A Random Walk Down Wall Street
, Burton G. Malkiel writes:
"It was called the tronics boom, because the stock offerings often included some garbled version of the word "electronics" in their title, even if the companies had nothing to do with the electronics industry. Buyers of these issues didn't really care what the companies made- so long as it sounded electronic, with a suggestion of the esoteric. For example, American Music Guild, whose business consisted entirely of the door-to-door sale of phonograph records and players, changed its name to Space-Tone before "going public." The shares were sold to the public at 2 and, within a few weeks, rose to 14."
60 years later we are seeing companies add blockchain to their name with similar results
. Castle in the air
theory is in full effect and I expect that most speculators are purchasing these shares simply because they think they will be able to sell it to someone else playing the same game for a higher price. Eventually the music stops, it always does. For better or worse I expect the havoc to the public stock exchanges will be mitigated by the fact that speculators can fill their insatiable appetite buy taking part in ICOs and purchasing cryptocurrencies directly. Do I think we are in a bubble? Absolutely. Do I think that blockchain and the potential of distributed consensus will ultimately prove to be useful? Yes. We are in the early days of blockchain and though not much has come of it
yet, I think it's only a matter of time. The bubble will burst, the hype will die, and the people in it for the right reasons will keep their noses to the grindstone and take this to the future where they'll be waiting for us.
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Given the absolute stunning rise in the value of the cryptocurrency market, this is leaving many with the difficult decision of whether they should sell some of their position or not (remember, it doesn't have to be all or nothing). So what should you do? There is no single answer as everyone has different financial goals and risk tolerance. But I ask you to consider two principles when determining when and how much you should sell, loss aversion and rebalancing.
"refers to people's tendency to prefer avoiding losses to acquiring equivalent gains: it's better to not lose $5 than to find $5". Given this, hedge your bets against your future self feeling devastated if the value of your position plummets. This will cause less pain than the pain of missing out on even greater potential gains.
"is the process of realigning the weightings of a portfolio of assets." You never want your asset allocation to be heavily skewed toward one specific asset (e.g. Apple stock, Bitcoin, etc.) as this decreases the diversification of your portfolio and increases your level of risk. If you have $20k in traditional non cryptocurrency investments that include a range of different stocks, bonds, etc. and $20k in Bitcoin, half your portfolio is in one specific asset. This is an extremely risky position given all it takes is for Bitcoin to diminish in value, and that brings your entire portfolio down with it. You may even feel that given the performance of cryptocurrencies recently you should invest even more than you already have. This is dangerous. As the prices continue to climb, simply by not selling you are in effect increasing your investment already, because you have that much more to lose. Consider this, let's say you purchased 1 Bitcoin in 2017 for $1k. At the time of this writing, your initial $1k investment is now worth ~$20k. You may be tempted to continue to hold, because you think to yourself, "this was only a $1k investment anyway, so what if I lose it." This is an incorrect way of thinking and just because cryptocurrencies are new, doesn't mean sound financial principles do not apply. The reality is, you now have $20k to lose, not $1k. And framing your position this way will allow you to make more sound decisions regarding when and how much to sell.
For those who have made significant gains, I would say there are two groups. The first group is loss averse, made up of those who are constantly worried about their crypto assets and constantly checking the prices throughout the day. To this group I would say, this is no way to live. If done in a healthy manner, making money should reduce the stress in your life, not increase it. If you fall into this group, I would sell enough so that even if all of your crypto assets go to zero, you will still be satisfied with the amount you made. The amount to sell to reach this point will be different for everyone but I would say a good starting point is to sell at least enough to get your initial investment back plus some on top of that. The second group is not phased by the extreme price changes and is not letting it affect their daily lives. To this group I say, seriously consider selling to rebalance your portfolio to a more appropriate asset allocation. Yes, crypto market capitalization has seen a fantastic increase, but that doesn't mean it will continue forever, it almost certainly won't.
Whatever you do, be sure you are aware of your country's applicable tax laws (here
is a great guide for US citizens). Even though it is in a gray area right now, I would err on the side of caution and report your gains to the government. You don't want to get in a situation where you have made a bunch of money, didn't report it, and then get in trouble for tax evasion down the road. That would cause stress and remember, making money should reduce stress. For those in the United States, the IRS has released guidelines
which means your crypto gains are taxed as capital gains, just like a stock. If you have held for at least a year before you sell, it will be taxed as a
long term capital gain
, which means you will be taxed at a lower rate than if you held for less than a year. This should certainly factor into when you plan to sell, but don't take this to mean you should wait a year no matter what. The extra tax associated with short term gains may pale in comparison to the loss of value of your crypto assets while you wait for the one year mark.
A lot of the narrative around cryptocurrencies is that they will replace our entire financial system and investing in tradition stocks and bonds no longer makes sense in this new world order. This is absolutely wrong. I think John Bogle's thoughts on gold being a speculation
instead of an investment apply to crypto as well. He argues "Bonds are supported by interest coupons, stocks are supported by dividend yield and earnings growth, and gold is supported by the ability that someone is going to take it off your hands for more than you paid for it." Regardless of whether cryptocurrency proves to be a success and ultimately facilitates a large part of the world's financial transactions, this doesn't mean that investing in companies through stocks and bonds will be obsolete. No matter what happens in the crypto world, a steel company will still make and profit off of selling steel, and that profit will flow to its shareholders. The crypto world right now is where the web was in 1995
. The pieces are there but no one quite knows for sure what's going to be built. Bitcoin and all these other cryptocurrencies could very well be the Netscape of the crypto world.
Whatever happens with the price, the winners, the losers, don't forget to appreciate how unbelievable all this is. A bunch of personal computers connected to each other in 2009 started something that the world's largest banks and governments are needing to respond to. What a time to be alive.
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The Impossibility of Intelligence Explosion
, François Chollet writes:
"Arguably, the usefulness of software has been improving at a measurably linear pace, while we have
invested exponential efforts into producing it. The number of software developers has been booming
exponentially for decades, and the number of transistors on which we are running our software has been
exploding as well, following Moore’s law. Yet, our computers are only incrementally more useful to us
than they were in 2012, or 2002, or 1992...In this case, you may ask, isn’t civilization itself the
runaway self-improving brain? Is our civilizational intelligence exploding? No. Crucially, the
civilization-level intelligence-improving loop has only resulted in measurably linear progress in our
problem-solving abilities over time.""
Using technological advancement as a corollary for "civilizational intelligence", if the number of
transistors is "exploding", this means our intelligence is exploding as well, because it is increasingly
difficult to maintain Moore's law, yet we have. The amount of progress
since 1750, is equivalent to the amount of progress from 12,000BC to 1750. Saying "our computers are only
incrementally more useful" reminds me of Peter Thiel in his famous "What Happened to the Future
" manifesto coining "We wanted flying cars, instead we
got 140 characters
" while also, might I add, touting Facebook, a company he is an investor in, as an
example of true technological progress. Using the smartphone as an example, the advances of these devices
are far more than simply "incrementally useful", even since 2012.
"A smart human raised in the jungle is but a hairless ape. Similarly, an AI with a superhuman brain,
dropped into a human body in our modern world, would likely not develop greater capabilities than a
smart contemporary human. If it could, then exceptionally high-IQ humans would already be displaying
proportionally exceptional levels of personal attainment; they would achieve exceptional levels of
control over their environment, and solve major outstanding problems— which they don’t in practice.""
Yes, they don't in practice because many with a high IQ, among other inhibitors, have difficulty with social
interaction, something computers don't need to worry about. Even if we can only replicate the intelligence
of an average brain, this would be a huge breakthrough. Just look at all those things on your TODO list.
What if you had 0 distractions, were always motivated, never had to sleep, eat etc. The amount you could get
done would be amazing. And then what if we duplicated that average brain as much as we wanted, wouldn't that
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In 2011 Marc Andreessen declared “Software is Eating the
. It is now evident that the software doing the eating is owned by a smaller and smaller set of
companies. These Big Tech companies (Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft) are backed by serious
infrastructure, profits, data, custom silicone, ecosystems, and are increasingly vertical. You argue Big
Tech is just like any other powerful sector with a lot of big players. My point is that this is different
because Big Tech isn’t limited by vertical, it is limited only by the problems software can solve, which is
an ever increasing amount
. The Google reorg to Alphabet is interesting because it is an admission of Big Tech’s
future, which is to do everything. Software is so flexible and so powerful, that it is giving the large
companies who specialize in it an unprecedented amount of wealth and power. We call them “tech companies”,
soon that will be like saying “color
, because all companies will be tech companies.
Think about it, a large tech company has the power to make a large portion of the human population believe
the world is at nuclear war. Facebook and Google could simply promote fake news stories. Apple could spoof
text messages to their devices and ensure they can only access websites promoting their fake news stories.
With how much internet traffic run through Amazon and Microsoft, they could easily spread news of a nuclear
war that doesn’t exist. Am I afraid this is going to happen? No. Am I worried this is even possible? Yes.
What's scarier though is the fact that two tech companies, Facebook and Google, own algorithms that shift
the thinking of billions of people. I don’t care who owns the keys to that kind of power, that kind of power
should not exist.
This sounds crazy, but just 10 years ago you would have thought it crazy for the company behind the iPod to
be building a car
, an online book retailer to earn an Oscar
a search engine to be solving aging
, and your your mom
to be on Facebook. It used to be every tech
company could grab their own piece of the pie, now it’s about who is going to own the pie shop. Ok Google
take search, Apple take laptops people actually like using, Microsoft own the enterprise. Now Big Tech is
competing fiercely with each other on multiple fronts, squashing or purchasing smaller players, and making
component makers like Qualcomm, Intel, and Nvidia obsolete. But now, these Big Tech companies are breaking
out of their bubble. As I alluded to above, there is no such thing as a “tech problem”, there are only
problems. Big Tech has chosen to eat media as an appetizer, transportation looks to be next, and I predict
banking will come after that.
Big Tech has three possible outcomes. The first, is they get broken up with antitrust legislation
. The second, a
paradigm shift e.g. blockchain, that levels the playing field. The third, Big Tech keeps getting bigger and
bigger until Big Tech is only one company, which we worship as our God and would never dare wish ill on it.
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- Counter argument
. "The winners always look invulnerable until they don't." Watch from 2:25 to 5:25, my argument is dismantled in 3 minutes. The question still remains though, are these Big Tech companies different.
Snap Inc., one of the highest valued tech IPOs of the last decade, is built on cloud infrastructure from
Amazon and Google. It has committed
$2 billion to Google
Cloud Services and $1 billion to Amazon Web Services over the next five years. This is a tech company
that has outsourced a large portion of their tech and it makes me fear for the future of the internet. I
don’t blame Snap at all, Google Cloud and AWS are excellent products that has allowed Snap to reach
millions of users without significant up front costs associated with building out an entire backend
infrastructure form scratch. It is also very possible that like Dropbox
Snapchat will wean themselves off an external infrastructure and take it all in house. But I suspect
that over the course of the next decade it will become increasingly difficult from both a technological
and cost perspective for companies to build their own infrastructure that can compete with Google Cloud,
AWS, and Microsoft Azure. On top of this, solutions like Google’s Firebase, which I expect
to become even more popular and even more advanced,
ensure the switching costs are even greater because these types of solutions supply more than just
computing primitives like storage or computation. These types of solutions force your software to comply
with a very specific API, making switching infrastructure even more difficult. Does this mean we will be
left with three companies that control the vast majority of internet traffic? I think yes. Though there
are other companies like Cloudflare that are increasingly expanding their infrastructure, economies of
scale and the momentum behind Google, Amazon, and Microsoft make me think this game is already over. The
only way unseat these behemoths is to change the game. Maybe it's blockchain
maybe it's something else. One thing is for sure, it's a brave new world.
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Humanity has undergone 3 major paradigm shifts in transacting. Bartering was the first paradigm shift,
allowing humans to trade one good for a different good. The second made trade even easier, allowing all
goods to be assigned a value using a standard measurement, i.e. money. The third shift allowed trade to
occur without the two parties ever having to meet, by trusting a middleman. This allowed for cross
continental trade and allows us today to order millions of products on Amazon. With the arrival of
blockchain technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, we are currently undergoing the 4th major paradigm
shift. Where Amazon and Visa are single points of failure, blockchain offers what I call a level 1
trustless system. There is no single point of failure that we must trust, the nodes of the network
ensure consensus, without even having to trust each other. Level 1 trustless systems can still fail.
Though difficult, it is possible for malicious actors to compromise the network. There are also humans
in control of these projects that act as another point of weakness.The next paradigm shift will be to a
level 2 trustless system, which realistically cannot be compromised by a malicious actor. A level 2
trustless system does still rely on humans to steer the direction of the project. A level 3 trustless
system is what I consider to be fully trustless. That is, malicious actors cannot compromise the network
and there are no humans in control of the direction of the project.
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showed us what the brave new world of serverless
development looked like. Before that, using tools like AWS allowed developers to build without managing
their own servers. And before that, Joe in dev ops was on call to restart the company server if
something went wrong. Parse offered an SDK that offered push notifications, authentication, and storage.
Facebook bought them and shut them down
Google bought Firebase and picked up the torch. Albeit some pain points
beginning, they have kept iterating. This week they announced Cloud
, addressing a pain point around Firebase’s limited Realtime Database. It is easy to
see how this can be the future. It makes development much easier, handling scaling and offering several
turnkey solutions to common problems. Realm
offers a similar product which doesn’t quite have all the features Firebase does. Even with cloud
computing solution like AWS, backend developers are needed to get everything wired up. With solutions
like Firebase, backend developers are not needed. Frontend developers and native developers, it’s only a
matter of time before Firebase solves that problem too. By 2023, any web app or native app that only
needs to parse simple data, without doing anything technically special, will be able to be built by
someone with limited technical expertise.
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Benedict Evans, writing in his newsletter
"Google paid $1.1bn for part of (struggling) HTC's smartphone team (~2,000 people) plus some
non-exclusive IP rights. It remains very unclear how far Google wants to go into making its own phones.
Android has lost the greater part of the high-end to Apple, and that seems unlikely to change."
What do you mean it is “unclear how far Google wants to go”? They just spent a billion dollars. Google poached
one of the top Apple chip
architects in June. The Pixel phones are priced identically to the iPhone. Not only is Google serious about
making their own phones, it is only a matter of time before Google starts building their own chips for those
phones. iPhones are great because the software and hardware are built together. There is no equivalent of
this on Android. It’s why Apple’s chips blow the competition out of the
. Especially as phones start doing more specialized tasks like AR/VR, machine learning, etc. Chips
need to be purpose built to optimize for these use cases. Software is eating the
and now hardware is eating software
. As for Benedict’s point that Apple’s dominance in the high end “seems unlikely to
change”, I agree. The battle may already be over and Apple very well could own the high end phone market
until the next paradigm shift in computing. But on the eve of Google’s largest hardware event ever
, let’s see what they
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Google Maps is better than Apple Maps but as of 2015 guess which one is used 3
as much on iOS devices. Apple Maps. The power of defaults is extraordinary. All Apple Maps has
to be is good enough and people don’t feel the need to download a different app. Same story with Apple
Music. Spotify launched in 2008 and currently has around 60
. Apple Music launched in 2015 and already has 30
. This applies on Android as well where Google Play Music is the default. On
top of this, Spotify is a product in a vacuum, there is no ecosystem. Apple and Google with the power of
ecosystem effects can do things Spotify can’t. Apple’s HomePod will only support Apple Music. A Google
Play Music subscription also gives you ad free YouTube videos and offline video playback. Spotify may
survive, but not as we know it.
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- Counter argument
Alex Davies, writing for Wired
"Those old-fashioned companies know a few things about managing and maintaining fleets, skills Silicon
Valley upstarts don't have."
He argues the likes of Avis and Hertz will survive the “Robocar Revolt” because of their ability to manage
large fleets. What is there to manage when the entire fleet is electric and autonomous? Electric vehicles
need far less maintenance. Avis signing a deal with Waymo and Hertz reportedly working with Apple on their
vehicles- these are stop gaps, not long term business models. Goodbye old bureaucrats.
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to Android's update problem. This isn't going to be like the failed Update
from 2011. The promise isn't in words, it's in code. Devices shipping with Android Oreo
must adhere to Project Treble, mandated in the CTS
called this the biggest re-architecture
of Android since it was
born. Iliyan Malchev
speaking on Android
said Project Treble is 80% complete with Android Oreo. Assuming the last
20% is completed in Android P, we will see the full repercussions of Project Treble by the speed Android
P devices are updated to Android Q. By the Q release manufacturers will be familiar with the
architecture changes of Project Treble and it will have been fully implemented in Android P.
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By 2050 nations around the world, including the United States, will implement systems similar to China's Great Firewall to increase national security, as our lives and warfare increasingly become digital.
By 2023 Amazon through Amazon Basics will release a TV.
By 2022 Amazon through Amazon Basics will release a computer monitor.
By 2021 Amazon through Amazon Basics will release a mobile phone.
By 2025 Coinbase will release public APIs for businesses to accept cryptocurrencies as payment online.
By 2025 Coinbase will release a point of sale product allowing businesses to accept cryptocurrencies.
Tom Cruise will finally grow tired of printing out safe action movies (Knight and Day, Jack Reacher, etc.) and return to his days of Vanilla Sky, Magnolia, Tropic Thunder, while also embracing his older age. I believe in you Cruise.
In Android P, the UI to indicate battery saver mode will be replaced with something less garish.
When the minimum amount of Ether to put at stake in the PoS consensus mechanism is announced, the price of Ether will jump as people attempt to hit that minimum amount.
By 2025 there will be a large scale attack carried out on a cryptocurrency that compromises the consensus of that specific blockchain, stealing over 100 million dollars.
By 2030 wireless will usurp hard line (cables in the ground and on telephone poles) as the main way Americans receive internet in their home. Your modem will be connected to a wireless carrier rather than a cable coming into your house.
Next global economic downturn there will be a boon in cryptocurrency market capitalization as people convert their fiat to crypto.
When level 5 autonomous vehicles are prevalent, a large portion of the value of high value real estate (downtown, great location, etc.) will be transferred to what is now considered low value real estate (suburbia, outskirts, etc.)
By 2050, grocers like Walmart and Amazon will differentiate by growing proprietary produce. Think special versions of an orange or even completely new species of plants.
Like Amazon Prime, other large tech companies will release all encompassing subscription plans for their products and services. E.g. Pay Apple $1k a year for a phone upgrade every year, a computer upgrade every two years, Apple Music included, etc.
Spotify will be acquired by 2028.
In the Pixel 3 phone, Google will release a Face ID equivalent that utilizes less specialized hardware than the iPhone X, but makes up for it in software. Similar to Portrait mode now.
By 2022 Google will release a product for managing users' passwords, similar to Lastpass and 1Password. It will have 2FA and other advanced security measures built in.
Razer will release one more iteration
of the Razer Phone then stop making them all together.
By 2021 there will be a product used
by millions of people built almost entirely on Firebase.
Google will release a Pixel device
with a Google designed SoC in 2019.
The "sufficiently simple app” Firebase
will allow users to build will be cross platform using the Flutter SDK under the hood.
By 2021, Firebase will allow easy
integration with services that provide data about the world e.g. news, weather, stock prices, etc.
By 2023, Firebase will allow a “non
developer” to build a sufficiently simple app. This includes backend and UI.
Google will release an Android Wear
watch in 2018.
Google will release the Pixel phone
through all major US carriers in 2018.
✖ Google will release a Pixel
device with Google designed silicon in 2019. Google released the Pixel
Visual Core with the Pixel 2 in 2017.
Spotify will either undergo a major
shift away from their commodity streaming service or they will perish.
When level 5 driving automation is
ubiquitous, the likes of Avis and Hertz will not exist.
The Android Q rollout will prove the
update problem for Android has been fixed, especially on high end devices.
Netflix will allow creators to upload
directly like YouTube. It will be invite only and the content will be screened.
✓ Google will leave the low end
Android device market to other manufacturers.
In 2019 Google built Android devices
will be the most prevalent in developed nations.
By 2019 the Facebook Messenger
platform will be huge, absorbing what would normally be stand alone apps.
✖ The Nexus program will end in
2018. The Nexus program ended in 2016.
✖ Google will release the first
Pixel phone in 2017. The first Pixel phone was released in 2016.
✖ Periscope is going to be
huge. Streaming of protests, sports events, disasters etc. Making tv networks even more redundant.
Facebook live won this battle, and even that hasn't been "huge".
Mr. Money Mustache
MMM has had a huge impact on the way I view money, how I spend it, and how I invest it. He absolutely shatters conventional wisdom that we all must work for 40 years and hope that by some miracle we've saved enough to survive in retirement. With simple lifestyle changes around avoiding unnecessary consumption, we all, no matter your salary
, have the ability to grow substantial wealth, live a meaningful life, and retire / reach financial independence earlier than you ever thought possible. His philosophy on investing aligns with that of John Bogle, whose book I recommend below. I recommend starting here
and then reading my all time favorite post by him here
. The Mad Fientist is also someone who gives excellent advice towards reaching financial independence, check out his getting started post here
. I also recommend the following communities for asking questions and seeking help: Financial Independence
, Personal Finance
, and Personal Finance & Money
. The people in these communities are extremely knowledgeable and willing to help those of all experience levels.
Benedict Evans Newsletter
There is a lot of noise in tech related news. Benedict Evan cuts through it, giving you a solid weekly newsletter of interesting articles and stats from published the previous week.
Similar to Benedict Evans, Ben Thompson steps back and gives you the big picture of the tech business landscape.
Naval Ravikant on Everything
Naval Ravikant has so many amazing perspectives on life and here shares them all in this interview. It's long, but worth it, given the huge impact it can have on how you view your life and your time.
The World this Week
The 24 hour news cycle is bad for you and is no way to stay informed. The World this Week takes a step back, and gives a look at the news of the world of the previous week. It does an excellent job covering news in the United States because, being based in London, it gives an objective, third party, and detached view.
Sam Harris has excellent and rational conversations with experts covering politics, science, and the nature of being.
The most efficient podcast I know of that covers emerging trends in business with a slant towards tech. Short episodes packed with excellent insights.
Stephen Dubner covers interesting topics both related to and outside the scope of economics. His guests are very interesting and many of the episodes center around challenging conventional wisdom.
A little cutesy for me at times, but does an excellent job of making all topics related to money and the economy interesting and accessible.
The Obstacle is the Way
This book has had the biggest impact on my life, really ingraining in me the truth that obstacles and hardships are actually a GOOD thing and lead to a fuller life. I think we can all superficially agree that obstacles make us stronger, but this book actually makes you believe it. When you are done, you are going to wish your life was harder.
An amazing high level, detached, and objective view of how humans have evolved over time and come to organize in the world we live in today. The first history book I've read that allowed me to view modern society in a detached and unemotional way. Crucial for putting modern humanity in perspective.
The Lessons of History
Like Sapiens, this offers a detached and objective view of human history, with a focus on big historical events and political systems. Will and Ariel Durant are most famous for their huge 11 volume set, The Story of Civilization. They've taken those ideas and put them in a short easy to understand read.
Man's Search for Meaning
Viktor Frankl gives an objective and philosphical account of his experience surviving in several Nazi concentration camps. Given he was a psychologist, this adds another layer to his musings. This book will surprise you and in the process teach you everything you need to know about being human.
The Little Book of Common Sense Investing
This book will blow your mind. Conventional wisdom tells us that the best way to grow wealth is to have the "best" people manage your money and actively invest it. John Bogle, pioneer of the index fund, clearly articulates the simple fact that low cost passive investing is the surest way to build wealth, it's simply no contest. This investing strategy aligns with that of Mr. Money Mustache, one of the publications I recommend above.
Zero to One
Peter Thiel is a bit of a provocateur, and that certainly shows in this book. But he does an excellent job of forcing you to rethink conventional wisdom, invaluable if you want to do something big with your life.
Similar to Zero to One, Ashlee Vances' narrative on Elon's life gives an account of someone who consistently challenges conventional wisdom through enterprise. In the 21st century no one has taken bigger or more risky bets than Elon Musk, and it is absolutely fascinating to learn about.
The way most people and businesses work is a glorious waste of time and resources. This will challenge your understanding of what it means to get things done, both inside and outside of work.
The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck
Click bait title but the book has an amazing message. Focus your energy on the things that matter and forget everything else. It will amaze you that this simple act will allow you to do more and live a fuller life.
One of the simplest and most beautiful stories I have ever read. Through its simplicity it plainly shows you what it takes to accomplish the big things in your life, and that letting go of whats comfortable is worthwhile.