Some things and ideas: January 2024
My monthly post with random thoughts on articles or market stuff that caught my attention in the last month (as well as some fantasy book recommendations and some other monthly recurring reminders!).
My monthly overview (Monthly recurring piece)
I consider YAVB my “empire” with four core pieces: this blog / substack (the free side), the premium side of this blog, my podcast (also on Spotify, iTunes, or YouTube), and my twitter account. You can see my 2024 vision and goals for the empire here. If you like the blog / free site, I'd encourage you to check out the pod, follow me on twitter, and maybe even subscribe to the premium site!
A bonus note: I get asked from lots of people about how to break into the finance industry. I detailed it more here, but my top advice would be to go out and start a substack (substack recently gave me a referral code if you start one; if you use that, awesome! But I’ve been recommending starting a substack long before they offered referrals!). If you do launch a substack, please let me know so I can try to be helpful.
I lost a decent bit of weight
I’ll be honest: I’ve had better months than the past one! I tore my pec late last month, and the SAVE decision really hit me (and I mean that both on a portfolio and mental level). The combination wasn’t a ton of fun: the way I normally deal with stress is by going to the gym, but basically any movement outside of walking is off limits post surgery. With NYC weather being awful and a little baby, I basically just had to sit in my apartment doing nothing. It sucked.
True story: for my two week follow up, the first thing my doctor said was, “I already know what your first question is, and the answer is no: you can’t go on the stationary bike yet.” And yes, that was the first thing I was going to ask.
Rather than wallow in it even more than I have (and, as you can tell, I’ve done a decent bit of wallowing!), I decided to try to improve my health in other ways. The main way I did that was really focusing on my diet. My diet has always been awful; I don’t like to cook (meaning I order out for most meals) and I have a huge sweet tooth. So for the past month I’ve been near religious about my diet, and it’s really worked: I was ~216 pounds at the end of December, and I’m ~203 right now. Some of that is probably muscle loss (I went from lifting ~5x/week to sitting in a chair all day), but it’s a noticeable amount of fat.
I’ve lost enough that both my wife and mother in law were checking to make sure I wasn’t starving myself; I’ve actually been religious about eating exactly 2k to 2.1k calories per day so it was not a starvation thing.
Why do I share that? Well, two things.
First, this is kind of obvious, but bears mentioning: if you’ve got a sweet tooth and you largely give up sweets for a month, you’d be surprised by the results.
But, second, the main thing I’ve been eating is Factor meals, and I’ve become a wild evangelist for them (again, my wife has been making fun of me for my enthusiasm and asking if I’m secretly sponsored by them given how much I mention it, but I just really like them). My process has been pretty simple: I get 12 factor meals a week, so I eat them for lunch every day and then dinner 5x/week. It’s been great; I like the food, I don’t have to think about portion control or prep, and (perhaps most importantly) the meals actually fill me up (I do order near exclusively the protein plus meals, but going on a diet and not starving all the time is pretty rare for me and shows me how out of control my portion sizing was).
Anyway, I tend to become a wild fanatic for products and companies I love, so I just figured I’d share that anecdote in case anyone is interested / looking to lose some weight or simplify their food choices while improving their diet. If you’re interested, this referral link should get you a mammoth discount on your first box to try it out (I think I get a small referral fee but I’m not positive). And I’m always happy to swap other diet thoughts offline!
State of the markets (Monthly recurring piece)
The fear and greed index is tipping into extreme greed; honestly, that doesn’t feel right to me. The market feels complacent but not widely overvalued or anything. I feel like a broken record, but I continue to think small cap land has a lot of value to offer, particularly anything quirkier or with some component of cyclicality.
Speaking of small cap land, the most interesting / frustrating thing about the market continues to be the absolute dominance of the largest companies. Whether you’re looking at the last month, the last year, or the last ten, large caps are just stomping small caps. Again, nothing new there. But it does make you wonder: will there ever be a “revenge of the small caps”, or are today’s large caps so much superior to yesterday’s that this decade of dominance is just the start of a trend that can continue for a long time (we’ve never seen businesses with the near infinite returns on incremental capital that the large cap businesses have before, nor have we seen businesses with such large scale and regulatory moats).
The small cap / large cap divergence does fell a little unfair sometimes. Tesla trades at something like 100x earnings (you can quibble with if it’s 50 or 75 or 100, about estimates, etc….. but it’s a big number). Their last earnings report and outlook were…. not good, to put it kindly. I’ve had companies that trade at 5x earnings report soft quarters / outlooks that I would say were comparatively better than what Tesla announced, and their stocks were murdered. Tesla? Barely down. I understand that you’re buying Tesla (or any stock) based on the future earnings, but it’s just wild how much rope some of these larger companies get (perhaps rightly so given how much value they’ve created over time!).
On the fear and greed side, I really enjoyed this odd lots podcast on volatility. I know lots of people have told me they think the whole zero day option phenom eventually leads to some type of market crash. I’m not sure if that’s right or not, but that was a really eye opening piece to me on an area of the market I wasn’t really familiar with.
Nerd Corner (Monthly recurring piece)
There’s no hiding it; I’m a massive nerd. I read 3-4 fantasy books a month, my favorite pastime is playing board games with my wife and friends, and I was an eager supporter of the Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter (yes, I splurged and went for the hardcover books).
Anyway, I figured a few of you are nerds like me, so I started this segment to give recs of what I’m nerding out over currently, with the hope that you’ll either try it and enjoy it or recommend me similarly nerdy things that I’ll enjoy. This month’s recs:
I caved and finally started the fourth wing series. Fourth wing is the series that’s been sweeping the fantasy world, so much so that there was a NYT profile on the author and the phenom. It was also the #4 book on Amazon’s “books of the year.” That is all rare territory / praise for a fantasy book. My review? I enjoyed it! It’s a decent fantasy building world, and the author is not scared to kill off characters, which keeps you on your toes. It is a very horny book, which is not for everyone (I could have done without it to be honest) and stands in stark contrast to my typical Brandon Sanderson fare (Sanderson is a Mormon, and his books have the most G rated romances you can imagine. Fourth Wing starts out R-rated and hits an X-rating in the second half of the book). I’m a little surprised Fourth Wing is this popular as I can easily list 20 fantasy books that I think are way better in every dimension (see my forever recs below!), but I’m glad I read it and I’d guess most people will enjoy it. I’m intrigued enough by the world that I’m starting the sequel.
PS- outside of my monthly recs, I constantly get asked what my favorite fantasy books are. So I’m just going to throw this list out monthly:
Anything Brandon Sanderson writes; he’s by far the best fantasy author out there. I’d probably start with Mistborn, though Tess and the Emerald Sea is basically a standalone book and might be my favorite book he’s written. The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England is also a standalone book and a very fun and fast read.
Kingkiller is probably the best series I’ve ever read; waiting for the third is agony.
Gentleman Bastards is right up there with Kingkiller; the mix of fun and world building is outstanding.
Red Rising series is more sci-fi, but my god is it good. I would literally stay up all night to read every book the day they came out (note: I’ve only read the first trilogy; I’m going to read the second when the last book comes out later this year).
If you’re looking for something a little more under the radar (most of the books above are widely regarded as some of the best fantasy books / series ever), the Licanius Trilogy was fantastic.
First Law trilogy is excellent. It can get a little brutal / graphic though; there are a bunch of sequels and spins, but I’ve never been able to finish them because one of them got so brutal I just put the book down and never picked it up again. But the first trilogy is really, really great.
The Cradle series probably isn’t as “good” as the books above, but I binged them and every fantasy fan I’ve recommended them to has said something along the line of “I read all ten books in two months after I opened the first one.”
I’ve also really enjoyed that author’s newest series, Last Horizon!
The Wandering Inn series isn’t for everyone, and the first ~150 pages of the first book need to get powered through…. but, if you can power through them, the world building here is incredible, and I’ve had so many friends get hooked by this series. If you like hard fantasy, I can near guarantee you’ll like it.
Other things that caught my eye (monthly recurring)
My god is this well written
Interesting look at how the 4 college football playoff teams are using money to build themselves up