat, we would take the boat out of the marina (which is arguably the most difficult aspect of piloting a boat), motor it out into the gulf, tack around for an hour or two, pilot it back into the marina, spend several hours cleaning the boat, and then drive home exhausted.

As a kid, I recall the entire process being a tremendous pain in the ass. I don’t see myself ever owning a boat, which is probably a good thing for my financial aspirations and my mental health.

Anyhow, I still love the ocean (and fishing), the idea of going on a voyage, and have read several stories about voyages and circumnavigations over the years, including the excellent Kon-Tiki and Desperate Voyage (a book about a guy who decides to sail a boat from Panama to Sydney to see his wife, that is essentially a comedy of errors culminating in the guy almost dying).

I was also hugely fortunate to take a week long trip on a sailboat in boy scouts. We were in the Florida keys and this was an awesome experience.

So this modern and detailed account of a circumnavigation in blog format intrigued me. Especially since this was an account of a young couple who sold everything and decided to do this on a whim with absolutely no experience sailing – very cool.

At first I really enjoyed the blog version of the account. This is quirky reading, and the blog is detailed and includes a lot of pictures, but by the time they got to Australia it seemed to drag quite a bit (especially regarding excursions on land, which didn’t interest me as much), so I ended up downloading their free book Bumfuzzle – Just Looking Out for Pirates. The book is a condensed and edited version of the blog, with less ramblings and more concise account of the circumnavigation.

The book has a theme, and that theme is how they did the circumnavigation their way. Cruising apparently has its core tenets revolving around safety, and I guess the people who typically go on extended voyages like this are typically pretty type A, and appear to be more of a retirement activity than something 30 somethings do on a whim. This makes sense because sailing like this is expensive. Most 30 year olds don’t have their student loans paid off, let alone enough cash salted away to buy a $100K+ catamaran, take off work for years, and sail around the world (hats off to those that do).

And it looks like they met a lot of resistance with their live account of their voyage, and how they basically gave the middle finger to a lot of the cruising tropes and the cruising community, which according to the Bumfuzzle account, is basically a bunch of sheep to afraid to get out there and sail like they did.

It’s a great story, spoiled slightly by the tremendous chip the author has on his shoulder regarding “cruisers” and cooking. The author and his wife seemed to subsist entirely off canned and frozen food on their voyage supplemented by the occasional fish they caught and plenty of cheeseburgers and beer at their various ports of call. I love cheeseburgers and beer as much as the next guy, but for a couple who had the ability to literally sail boat around the entire fucking world and revel in their independence, you would think that they could learn how to do slightly better than surviving off Doritos and canned tuna (especially in light of how much time they had on their hands – they could have easily learned some basic cooking techniques). It comes off as slightly ironic. Then again, I can cook but have never sailed around the world – so who I am to cast stones?

The author also spends a lot of time bemoaning cruisers: how because they were so young no one would immediately guess they were cruisers, how cruising, like many things in life, appears to be one big dick measuring contest (“How long have you been out?”), how cruisers spend too much time focusing on safety and worrying about insignificant risks like pirates, how cruisers seem to stick together which flies in the face of the visions of independence that sailing around the world on a boat conjures up. Again, I’m not a cruiser myself so I don’t have a dog in this fight, but found this was a big part of the book, and will likely turn a lot of people off.

I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder as well, so I can relate on some levels, but this undercurrent of negativity surrounding the author’s inability to cook and distaste for other sailors was something of a bummer; although on the flip side I do appreciate the very candid account. No sense in bullshitting us. It makes for a polarizing book.

Ultimately I am glad I read the book. It was certainly worth the price ($0) and it’s a great illustration of living life on your own terms.

I rated it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It was interesting, and not a bad book, but light reading and not something I would necessarily recommend unless you had an interest in reading about a modern and jaded account of sailing around the world. Read Kon-Tiki or Desperate Voyage first.

How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World – Book Review

I picked up a copy of How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World based on J.D. Roth’s recommendation on the MadFientist Podcast.

This book was originally written in the 70s by Harry Browne, and is described as “A Handbook for Personal Liberty”.

I have always considered myself to be something of a libertarian as far as my political leanings go (although I have never been active or particularly interested in politics). So I probably did not find the book as radical as the average person off the street might, but still, Harry presents a fairly radical approach to living life.

His book is organized into 3 major parts, the first being a series of chapters on various “traps” that people fall into including the morality traps, government trap, group trap, etc. Then he goes on to explain how you can be free from various problems in your life (including the government, marital problems, business problems, family problems, etc). Finally, Harry discusses living your new life by your own code, and how you can free yourself.

Like most things in life, different people will take different things away from the book, but I think there is a little something for everyone. Harry’s views on government, peer groups, religion, the projection of other people’s morals on you, etc are certainly viewpoints and lessons that people could stand to hear, especially if you are at all interested in the pursuit of financial dependence, lifestyle design, etc.

What I really took away from the book is the concept that “the world owes you nothing” and the idea that it is OK to be selfish. I already knew that the world owes me nothing (although it’s a great lesson and reminder), but I found Harry’s approach to selfishness to be intriguing.

For most people, selfish might as well be a 4 letter word. In the book, Harry presents unselfishness as a zero sum game and makes the position that the world gains nothing from everyone being unselfish, and that there is a net reduction in happiness if everyone were to behave unselfishly. He states that one of the great traps is to guilted in to do things, under the auspices of being “unselfish”. Whether that is a family even you would rather not go to, or saying “yes” to that extra assignment you don’t want. Most people preach that to be selfish is bad, and it’s important to be unselfish.

I haven’t full resolved an opinion on this matter, as I don’t necessarily like the image of being a “selfish” person in my own mind, but I can see and appreciate that to truly achieve freedom you need to march by the beat of your own drum, and learn to say “no” quite a bit. I have learned the power of saying no in my business (although that is a skill I have yet to master). I thought that Derek Sivers has an interesting idea with his “Hell Yeah! or no.” approach.

Some of Mr. Browne’s thoughts on relationships, and business partnerships were interesting. I would agree with him on his desire to reduce payment on taxes. Part of the book feels like it should be a companion book to The Anarchist Cookbook. The parts on honesty, and how real freedom is being comfortable with yourself and

Mr. Browne goes in to a number of different traps (and how to get out of them) in detail. I read this book on my Kindle, and found that I would have likely benefited from a hard copy, as at times it felt like the book read almost like a textbook.

How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World will not solve all of your problems, but it may force you to examine your life critically and at least consider the possibility that much of the stress and discomfort in the life of a modern American is by choice, and that it is possible to become “free” if you allow yourself to walk away from the many “traps” in life.

While I did not walk away loving the book, I found it useful and provocative. Worth reading if you are interested in financial independence or living a freer more satisfying life.

Books as Mentors

I am not sure where I first heard of the concept of using books as mentors. It may have been Ryan Holiday. At any rate, who explained how before he attracted a true mentor he used books as mentors. That could almost be akin to being raised by wild wolves. I’ll say that in my professional career (as a civil trial lawyer), my real life mentor has taught me much more than any books I have read on that subject.

But still, books definitely have their place. They can be a great reference and a wealth of perspective. I have benefited greatly from reading books in my life. I think reading tons of fiction was one of the few things I did as a kid to help distinguish myself from my peers. I try to always be reading something and one of my 2016 goals was to read 2 books a month in 2016.

And in many ways I have chosen books as mentors, and over the past few years have really fallen in love with reading biographies. Mostly biographies of successful business people, although a few random bios have snuck into my queue.

What I would like for this post to be is a list of some of my favorite biographies to date. To be updated and annotated as I come across new biographies I enjoy. How does this play into financial independence? I think reading biographies of wildly successful people will inform my financial future. If I can take away one piece from each book, and use that to form a habit, or have that be the basis of an idea that I can apply to myself or my business, then the money will slowly follow.

Ok, on with the list.

Titan – John D. Rockefeller – Ryan Holiday is a huge fan of this book, and after reading it I can see why. This is an epic biography of a titan of capitalism. Like many highly successful people, Rockefeller was a crazy man. His focus and zeal for business and improvement are paramount. His results are spectacular. Highly recommended.

The Power Broker – Robert Moses – I had never been particularly interested in New York City. Which is odd, as I was born in New York (but quickly moved to the South). This book changed that, and is a fascinating account of a man who literally shaped NYC. I am somewhat embarrassed to say I have not visited New York City yet, but after reading this book (and watching countless Casey Neistat vlogs), it’s only a matter of time.

The Snowball – Warren Buffett – I greatly enjoyed this book. Buffett is idolized among investors, and for good reason. To read about his rise (and peculiarities) fascinated me to no end. A must read for anyone interested in business and investing.

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson’s portrayal of Steve Jobs was another biography that I couldn’t put down. Steve Jobs is another crazy business person. Driven beyond measure he built two companies and amassed a fortune many times over. But despite all his success I don’t know how many people could honestly say they would want to be like Steve Jobs after reading the book. The man had problems (don’t we all).

Elon Musk – This was an epic story. In the age of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who build businesses that don’t see to “do” much of anything (Uber, AirBnB, Twitter, etc), here is a man who tackled electric cars, space travel, and solar energy. These are tangible, capital intensive, heavily regulated industries. All I can say is that Elon Musk has far bigger balls than I, has sought to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, and it was a true treat to read this account of his rise.

Jeff Bezos – Ok, I realize this list is fairly tech heavy, but I am a big Amazon fan, and I was just as big of a fan of this unauthorized biography of Jeff Bezos. Another oddly twisted man, who used his psychosis to build the biggest e-commerce company of all time. But what I found interesting about this book, is all the other businesses under the Amazon umbrella, and the stories from the retail trenches, outlining the tactics that played out as Jeff sought to disrupt major players in book selling, music, and steak knives.

Andrew Carnegie – Another industrialist. I found Andrew’s biography interesting because of how hands off he was with his business. Yet he managed to amass a staggering fortune. This book was a little slower at times, as much was dedicated to things besides the rise of his business (as he didn’t appear to spend a whole lot of time on his businesses once he got them going, and brought in capable partners to manage them for him). But this book definitely had it’s moments and I am glad I finished it.

How I Lost My Virginity – Richard Branson – being a Yank, I had heard of Richard Branson, but didn’t really know much about the man or his businesses. I knew he had an airline, a record company, an island in Virgin Islands, and that was about it. This was an autobiography, and is written in the same cheeky and irreverent style that I suspect Richard is known for. He is a charming and charismatic man, and I enjoyed reading about his beginnings (running a barely profitable magazine, of all things). The end of the book was a little flat for me, with much time spent on his charitable work in Africa, and talk of working with various political leaders and celebrities. But the meat of the book was great, and this was a fun read.

That’s all for now. I have read more business biographies, but these are the ones that are top of mind at the moment. Let me know if you have any recommendations for more in the comments section.

The Big Short – Book Review

I finished up The Big Short by Michael Lewis a few weeks ago, after reading Brad Feld’s recommendation.

It was an interesting read, but less gripping than Flash Boys or Liar’s Poker. Maybe it is because we all know how the story is going to end.

Still, I think it was well worth reading, as it went behind the scenes on the entire mortgage meltdown. I think is important for anyone interested in real estate to understand. Not so much for the lesson that you shouldn’t over leverage and rely on appreciation to pull your deal out of the mud, although certainly that’s a good lesson, but if you are waiting for another “bubble” to burst prior to buying more real estate.

In my opinion, a bubble like we saw in 2008 will not be happening again any time soon. This was a perfect storm. A financial fuck up of epic proportions, and the chances of it happening again in then near future are nigh impossible. Millions lost their shirt (and their house), and the few who foresaw it and had the courage to double down, even when everyone else told them they were crazy, made out like kings. And in reaction lenders have tightened up, a bevy of new regulations have been put into effect, and mortgages are no longer handed out like roofies at a frat party.

So I don’t think we will be seeing a collapse of the housing market like we did in 2008. Although, oddly enough, Michael Lewis thought Wall-Street was crazy back in the 80s, only to find it even crazier when he wrote the Big Short. So who is to say what the future will hold. Markets move in cycles, and if you wait long enough real estate will eventually go on sale again.

I recommend the book. The subject matter can get dense, but Lewis writes in his breezy and irreverent style. He follows a few investors through the bubble, and from what I can tell he did a good job explaining how it all went down. It was an easy and informative read that kept me turning the pages – even 5 years after it hit the bookshelves.