Money with Old Friends

On My Mind | 2024.04.05

Happy Friday!

If you missed it earlier this week, make sure you check out my most recent deep dive article on Jack London’s writing — To Build a Fire.

As always, if you enjoy this note and would like to support my work, the absolute best thing you can do is forward this email to a few friends and coworkers that might find it interesting.

Thank you!

On My Mind

We started looking for daycare options — getting on waitlists — for our son about the time he was born. Our logic was that we wanted to get him into a program starting between the ages of 12 and 18 months. Most places we talked to suggested they had a 12-month waitlist.

I’m not the best at math, but that seemed to fit together fairly nicely — so we got on a few waitlists. 12 months passed and as we started to make phone calls to check in, we felt we had been tricked. 12-month waitlists magically turned into 24-month waitlists.

We had made the decision to trust a few well-known schools when they told us the wait was 12 months. We got on a few, but not all the waitlists. There was a small costs to joining each — but it rounded to zero compared to the onslaught of Amazon purchases we now seem forced to make daily for the little one.

We had made a mistake. We didn’t appropriately value the impact of being wrong relative to the cost of minimizing the chance of being wrong.

If we had gotten on every waitlist, we probably wouldn’t be in a situation where every single one 2x’d in length. We could have purchased near-costless options, but we didn’t.

Fortunately, we were able to pull at a few heart strings at other daycares and have some options now that require a bit more of a drive. So that is great. But that is a combination of luck and schools generally being averse to my wife calling them everyday asking if a new spot has opened up.

In hindsight, it was obviously that we should have bought all the free options that we could. Going forward, I’m going to try to keep this experience in mind when valuing whether or not it is worth paying nothing for potential value in the future.

Quote of the Week

I just write my books, much as a plumber fixes pipes and garbagemen haul away junk. I mean it, no introspection; it is just a kind of work I like and can do.

— Vaclav Smil

Poll of the Week

Did you get tricked by an April Fool's joke this year?

If so, what was it?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Last Week

Question: Have you gotten sick so far this year?

Results: 69% of you have not gotten sick! On my end, I have definitely gotten close to being sick, but I’ve been lucky to avoid a full-blown illness so far this year. I’m sure that means that I will now be sick this week!


  • “I've got a toddler, so I've been sick many times this year.”

Earlier This Week

Question: What is the coldest outside temperature you've experienced?


🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 32°F / 0°C + (15%)

🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜️ 0 to 32°F / -18 to 0° C (33%)

🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ -20 to 0°F / -29 to -18°C (15%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 -40 to -20°F / -40 to -29° C (37%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ -60 to -40°F / -51 to -40°C

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ Below -60°F / -51°C


  • “It doesn't get super cold in NC but I do run on a regular basis when it is in the 30's. The lowest temp run I have had was 26 degrees.”

  • “I’m from Norway…“

  • “In southwest Wyoming“

Things to Read

Earlier This Week | From To Build a Fire by History Investor, 2024

Jack London (1876 - 1916) was famous for his vivid literary depictions of survival in the harshest of natural environments. His best-known novels, The Call of the Wild and White Fang, set in the harsh Canadian wilderness and written from the perspective of animals as opposed to humans, captivated readers worldwide.

London's stories felt authentic as his adventurous life, from sailing to Japan and joining protest armies to his days as an oyster pirate and chasing after gold in the Klondike, provided a latticework from which to paint. His versatility as a novelist, short story writer, and social activist — combined with his ability to translate personal experiences into compelling narratives — made him one of the most popular authors of his time.

Despite his success, London's life was not without its challenges. He struggled to make good financial decisions and was often extended beyond his means despite substantial income. Alcohol was an escape from this reality, and his health declined before he grew old. He died in 1916 at the age of 40.

One of London’s most famous short stories (~7,000 words) is To Build a Fire, which he first wrote in 1902 and subsequently re-wrote with material improvements in 1908.

For Investors:

1. Some situations are “too hard” and you should avoid them

2. After a certain point, not all outcomes can be improved with effort

For Builders:

1. Lack of preparedness kills

2. Negative events compound if they are not dealt with quickly

3. History rhymes, so take lessons from those that built before you

4. Avoiding best practices in exchange for speed will bite you

For Us:

1. You can always outspend what you earn

2. Arrogance deafens our ears to what we need to hear

3. Self-reliance only takes you so far; relationships can help take you the rest of the way

You can help support History Investor by retweeting it on Twitter — Thank you!

The People Matter | From The Reddits by Paul Graham, 2024

I met the Reddits before we even started Y Combinator. In fact they were one of the reasons we started it.

YC grew out of a talk I gave to the Harvard Computer Society (the undergrad computer club) about how to start a startup. Everyone else in the audience was probably local, but Steve and Alexis came up on the train from the University of Virginia, where they were seniors. Since they'd come so far I agreed to meet them for coffee. They told me about the startup idea we'd later fund them to drop: a way to order fast food on your cellphone…

Their idea was bad though. And since we thought then that we were funding ideas rather than founders, we rejected them. But we felt bad about it…

So I called Steve and Alexis and said that we liked them, just not their idea, so we'd fund them if they'd work on something else…

Don’t Pull-Up Your Flowers | From You Make Money With Old Friends by Kingswell, 2024

Smith might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but — full disclosure — I’m a huge fan. Because, if nothing else, he has the courage of his convictions.

In 1992, Smith burst onto the scene with Accounting for Growth, a book that took aim at the financial machinations that British companies used to (legally) manipulate results. It cost him his job as head of research at UBS — and cemented his reputation as a bold truth-teller unafraid of critic or censor…

“Frankly, the share price isn’t the thing that tells you whether you got it right or wrong,” Smith said. “It’s what’s happening in the company”…

You make money with old friends. If you’ve got something like [Microsoft] that you get right, the likelihood is it’s going to continue to be right. I’m not a gardener, but I’m told what you’re supposed to do is water the flowers and pull up the weeds. An awful lot of people do it the other way around. They sell the things that worked and hang on to the things which are not working in the hope they’ll come right. Our strategy — and, in my view, the correct way to do it — is the opposite of that, to run our big winners.”

Mutual Benefit | From Poor Charlie’s Almanack by The Rational Walk, 2024

“Early Charlie Munger is a horrible career model for the young because not enough was delivered to civilization in return for what was wrested from capitalism.”

— Charlie Munger

Life is about more than accumulating money. Understanding the psychology of misjudgment is a prerequisite for a life well lived. “Early Charlie Munger” was not the ideal role model according to the man himself, but I’d like to think that by the end of his life, Charlie Munger knew that his status as a positive role model was secure.


I hate Teams but it is winning (LibertyRPF)

The lottery is a tax on lower income houses (TheEconomist)

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Have a great weekend,


Twitter / X: @HistoryEJ

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

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