With a Club

On My Mind | 2024.03.22

Happy Friday!

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Also, in case you missed it last week, my most recent single-topic article can be found here:

Ahead of next week, I have been reading a little bit of Jack London (see Quote below) for the first time since middle school. One of his short stories gripped me as I was drinking my morning coffee — so much so that I was late to a meeting I was supposed to lead that morning. Keep an eye out on Tuesday morning for the next single-topic article!

On My Mind

This week, I am continuing to think about to-do lists. Last week, I wrote the following:

To-do lists are powerful.

A company with sufficiently complex operations might break its operations team into two categories — 1) strategy teams and 2) execution teams. The first group focuses on determining the most profitable long-term initiatives, and the second focuses on the most profitable way to execute towards those initiatives in the immediate term.

Companies tend to bifurcate teams this way because it is hard for a single person to be both strategic and execution-focused at the same time. If someone tries to do both, on average, you get both below-average strategy and below-average execution.

As individuals, we don’t have the luxury of choosing one or the other — we have to be both strategic thinkers and exceptional executors. A life spent only strategizing means you won’t get anywhere. A life constantly focused on action can result in you looking like a man so busy swinging his axe to chop down tree after tree after tree that he hasn’t noticed the chainsaw sitting on the ground next to him.

Thus, we have to break ourselves into multiple people. At times, we have to stop and view our future self as a third person and say, “What are the most profitable things for them to do?” While this is true in a more esoteric “what do I want to do with my life” sense, more to the point we’re exploring here, it also applies to storyboarding what needs to get done in your day / week / month / year.

Once determined, you need your current self to execute. But how do you bridge that conversion from strategic person to executing machine?

Similar to how companies write memos, debate them, re-write them, and then create action plans, you need to write things down. That bureaucracy within a company — which can obviously be taken to such an extreme that it becomes unprofitable — serves a purpose: it improves decision making for those focused on strategy through debate and reduces confusion around what to prioritize for those executing.

To-do lists are memos for individuals.

As life becomes increasingly complex, its improbable that you can, in the moment, remember everything that needs to be done and their relative priority. However, if you have debated priority with yourself in the past and written it down, it’s improbable that you will miss the most important things.

I have been somewhat successful at leveraging to-do lists. This started with my first job out of college, though to-do list usage tends to correlate with workload. Fairly light? I don’t have an active to-do list. Feeling busy? The to-do list makes a comeback.

I am trying to get more consistent at leveraging lists.

This week, a lack of deadlines and absence of a to-do list resulted in me struggling to complete the relatively short set of things I needed to get across the finish line. Instead of having time to spare, the time to complete the tasks was elongated to fill the time available.

While I can’t point to an immediately negative outcome from this, I know I missed the opportunity to think strategically about what needs to be done in the medium team due to the inefficient execution.

And that is the miss — the “strategic thinking” should have been on my to-do (if I had one going at the time). Because I had not pre-planned that being a relative priority, I felt the illusion of having little to do. That illusion led to an inefficient week. And the opportunity cost of that miss, while difficult to directly define, is very real.

Quote of the Week

Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it.

— Jack London, 1905 1

Two weeks ago, in the article concerning John Galbraith and how to write well, Galbraith said much the same. Both were prolific writers, well-known and respected in their own times and respective genres.

The meaning is that one had better go to his or her typewriter every morning and stay there regardless of the seeming result. It will be much the same.

—John Galbraith, 1978 2

Maybe we can manufacture our own inspiration — and the only way is to give it a shot. As both authors suggest, the only one who may even notice you were inspired is the one looking back at you in the mirror.

Poll of the Week

Have you read anything by Jack London?

Famous works include The Call of the WIld, White Fang, The Iron Heel, and To Build a Fire

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Last Week

Question: Have you been the victim of a cybersecurity / hacking incident?

Results: Fortunately, everyone that voted has not had the experience!


  • WB: “But it scares me to death. Probably the single biggest discrete risk our business faces.”

Things to Read

More on Inspiration | From The Tim Ferris Podcast w/ Hugh Howey by Tim Ferris, 2024

And I tried for 20 years to be a writer, from age 12 to 32. My number one bucket list thing in life was to write a book and no one was stopping me but myself. But for 20 years I couldn’t do it. And, honestly, all I had to do was write a little bit every day and I would write a book…

If you just sit around waiting for inspiration and try to write a few sentences here and there, you’ll never stay with the story enough to know what it’s even about.

Between Galbraith last week, London’s quote up above, and this one from Hugh Howey, I feel the universe is trying to tell me to get on with it — though I haven’t yet figured out what “it” is…

Tim Ferris interviews Hugh Howey, author of science fiction trilogy "Silo," a dystopian story set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is confined to an underground silo. I’ve not read the books — nor seen the Apple TV Series — but there is a lot you can take away from Howey’s story regardless of your familiarity with his work.

He covers the importances of consistent effort, being careful how much of your equity you sell, how leveraging partners can improve your outcomes, and much more.

Enough Weird Stuff | From Letter #50: Ted Weschler by A Letter a Day, 2023

But I always do want to be able to look myself in the mirror and say that I'm reading enough weird stuff that nobody else is reading the same stuff that I am. And if you're just reading the New York Times in the Wall Street Journal, there's just no way you're gonna beat other people. You're just reading the same thing…

And so, I read... I read Furniture Today and Uranium Weekly. I'm not sure there's a lot of people that subscribe to both.

You're looking at one of them.

Ted Weschler, a portfolio manager at Berkshire and one of two people expected to take over investment operations once Warren Buffett steps down, is a rather private guy. Thus, it was exciting to see him give an interview last year covering his early career, the two investment companies he formed prior to joining Berkshire, how he got noticed by Warren Buffet, and his eventual path to Berkshire.

In addition to his biographical information, Weschler dives into his investment process and the importance of knowing a unique combination of information, which was interesting. For Weschler, the goal isn’t to know more than anyone else on a single topic, but instead to have an irreplicable network of facts in your head.

Each individual fact itself might be known by other investors, but if your brain is the only place all those disparate facts come together in a unique way — if you are Weschler — you have a value-added perspective through which to evaluate new ideas.

Overworking | From The Indiscipline of Overwork by Ryan Holiday, 2024

To give you another personal example, I wear an Apple Watch and I have this goal: I try to burn a thousand active calories every single day… Even though this is all utterly meaningless—it’s not even public—it got harder for me to stop each day. Doing the exercise was nothing to me, but not hitting the benchmark? …

You know what the reward for my ‘accomplishment’ was? I came down with mono! ...

Talk about the falsest of economies – skipping a day or two of rest here and there cost me months. I wore my immune system down. I worked too hard for too long, and it ended up being a problem for me. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t think. My mind was all messed up, and it was really hard.

Doing more feels good. You can look in the mirror saying, “You did a lot today.” And there’s social proof — others say, “You did all that? Wow, that’s impressive.”

But, can doing more actually be a form of laziness?

It is easy to fill a day with things to do — but difficult to fill it with things worth doing. Sometimes the most profitable long-term action is in fact inaction, even if your work ethic screams for something to do.

Ryan Holiday, of Daily Stoic fame, explores how excessive focus on action may actually hurt you in the long run.

The 1995 period looks like one of the most apparent analogies to the 2022 cycle, which looks to be ending. Even with an insatiable supply, a question of semis is still cyclical, the end always happens, and inventory gluts lead to a downcycle. We are seeing that happen today. While the staggering amount of investment is likely similar, I think, unlike then, we are a bit more consolidated than in the past. The DRAM runaway investment train is nothing like 2022, where Micron is almost instantly willing to cut supply growth to prop up demand.

It’s glaring to see the difference in DRAM today and then. DRAM has managed supply and demand growth well with the other public companies, and the lessons learned from the 1995 cycle probably is still remembered. Now logic builds, on the other hand, remain to be seen - and that will be something I explore in the 2000s.

Doug O’Laughlin followed-up his article on the 1980’s semiconductor industry with a review of the 1990s. He dives into the unique changes required in the industry with the rise of the personal computer market, a defense sector slow down with the end of the Cold War, and the resultant overproduction of memory chips leading to a glut in the market.

With all the excitement around the AI-driven need for improved semiconductor design and capacity, O’Laughlin’s review of the 80s and 90s provides interesting perspective on what we might see this decade.


Cause of Death Across Age Groups (@Salonium)

Market Expectations are Never Right (@TheEconomist)

Average Harvard GPA Over Time (GradeInflation)

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Have a great weekend,


Twitter / X: @HistoryEJ

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

1  Getting Into Print by Jack London, 1905

2  Writing, Typing & Economics by John Galbraith, 1978

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