Using “resolutions” + “systems” to approach new year resolutions…

My evolving thoughts on how I interpret “resolutions” and “systems”

Every time we begin a new year, a decent portion of people will have new year resolutions (i.e. basically goals). It’s like a “restart” for a lot of people, and certainly, it would be nice to “restart” and say goodbye to the wild year that was 2020.

With resolutions, I have gone through a complicated journey with how I approach them. I used to not believe in resolutions at all, believing it was ridiculous to “force” having them at the start of the year every time. I then started believing instead to focus on systems (i.e. the micro routines and tasks you do day to day), but realised you can do that but very quickly get lost in the “trees” and forget about the “forest”. So I have now come full circle, back to resolutions, but in a different light.

I describe it as a more yin and yang approach now. I consider resolutions and systems both equally important, being consciously aware of simultaneously always having one foot in the resolutions and the other foot in the systems. That is a delicate balance.

I think the prevailing wisdom, is that most people tend to focus on setting specific, actionable goals. Each one is treated as simply a goal to be reached. I used to do this too. Whether that was getting into a specific school, attaining a certain HSC mark, securing a decent WAM, reading the Bible more, breaking into the hedge fund industry, picking a number of stocks to generate a return, meeting my soulmate, etc… I succeed in some, but fail in others. It was really only 2016 onwards, when I began to realise that my results had relatively less to do with the resolutions I set and relatively more to do with the systems I followed.

Three examples to distinguish the difference, courtesy of “Atomic Habits” author, James Clear:

  • If you’re a coach, your goal might be to win a championship. Your system is the way you recruit players, manage your assistant coaches, and conduct practice.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal might be to build a million-dollar business. Your system is how you test product ideas, hire employees, and run marketing campaigns.
  • If you’re a musician, your goal might be to play a new piece. Your system is how often you practice, how you break down and tackle difficult measures, and your method for receiving feedback from your instructor.

Where I believe I differ from James Clear is that he emphasises more on systems > goals, but I like to ideally think of systems = goals.

Read More »

Food for Thought and “Soul” (note spoilers ahead!)

Soul is Disney Pixar’s latest existential animation film, and was played on my TV at home on Disney+ rather than the movie theatre because of the COVID pandemic. Never would I have thought to watch a new film like this at the comfort of my own home, but I like it that way because of the convenience factor. Writing this was originally giving me HSC English vibes like analysing a text so I tried to avoid doing that subconsciously.

Note there are spoilers ahead in this rambling blog post of mine, from the lens of a hedge fund equity analyst. I’m probably the last kind of guy on earth to give his 2c on a Disney Pixar film… But here goes! I am assuming as well people reading this have watched the film…

“Soul” as described by Pixar, is about “Joe who is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good. But when he travels to another realm to help someone (aka “22”) find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul.”

Tldr, I give it a 7.5/10. The music and animations were incredible, but that’s expected of Pixar. I personally liked the idea of Pixar’s Inside Out > Soul, though both were solid plot lines in their own right.

Longer answer, I felt like this video isn’t the easiest to understand for the typical age group of Disney which tend to be children < 18 years old. This film is a body swap situation, where Joe and 22 take the form of a cat and Joe’s body, respectively.

My key takeaway, was that “Soul” is about finding the beauty in life. Kind of cringe I know, but let’s roll with this message…

Read More »

An A-Z reflection of a wild 2020…

December is always a reflective time for me. I like to try and be vulnerable about myself in this blog every year. I admit I’m a huge overthinker at times, but I try to write to voice all my thoughts down in a more coherent manner. I write also because I’m often not very good socially in person…

Anyways, I was inspired by a member (“Young George”) in my Bible study group to do this exercise. He recapped a different moment of his life for each letter in the alphabet. I really liked the idea, which was better than the template 50 Qs I found from a random website last year which I tried to address (here).

What the “metaverse” could look like…

Anyways, this is my A-Z reflection of what has probably been one wild calendar year to remember, for me, but I’m sure for many others.

Antipodes. The hedge fund I work at, and where I focus a lot of my attention to. Like many others my age, this was the first time seeing a 30% rapid sell off in the market due to the coronavirus pandemic. I remember the anxiety I felt at the time during the sell off, but am glad I took advantage of the sell off when I look back in hindsight. The market has recovered incredibly. I often admit I was in the right place at the right time, given I cover US and EU software companies, which have certainly benefited trends like online shopping on Amazon, remote working for Microsoft, staying socially connected with Facebook, exercising at home with a Peloton, etc. I’m sure there are more examples you can think of. I’ve been very fortunate to work in a very hard working team and been inspired by all their work ethic to delivering investment performance for our investors.

Bitcoin. Two colleagues, Ray and Leo, convinced me to take the leap of faith into cryptocurrency, and I took the most liquid coin, which was Bitcoin with my sister. My simple thesis is that this is an asymmetric bet. We are seeing evidence of some large fund managers take a small % of assets in crypto like Bitcoin. Imagine if pension funds allocated even ~5% to crypto of the total portfolio. Some funds will add more and some less, but assuming it averages out. The volume of absolute dollars flowing into Bitcoin would be in the order of hundreds of a few trillions of dollars. According to Ark Invest, in Bitcoin terms, that would imply an additional US$400-500k to the current ~US$20k Bitcoin price. That’s a 20+ bagger. You only need to believe that allocation to crypto shift to 5% over time. This is reminiscent in a lot of ways, to pension funds adding small % over time to alternative assets like property, private equity, etc. I am 50% sure it will get there (the other 50% assumes Bitcoin goes to zero), so the expected value is still a 10+ bagger in 5-10 years. That looks like a rational bet to me.

Read More »

Preparing for my CFA L2 exam – A light hearted version (Part 1 of 2)

This seems like such a niche topic. Because it is. But someone needs to write this. I think an often overlooked part of the CFA program is just the often painful rollercoaster ride which it is, and it’s difficult for people to relate if they have not sat those exams. In this 2 part blog post, I want to share 15 memorable moments in preparing for my CFA L2 exam to give people a sense of the emotions I’ve experienced the last 6-12 months. The next post will be a more serious walkthrough of what techniques I used to study for my exam, and a reflection of my journey thus far in the program.

I caveat this post by saying I don’t like exams (some might think I’m crazy to write a whole essay length post about an exam). Some people seem to think I thrive in the stress, but I seriously don’t. The only way that I think I’ve been able to combat that stress, is by preparing well in advance for said exams (ok captain obvious…).

This 2 part post is reflecting on what I’ve learned about myself whilst studying and taking my CFA level 2 exam. I am writing this as a future roadmap to others into how much I studied, what I’ve had to sacrifice, and what more I’ve learnt about myself over the last 6-12 months of preparing. Whenever I speak in university societies or lectures, I tend to get Qs revolving around my career, finding a job, studying for exams, managing time, and the CFA program.

Today, I want to address that last point, since I often feel like an on the spot Zoom call doesn’t allow me enough time to sufficiently address what it takes for preparing for the CFA exam. I figured I could provide my 2c on what the actual process of preparing for the CFA exam looked like for me, and that could inspire others to direct themselves a certain way.

I think easily half of the exam centres across the world had cancelled testing the CFA program given the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing restrictions. Sydney was one of the lucky cities which had been spared from the rampant spreading of the virus, and so we could still do our exam in the midst of what was a pandemic/recession happening simultaneously in our country.

I take this opportunity to look back at 15 memorable moments when preparing for my CFA L2 exam (some light hearted and some serious)…

Read More »

Musings on NSW education and my “why” with Sydney Science College…

Introduction

I know it’s been a while since my last post. Several people have given me feedback behind the scenes. Most of the feedback has been positive. Most wanted me to expand on some of the observations I had given in my prior post, I had made some points about the current pain points in the Australian education system.

I’ve personally had some further preliminary high level observations and solutions. Again, I come from the attitude towards this system as a humble outsider. Like most things in life, what remains constant is there are always pros and cons to every sort of “system” we come across.

I suppose the goal however is to balance and ensure there are more pros than cons, which come from thoughtful and inclusive decision making based on first principles.

Apologies if the below is more of a rambling type post again. Most people who know me, know I generally like to accumulate my thoughts in a OneNote, and then I usually try to convert it into some digestible blog post for this website.  

What does education mean to me? It’s simpler than you think…

Education is basically downloading data and algorithms into your brain. You experience problems every day (input). You then process (function) the input (using the algorithms you have developed over time in your learning). You for lack of a better word, from your process, spit out an answer (output) to the problem.

Education is about helping you efficiently and effectively nurture the function component of your brain, so that you get dealt inputs, and spit out outputs. 

With that in mind, what are the current education system’s areas of gross inefficiencies and ineffectiveness that are a detriment to students?

Read More »

Some ramblings on Australian education and privately investing in a Sydney start-up STEM high school

Those who know me well will know that beyond investing in public companies, I also started looking into “private companies”. I figured this would allow my avid readers to get a better sense of my wider life beyond my job as an Investment Analyst in a hedge fund based in Sydney.

Quite a number of people enjoy hearing the thoughts in my head… So here goes.

I tutor mathematics to a year 9 student and I have been doing this for nearly 2 years now. And I love it. I try to instill in him a sense of a tutor that I never had in my high school days. Below is a thought piece on some observations about the NSW education system that I’ve decided to share on my blog to a wider audience, that I initially shared with my student and his family. Obviously for privacy reasons, I will not say the student’s name. This is what I wrote to him…

My private investment in an upcoming STEM-focused private high school (for yr 11-12) based in Sydney – and the inner working perspectives it gives me and the principles I hope to share:

  • The unique competitive advantage I have to other tutors (and please tell me if you can find a tutor with this experience), is that none that I am aware of, have experience privately investing in a private school
  • As a full disclaimer, I have invested a substantial ~$40% of my net worth (updated as of year ending 2020) of my own money since early 2019 into this private high school
  • I’ve become quite involved in seeing the build-up of Sydney Science College, seeing it transition from a tutoring college to now also a NESA approved high school
  • The education system of Australia is one that although average, is lacking in many respects
  • See below chart of 2015 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scores across countries to get a sense of the knowledge gap (although I will admit standardised tests are not necessarily the be-all and end-all):

1

Read More »

How Monsters Inc/University helps me think about the future of energy?

First, a bit of COVID-19 digression

COVID-19 has caused us to self-quarantine and isolate ourselves over the last few months. This has accelerated people staying at home and working from home.  One way to notice this is by observing the mobility data that Google tracks (using your location data), and the below chart for Australia is indicative of more people staying at home over the last month consequent of the lockdown at work with Scott Morrison.

Capture

My 2c on this shutdown is that it was absolutely necessary. We’re taking a history lesson from what Hong Kong did back in SARS in 2003 where they shut down virtually all the schools, hospitality, etc.

But I digress, the coronavirus is best left to another blog post. Staying at home for more time than I’m usually accustomed to has been a net positive. I’m not much of an extrovert… I prefer the time alone at home to deeply think about the future.

Intro

A lot of my friends will know that I love watching Pixar films. People get sick of me talking about Wall-E time and time again. I used some of the “free time” that I now have (to be honest that was meant to be a joke because Investment Analysts hardly ever have free time…), to catch up on some of my favourite Pixar films.

This time, you can guess from the title of my blog, I caught up on Monsters Inc and Monsters University.

As an Investment Analyst, our purpose is to make money through being good stewards of our client’s capital, by making sensible investments based on what we can observe that could indicate what the future could look like.

To that end, you’re probably wondering how I interpret a children’s film like Monsters Inc/University. This is a quick and light take on how these 2 films have informed the way I think.

Monsters, Inc. | Disney Movies

Monsters University | Disney Movies

Read More »

Mental models, the first step to dealing with complexity

It was a colleague of mine at work in Antipodes Partners who inspired me to think more deeply. I confess I was never much a deep thinker until probably a few months ago. Never did I think I would ever become a thinker.

Average human adults make around 35,000 decisions a day. More often than not though, as Jeff Bezos from Amazon would say, you really should aim to make at least 3 good decisions a day and that is better than most other people.

Why am I talking about decision making? I’ve begun to notice patterns in a lot of problems we come across on a day to day basis. Often, the problems can be quite complex. The world is changing at a much more rapid pace than ever before and with that, comes greater complexity to the next problems we face.

So how do we deal with complexity?

In science classes in high school, I recall being taught your typical “formulas” and “laws”. I was a really slack student, so I never thought too deeply about the purpose of what these things I was taught, ever meant to me personally.

Take Newton’s 3 laws of motion:

Newton-table-final

Read More »

The future like Wall-E?

I feel like a broken record saying this, but my mentor, always reminds me:

“The stock market runs ahead of reality.”

Consequently, something that I wrestle with constantly as an investor, is trying to make sense of the future. Historically, I’ve never put much thought into what the world could look like 100+ years. It’s incredibly difficult to forecast that far.

You can go into Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle which means you can simultaneously predict and not predict the future but that can be reserved for another time…

More practically then, to help in this quest to get a sense of what the future could look like, I look to those whom I consider the best CEOs as visionaries who were radical futurists of their time.

Bill Gates at Microsoft. Steve Jobs at Apple. Jack Ma at Alibaba. Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Elon Musk at Tesla. Warren Buffet at Berkshire Hathaway. Walt Disney at Walt Disney Company. John PierPont Morgan at JP Morgan Chase. Thomas Edison at General Electric. Henry Ford at Ford Motors. John Rockefeller at Standard Oil.

They all reminded themselves to think of the bigger picture. The longer picture.

Working in the Software, Internet and Media team in my work as an Investment Analyst, having a sense of what the future will be through technology has naturally evolved into a long term concern of mine.

In a 2006 research paper titled “Human-Automation Interaction”, academic Thomas Sheridan, argues that there are ultimately 2 paths in which humans and technology will probably interact.

For simplicity, I compare it to 2 different films.

Read More »

2019 Reflection – 50 Q&As

2019 has been nothing short of change. The recurring pattern appears to be change. This year, I decided to mix up the way I review my year, and this time, I’ve taken 50 random Qs from this website, and forced myself to answer. Historically, I’ve typically just wrote the key milestones/accomplishments I’ve hit, and lessons I’ve taken on where I could improve.

I would encourage all readers to reflect on the calendar year that is 2019. Whether that means writing it down, meditating for a few minutes, or talking with friends and family about it, I think this has been a helpful exercise for me, and that is why I’d encourage others to follow.

Whilst I am not encouraging everybody to publicly share their reflections, I felt comfortable sharing mine, and hope it can inspire others to reflect whether publicly or not it doesn’t matter.

I admit I am being somewhat vulnerable about myself, but I am pushing myself to be brave and to own my writing.

Read More »