Hot sauce 🔥, Action Bronson, Minimum Wage, Tim Ferriss, Asset Allocations

Hey there! Hope all’s well!

This week I’ve been reading

an article, sent to me by a good friend and regular reader, an interesting business experiment. It’s about a tech company that set a floor for paying its staff: a minimum wage for all staff of $70,000. That’s for everyone in the company. And the boss took a pay cut himself from over a million dollars down to the new minimum wage. Here’s the BBC article: The boss who put everyone on 70K. I couldn’t see from the article that the guy had any equity in his company, so I did a bit of googling and found this article from Inc: Here's What Really Happened at That Company That Set a $70,000 Minimum Wage. Luckily he does.

“Dan Price took a walk in the woods with a friend who was struggling to live on less than $50,000, about a million dollars below what he was making. Some two weeks later, he instituted his minimum wage of $70,000 and challenged other entrepreneurs to follow him.” (Taken from the Inc article above)

It’s interesting that his profits have risen despite his cost base increasing significantly. Could this have something to do with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where if employees’ basic needs (in this case, money worries) are met, then does their productivity go up, and if it does, does it increase by more than the cost of raising their salaries? From this sample size of one company, if we take the numbers at face value, it seems that the answer might be “quite possibly”.

Tim Ferriss

If you’re looking for some new reading material, I also found this excellent reading list from the dependably prodigious Tim Ferriss: The Best Books and Articles I Read in 2019.


Personal finance - rebalancing your asset allocation

The markets took a bit of a pounding in the past two weeks and it reminded me to look at rebalancing my asset allocation. I loosely follow the system in Ramit Sethi’s book I Will Teach You To Be Rich. (Yes by his own admission it’s a very scammy sounding name! But honestly it’s legit, I promise :))

His system, in a nutshell, is to get out of debt, increase income, save more (and automatically), invest more (and automatically), and make sure you negotiate well in the big-ticket items in life, eg house purchases and cars.

In terms of investing, he favours automatic investing - so a regular amount each month that goes out of your current account and gets automatically invested. He recommends low cost, low fee index funds, using tax-sheltered wrappers (such as ISAs) and splitting your investments according to the David Swenson asset allocation. This is roughly:

David Swensen Asset Allocation

Screenshot of David Swenson’s Asset Allocation. Taken from NPR (https://www.npr.org/2015/10/17/436993646/three-investment-gurus-share-their-model-portfolios)

So why rebalance? Equity markets have taken a fair hit in the past two weeks and this would have affected your asset allocation. Your equity index funds would have gone down and this would mean that you were overweight (had too much of) the other assets eg. your low-cost property fund or your low-cost bond funds.

The recent second edition of Ramit’s book shows you how exactly how to rebalance. So instead of selling your overweight funds, and buying more of the funds that you are now underweight in (in this case equity funds), and incurring transaction fees, he recommends adjusting your automatic investment for a few months to buy just equities (or whatever else you’re now underweight in). And that’s what I’m doing now for the next few months.

For more on Ramit, David Swenson and asset allocation, check out this post I wrote a couple of years back.

BTW - Disclaimer: Obvs do your own research before investing in anything!


Product tip

I’m an absolute sucker for marketing. I can be watching TV and then an advert for Dominos comes on, and all I want from that moment onwards is a Dominos. Much to Angelique’s dismay.

So the other day, an advert for Harry’s razors came on, and when I was in the men’s toiletries aisle yesterday, I bought a Harry’s razor and a pack of 4 blades. Total price £16. That’s very similar pricing to my trusted Gilette Mach 3s but I thought I’d give it a go.

Don’t!

It’s very plastic, it feels lightweight and a bit flimsy. Hand in hand vs the Gillette Mach 3 and there’s no contest. Now to go back and return those extra blades!


Hot sauce 🔥

Ben from work is a big chili guy. He recommended me some hot sauce from a guy called the Rib Man who sells ribs from outside West Ham games and on Brick Lane on Sundays.

It’s not easy to get hold of his hot sauce - it’s often sold out completely but that’s part of the allure of this stuff, hunting it down. I bought a bottle of his Holy F*ck hot sauce and a bottle of Bacon Holy F*ck (£5 and £6 respectively). It’s very, very good. It doesn’t have the vinegar hit of say Encona, but it’s got a very nice lingering hotness. If you’re a chili head, give this a go! Here’s a link to his website.

Image result for holy fuck hot sauce

Image from Mark Gevaux’s (aka The Rib Man) Twitter


Food videos of the week

And part 2:

And part 3:

And if you’re looking for natural wine near you, I recommend using the Raisin app which tells you which wine bars and restaurants near you have natural wine, as well as producers.


Quote for the week

“The closer you are to the real you, the quieter your mind becomes.”

Naval Ravikant


Have a great week ahead!

Best, Ed

Standing out in a saturated market

Hey there!

I LOVE food YouTubes. Love them.

Sam the Cooking Guy, The Food Ranger, Mike Chen, countless Munchies shows like The Pizza Show. The production values here are super high. Great editing, great camerawork, engaging content. They all deserve their huge success.

But recently, a mate (Mike) recommended a show for me called Not Another Cooking Show, which led to a rabbit hole of 7 videos on the bounce, all cast to the bigger TV screen and I even got Angelique to watch it. And she hates watching cooking shows that I like. It was that compelling!

Angelique said something that struck me. “I like the way he explains why a certain ingredient works over another” eg. why use Pecorino Romano over Parmesan Reggiano for some dishes (it has slightly more saltiness). Or he’ll insist on having only San Marzano tomatoes from a can and processed through a hand food mill for a tomato sauce. Or a certain type of salt or a particular type of extra virgin olive oil. (He lurves his DOP designated balsamic vinegar.)

He (Stephen Cusato) really goes into the detail and specifically the detail that helps you, the viewer. Other shows do this to an extent, but none I’ve seen that goes to this level of detail or this level of helpfulness.

It shows that even in a saturated market, you can stand out by being even more helpful than others are.

Here’s some great vids from Not Another Cooking Show:

His basic tomato sauce recipe:

Before watching this vid, I would have used normal chopped tomatoes from Sainsbury’s. BUT NOW, I’m only going to use San Marzano tommies, certified from Italy. He uses a food mill to smooth out the tomatoes but I’m more like the way that Sam the Cooking Guy does his - he scrunches them up with his hands - see this vid at 5:40:

Another vid where we see just how helpful, and detailed Stephen is his one where he walks you through everything he has in his pantry:

So what’s the TLDR? Be more helpful than everyone else to stand out in a saturated market!


Quote for the week

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
- Atticus Finch”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Have a great week ahead!

Best, Ed

Antifragility, Guardian Angels, Eating Less Meat, Banh Mi, Booksmart

Hey there!

This week I’ve been reading

a corking article about US Air Force Pararescuemen (also known as PJs) who are the guys that Navy Seals call when they’re wounded and need help behind enemy lines. PJs are elite combat medics who can provide expert medical help and rescue in the most hostile environments.

The article is: The Savior Elite: Inside the Special Operations Force Tasked with Rescuing Navy SEALS They are the military’s “guardian angels.” They are trained paramedics, paratroopers, and combat divers. This is the story of one such airman, and the mission of a lifetime.

It tells the story of a civilian vessel hundreds of miles from the nearest port and hospital which had had an explosion that left several sailors with horrific burns and life-threatening injuries. The surgery that needed to be done in tight, fearsomely hot confines is compelling and just another of Esquires’s excellent long-form reads.

From the Esquire article:

The seven airmen rise. At the next command—“HOOK UP!”—they clip their parachutes’ red static lines to a steel cable running over their heads.

Fifteen hundred feet below, their target: the Tamar, a commercial shipping vessel two thirds into its voyage from Baltimore to Gibraltar. Earlier that morning, there had been an explosion onboard, some unknown ignition that had set fire to four sailors working inside the hull. In his distress message, the ship’s captain wrote that the men had been burned from head to toe. They were in the middle of the Atlantic; the nearest land—the Azores Islands—was over five hundred miles to the east. They were out of range of both U.S. and Portuguese Coast Guard helicopters as well as rescue boats. The men’s injuries were severe, requiring expert attention. The captain’s message was routed from Lisbon to Portsmouth, then to Boston, and on to the airmen in Long Island. Within hours of the explosion, two of the sailors died. The two other men—charred, skin flayed—wait now without pain medicine.

(image taken from the Esquire article)


I also read an excellent primer to Nassim Taleb’s idea of Antifragility (Nassim Taleb: A Definition of Antifragile and its Implications). The main idea is this: the opposite of fragility is not ‘robust’ or ‘resilient’; its opposite is actually ‘anti-fragility’. Something ‘fragile’ breaks under stress and volatility. Something that is ‘anti-fragile’ becomes stronger under stress eg. the mythical Hydra, which when one head was cut off, two would grow back in its place.

From Taleb (and quoted from the Farnam Street blog):

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time: evolution, culture, ideas, revolutions, political systems, technological innovation, cultural and economic success, corporate survival, good recipes (say, chicken soup or steak tartare with a drop of cognac), the rise of cities, cultures, legal systems, equatorial forests, bacterial resistance … even our own existence as a species on this planet.

Here is the ‘triad’ of antifragility (taken from Farnam Street blog and in turn taken from Taleb’s book):


Eating more veg and less meat

I’m trying to eat more veg and less meat and this is a cracking video from the NYT Cooking channel on how to do so:


Make your own finger-licking Banh Mi

I had a hankering for Banh Mi yesterday so I had to make it. Never done it before. YouTube offered this corker from one of my favourite cooking channels, (Sam the Cooking Guy):

Instead of pork, I used a rotisserie chicken from my local supermarket, and shredded it into rough pieces. I used a soft giraffe baguette, and lots of coriander, lime juice, fish sauce, white vinegar, Kewpie mayo, and siracha. Definitely try this!


Movie this week

Angelique wanted to watch Booksmart. I was a bit skeptical at first but it was really good. (Think Superbad updated for the 2020s. (Can you believe Superbad was released in 2007?!))

Booksmart is whip-smart funny, warm, kind-hearted, and has two great performances from the two leads, (Beanie Feldstein as Molly Davidson and Kaitlyn Dever as Amy Antsler). Check it out on Amazon Prime Video.


Quote for the week

“If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.”

Muhammad Ali


Have a great week ahead!

Best, Ed

Better Ideas, Exposure Therapy, Daily Dad

Hey there!

This week I’ve been reading

A great article in Esquire called Exposure Therapy and the Fine Art of Scaring the Shit Out of Yourself On Purpose. In it, the author describes how her fear of heights has periodically debilitated her life, such as not being able to climb to the tops of cathedrals on holiday, and how it’s probably impacted what she’d like to do such as rock climbing. She uses new research into exposure therapy to systematically reduce her immediate physical and mental fear when in a heights situation.

From the Esquire article:

Exposure therapy is basically an inversion of a well-known psychological technique known as classical conditioning. If you can teach an animal to expect pain from, say, a blinking red light by repeatedly combining the light's appearance with an electrical shock until the animal reacts fearfully to the light alone, it makes sense that the twinning of stimulus and fear can be unraveled too. Show the animal the red light enough times without an accompanying shock, and eventually it will no longer fear the light—a process known as extinction. I was determined to extinguish my fear by proving to myself that I could climb a cliff.

This idea of dealing with eliminating your fears and weaknesses reminded me of some of David Goggins’s advice. He says don’t work on your strengths (what you know you can do); instead, work on your weaknesses. So if you’re scared of heights, or big-bodied, hairy spiders, or sea swimming, or huge snakes, then he exhorts us to tackle these head-on. Imagine your life with less fear, fewer weaknesses, and the confidence to methodically excise the shackles you don’t think about or want to look at.


Daily Dad

I heard about Ryan Holiday’s daily newsletter, Daily Dad, when he was interviewed on Noah Kagan’s excellent podcast, Noah Kagan Presents.

As a recent first-time dad, I signed up to Daily Dad, and it gives you daily wisdom. Check this out from their email from 29th Jan 2020:

It’s interesting to think about the steady decline in expectations for kids when it comes to reading. Not long ago, kids were taught Latin and Greek and they were taught Latin and Greek so they could read the classics...in the original language. Think of Aesop’s Fables. Think of children being read Plutarch’s Lives by their parents. This is heavy stuff. When you read old school books, you’re struck by a few things. Sure, there is the racism and the historical inaccuracies, but there is also an assumed familiarity with obscure figures from the ancient world and a willingness to wrestle with morally complex topics. 

There is a quote from George Orwell, which dates to the early 20th century, that accidentally illustrates how much things have changed. “Modern books for children are rather horrible things,” he said, “especially when you see them in the mass. Personally I would sooner give a child a copy of Petronius Arbiter than Peter Pan, but even Barrie seems manly and wholesome compared with some of his later imitators.”

How many adults even know who Petronius is? (He was a writer who lived in the court of Nero). And how many adults today probably winced at the idea that a book should teach kids how to be manly? Even the idea of “wholesome” is controversial!

It shouldn’t surprise us that the children and young adult sections of bookstores these days are filled with so much infantilizing or absurd nonsense. Is that because kids are dumber than they were in Orwell’s time? Or back before that? No. It’s that we’ve stopped believing they are capable of reading challenging books. So we provide “kids editions” and give them silly picture books. We haven’t built their muscles and then we wonder why they can’t handle heavy stuff. 

Well stop it. Push them. Push yourself. They aren’t babies.

Inspiring stuff!

Sign up to Daily Dad’s free daily emails here.


YouTube video of the week


Quote for the week

“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender
what you are for what you could become.”

Reinhold Niebuhr


Have a great week ahead!

Best, Ed

Diamonds, Clayton Christensen, and the Most Sporting Team in the World

Hey there!

Clayton Christensen

Renowned management guru Clayton Christensen passed away this week, and Adam Grant shared a link to one of his most famous articles on Harvard Business Review: How will you measure your life?

In this article, Christensen encourages us to not measure our lives by money, status etc. but instead by what we truly consider to be most important: relationships with friends and family, and finding meaningful work. He points to contemporaries of his at HBS such as Jeff Skilling, the former CEO of Enron, who Christensen remembers as a “good guy” back in college. But Skilling went on to make less than good choices, Christensen contends because of measuring his life against the wrong things.

The article reminded me of the book by the same name which expands on as well as having different material to the article above. In the book, Christensen recommends not basing a career choice on hygiene factors and instead concentrating more on motivators.

From this article in Fast Company:

This thinking on motivation distinguishes between two different types of factors: hygiene factors and motivation factors. On one side of the equation, there are the elements of work that, if not done right, will cause us to be dissatisfied. These are the hygiene factors: status, compensation, job security, work conditions, company policies, and supervisory practices. It matters, for example, that you don’t have a manager who manipulates you for his own purposes–or who doesn’t hold you accountable for things over which you don’t have responsibility. Bad hygiene causes dissatisfaction.

But even if you instantly improve the hygiene factors of your job, you’re not going to suddenly love it. At best, you just won’t hate it anymore. The opposite of job dissatisfaction isn’t job satisfaction, but rather an absence of job dissatisfaction. They’re not the same thing at all.

On the other hand:

So, what are the factors that will cause us to love our jobs? These are what Herzberg’s research calls motivators. Motivation factors include challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth. Motivation is much less about external prodding or stimulation, and much more about what’s inside of you and inside of your work.

Here’s an excellent obituary on Clayton Christensen in the New York Times.


Diamonds

The New Yorker is consistently one of the best long-form reads in the world. Here’s an absolute corker about the modern-day diamond industry and how Eira Thomas and her company Lucara Diamond is shaking up the industry.

I loved the sense of it still being a totally speculative industry, where people give up on mines, then others take a punt on it and find jewels the size of rocks. It’s an industry for optimists.


The most sporting team in the world

The FT had a story this week on How rugby club Saracens taught executive skills — but hid the cheating. Saracens have dominated English and European Rugby Union in recent years, but were recently found guilty of breaching financial strength rules. In order to have greater fairness in Rugby, rules were introduced to cap salaries that could be paid. This was supposed to ensure that the richest clubs couldn’t snap up all the best players and dominate purely because of their financial muscle.

In the comments of this depressing story, a reader contrasted this with the most sporting team in the world, Corinthians FC. From their Wikipedia page:

Corinthian Football Club was an English amateur football club based in London between 1882 and 1939.[1]

Above all, the club is credited with having popularised football around the world,[2] having promoted sportsmanship and fair play, and having championed the ideals of amateurism.[3]

The club was famed for its ethos of "sportsmanship, fair play, [and] playing for the love of the game".[4] 'Corinthian Spirit, still understood as the highest standard of sportsmanship, is often associated with the side. This spirit was famously summed up in their attitude to penalties; "As far as they were concerned, a gentleman would never commit a deliberate foul on an opponent. So, if a penalty was awarded against the Corinthians, their goalkeeper would stand aside, lean languidly on the goalpost and watch the ball being kicked into his own net. If the Corinthians themselves won a penalty, their captain took a short run-up and gave the ball a jolly good whack, chipping it over the crossbar.[5]

How refreshing.


Have a great week ahead!

Best, Ed

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