Indispensability of Risk

Not being willing to take risks is an extremely risky strategy.

Happy Fri… Sunday!

My apologies for the tardy send this week! I got caught up in a number of things at the office and fell behind. I usually collect articles throughout the week — and then put it together on Wednesdays / Thursdays.

That doesn’t leave a large margin for error — and last week, I needed much more margin than normal!

Thanks for your understanding and support!

Was this email forwarded to you? If you enjoy the article, please consider subscribing. Thank you!

On My Mind

While this section is usually my own thoughts, the last week gave me very little time to reflect. I did, however, re-read This is Water by David Foster Wallace. The speech — which he gave as a commencement address in 2005 — is definitely on my mind after a tough week.

I thought I would share a select portion of it here:

If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing

Quote of the Week

Not being willing to take risks is an extremely risky strategy.

— Magnus Carlsen, #1 ranked chess player globally

Taken from the first article of the week, below and here — The Indispensability of Risk

Poll of the Week

On average, how many hours do you work a week?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Last Week

Question: Have AI / LLMs materially improved your life?

Results: Almost exactly 50 / 50; I’d have to vote “No” — no matter how much I try, I can’t find a meaningful use case for AI / LLMs.


  • “I'm an NLP Engineer working with LLMs directly and I use them to break down complex topics, and sometimes do some ad-hoc evaluation of open source LLMs”

  • “Only in minimal time saving ways. Which I guess, is the way it is supposed to be. ;)”

Things to Read

Indexing | From The Indispensability of Risk 1 by Howard Marks, 2024

Ashley says, “Many positions cannot be won or saved without something of value being given away, from a lowly pawn all the way up to the mighty queen.” Intentionally losing a piece as part of one’s gameplan is the sacrifice that Ashley is referencing.

He describes some sacrifices as “shams,” (a term coined by chess master Rudolf Spielmann in his book The Art of Sacrifice in Chess) where “. . . one can easily see that the piece being given up will return concrete benefits that can be clearly calculated.”

Others are deemed “real” sacrifices, where “. . . giving away a piece offers gains that are neither immediate nor tangible. The return on investment might be controlling more space, creating an assailable weakness in the opponent’s position, or having more pieces in the critical sector of attack.”

The analogy to investing begins to become clear. Buying a 10-year U.S. Treasury note is a modest or “sham” sacrifice. You give up the use of your money for ten years, but that’s only an opportunity cost, and accepting it brings the certainty of interest income. Most other investments involve real sacrifices, though, where the risk of loss is borne in pursuit of “gains that are neither immediate nor tangible.”

Vikings | From Frequency of Viking Raids 2 by LiorLefineder, 2024

Throughout history, when people faced raids from foreign forces, they hid their money.

This is a “well, of course they did” type conclusion, but I love that we can correlate literature with archeology to prove it.

The top chart (colored chart) is the frequency of Viking raids throughout history as discussed in literature from the time, and the bottom chart (black chart) is the number of coin hoards found in digs that can be traced back to specific years.

When there were more Viking’s attacking, more coins were being hidden.

Expensive Reservations | From Why You Can’t Get a Restaurant Reservation 3 by Adam Iscoe, 2024

By five o’clock, the restaurant was jammed with its first wave of customers, who were excitedly considering what toppings to order—mushrooms, sweet peppers, pepperoni.

The man with the eye patch, Kimura, wasn’t among them. Neither was Alex or Gigi Principe. It turned out that they were all employees of the same line-sitting company, called Same Ole Line Dudes.

“I’ve been called here to wait at least a hundred times,” Kimura had told me. The going rate for an afternoon in line at Lucali is fifty-five dollars, a percentage of which goes to the company.

Baron Tremayne Caple wasn’t ordering pizza either. His table had gone, for a hundred and twenty dollars, to a person named Robin, who’d hired him.

Work Culture Wars | From TSMC’s Debacle in the American Desert 4 by Viola Zhou, 2024

The American engineers complained of rigid, counterproductive hierarchies at the company; Taiwanese TSMC veterans described their American counterparts as lacking the kind of dedication and obedience they believe to be the foundation of their company’s world-leading success…

Several former American employees said they were not against working longer hours, but only if the tasks were meaningful. “I’d ask my manager ‘What’s your top priority,’ he’d always say ‘Everything is a priority,’” said another ex-TSMC engineer. “So, so, so, many times I would work overtime getting stuff done only to find out it wasn’t needed”…

But the American workers didn’t have the same sense of loyalty. In the U.S., engineers had a plethora of job options that provided competitive pay and abundant personal time. The Taiwanese workers described their Phoenix colleagues as arrogant, carefree, and more willing to challenge orders. “It’s hard to get them to do things,” a Taiwanese engineer in Phoenix told Rest of World.


The U.S. accounts for ~26% of Global GDP

Global Currencies Relative to USD in 2024

If you found today’s issue interesting, more than anything, I would appreciate you forwarding it to someone that might also enjoy it. It is a big deal to me whenever someone reads my work, so I appreciate your support.

Have a great weekend,


Twitter / X: @HistoryEJ

Disclosure: Nothing in this article constitutes investment advice. More detailed disclosure here.





Join the conversation

or to participate.