Read this book after a recommendation last year from John Green and it didn’t disappoint. I’m sure JD Vance didn’t set out to write a political masterpiece but rather focus on his story growing up the wrong side of the economic train tracks. His story highlights why the nationalist narrative has increased unabated and why politicians tapping into populism continue to make huge strides in voter appeal. It is a great read, very sad at times but ultimately JD triumphs making the best of the opportunities that eventually make it his way. One of the concepts referenced near the end of the book, social capital is something that I’ve positively experienced but could easily have missed given the environment I occupied. My parents, aunts, and uncles aren’t corporate animals and definitely didn’t have a corporate network that could easily be tapped to lay the foundation for the space I enjoy so much today. Luckily the stars aligned along the way and with some hard work I’m building the social capital my kids and hopefully grandchildren could access.
Author Archives: Marlin E.C. Africa-Sylvester
Paperback only book review | Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know
PSA: I’m a Malcolm Gladwell fanboy and will always be biased toward the content he creates. Having read all his previous books, it was a no brainer that I would source “Talking to Strangers” on pre-order.
As expected the book is a great read, super engaging with topics we can easily relate too. Malcolm’s ability to distill what could be complex concepts into a woven story that grabs the reader the first time is unparalleled.
Without giving to much away, the books deals with 3 concepts we all need to be aware of in our troubled times when dealing with strangers:
- Defaulting to truth
Get your copy today and you won’t be disappointed.
IMC Conference 2019
Recently attended the IMC “Marketing gets Nak*d” conference, which was a first since the inaugural conference I attended many years ago. IMC has come on leaps and bounds since the early days and is definitely a conference that must be attended on a yearly basis.
Before jumping into why this year’s conference was great, lets get what didn’t work out the way.
- The venue wasn’t suited for such a large conference, felt cramped, limited space for interaction when moving around during the breaks.
- This impacted the other gripe on the day, which was the food serving didn’t work well.
- Lastly, starting the day earlier would be ideal as those flying out the night could still attend the networking session at the end of the conference.
- The 20 minute speaker slots worked really well, it kept attendees engaged and for the odd speaker that wasn’t awesome it wasn’t long before the next one appeared.
- Overall the content was lit, thought provoking and different. Nothing wrong with expanding your perspective.
- My top 3 speakers in reverse order were Grant Pereira, Musa Kalenga and my absolute crush at the moment Elaine Rumboll. Their content was memorable and delivery on the day added to the energy in the room. Can’t wait to work with them in the future.
- Elaine takes top spot not only due to her speaker ability, the gravitas she brings to the podium but her ability to dumb down dense concepts for us mere mortals was amazing to experience. I’m a huge Lego fanboy so Elaine’s work with Lego Serious Play resonates on another level.
To get a feel for the other speakers view them here.
The IMC Conference is definitely a yearly event that should be attended, it’s not pretentious, is value-additive and engages the mind positively. Click here to get your 2020 tickets now.
No need to #DeleteFaceBook
Since Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica moment, I’ve been wondering why people are losing their minds about user data being in the hands of third parties. If you move on from the improperly obtained aspect of the breach, is it really that bad?
Using FB for free does come at a cost that somebody has to pay and if it is not it’s 2 billion users then by default it has to be advertisers or third-party companies who can use your data to render services related to your usage. All those cat pics are on your timeline for a reason. Assuming that everything on your FB timeline is in your best interest or a carefully curated list of posts is naive and maybe just maybe users are pissed that they were so easily duped.
In the US of A, Cambridge and other companies peddling similar services have for years been able to influence user behaviour and breaches are a timely reminder of this. Users magically become aware they are the product and don’t really have that much control over their precious timeline. In addition, the data that is being used by these companies won’t necessarily land in the inbox of scammers unless intentionally sold through the back door which is illegal. Seriously what damage besides the election of Trump, which would have happened in any event, has access to user data caused? If I were a Madison client suffering a data breach then being pissed is properly justified especially if I’m leading a seperate life.
By blindly accepting & agreeing to FB’s TCs they have been legally protected to use data accumulated on their platform to enhance the service it provides users. In order to fulfill that mission and connect everybody on earth and the moon at no cost to users, it has very limited options if it wants to remain the hassle free platform it currently is, those moaning users must either shut up or #DeleteFaceBook.
Unleash your freak
I bought Think Like A Freak many years ago, started reading it but stopped reading during chapter 1. Still not sure why I didn’t finish it though. The book has a decent rhythm and is filled with anecdotes which will keep you entertained and engaged. Think Like A Freak follows on from the bestselling Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics books further distilling the Levitt & Dubner doctrine and providing practical examples of unleashing your freakiness.
The book is about problem-solving, appreciating that not all problems can be solved and verbalising “I don’t know” is ok.
Other notable nuggets are:
- Dump your moral compass
- Think like a child, without a filter
- Focus on the root cause of a problem, not the symptom
- Search for the incentives, people care more about them than you realise
- Find innovative ways to persuade those who don’t want to be persuaded
- Embrace the upside of quitting
Levitt & Dubner have once again shifted the benchmark and although the book was written a few years ago, it is still relevant as a framework for addressing those niggly issues we all face.
Well worth a read.
Zero to One
Although Peter Thiel’s book was first published in 2014, it is still engaging and relevant. The book is concise and punchy, talking to all things startup and evolving your dream into a sustainable monopoly. Peter successfully argues that operating in a world of perfect competition where no economic profit can be made is sub-optimal, business owners should be fighting for and aiming for a monopoly. He drops morsels of wisdom that is often overlooked when in a startup, one of them is how important it is to sort how you make sales, as small sales volumes require lots of marketing effort or a healthy dose of viral growth engines.
In his 14 chapters, Peter details his journey and learnings while navigating Paypal through the DotCom bubble of the 2000s and then going on to build other successful business. Peter asks a number of daunting questions throughout the book, 2 of which had me thinking for a very long time:
- What valuable company is nobody building?
- What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Zero to One is not a blueprint for success but notes from a successful entrepreneur and definitely worth a read
Review: The Physics of Wall Street
James Owen Weatherall examines the history of maths and physics which has underpinned not only the rise of Wall Street but all other financial exchanges and markets. It’s an informative read that feels lite even though it delves into deep and complex maths.
Increasingly financial models have been blamed for many market crashes and are even described as Weapons of Mass Destruction. In this easily accessible book, James convincingly argues that financial models should not be abandoned but constantly tweaked and improved. They are essential to the mechanics of our international exchanges.
Definitely, a book to read.
I guess it’s human nature to immediately implement or listen to a doctor’s recommendation rather than the constant feedback from your wife or life partner. Much like a heart attack would spur into action an immediate lifestyle change, which was part of the conversation the doctor was having with me yesterday.
That being said I’m one of those special people whose body can’t process sugar properly resulting in significantly more bad cholesterol finding a home in all the wrong places in me. If I was producing enough good cholesterol this would not be a problem, but given my current trajectory I’ll probably be a diabetic and suffer heart disease along with a heart attack at some stage. All grim news just before the holiday season really kicks off. While emphasising balance the doctor also slipped in a move away from all things alcohol in the short term.
Being an avid beer, whisky and tequila consumer this was not good news not even red wine escaped the clutches of this serious conversation. Given the nature of things going cold turkey isn’t an option especially over the very vibrant festive season. So, in my infinite wisdom I’ve researched what the calorie count is for my favourite alcoholic beverages and slotted in a slice of bread as a reference. As an FYI, coffee has no calories. For comparison purposes 100 grams = 3.38 shots, calorie data sourced from USDA
|Calories||Grams||Calories per shot||Equivalent slice of bread|
|White bread (per slice)||79||30||23|
At my treadmill running pace, I can smash 232 calories in 20 mins, so the odds are stacked against me for now. It’s not all doom and gloom though, best is to determine how many calories you need to remain healthy and what percentage of those can be good or bad cholesterol. Fortunately we are all built and process carbs differently.
After a 2 week self imposed cellphone usage sabbatical, I’ve come to a few realisations:
- Comms with loved-ones/friends are disrupted: Email and smses can’t replace WhatsApp.
- Banking: Without an active cellphone online payments to new accounts or purchasing through a third party retailer like takealot, even when using a desktop is impossible. The authentication processes for payments in our hyper connected world require a cellphone for our own protection, which is a good thing.
- Directions: Using printed maps and directions are irritating and not worth the effort. The convenience of Google Maps on a mobile device is irreplaceable and significantly more safer when using while driving. Not to mention the accident reports and time to destination functionality which is a godsend.
- Public crutch: Holding a cellphone in your hand gives you something to do rather than converse with somebody, especially in a confined space like a lift. It removes the opportunity for small talk and getting to know colleagues. On the flip side it removes the awkwardness that some might feel with making small talk.
I don’t intend trying another sabbatical anytime soon but am convinced I can survive without a connected mobile device.
It is increasingly becoming obvious that millennials prefer being self directed in their choices, trusting peer review forums more than product brochures. Within their investment decisions this is becoming more prevalent as non-intermediated investments continue to tick up. Asset managers who do not embrace this trend will struggle to gain and retain market share. Not only are the number of self directed investors increasing the number of advisors specifically independents in the industry are projected to decrease as regulatory changes under the “Twin Peaks” model are implemented in South Africa.
The availability of low cost investment alternatives specifically Exchange Traded Funds, coupled with an easy to invest online application process which is user centric are providing further impetus to a changing landscape. Looking beyond migrating existing businesses away from legacy systems. It does beg the question why are firms hesitant to embrace a market which inherently is low maintenance yet has the potential to be a sustainable profit generator?