Sunday 3 December 2023

November Numbers, Charlie Munger and Books

In my inbox yesterday were two emails, one from The Economist and one from The New York Times, both offering their 'best books of 2023'.


According to The Economist, the average (median) American reads five books a year. I'm not sure how that compares to other countries, but it doesn't seem like very many. The recently departed Charlie Munger was quoted as saying "In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time – none, zero."

His former partner Warren Buffett spends "five or six hours a day" reading books and newspapers. Elon Musk read more than ten hours a day in his youth, and Bill Gates reads more than 50 books a year. Mark Cuban spends about three hours reading every day and has attributed his early career success in life to reading. Steve Jobs was also an avid reader, and was quoted in The New York Times as saying "the fact is that people don't read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year." I'm not sure where he pulled that 40% number from, but 
Jeff Bezos is also a voracious reader who reportedly "has often credited his success to the books he has chanced upon over the years."

While becoming a billionaire isn't the only measure of success in life, and almost all the names mentioned above have been what might be considered failures in other areas of their lives, the evidence appears to support the idea that reading is an activity that should be encouraged. 

With an expected 20 more years on this planet, an average of one book a month would mean I have only a couple of hundred books left to go, which is a very depressing thought, although with more time for this activity in the future (assuming retirement happens at some point), one book a week doesn't seem an unrealistic goal which raises the number to four figures which makes me feel a little better. 

James Joyce once said "Life is too short to read a bad book" and while I used to feel that having started a book I needed to finish it, I'm getting better at stopping if I'm not enjoying it. (It took me years to master the art of walking out of a cinema when a film wasn't enjoyable, darn those sunk costs, but I got there in the end). Best to only do this if you're alone though, as wives / girlfriends tend to find this behaviour unsettling if you get up and walk out. And yes, I did make that mistake on one occasion, although in my defence I did let her know what pub I was headed to.    

The most recent books I've finished were Morgan Housel's "Same As Ever" (very enjoyable, although perhaps not as good as his first book "The Psychology of Money", which was always going to be a tough act to follow, and prior to that the Sam Bankman-Fried / FTX story "Going Infinite" by Michael Lewis, one of my favourite authors but again not his greatest book as he has also set a very high bar. 

I'm currently listening to the Elon Musk biography by Walter Isaacson on the recommendation of my son (who incidentally got engaged last month) as he is a big fan of the author and 28 chapters in, it's a very interesting listen.   

The benefit of audiobooks is that I can use the time I spend walking or running each day productively although more of my time these days is spent walking, and if I'm running I should probably concentrate more on not falling over and breaking anything again. 

Are audiobooks better or worse than actually reading?  Apparently "there is little to no difference in comprehension between the two types of consuming literature. Even though the information is processed differently by our brain, recent audiobooks vs reading research from 2021 showed that the overall difference between reading and listening in terms of comprehension was negligible" so that's good! 

I do find my mind sometimes drifting while outside, requiring a rewind, but the same thing happens when I'm physically reading a book. My mind will wander and I suddenly realise that while my eyes have processed a page or two, my brain wasn't paying attention and didn't register the words. Hopefully that's not just me, but it seems like a no-brainer to spend my 90 minutes a day walking / running time listening to a book.

At this time of year I start planning for the new one, setting goals (something within my control) and targets (those outside my control, e.g stock market returns) and reading / listening to more books will be part of that exercise next year.

With November behind us, here are the monthly system updates which most of you are interested in, as well as a few more general / personal updates which most of you probably aren't interested in - but documenting them helps keep me focused. 

Starting with the American Football systems, and overall the six systems had a 49-38-1 record, which is an ROI of 10.8% and up 8.65 units. December will be a little quieter as the regular College Season ends next weekend. The NFL Systems were 19-12-1 while the College results were 30-26. 

Only a few Draw selections in the EPL last month with the International break reducing the total number of matches to 30. Of the nine qualifiers, only one (Everton v Brighton & Hove Albion) finished as a Draw for a monthly loss of 5.48 units. Fortunately this loss was pretty much offset by the Draws in Spain's Segunda División of which there were seven from 17 selections and a welcome profit of 5.06 units.

The Serie A system only had three selections and lost 1.61 units while in Germany the profit was 3.55 units from 36 selections. 

Over in the States, the NBA season had its first full month but the two main systems overall had a 48-51-3 record for a loss of 5.3 units, while in the NHL we were up 3.61 units from 70 selections which all adds up to a profit of 8.48 units for the month from 325 selections, an ROI of 2.6% which might not sound too exciting, but which I will take any day of the week, or month of the year for that matter. There were also some profits from the Cricket World Cup that have previously been reviewed so I'm not going to count those here again as they are not included in the Sacred Manuscript. 

As for the big picture, well November was very good indeed - the 4th best month (out of 155) on a 'per day' basis and 5th best overall. Only 13th best by percentage gain at exactly 5.00%, but I'll take that any day also. For those who like their numbers, the S&P 500 ended the month with a poker straight, at 4567.8 but more importantly was up 8.9% for the month, and Tesla was up 19.5%

Even boring old Berkshire Hathaway was up 5.5%, with the passing of Charlie Munger taken in its stride and my less boring FOMO "investment" in Bitcoin was up 13%. It's having a good year, my best performer to date +265% with Tesla up by a mere 95% YTD. 

All things considered, a great month although I'm still in a drawdown from my 20th April 2022 all-time high, but the gain needed to recover is now just 4.4%, much improved from the 20.02% gain needed just over one year ago on 12th October 2022. Another month like November and I'll be back atop the mountain and retirement will psychologically definitely be easier if I'm at, or near, the summit. 

As for my heath goals, considering the excesses of Thanksgiving Day with my wife's family, overall a loss of 5.6lbs was quite a good result, achieved because I was able to keep Sober October rolling well into November. When I have a drink (or two), on average my weight two days later is up by slightly more than a pound (1.037lbs to be precise) a number that is slightly higher than the morning after a drink (or two) which is up 0.85lbs - probably due to some dehydration. 

My average weight in November was its lowest since July of 2011 which I am very pleased about. December is always a tough month for weight though, with an average weight gain of 5lbs a year over the past 12 years but if I can keep the damage to a minimum, a solid Dry January should get me back on track. 

I ended the month at 2,276.8 miles walked / run for the year, and my revised goal of 2,400 miles should be hit before Xmas. My original goal of 2,023 miles in 2023 turned out to be far too easy and was achieved in October. Thank you employer, for the extra hours now available to me as a telecommuter. I shall use them on books next year. 

For 2024, I think I'll be better served by taking fewer, but longer / more challenging walks, and I do have plans to hike up Ben Nevis in July, (another summit to aim for) so training for that will help. 

Finally, a couple more quotes from Charlie Munger who as I mentioned earlier passed away last week just a month shy of his century.
"You don't have to be brilliant, only a little bit wiser than the other guys, on average, for a long, long time."

“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

1 comment:

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