Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

51Pc5qVDaFL (9/10) Shoe Dog is the autobiography/memoir of Phil Knight the creator and founder of Nike. The book details the most important events in Phil’s life as they relate to Nike. It begins with young Phil fresh out of undergraduate at Oregon and graduate MBA program at Stanford. Phil begins his adult life with a trip around the world. Soon after arriving back home, he gets a ‘real job’ doing accounting work and starts selling shoes on the side. From the first pair of shoes he ever sold to Nike becoming a publicly traded company takes place over 18 years. More than anything, this book will give you an appreciation for the passion and dedication of Phil and everyone he worked with along the way.

The story itself is very interesting, although there are some slower parts earlier in the book. This book is worth the time simply due to the end, where Phil pontificates on all that he has learned and gives life advice to young people. This part of the book is very well done and his advice is pure gold. The advice includes:

  • The best advice he can give is just keep going, don’t stop, don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where ‘there’ is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.
  • Life is growth. You grow or you die.
  • Confidence, more than equity or liquidity, is what a man needs to succeed. Confidence is cash. You have to have some to get more.
  • Free, international trade always benefits both nations. When goods don’t pass borders, soldiers will. Trade is the path of coexistence, of cooperation.
  • Money will try to define your days whether you want it or not, like it or not, need it or not. Our task as human beings is not to let it.
  • The two most important questions in life; How do you want to spend your time and with whom do you want to spend it?
  • Most important advice to young people; Don’t settle for a job or career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means yet.
  • Have faith in yourself but also have faith in faith. Faith as you define it.

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Conquer the Crash 2014 by Robert Prechter

51YTrfY6ZeL._AA300_ (5/10) Conquer the Crash was an interesting listen for me. The book was originally written in 2003 and later updated in 2012. When I first started the book, I didn’t realize how dated it was since the majority was written 14 years ago. A part of me wanted to stop listening throughout, but there were just enough interesting tidbits of information to keep me going. The author is incredibly negative about the economy and sees no bright spots whatsoever, which makes it a tough listen. The author and his company use Elliot Wave Theory to predict market fluctuations based upon the repeated actions of different generations.

The author’s key point is that deflation is coming, both because of artificial stimulus over the past decade and the end of the baby boomer generational spending cycle. During this deflationary crash of nearly all asset classes, it’s important to hold cash and hold no debt (including mortgage debt). He says all other asset classes including commodities, gold, silver, stocks, bonds, etc. will all go down.

I enjoyed the author’s take on the US government and his points about big government. He states, “The era of big government in the United States began in 1913 with the act that created the Federal Reserve Bank and the 1916 act that enabled the federal income tax. At this point in time, the US ceased being a peaceful and prosperous country and became a nation of taxation, inflation, debt, and foreign wars.” – An incredibly accurate portrayal of the last 100 years.

 

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One Second After by William Forstchen

51QWrQ01RDL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ (7/10) I decided to dive into a little fiction after discovering the apocalyptic ‘One Second After’. The book is about an EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) strike that paralyzes the US. Our enemies detonated several EMPs into the upper atmosphere, causing an electromagnetic pulse to hit all of the US surface area, and  leaving any and all electronic devices and power in the US disabled and worthless. The story then tells the tale of what a small town in North Carolina does after the attack and how they survive.

As far as the story goes, it’s ok. Some of the typical drama and conversations that you may expect. The author dives into how he thinks a small town would react to an EMP strike essentially sending them back to the 1800s. The most interesting parts are the beginning and end where the author describes the logistics of how an EMP would paralyze America and how vulnerable we are to such an attack. It makes you appreciate everything we have and terrified of the alternative. If you read this book, you may lose some sleep at night.

 

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The New Case for Gold by James Rickards

51pwaWT0FkL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_ (8/10) The New Case For Gold didn’t offer many ‘new’ points that I haven’t already heard from other books. James Rickards is one of my favorite economists and I appreciate his opinions on gold, the world economy, and his future outlook. I’m glad this book was only a short 4 hour listen on Audible. Not because it was bad, but because it would have been overkill if he had tried to make it too lengthy.

The one new argument that he makes for gold is that it is impervious to cyber attack. Physical gold can act as a store of wealth without fear of hackers or cyber thieves turning your digital bank, stock, or retirement accounts to 0.

Rickards goes through his many reasons of why it makes sense to return to some semblance of a gold standard. As much as I appreciate his arguments and logic behind this, I cannot believe that policy makers would ever consider it. As he states in the book, a gold standard does not support inflationary world growth. Inflation transfers wealth from the rich to the poor, from savers to debtors, and from citizens to government. There is incredible incentive for lawmakers to keep the cash printing presses going at full speed and inflating away the US national debt as much as possible.

Rickards warns that if the economy were to crash again, world governments would do whatever it takes to restore the status quo. In extreme circumstances, nothing can be ruled out. This includes governments going after 401k and other retirement accounts and either converting the funds into government bonds or tying 401k’s directly into the social security program. Either of these would equate to an outright theft of citizens’ hard earned savings. It’s an interesting take that certainly worries me.

Long story short – Rickards and most others recommend 5-10% of investable funds being allocated to physical gold bullion as a hedge against inflation, government or cyber theft, or general monetary system upheaval.

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The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean

515UwSOiGSL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ (7/10) After loving The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, I felt it necessary to read his second book The Violinist’s Thumb. I’ll say I wasn’t nearly as impressed with this book as his first. The first is all about chemistry and the history of the periodic table. Being a chemical engineer, The Disappearing Spoon was right in my wheel house. The Violinist’s Thumb focuses on molecular biology. I thought I liked biology and genetics enough to love this book as well, but I found myself bored and indifferent throughout.

The author is brilliant and possesses an incredible amount of knowledge of both chemistry and biology. He’s clearly done a ton of research for both books. However, this one just didn’t do it for me. He talks about DNA, mutations, the history of the double helix. He tells fantastic stories about mutations in Hiroshima/Nagasaki and other fascinating genetics stories. But all in all, there were too many parts where I found myself thinking about something else.

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A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

61JNC0qCvwL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ (8/10) This book had been on my ‘to read’ list for quite some time and I finally took the plunge. My quick takeaways after finishing it are: Hawking is brilliant, he rambles a bit too much, some concepts are completely over my head, and I’m glad it was a short book. He talks quite a bit about the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, and the quest for a unified theory of physics. I greatly enjoyed his discussion about a finite universe with finite time and how he’s come to his conclusions.

My favorite part was his explanation of the uncertainty principle. Throughout physics and chemistry courses, I learned that you cannot measure or know both the position and the velocity of a particle, such as an electron. I never really understood this concept, but I memorized it and regurgitated it back on tests anyways. He explains that in order to measure either the position or velocity of the particle, you must shine light on the particle. The particles are so small that they may fit into the wave amplitude of a single quantum of light; therefore, researchers must use light at incredibly small wavelengths to even attempt at measuring position. The single quantum of light will hit the particle and change either its position or velocity an unknowable amount. The more accurately you want to measure the position of a particle, the smaller the wave length of light necessary, resulting in more energy in each quantum of light, and therefore the more that quantum will affect the particle’s velocity. Fascinating.

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The End of Faith by Sam Harris

51jYSMrhGmL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_(10/10) This book is one of my favorites from over 10 years ago. So I decided it was time to give it another go. For anyone with an open mind about faith, spirituality, science, reason, and logic this book is absolutely essential and one of the most important you will ever read. Here are some of my favorite quotes (too many to list here):

“We as a species have grown almost perfectly intoxicated by our myths. How is it that in this one area of our lives we have convinced ourselves that our beliefs about the world can float entirely free of reason and evidence?”

“The point is that most of what we hold sacred is not sacred for any other reason than that it was thought sacred yesterday.”

“Freedom of belief is a myth. We are no more free to believe whatever we want about god then we are free to adopt unjustified beliefs about science or history.”

“Religion is nothing more than bad concepts held in place of good ones for all time. A kernel of truth lurks at the heart of religion because spiritual experience, ethical behavior, and strong communities are essential for human happiness. And yet our religious traditions are intellectually defunct and politically ruinous.”

“While spiritual experience is clearly a natural propensity of the human mind, we need not believe anything on insufficient evidence to actualize it. Clearly it must be possible to bring reason, spirituality, and ethics together in our thinking about the world. This would be the beginning of a rational approach to our deepest personal concerns. It would also be The End of Faith.”

 

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