The Digest #59

Published on January 22, 2021

“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

— Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, April 26, 1777

James Simons Steps Down as Chairman of Renaissance Technologies by Gregory Zuckerman, January 14, 2021. James Simons has announced his retirement as Chairman of Renaissance Technologies but he will remain on the board. Simons is one of the pioneers in quantitative investing, a story documented by Zuckerman in his book, The Man Who Solved the Market, which I reviewed in late 2019. Simons succeeded in his goal: “I don’t want to have to worry about the market every minute. I want models that will make money while I sleep. A pure system without humans interfering.” Simons had many interesting things to say about his career in an interview last year. (WSJ)

Lemons and Mixology: 2020 In Review by Brent Beshore, January 15, 2021. In March 2020, as the reality of the pandemic heavily weighed on financial markets, I posted a link to an interview of Brent Beshore in which he discussed the crisis facing small businesses. In his annual letter, Beshore looks back at the events of 2020, presents a case study of a company in his portfolio, and discusses the overall investment philosophy of his firm. (Permanent Equity)

Long Term Investing with Tom Gayner, January 18, 2021. This is an excellent interview of Tom Gayner, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Markel Corporation. The range of topics is broad and I found Gayner’s commentary on his evolution as an investor particularly insightful. (The Investor’s Podcast Network)

Waiting for the Last Dance: The Hazards of Asset Allocation in a Late-stage Major Bubble by Jeremy Grantham, January 5, 2021. A cautionary viewpoint: “But this bubble will burst in due time, no matter how hard the Fed tries to support it, with consequent damaging effects on the economy and on portfolios. Make no mistake – for the majority of investors today, this could very well be the most important event of your investing lives. Speaking as an old student and historian of markets, it is intellectually exciting and terrifying at the same time. It is a privilege to ride through a market like this one more time.” (GMO)

Mohnish Pabrai – The Value of Continuous Learning, January 15, 2021. In this podcast interview, well known value investor Mohnish Pabrai discusses “… how his early years alongside his entrepreneurial father have shaped him as an investor, why he decided to make the switch to a career in investing, how he was introduced to the world of value investing through the works of Peter Lynch, his growth as an investor since starting Pabrai Investments as a hobby investor, how you can use cloning to your advantage…” (Value Investing with Legends)

Two Million Years in Two Hours: A Conversation with Yuval Noah Harari, January 15, 2021. Harari is the author of several books including Sapiens — A Brief History of Humankind, one of the most interesting books I read and reviewed in 2018. Harari is very good at putting human evolution into context. Our access to recorded history is a tiny fraction of human history, which of course is a tiny fraction of the history of Earth. This podcast interview is a good introduction to Harari’s thinking. (Your Undivided Attention)

The Paradox of Abundance by David Perell. Never before has more information been available to so many people, yet the noise is overwhelming which makes it difficult for many people to focus on high value content. David Perell recommends intellectual independence: “Ignore society’s recommendations for what to consume and refresh your learning habits like you’re shaking an etch-a-sketch. Remember, what you should consume looks nothing like what you were taught to consume. Rebel against the mainstream spotlight, find some trusted curators, and chart your own path instead.” (

The Transition, January 12, 2021. “The events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 dominated the thoughts of most citizens last week. Clay Jenkinson offers his own thoughts and historical perspective along with comments from Jefferson Hour contributors Beau Wright, David Nicandri and Joseph Ellis.” (Thomas Jefferson Hour Podcast)

Personal Reflections on Donald Trump’s Inauguration, January 21, 2017. One of the benefits of writing down your thoughts is that our mind plays tricks on us when looking back at the past. We are prone to hindsight bias — allowing subsequent events to influence our recollection of what we thought about a subject at a previous point in time. I wrote this article in my personal journal four years ago and found it interesting to look back at what I thought about Donald Trump at that time when I knew nothing about how the next four years would turn out. The Rational Walk is not a political website but I decided to post this article anyway — one of the nice things about having a website is that your freedom of speech can be exercised. (The Rational Walk)

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The Digest #59
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