Blog Archives

Quotes from David Allen’s Masterpiece “Getting Things Done”

'Getting Things Done' by David Allen (ISBN 0143126563) Time management guru David Allen has established a cult following. His bestselling book, Getting Things Done, has produced an international crusade of dedicated adopters from executives, techies, soldiers, businesspersons, university lecturers, musicians, scholars, and ordained priests. It has spread into a flourishing “GTD” trade of web sites, blogs and software applications. Internet searches bring up tens of millions of references.

  • “The art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probably one of the secrets of our great men.”
    –Captain J.A. Hatfield
  • “Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organization, preparation, and action.”
    –David Kekich
  • “Time is the quality of nature that keeps events from happening all at once. Lately, it doesn’t seem to be working.”
    –Anonymous
  • “We can never really be prepared from that which is wholly new. We have to adjust ourselves, and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem: we undergo a test, we have to prove ourselves. It needs subordinate self-confidence to face drastic change without inner trembling.”
    –Eric Hoffer
  • “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”
    –Anonymous
  • “The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.”
    –Edward Gibbon
  • “Life is defined by lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.”
    –Nadia Boulanger
  • “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.”
    Shunryu Suzuki
  • “There is one thing we can do, and the happiest people are those who can do it to the limit of their ability. We can be completely present. We can be all here. We can… give all our attention to the opportunity before us.”
    –Mark Van Doren
  • 'The Power of Habit' by Charles Duhigg (ISBN 081298160X) “Think like a man of action. Act like a man of thought.”
    –Henry Bergson
  • “The ancestor of every action is a thought.”
    –Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “This constant, unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy.”
    –Kerry Gleeson
  • “Rule your mind or it will rule you.”
    –Horace
  • “The beginning is half of every action.”
    –Greek proverb
  • “Vision is not enough; it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps; we must step up the stairs.”
    Vaclav Havel
  • “It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.”
    –Sally Kempton
  • “The knowledge that we consider knowledge proves itself in action. What we now mean by knowledge is information in action, information focused on results.”
    –Peter F. Drucker
  • “Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are the most active.”
    –Leonardo da Vinci
  • “It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”
    Elbert Hubbard
  • “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
    –Michael McGriffy, M.D.
  • 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman (ISBN 0374533555) “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
    –Albert Einstein
  • “The affairs of life embrace a multitude of interests, and he who reasons in any one of them, without consulting the rest, is a visionary unsuited to control the business of the world.”
    –James Fenimore Cooper
  • “You’ve got to think about the big things while you’re doing the small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”
    –Alvin Toffer
  • “Don’t just do something. Stand there.”
    –Rochelle Myer
  • “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”
    George Santayana
  • “Celebrate any progress. Don’t wait to get perfect.”
    –Ann McGee Cooper
  • “Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.”
    –Dee Hock
  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
    –Albert Einstein
  • “Your automatic creative mechanism is teleological. That is, it operates in terms of goals and end results. Once you give it a definite goal to achieve, you can depend upon its automatic guidance system to take you to that goal much better than ‘you’ ever could by conscious thought. ‘You’ supply the goal by thinking in terms of end results. Your automatic mechanism then supplies the means whereby.”
    –Maxwell Maltz
  • “I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific.”
    –Lily Tomlin
  • “The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas.”
    –Linus Pauling
  • “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.”
    –Emile Chartier
  • 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen R. Covey (ISBN 1451639619) “Only he who handles his ideas lightly is master of his ideas, and only he who is master of his ideas is not enslaved by them.”
    Lin Yutang
  • “Plans get you into things but you’ve got to work your way out.”
    –Will Rogers
  • “It is easier to act yourself into a better way of feeling than to feel yourself into a better way of action.”
    –O.H. Mowrer
  • “I am rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I want to do, but I don’t know where to begin.”
    –Stephen Bayne
  • “I got it all together, but I forgot where I put it.”
    –Anonymous
  • “I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
    –Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • “We must strive to reach the simplicity that lies beyond sophistication.”
    –John Gardner
  • “Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness.”
    –Jean de la Bruysre
  • “What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.”
    –Aristotle
  • “To make knowledge productive, we will have to learn to see both forest and tree. We will have to learn to connect.”
    Peter F. Drucker
  • 'The Effective Executive' by Peter Drucker (ISBN 0060833459) “‘Point of view’ is that quintessentially human solution to information overload, an intuitive process of reducing things to an essential relevant and manageable minimum. In a world of hyperabundant content, point of view will become the scarcest of resources.”
    –Paul Saffo
  • “Thinking is the very essence of, and the most difficult thing to do in, business and in life. Empire builders spend hour-after-hour on mental work… while others party. If you’re not consciously aware of putting forth the effort to exert self-guided integrated thinking… then you’re giving in to laziness and no longer control your life.”
    –David Kekich
  • “We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all.”
    –Daniel Cohen
  • “To ignore the unexpected (even if it were possible) would be to live without opportunity, spontaneity, and the rich moments of which ‘life’ is made.”
    –Stephen Covey
  • “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”
    –Buddha
  • “The best place to succeed is where you are with what you have.”
    –Charles Schwab
  • “The middle of every successful project looks like a disaster.”
    –Rosabeth Moss Cantor
  • “Luck affects everything. Let your hook always be cast; in the stream where you least expect it there will be a fish.”
    –Ovid
  • “How do I know what to think, until I hear what I say?”
    E.M. Forster
  • “Let your advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”
    –Winston Churchill
  • “Out of the strain of the doing, into the peace of the done.”
    –Julia Louis Woodruff
  • “It is the act of forgiveness that opens up the only possible way to think creatively about the future at all.”
    –Fr. Desmond Wilson
  • 'How to Win Friends & Influence People' by Dale Carnegie (ISBN 0671027034) “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting with the first one.”
    –Mark Twain
  • “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
    –Mark Twain
  • “No matter how big and tough a problem may be, get rid of confusion by taking one little step toward solution. Do something.”
    –George F. Nordenholt
  • “You can only cure retail but you can prevent wholesale.”
    –Brock Chisolm
  • “Talk does not cook rice.”
    –Chinese proverb
  • “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
    John F. Kennedy
  • “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, they make them.”
    –George Bernard Shaw
  • “Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified.”
    –Dr. Samuel Johnson
  • “An idealist believes that the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”
    –Sidney J. Harris
  • “A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world.”
    –From a church in Sussex, England, ca. 1730
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Posted in Education and Career Mental Models and Psychology

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for Millennials

If you’re like most millennials in business, you haven’t read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It perhaps never fascinated to you. In actual fact, if you’re like many smart and talented millennials I’ve met, you may believe it to be completely contrary to your nature.

There are certainly millennials who’ve read The Art of War and used it to their lives and their businesses. But if you’re like most, you may wonder how you can possibly familiarize the wisdom of a Chinese military strategist from 500 B.C. to your daily business encounters.

The answer is in an approach to business and life that is both time-tested and groundbreaking. Sun Tzu’s classic has had overwhelming influence the world over. It’s shaped Eastern military and business thinking, and in the West, its attractiveness continues to grow as managers and leaders apply its principles to their business challenges.

The book is about how to seize the advantage in all battles, including those you choose not to fight. While The Art of War is rather literally about warfare, presuming it’s about seeking combat as the best option is very far from the real Sun Tzu. In fact, a major theme of The Art of War is “He who knows when to fight and when not to fight will win.”

'The Art of War' by Ralph D. Sawyer (ISBN 081331951X) For most business readers, waging war doesn’t mean assembling forces to take a city. It means mobilizing ourselves or our teams to win a big contract, seize a market opportunity, control an industry, or reposition a company. Sun Tzu says a great deal about the traits and characteristics necessary for this type of victory. To be successful, Sun Tzu calls for vigilant strategy and proficient perception, superior subtlety and technique, and skillful application of your assets and attributes. He stresses that you understand yourself, your opponent and the conditions of the battleground, however you define that field. Below are just a few ways to apply Sun Tzu to business challenges that plague many millennials.

  • Ditch the Rules: Too many millennials fall into the trap of assuming that success will be found in following prearranged standards. This mistaken belief has its origin in childhood when most millennials are content with playing by rules and being patient and polite. While times have changed, you were probably habituated to be reactionary. There’s a time for patience and politeness, but in business, waiting your turn will often result in missed opportunities. Sun Tzu calls for the perception to move with intensity when the time is right: “An army superior in strength takes action like the bursting of pent up waters into a chasm of a thousand fathoms deep.”
  • Overcome Mistakes: Writing of ideals, Sun Tzu had no regard for mistakes. But the rest of us live in a very distinctive reality. Habituation often extends to how differently men and millennials regard mistakes. millennials, in general, have a more difficult time with mistakes, largely because we’re socialized to feel differently about mistakes. Mistakes are an opportunity to do better next time. But when millennials make mistakes, they’re solaced, emphasizing the idea that they should feel badly about making them.
  • Take the Right Risks: Risk taking is another area where millennials tend to function very differently, but where Sun Tzu delivers lucidity. A student of war, taking calculated risks is fundamental to him. He recognizes that we’re the architect of our victories, which means we need to define winning on our terms, and when necessary, change the game entirely. Sun Tzu writes repeatedly of manipulating circumstances. Many millennials find themselves on career paths or within organizations where their skills and strengths are painfully limited. Victory demands excellence and the only way to excel is to be positioned to achieve. If this doesn’t describe your circumstances, a game change is in order.

'Sun Tzu Machiavelli Leadership Secrets' by Anthony D. Jensen (ISBN 1530006619) So what’s in The Art of War for millennials? For one thing, it provides awareness into how to gain a decisive business advantage by leveraging your strengths and assets to craft and execute effective strategies. It will help you understand and develop the traits and obstinacy necessary to make major achievements. And significantly, the Chinese philosopher-general will show you to do it in ways least expected: “Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness, make your way by unexpected routes.”

In a competitive world, the currency of the people, businesses, products and ideas that are winning is innovation. For Sun Tzu, and for you, winning requires careful preparation and the opportune launch of unexpected strategies and tactics.

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Posted in Mental Models and Psychology Philosophy and Wisdom

A Value Investing Checklist from ‘Poor Charlie’s Almanack’

'Poor Charlie's Almanack' by Charles T. Munger (ISBN 1578645018)

From Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger

Risk—All investment evaluations should begin by measuring risk, especially reputational

  • Incorporate an appropriate margin of safety
  • Avoid dealing with people of questionable character
  • Insist upon proper compensation for risk assumed
  • Always beware of inflation and interest rate exposures
  • Avoid big mistakes; shun permanent capital loss

Independence—“Only in fairy tales are emperors told they are naked”

  • Objectivity and rationality require independence of thought
  • Remember that just because other people agree or disagree with you doesn’t make you right or wrong—the only thing that matters is the correctness of your analysis and judgment
  • Mimicking the herd invites regression to the mean (merely average performance)

Preparation—“The only way to win is to work, work, work, work, and hope to have a few insights”

  • Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day
  • More important than the will to win is the will to prepare
  • Develop fluency in mental models from the major academic disciplines
  • If you want to get smart, the question you have to keep asking is “why, why, why?”

Intellectual humility—Acknowledging what you don’t know is the dawning of wisdom

  • Stay within a well-defined circle of competence
  • Identify and reconcile disconfirming evidence
  • Resist the craving for false precision, false certainties, etc.
  • Above all, never fool yourself, and remember that you are the easiest person to fool

Analytic rigor—Use of the scientific method and effective checklists minimizes errors and omissions

  • Determine value apart from price; progress apart from activity; wealth apart from size
  • It is better to remember the obvious than to grasp the esoteric
  • Be a business analyst, not a market, macroeconomic, or security analyst
  • Consider totality of risk and effect; look always at potential second order and higher level impacts
  • Think forwards and backwards—Invert, always invert

Allocation—Proper allocation of capital is an investor’s number one job

  • Remember that highest and best use is always measured by the next best use (opportunity cost)
  • Good ideas are rare—when the odds are greatly in your favor, bet (allocate) heavily
  • Don’t “fall in love” with an investment—be situation-dependent and opportunity-driven

Patience—Resist the natural human bias to act

  • “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world” (Einstein); never interrupt it unnecessarily
  • Avoid unnecessary transactional taxes and frictional costs; never take action for its own sake
  • Be alert for the arrival of luck
  • Enjoy the process along with the proceeds, because the process is where you live

Decisiveness—When proper circumstances present themselves, act with decisiveness and conviction

  • Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful
  • Opportunity doesn’t come often, so seize it when it comes
  • Opportunity meeting the prepared mind; that’s the game

Change—Live with change and accept unremovable complexity

  • Recognize and adapt to the true nature of the world around you; don’t expect it to adapt to you
  • Continually challenge and willingly amend your “best-loved ideas”
  • Recognize reality even when you don’t like it—especially when you don’t like it

Focus—Keep things simple and remember what you set out to do

  • Remember that reputation and integrity are your most valuable assets—and can be lost in a heartbeat
  • Guard against the effects of hubris and boredom
  • Don’t overlook the obvious by drowning in minutiae
  • Be careful to exclude unneeded information or slop: “A small leak can sink a great ship”
  • Face your big troubles; don’t sweep them under the rug
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Posted in Investing and Finance

Bernard Baruch’s 10 Rules of Investing

Bernard Baruch (1870–1965) was the son of a South Carolina physician whose family moved to New York City when he was eleven year old. By his mid-twenties, he is able to buy an $18,000 seat on the exchange with his winnings and commissions from being a broker. By age 30, he is a millionaire and is known all over The Street as “The Lone Wolf”.

Bernard Baruch's 10 Rules of Investing Born in Camden, South Carolina, and raised in New York City, Bernard Mannes Baruch graduated from the City College of New York in 1889. His original job on Wall Street, at the brokerage firm of A. A. Housman & Co., paid $3 a week, but he became a millionaire by the time he was thirty. He was a director of the New York Stock Exchange, a front-runner in mining finance, and an irregular investor in properties ran by the Guggenheim household. Even though he did not sell out just before the stock market crash of 1929, as fable has it, he did recover the bulk of his fortune.

In his two-volume 1957 memoirs, My Own Story and The Public Years, Baruch left us with the following timeless rules for investing

Being so skeptical about the usefulness of advice, I have been reluctant to lay down any ‘rules’ or guidelines on how to invest or speculate wisely. Still, there are a number of things I have learned from my own experience which might be worth listing for those who are able to muster the necessary self-discipline.

  • Don’t speculate unless you can make it a full-time job.
  • Beware of barbers, beauticians, waiters—of anyone—bringing gifts of “inside” information or “tips.”
  • Before you buy a security, find out everything you can about the company, its management and competitors, its earnings and possibilities for growth.
  • 'Baruch My Own Story' by Bernard Baruch (ISBN 1607969130) Don’t try to buy at the bottom and sell at the top. This can’t be done—except by liars.
  • Learn how to take your losses quickly and cleanly. Don’t expect to be right all the time. If you have made a mistake, cut your losses as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t buy too many different securities. Better have only a few investments which can be watched.
  • Make a periodic reappraisal of all your investments to see whether changing developments have altered their prospects.
  • Study your tax position to know when you can sell to greatest advantage.
  • Always keep a good part of your capital in a cash reserve. Never invest all your funds.
  • Don’t try to be a jack of all investments. Stick to the field you know best.

Baruch would afterwards continue from Wall Street to Washington DC as an consultant to both Woodrow Wilson and to Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.

Later on, he became identified as the Park Bench Statesman, due to his keenness for debating policy and politics with his associates in the open air.

He lived until a few days before his 95th birthday in 1965. You could do worse than to invest and live based on these facts.

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Posted in Investing and Finance

Quotes from David Ogilvy’s ‘Ogilvy On Advertising’

David Ogilvy famously said his secret to success was simple: “First make a reputation for being a creative genius. Second surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third leave them to get on with it.”

'Ogilvy on Advertising' by David Ogilvy (ISBN 039472903X) Imaginably no other advertising practitioner has been so liberal with sharing his knowledge and experience than David Ogilvy.

In Ogilvy On Advertising, Ogilvy’s judgements on advertising and his appeal shines through his guidebook to the advertising business. His words are a discovery into consumer behavior. His love for the art and science of using words (and sometimes pictures) to coo and coax is fascinating.

Written with sincere enthusiasm, each chapter begins with a frontispiece describing a personal experience that demonstrates a basic advertising concept. Consequently, the reader’s attention is engaged and is brought into the situation immediately.

On The Power Of Advertising

The first thing I have to say is that you may not realize the magnitude of difference between one advertisement and another. Says John Caples, the doyen of direct response copywriters:

‘I have seen one advertisement actually sell not twice as much, not three times as much, but 19.5 times as much as another. Both advertisements occupied the same space. Both had photographic illustrations. Both had carefully written copy. The difference was that one used the right appeal and the other used the wrong appeal.’

The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product.

On ‘Creativity’ in Advertising

I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative’. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’

On the Pursuit Of Knowledge

I asked an indifferent copywriter what books he had read about advertising. He told me that he had not read any he preferred to rely on his own intuition. ‘Suppose’, I asked, ‘your gall-bladder has to be removed this evening. Will you choose a surgeon who has read some books on anatomy and knows where to find your gall-bladder, or a surgeon who relies on his intuition? Why should our clients be expected to bet millions of dollars on your intuition?’

This willful refusal to learn the rudiments of the craft is all too common. I cannot think of any other profession which gets by on such a small corpus of knowledge.

On the underestimated weapon known as Direct Mail

One day a man walked into a London agency and asked to see the boss. He had bought a country house and was about to open it as a hotel. Could the agency help him to get customers? He had $500 to spend. Not surprisingly, the head of the agency turned him over to the office boy, who happened to be the author of this book. I invested his money in penny postcards and mailed them to well-heeled people living in the neighborhood. Six weeks later the hotel opened to a full house. I had tasted blood.

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Posted in Global Business Hobbies and Pursuits Philosophy and Wisdom

Marissa Mayer’s Tardiness at Google

'Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo' by Nicholas Carlson (ISBN 1455556610) Tardiness has a detrimental effect on the organization. Tardiness is a display of disrespect. Establishing ground rules, documenting violations, using an official discipline process and identifying larger workplace issues can go a long way toward correcting issues with executive tardiness.

Per this noteworthy anecdote from Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo by Nicholas Carlson:

The other factor compounding Mayer’s coldness was that she had the awful habit of being late, all the time.

Every Monday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. California time, Mayer’s staff would gather for a three-hour meeting with the boss. Mayer demanded all of her staff across the world join the call, so executives from New York, where it was 6:00 p.m., and Europe, where it was 11:00 p.m. or later, would dial in, too. Inevitably, Mayer would show up at least forty-five minutes late. Some calls started so late that Yahoo’s executives in Europe didn’t hang up till after 3:00 a.m. their time. Mayer had approximately two dozen people reporting to her during her first year at Yahoo. In theory, she was keeping up with each of them in a regularly scheduled weekly meeting. In practice, she would go weeks without talking to people because she was so busy.

For a while, each of those two dozen people thought that Mayer was just picking on them, individually. The people who had been at Yahoo before Mayer joined assumed that this meant she was going to fire them soon. The people Mayer had hired into the company, including HR boss Jackie Reses and CMO Kathy Savitt, were even more puzzled. Why had they been hired only to be ignored?

But then, during one of those long waiting periods after 3: 00 p.m. on a Monday, a conversation unfurled that revealed all. Making small talk, one executive said to another: “Did she cancel one of your one-on-ones again?”

A third jumped in: “Oh my God, she does that to you, too?” It turned out that everyone in the room and on the call had been canceled on by Mayer, frequently.

Mayer was also constantly late to product reviews. The meeting would be scheduled for 2:00 p.m., and around 2:15 p.m., Mayer’s assistant, Trish Crawley, would come out and say, “Really sorry. She’s going to be late. We’re not sure when she’ll get here.” Then it would 3:00 p.m. and then 4:00 p.m., and then Crawley would come out and say the meeting was canceled.

The standard joke was that if you had a review with Mayer, you should expect not to know when it was going to be and that it would change at the last minute. It was annoying for people who worked in Sunnyvale. It was brutal for remote teams in India and Europe.

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Posted in Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership

Top 10 Russian Authors and Their Masterpieces

Top 10 Russian Authors and Their Masterpieces

1. Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)

  • Anna Karenina (1875–7)—“All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
  • War and Peace (1865–9)—“The strongest of all warriors are these two—time and patience.”

2. Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881)

  • Crime and Punishment (1866)—“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”
  • The Brothers Karamazov (1880)—“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

3. Anton Chekhov (1860–1904)

  • The Three Sisters (1901)—“Man must work by the sweat of his brow whatever his class, and that should make up the whole meaning and purpose of his life and happiness and contentment.”
  • Uncle Vanya (1897)—“When a woman isn’t beautiful, people always say, ‘You have lovely eyes, you have lovely hair.”
  • The Cherry Orchard (1904)—“To begin to live in the present, we must first atone for our past and be finished with it, and we can only atone for it by suffering, by extraordinary, unceasing exertion.”

4. Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837)

  • Eugene Onegin (1833)
    “A woman’s love for us increases
    The less we love her, sooth to say—
    She stoops, she falls, her struggling ceases;
    Caught fast, she cannot get away.”
  • Boris Godunov (1825)
    “Pimen [writing in front of a sacred lamp]:
    One more, the final record, and my annals
    Are ended, and fulfilled the duty laid
    By God on me a sinner. Not in vain
    Hath God appointed me for many years
    A witness, teaching me the art of letters;
    A day will come when some laborious monk
    Will bring to light my zealous, nameless toil,
    Kindle, as I, his lamp, and from the parchment
    Shaking the dust of ages will transcribe
    My true narrations.”

5. Nikolai Gogol (1809–1852)

  • Taras Bulba (1835)—“Turn around, son! What a funny figure you are! Are those priests’ cassocks you are wearing? And do they all go about like that at the academy?” With these words old Bulba greeted his two sons who had been studying at the Kiev college and had come home to their father.”
  • Dead Souls (1842)—“As you pass from the tender years of youth into harsh and embittered manhood, make sure you take with you on your journey all the human emotions! Don’t leave them on the road, for you will not pick them up afterwards!”

6. Mikhail Sholokhov (1905–1984)

  • And Quiet Flows the Don (1934)—“The grass grows over the graves, time overgrows the pain. The wind blew away the traces of those who had departed; time blows away the bloody pain and the memory of those who did not live to see their dear ones again—and will not live, for brief is human life, and not for long is any of us granted to tread the grass.”

7. Mikhail Bulgakov (1891–1940)

  • The Master and Margarita (1966-67)—“The tongue can conceal the truth, but the eyes never! You’re asked an unexpected question, you don’t even flinch, it takes just a second to get yourself under control, you know just what you have to say to hide the truth, and you speak very convincingly, and nothing in your face twitches to give you away. But the truth, alas, has been disturbed by the question, and it rises up from the depths of your soul to flicker in your eyes and all is lost.”

8. Ivan Turgenev (1818–1883)

  • Fathers and Sons (1862)—“Nature is not a temple, but a workshop, and man’s the workman in it.”
  • On the Eve (1860)—“No matter how often you knock at nature’s door, she won’t answer in words you can understand—for Nature is dumb. She’ll vibrate and moan like a violin, but you mustn’t expect a song.”

9. Maxim Gorky (1868–1936)

  • The Lower Depths (1902)—“Everybody, my friend, everybody lives for something better to come. That’s why we want to be considerate of every man—Who knows what’s in him, why he was born and what he can do?”

10. Mikhail Lermontov (1814–1841)

  • A Hero of our Time (1840)—“The love of savages isn’t much better than the love of noble ladies; ignorance and simple-heartedness can be as tiresome as coquetry.”
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Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits Music, Arts, and Culture

Peter Cundill Quotes from ‘There’s Always Something to Do’

Peter Cundill Quotes from 'There's Always Something to Do'

F. Peter Cundill (1938–2011) was a Canadian value investor of the Benjamin Graham investment school. He was most well known for his flagship investment fund, Cundill Value Fund. His The Mac Cundill Value Fund Series A has returned 10.1% per annum during 1993 until 2003, compared with 8.1% for the benchmark Citigroup World Equity index, according to Morningstar.

  • On Forecasting: “I think that intelligent forecasting (company revenues, earnings, etc.) should not seek to predict what will in fact happen in the future. Its purpose ought to be to illuminate the road, to point out obstacles and potential pitfalls and so assist management to tailor events and to bend them in a desired direction. Forecasting should be used as a device to put both problems and opportunities into perspective. It is a management tool, but it can never be a substitute for strategy, nor should it ever be used as the primary basis for portfolio investment decisions.”
  • On Skepticism: “Scepticism is good, but be a sceptic, not an iconoclast. Have rigour and flexibility, which might be considered an oxymoron but is exactly what I meant when I quoted Peter Robertson’s dictum ‘always change a winning game.’ An investment framework ought to include a liberal dose of scepticism both in terms of markets and of company accounts. Taking this a step further, a lot of MBA programs, particularly these days, teach you about market efficiency and accounting rules, but this is not a perfect world and there will always be anomalies and there is always “wriggle room” within company accounts so you have to stick to your guns and forget the hype.”
  • On Patience for Investors and Selling Too Early: “This is a recurring problem for most value investors—that tendency to buy and to sell too early. The virtues of patience are severely tested and you get to thinking it’s never going to work and then finally your ship comes home and you’re so relieved that you sell before it’s time. What we ought to do is go off to Bali or some such place and sit in the sun to avoid the temptation to sell too early.”
  • 'There is Always Something to Do' by Peter Cundill (ISBN 0773535373) On Statistical Overvaluation: “I almost stopped selling Japan short in the last quarter of 1989 because I couldn’t stand it anymore. But intellectually I was convinced that I was right and so I carried on and then in the first quarter of 1990 the Japanese market fell by 25% in eight weeks and I made back everything I’d given away since 1987 plus a good deal more. But I tell you statistical overvaluation is a funny thing—it can go on for a very long time, far beyond the limits of rationality, and it is a problem for the value investor in two ways: it can tempt one to compromise standards on the buy side and it may lure one into selling things far too early. I have less of a problem with the selling temptation because I have always loved cash—if you’ve got lots of it you will never have to pass up a great opportunity.”
  • On Curiosity: “Curiosity is the engine of civilization. If I were to elaborate it would be to say read, read, read, and don’t forget to talk to people, really talk, listening with attention and having conversations, on whatever topic, that are an exchange of thoughts. Keep the reading broad, beyond just the professional. This helps to develop one’s sense of perspective in all matters.”
  • On Patience: “For all my emphasis on the virtues of patience in value investment it has to go hand in hand with minute attention to the detail, with conviction and determination, otherwise patience is just futile endurance.”
  • On Intellectual Distractions for Investors: “Just as many smart people fail in the investment business as stupid ones. Intellectually active people are particularly attracted to elegant concepts, which can have the effect of distracting them from the simpler, more fundamental, truths.”

On the Worst Investment He Ever Made

The worst investment we have ever had was Cable & Wireless, which had built up a large cash pile through the sale of telephone companies in Hong Kong and Australia and their mobile telephone business in the UK. They were well negotiated, judicious sales. What they had left was a stand-alone operation in the Caribbean, which still exists, and they were in the fibre optic business that was blowing cash. So we said, look they’ve got cash, they’ve got a valuable, viable business and let’s assume the fibre optic business is worth zero—it wasn’t, it was worth less than zero, much, much less! Their accounting was flawed to say the least and they became obsessed by a technological dream. In this respect it was reminiscent of Nortel and that should have caused me to think twice.

I talked to John Templeton about it afterwards and he took a worse hit than us. He said “this is why we diversify, if you are right 60% of the time and wrong 40% you’re always going to be a hero, if you are right 40% of the time and wrong 60% you will be a bum.” I think he probably put it more elegantly than that! But there’s one more thing. We had put a huge amount of time and energy into that one and we were willing it to save itself and, on the face of it, it could have. What we needed was a dissenter in the team—a contrarian among contrarians, a lateral thinker watching out for the left field. On that occasion there wasn’t one. So my thought is, if there’s no natural sceptic on an investment maybe it would be wise to appoint one of the team to play Devil’s Advocate anyway.

'Routines and Orgies- The Life of Peter Cundill' by Christopher Risso-Gill (ISBN 0773544720) Peter Cundill was the founder of Cundill Investment Research and was named Canada’s fund manager of the year at the Canadian Investment Awards gala held in early December 2004. Born in Montreal and based in London, Cundill spent much of the year scouring the globe in search of value opportunities for Mackenzie Financial‘s Cundill fund family.

On Investors’ Biggest Challenges

The ultimate skill in this business is in knowing when to make the judgement call to let profits run. While it is true that 99% of investment effort is routine, unspectacular enquiry, checking and double checking, laboriously building up a web of information with single threads until it constitutes a complete tableau, just occasionally a flash of inspiration may be necessary. Once we have begun to build a position it has to be recognized that our intentions may change in the course of its construction. An influential, or even controlling, position quite often results from a situation where a cheap security does little or nothing price-wise for such a long time that we are able to buy a significant percentage of the equity. Whether our intentions remain passive under these circumstances depends on an assessment of the outlook for the company and the capability of its management, but I don’t think that we ought to be pro-active merely for the sake of it. My task is principally the identification of opportunity and the decision to press the buy button. This may sometimes turn out to be a catalyst in itself, but normally we should rely on others to do the promotional work or to put the company directly into play. Otherwise it will turn into a constant and time-consuming distraction from our prime objective of finding cheap securities to buy.

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Leadership Lessons from Katharine Graham

Katharine Graham, renowned publisher of The Washington Post, spent 30 years overseeing and enlarging her media empire. Yet the rigidities of being CEO never discouraged her from the core mission of journalism, and she showed her responsibility by her actions.

The best leaders know that you cannot just talk about priorities; you have to exhibit what you care about by taking action. You can show your priorities in five ways:

  1. 'Personal History' by Katharine Graham (ISBN 0375701044) Get out of the office and into your employees’ ecosystem. Graham spent time in the newsroom each day. Ben Bradlee, the editor Graham hired who directed the paper through the Pentagon Papers and Watergate dramas, said that Graham had “round heels for reporters.” For her, “writing the first draft of history” (journalism) was at the center of her company. Employees felt she recognized their work because she observed it as it happened. In addition, Graham intensified her understanding of jobs in the newsroom by her direct observation, by listening, and by asking questions.
  2. Be proactive in building competence and knowledge. Graham held lunches for reporters in her private dining room, and welcomed experts for briefings. Journalists coveted being invited to these luncheons, which permitted them to deepen their knowledge of both their subject area and their publisher’s mentality. Once Graham brought in a psychologist to discuss personality disorders, notwithstanding the sensitivity she must have felt from her husband’s manic-depression and subsequent suicide. Graham carefully questioned the psychologist, and gave her journalists permission to explore the subject.
  3. Show that you are willing to jump in when needed. Graham built her resources by adding news bureaus worldwide, and boosted editorial budgets and staff, but she always saw herself as an operational part of the team. She would eagerly call in tips she picked up at social occasions and take excellent and extensive notes of speeches. During a violent press operator’s strike, which nearly shut down the paper, Graham lived inside the Post building. She did everything from taking classified ads to stuffing newspapers in bags, getting ink on her designer dresses. She was undeterred, and after the strike, directed the paper to its greatest financial success.
  4. 'Katharine Graham: The Leadership Journey' by Robin Gerber (ISBN 1591841046) Stand up for your employees. One Sunday afternoon Graham heard that the Chinese government ransacked the room of one of her foreign correspondents and held the woman for questioning. Graham did not pick up the telephone or ask for a letter of protest to be written. She put on her heels and single strand of pearls and drove to the Chinese embassy, marching up to the door and insisting on a justification. Her actions were not lost on her reporters.
  5. Follow your core convictions—even in small matters. In writing about Katharine Graham, Robin Gerber tried to get an interview with Warren Buffett, who had been Graham’s friend and mentor. In a final attempt, she sent Buffett the draft manuscript with a note saying that she hoped he enjoyed it. Two weeks later, he called her and talked about Graham, her leadership, and his relationship with her. He told Gerber about an occurrence he felt she had gotten wrong and gave her a quote for the book cover. Why did the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway take time to talk to Gerber? He could have dictated a note about the error, or asked his assistant to call. It is because the legacy of his friend is important to him. Devotion to relationships, identifying outstanding CEOs, and sticking with them has been a characteristic of Buffett’s success.

Leaders show their priorities through their actions. Think about how you are connecting to your staff through what you do, rather than through what you say. Make your actions fit your company’s mission and others will follow your lead.

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The Science of Fear

'The Science of Fear' by Daniel Gardner (ISBN 0452295467) Confirmation bias leads us to accept more readily perceived facts that keep to our existing worldview more willingly than objectively considering all of the evidence. Many corporate leaders leverage disruptive change by making targeted, courageous moves toward new market opportunities. Many companies face up to risk with a strategic framework based on extenuating and managing the probable consequences but that line of attack might build bigger protective walls without guarding against the greatest risks—the ones that are unidentified. The uncertainty advantage is something different: an approach that compels managers to recognize the unknown as a market differentiator and an opportunity to give a free rein to innovative solutions that appeal to customers, investors, strategic partners, regulators, and competitors. Concisely, it is an opportunity to go well beyond the characteristic meaning of risk management—that is, seeking ways to achieve the best of the worst outcomes—to create new and sustainable value out of confusion.

In his book, The Science of Fear: How the Culture of Fear Manipulate Brain, New York Times bestselling author Daniel Gardner describes some of our pitfalls when it comes to framing risk properly:

Once a belief is in place, we screen what we see and hear in a biased way that ensures our beliefs are “proven” correct. Psychologists have also discovered that people are vulnerable to something called group polarization—which means that when people who share beliefs get together in groups, they become more convinced that their beliefs are right and they become more extreme in their views. Put confirmation bias, group polarization, and culture together, and we start to understand why people can come to completely different views about which risks are frightening and which aren’t worth a second thought.

It’s also much easier to simply be afraid of that with which we can easily recall to memory. Gardner uses Daniel Kahneman’s two systems of thought to explain:

You may have just watched the evening news and seen a shocking report about someone like you being attacked in a quiet neighborhood at midday in Dallas. That crime may have been in another city in another state. It may have been a very unusual, even bizarre crime—the very qualities that got it on the evening news across the country. And it may be that if you think about this a little—if you get System Two involved—you would agree that this example really doesn’t tell you much about your chance of being attacked, which, according to the statistics, is incredibly tiny. But none of that matters. All that System One knows is that the example was recalled easily. Based on that alone, it concludes that risk is high and it triggers the alarm—and you feel afraid when you really shouldn’t.

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