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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Pihl

August Newsletter

I hope you're having a great summer and enjoy the following recs.

Getting the Goalpost to Stop Moving, by Morgan Housel: What I love about Morgan Housel's work is how he provides historical context for modern standards of living, as well as why we still have money problems despite living in (what is objectively) the most abundant age in history. Housel's thoughts are always entertaining, and very often essential when connecting financial value with life value.

Great Art Explained: Under the Great Wave Off Kanagawa, by Hokusai: Over a 40 year period in the 1800s, Japan went from a feudal, medieval nation (think: shogun, samurai) to an industrialized power. For reference, Europe took roughly 400 years (1350 to 1750) to make the same transformation. And even in Europe's case these were an action-packed 400 years. Starting with the bubonic plague, which effectively ended the feudal system, you then saw the age of exploration, the Renaissance, the fracturing of the Catholic Church, and birth of the Enlightenment, all of which represented cataclysmic shifts in power structure, technology, and society. Condense all of that change into a period one tenth as long, and you have what Japan experienced between 1830 and 1870. Incredible.

As the video explains, this painting was created near the beginning of this period, portending the upheaval ahead for Japan.

I like this video series because it offers a historical and personal context for the artist and their work. It also does a decent job pointing out what aspects of the work to pay attention to so that non-aficionados like myself can more fully appreciate the work. My favorite way to enjoy these videos is to pull up the art in a separate tab and stare at it while I listen to the commentary, rather than watch the video itself.

Competition is for Losers, by Peter Thiel: Peter Thiel argues that there are basically two types of businesses. One type exists in perfect competition, where the long-term profits of their industry are effectively zero. The other type is a near-perfect monopoly, with massive profits. While it's dangerous to generalize, I think he's right. His discussion of what goes into these companies, as well as how to capture outsized profitability contains far more than I can share here, so just watch the video.



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