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Circle of Competence Issue #73


“It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.” — Alfred North Whitehead


I'll go ahead and apologize, but this week's issue is massive because I've had ample time to read on vacation... and I read a LOT of great content.

Books I read:

Alexander Hamilton - (5/5). Ron Chernow is masterful in his treatment of Hamilton. I've been reading this for a few months and finally finished it. I took a few notes on my blog here.

Read through the Constellation Software (Mark Leonard) annual letters (5/5) and was going to take notes but found that Travis Wiedower has already done us the favor of producing highlights from his own reading. Link to content is here. They are some of the most open and honest public letters I’ve ever read. Ranks highly for educational style and honesty about operations right alongside Berkshire Hathaway and Fairfax Financial.

Reread CS Lewis' Mere Christianity - 5/5 for lucid thinking, simplicity, and brilliant analogies explaining morality, meaning, and Christian theology.

How the Scots Invented the Modern World - 3/5. This book got its point across and peaked early. I didn't finish it, but worth studying.

A History of the United States in Five Crashes: Stock Market Meltdowns That Defined a Nation - 3/5. Good overview of 1907 (bank panic), 1929 (Great Depression), 1987 (Black Monday), 2008 (Great Recession) and 2010 (flash crash) market crashes with stories of investors to illustrate what the times were truly like in the moment.

Best content:

Cargo cult science (Richard Feynman)

Advantage flywheels (Max Olson)

Hidden network effects (a16z)

The network effects manual (

Markets are eating the world (Ribbonfarm)

Peter Thiel's religion (David Perrell)

Best podcasts:

Zack Kanter on all things business (Invest like the Best)

Chris Bloomstran on what makes a quality company (Invest like the Best)

Charles Koch and Tim Ferriss (Tim Ferriss Podcast)


No signs of housing bubble in 2019 (Logan Mohtashami)

The laws of investing (Morgan Housel)

The end of the future (Peter Thiel)

The billionaires behind the secret tech mecca in America's heartland (Forbes)

With great demographics comes great power - why the US is positioned for demographic growth while China and India are not (Foreign Affairs)

How the west has gotten China's social credit system wrong (Wired)

The economics of bubbles (Brent Goldfarb)

Greenhaven Road's Q219 letter with long thesis for Nintendo (Scott Miller)

Pirate equity: how wall street firms are pillaging American retailers (

What is a charter city? (

Should the rich be allowed to buy the best genes? (Air Mail News)


Brian Christian on how to live with computers (Invest like the Best)

What negative interest rates mean for the world (Odd Lots)

Jim O'Shaughnessy - what works on Wall Street (Standard Deviations)

Bill Nygren and his investment philosophy (The Investor's Podcast)

The team trying to end poverty by founding well-governed 'charter' cities (80,000 hours)

Investing in... seasteading? (The Real Estate Guys Radio)

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