026-2020 The hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy

Title: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Author: Douglas Adams

This was quite a fun read from the list of the books that Elon Musk said he would recommend that everyone should read.

It’s about a human on earth, and his friend (who he doesn’t know is an alien from another planet) that spend the last day on Earth, and then by chance hitch a ride with one of the invading alien space ships, right before they blow up the planet.

Reason? It was in the way of a galactic highway, so it had to be removed.

Arthur (the earthling) is then introduced to this Guide book from his alien friend Ford, where he tells him he was revising this Guide to the Galaxy and that it should be used when entering and traveling space.

They get kicked off the ship eventually after the aliens figure out that they were hitchhikers on their vessel, and by luck end up on another space ship that was traveling in the same area.

Arthur and Ford travel with their new space crew in the hopes of finding another planet that the captain was hoping to find. The planet is told to have been only a myth for 5 million years, but the captain is determined to find it and and then trade with them.

Summary:

Giving away the rest of the story would not be generous from my side. But what I can promise you is that it is quite a different space story than you would otherwise have seen in Star Wars or Star Trek. However, it is crazy at times, but I promise you will have a chuckle every now and then for it is quite an odd, funny, strange story. The book gets a rating from me of 4.0/5

Have a good one!!!

025-2020 A question of Power

Title: A Question of Power (Electricity and the Power of Nations)

Author: Robert Bryce

Have you heard someone say ”you never really understand the worth of something until it’s gone”?

Now let’s include Maslow’s hierarchy of (five) needs, which are 1) Physiological, 2) Safety, 3) Love and Belonging, 4) Esteem and 5) Self-actualization. It is structured from the most necessary needs that we need in order to survive, and then moves up to those needs where we feel we belong, and belong and feel we contribute to something great. (https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=EEZWqpIV&id=A200364509DC46A897FA7F01E723C1B983C6956E&thid=OIP.EEZWqpIVQdq6MFAlREGNIgHaFu&mediaurl=http%3a%2f%2f3.bp.blogspot.com%2f-AmB0cO6ik6w%2fVpJCAm0oSdI%2fAAAAAAAOljA%2fUMNs94-7nIk%2fs1600%2fMaslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs-730816.jpg&exph=1159&expw=1500&q=the+hierarchy+of+needs+maslow&simid=608027507755388499&ck=BC5C6E098E5ADD47F56C3DF921082B9E&selectedIndex=3&ajaxhist=0)

Now let’s take those two together and consider how important has electricity become to us personally, and also to living a life in the modern economy.

It becomes quite apparent that it has become an existential element of the twenty-first century. Not only because of all the machinery that can be empowered by it (which in turn can be used to complete endless number of tasks for us), but also where we could be heading towards as we make it part of our lives more and more every day.

The book goes into different topics on how electricity was a significant contributor to help grow the economy, and how some other countries lag behind the rest due to their shortage of electricity.

The topic I thought stood out from the book was that in order for electricity to enable an economy to grow, a country needs the following three factors to run an electrical grid: integrity, capital and fuel. The theory goes that:

  • for a country to reap the greatest economic benefit from electricity the people using the electricity, and the people providing electricity need to work together and work fairly in order to both benefit from the electrical output and not be selfish to gain only for themselves
  • the next factor needed for a grid to operate is capital to finance its construction, operation and maintenance. Further, when one is not in possession of capital, whether or not capital will be lent would be largely dependent on the perception that lenders have of the country and its peoples integrity
  • the amount of capital available as well as the resources in closest proximity would then determine the fuel that would be used to power the electrical grid to generate electricity

As you would have caught on from the above, the greatest emphasis was put on integrity. I feel that this holds very much truth to it because i had the privilege to experience life in a third-world country, and also a first world country, and thus could gain valuable perspective on how the integrity of a country can strongly impact the economy. I grew up in South Africa, where, sadly, corruption was something that became more and more a norm to the politics of the country. The electrical grids weren’t run with integrity, and as a result we experienced black outs now and then. This in turn resulted in businesses losing money, and so on. Now, I moved to Germany for a contract, and since I came here I watched the news, the people around me and the politicians. Here, I felt that they were taking due care to do their jobs with utmost integrity, and as a result the people seem more at ease.

  • Of course there are endless factors that are involved in the running of a country, and the above observation is solely my own, but I think that one can see how the perception by those paying taxes to those running the electrical grids does make an impact how well the economy runs.

The next great thing I learnt about was the Terawatt Challenge, which lists the top 10 problems facing the world, which are: 1) Energy, 2) Water, 3) Food, 4) Environment, 5) Poverty, 6) Terrorism and War, 7) Disease, 8) Education, 9) Democracy and 10) Population. From this the attention is directed to the first element, Energy (specifically Electricity) which is seen as such a vital component that we need to work on securing for our current lifestyles to be sustained.

From this he then goes into the next few chapters where he introduces the reader to the different sources from where electricity can be generated (oil, coal, nuclear) and where we are striving to move towards (solar, wind, hydro). He tells us that there is a trend in the world to make green electricity a bigger part of all economies to help reduce the greenhouse gases that are emitted to our atmosphere. However, he does clarify that going fully green has also shown its challenges (cost, storage, scale and land use) that make it difficult to convert to 100% green energy:

  • cost – the current amount of energy that is collected from coal, and oil requires a significant investment in solar panel/hydro/wind farms in order to generate the same amount of electricity
  • storage – burning coal and oil to produce energy to generate electricity is not hindered by any weather conditions. With green sources however, electricity generation will be dependent upon season changes, and only when the sun shines (during the day) or the wind is present. Thus, to generate sufficient energy to meet our needs year round we would need to store significant amounts of energy in batteries for the seasons where there is no wind, or the sun only shines a few hours of the day
  • scale – the demand for electrical energy is growing yearly since we are becoming more accustomed to more digital lifestyles, and therefore replacing all existing energy-producing sources with green machinery will require time, and thereafter the number of machines that will be needed to serve the continuing growing demand of electricity afterward. Thus, the time needed to replace all bad-machinery with green-machinery is not something that can be solved as quick as we might think
  • land use – further, the examples that the author uses to showcase the results of countries where wind farms and solar panels were installed, shows that the size of land that is needed to generate the same amount of electricity as is currently produced by a coal farm is significantly larger.

From the above I captured that this will be an even bigger industry in the coming decades, and that the transition to green energy is something that can sadly not be solved within a short time span.

Summary:

I gained much more perspective and insight into this industry, than I actually thought I would when I first bought the book. The author takes his time to explain well enough to the reader how electricity is a precious commodity to our modern lives, and what is currently going on in the industry in the present day. Therefore I’d like to rate the book as a 4.2/5

Have a great one!!!

024-2020 The New World Economy

Title: The New World Economy (A beginner’s Guide)

Author: Randy Charles Epping

Good morning fellow readers,

I have a question for you this morning. Have you ever thought that you hear so many different things on the news all the time, some topics being repeated a few times because the matter has longer repercussions, that you don’t know what to make of all of it?

That’s the modern economy for you.

We are able to get more information on what is going on around us, and abroad, due to technological advancements in the 19th, 20th and 21st century. Not only are we able to get information on what’s happening abroad, but many things are also important to take notice of due to the world being engaged in globalized trading. Our trading net with the world has resulted in many becoming dependent on other countries for their products, due to that country having a competitive advantage in producing the output, in relation to yourself.

Not only that, countries are trying to becoming better than their neighbours, and thus grow their GDP (growing economically, and show a net surplus). Thus, the technology is receiving more and more attention to derive better and better products.

  • From the Rich Dad Poor Dad franchise you will remember that the core lesson that he wants to teach us is that we need to get out of the rat race, and develop assets (a product/service that will make you money in the future)
  • And the way to go about to create an asset is to understand what is currently happening in the economy (locally and world-wide) and see if you can spot an opportunity where something is missing (a gap)

If you like to get a quick glimpse of what is happening world-wide (before the COVID 19 thing happened), then any news source is able to give you what you need, as well as some investor profiles. However, in the book brought all the big topics together, and discussed the following:

  • The Fusion Economy
  • Bitcoins and Blockchain
  • How Local Economic Crises become Global Crises
  • International Organizations, and whether they promote economic growth
  • How are countries ranked in the World Economy
  • Can trade wars harm the world economy
  • Brexit and border walls (isolationism)
  • Does immigration take jobs away
  • How do Populist Leaders gain power
  • Globalization
  • Inflation vs Deflation
  • What is currency manipulation
  • Is the fear of investing keeping us poor
  • Comparing investments in the New World Economy
  • Is income inequality inevitable
  • Hot Money
  • Private Equity Investors, Venture Capitalists, and high-frequency Traders
  • The twenty-first century company
  • How is the Digital Economy transforming the World Economy
  • Internet of Things
  • Is Data the new Gold
  • Robots and Artificial Intelligence changing the World Economy
  • The Sharing Economy
  • BRICS and Beyond
  • The future of the EU and other FTAs
  • Sharp power vs soft power, to gain power
  • Sharing the wealth
  • How does money laundering work
  • How big is the illegal economy
  • Climate change, and its impact on the global economy
  • Economics vs Environment
  • What are alternatives to Capitalism
  • Trade Unions
  • Health Care
  • How is the behaviour of millennials and other generations changing the world economic landscape
  • New ways of working and living in the twenty-first century

Every topic was interesting on its own, and I learnt a few additional things to some of them.

I have picked the favourite topics from the 36 listed which I believed had something that everyone could learn something new from, and how that area in could still experience some big changes in the world economy around us.

Summary:

The book gives you a brief summary of various world-relevant topics, and how they are relevant in the world today. I rate the book 3.9/5.

Until next time…

023-2020 Insane Mode

Title: Insane Mode (How Elon Musk’s Tesla sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil)

Author: Hamish Mckenzie

My interest in Elon Musk was spiked when we watched the space craft launch this year on the 30th of May (2020). I felt a strong sense of inspiration and awe, since the feat he achieved, not only on that day but for everything else, is truly inspiring.

I felt so excited that I wanted to join the team by buying myself something with the SpaceX logo on it lol, the closest I’d be to SpaceX since they are only permitted to hire American citizens due to security clearance purposes).

I eventually didn’t go ahead with the buys because none of the goods that were on offer on Amazon felt truly as amazing buys. Therefore, I decided I’d go the other way, and get a good book on a part of his life story. I say part, because he still has a long way that he will go.

That’s when I came across this book in the bookshelves of the store, next to many other great biographies of different well-known people. Even though this book was not about SpaceX specifically, it still represents one of the companies that are very dear to his heart. TESLA.

At least by now I believe that many more people have heard the name of the infamous start-up electric motor vehicle company. The one that has prevailed the longest in competition with the gasoline industry. The book is a biography of Elon and Tesla, about how it started and the obstacles they came to face along the way. Struggles including financial (quite a few actually), legal, mechanical, political, and a few more. As you progress through the various chapters you catch a slight glimpse of the struggle that they had to face at different stages, which are not insignificant struggles, but existential struggles, and how he powered through all of these to keep the company vibrant and alive today.

From the start we understand the real purpose of the company. Not just another automotive company to make some money. Rather, a company that shows others that it is possible to build cars that can drive on sustainable energy, and that we can get out of the old adage of generating all our energy from polluting sources, such as oil, coal, and nuclear.

The common reasons why most automotive companies had not made the shift from gasoline motors to fully electric vehicles includes:

  • Cost of production – the cost of production exceeds the production cost of the current range of cars on sale
  • Range – electric cars don’t have a high mileage, and would therefore not be suitable for long distance commute
  • Refueling time – electric cars take longer to recharge than their counterparts, the gasoline and diesel cars
  • Infrastructure – the infrastructure required to host electric vehicles (charging stations, other used for their automation technology) is not yet installed, and would be costly
  • Cold weather – cold weather consumes the energy faster, thus reducing the mileage that can be covered, which make them less attractive for long-distance travel
  • Electric also pollute – disposal of the batteries also holds some pollution in it
  • Not profitable – due to the high cost, the cars could only be sold as luxury items, to at least cover the cost

Looking at these points above would convince most of us to stop this project, and rather stick to our current means of transportation, which remains gasoline motor vehicles. But not Musk. He has a strong determination to make this work. And this strong dedication can be felt in all his conversations with stakeholders, journalists, and other individuals. He has an innate sense of purpose to make this happen.

In fact, the approach he used with SpaceX was to break down all the components to identify why space travel was not considered for the commercial industries before. One factor was also cost of production. He then dove deeper to see how they could reduce cost of production, and then identified that producing the parts themselves, instead of using multiple suppliers (who add their own profit mark ups) you remove the profit markups, and only have the initial purchase cost and manufacturing cost to develop the final product. That’s where manufacturing all of their own parts for TESLA also challenged the obstacle of ‘cost’.

Another reason you feel inspired by his companies, is for the missions they stand for. The companies were built, not to make money, but for moral reasons. He believed we needed them for existential reasons.

  • That is why TESLA has noted it would make its patents freely available to all, so that they can use the research to develop their own models, and eventually bring more companies to the playing field.
  • He even noted that their competition is not with other electric companies, but rather with gasoline companies.

One quite interesting problem-solving technique he mentioned that Musk followed on figuring out how to solve a problem for a product he believed would exist in the future was to “not look at the future, and figure out how to get there, but rather to start from the future and see how you got there”.

The firm is still standing strong, and deep in research and development, even with their biggest success, the Model 3, as it continues to manufacture better electric cars, and even have their foot in the door for automation. It still spends a lot of money, and will continue to try and acquire more funds to invest even heavier into its projects.

Summary:

The book is good background for anyone that would like to leisurely become more acquainted with the history of the company, the struggles the company faced and overcame and continues to face on a recurring basis. It is well written, well understood. Personally though, I didn’t get the value on what I was seeking in a Musk story, and thus would only rate the book with a 3,1/5.

I have quite a few books lined up on the bookshelf, and even more in my wish list. So until then next time, have a good one!!!

Feedback

Hi everyone,

I hope you are all keeping well.

I wanted to ask you guys if you would be willing to give me some feedback on the content that I have published on my page in the recent weeks.

  • Are the books something that are of interest to you, or do you wish that I should include something else as well?

What do you guys also think of how the content is presented in the book reviews? Do you feel like there’s something I could change that you strongly feel needs to improve?

All kinds of feedback are welcome, as there is always room for improvement.

Thank you, and I hope I can continue providing you with more exciting reads in the future!!! 🙂 🙂

022-2020 Rich Dad’s ‘Increase your Financial IQ’

Title: Rich Dad’s ‘Increase your Financial IQ’ (get smarter with your money)

Author: Robert T. Kiyosaki

Hello everyone, I have another instalment from the Rich Dad Community books for you, and think that you’ll enjoy this one as well.

I have read four books from his publications, and every time learn something new and eye-opening that gets me to step back and think. The first book (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) was my introduction to his lessons from his rich dad. The next book (Fake) taught me that money (or rather currency) we hold so dear, and save, is not as safe as we might think. Not anymore. The value of money is dropping (as shown in graphs of value of money in relation to gold) and therefore it is not something that we can rely on to hold the same purchasing power. Therefore, investing in real assets is the way to go. Then I came to the next book (Who stole my pension) and learnt that the money we entrust to pension funds to support us when we retire is not always managed well, and that we need to pay closer attention what is happening with our pension monies, and how they are managed. Lastly, I read the Investing Guide. Here he went into significantly greater detail why it is so much more valuable to grow our financial education, and then build up our asset portfolio and potentially become a sophisticated investor.

Through all these books, one message is repeated over and over again. And that is for us to improve our financial intelligence.

When I saw he had a book on this title I thought that this was something I should look into on how he suggests where to improve our education in. The five IQs he introduces you to are:

Financial IQ #1 – Making more money

  • It is no secret, your job will only bring you a certain amount of money p/month. That needs to cover your general and living expenses, hopefully with some remaining funds to save for retirement and also spend some to go out with friends or go on vacation.
  • Yet, this might not get you on the way to become rich. If you truly wish to become rich, you need to think and make a plan what you can do to make more money. One way is to build your asset portfolio, which generates cash flow.
  • Solving this first problem, is the first step to build wealth, which distinguishes those from the comfortable.
  • Solving problem after problem you move closer to realizing what you can do to build your wealth – and all this is a continuous process of being confronted and carrying-on with persistence to overcome every obstacle to achieve the goal.
  • the process of solving those problems makes you rich (with money and experience)

Financial IQ #2 – Protecting your money

  • The next consideration that you will be faced with, once you managed to increase your income/wealth somewhat, is the challenge on how to protect the most of it by legal means
  • The parties that are most interested in collecting money from you are bureaucrats (government), bankers, brokers (stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, etc.), businesses, brides and beaus (people who marry for money), brothers-in-law (distant family who pay their respect to a rich family, and wish to connect again), barristers
  • The key to protect your money is to become educated in a subject (shares, real estate, etc.) and learn how to best invest your money to avoid losing more than the bare minimum to start investing
    • keep nothing of value in their name
    • buy personal liability insurance
    • hold assets of value in legal entities, and gain the benefits of companies

The rules of money have changed when money became a currency, and therefore the wise approach is to convert currency into assets that are not subject to swift change as with currency. Steadily, growing your assets increases your wealth.

Financial IQ #3 – Budgeting your money

  • You need to understand the difference between a budget surplus and a budget deficit. A deficit occurs where your expenses exceed the income you derive. Vice versa, a surplus occurs where more income is made than expenses that need to be covered.
  • What I learned here was that you should take your monthly income, allocate a portion thereof as payment to you (as an additional expense, that you use to grow your wealth) together with your other expenses, and then determine whether you’re in a deficit or surplus position. If you identify that you are in a deficit position, you mustn’t re-structure your budget, but rather see it as a challenge to identify ways to make more money, since you have identified that the way to grow your wealth currently isn’t within your budget.
  • Therefore, it is stressed that you should pay yourself first, and use that to grow your wealth (but classify it as a necessary expense)

Financial IQ #4 – Leveraging your money

  • Using leverage means to get more done with less. Leverage in the financial sense comes in by using money and debt to finance the acquisition of something that we would not otherwise have been able to finance with our current financial position.
  • He stresses the two things he will be on the look-out for is control (over the asset) and leverage (to finance the acquisition of the asset). If you have the education in the field, and have control over the asset, then using wealth is not as risky. But when you have no control or education over the asset, it becomes risky to use leverage to finance the asset.

Financial IQ #5 – Improving your financial information

  • The last IQ is to use the right, and credible information to make decisions for growing your wealth.
  • Some tips for classifying information into are suggested as follows:
    1. differentiate between facts and opinions
    2. stay away from insane solutions to problems that need to be solved
    3. don’t take risky actions
    4. get control over the asset
    5. learn the rules of the game (laws and regulations)
    6. see if there are identifiable trends

After getting to know the five Financial IQs, he also devotes a chapter, which I believe deserves some dire attention, because it relates to getting you mentally ready for this transition. The chapter talks about splitting the brain into the three sections: left (logical), right (creative) and the subconscious. That we need give as much attention to our subconscious as to our left and right brain. The way we do this is bringing ourselves into such an environment that our subconscious becomes comfortable with making this transition to grow our wealth, and the steps we need to take to get there.

In the ‘Guide to Investing’ as well as ‘7 secrets to investing like Warren Buffet’ approximately half the books are dedicated to telling the reader how important it is to become mentally ready for this transition to become richer, and do what needs to be done to achieve that goal. Therefore, the last part is also vital.

Summary:

The book should be read only after having read the first book, since it serves to give more details on the broad ideas that were introduced in the first book ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’. As promised, it elaborates more on how one can (and should) increase their financial education in each of the five financial intelligences. It sets one on a clear path that one could follow to start building wealth, from starting to make more money, to protecting it, to investing it wisely. The book gets my rating of 4.6/5

Until next time, happy reading!!! 🙂

021-2020 The ride of a lifetime

Title: The ride of a lifetime (Lessons learned from 15 years as CEO of the company Walt Disney Company)

Author: Robert Iger

Being a big fan of many Walt Disney movies, mostly those that I watched during the nineties, I thought it might be interesting to get a glimpse behind the curtains of what it was like for the people providing us with the content of our childhood.

The book is split into two main themes, part 1 “learning” and part 2 “leading“.

The first part of the book summarizes how Robert started off his career in the entertainment industry, his change in roles and tutelage under different figures in his life. And then gradually as he rises in seniority we are lead into the second part of the book, how he became CEO of the company, and how he lead them to the company that they are today.

In every chapter he reveals a challenge he had to face that was present at the point in time, how he was mentored (or used the lessons he had learnt from prior mentors) to overcome challenges, and steer the company into a better direction. His mentors were his colleagues, and, reading through the lessons he learnt, you realize that he had really great mentors, and also the right attitude to overcome any obstacles that came to challenge him. Not only were those challenges from the external environment (with companies and people outside the company) but also internal criticism which many of us would not be comfortable to be put through at all. Yet, he overcame all those, and worked to strengthen the company even further, and compete much better today with many of the other companies out there today.

The leadership lessons that he was taught, and also learnt himself through experience are much better understood with context as written in the different chapters, but are summarized to be the following:

  • Optimism – regardless of the challenges and obstacles in your way, it is the leaders’ responsibility to get everyone through the situation, and they must truly be able to see his belief in their success. Once they recognize that their leader doesn’t believe in their success, it quickly spreads to the rest of the company, which drops moral, and reduces the odds of success even further.
  • Courage – it is thanks to our ancestors who took risk, that we are today where we are. To take risk requires great amounts of courage since it means one is taking a step into the unknown, which could mean improvement or none.
  • Focus – During every stage of the project, we need to always remain focused on the outcome we set out to achieve in the beginning. In between many challenges and distractions will come our way, which may lure us to abandon the project, which is precisely when we need to re-align our energy and time to focus on what we set out to achieve.
  • Decisiveness – since miscommunication and misunderstandings in business can be costly, it is vital that in every meeting and discussion all parties clearly understand what is required of them, and of the other.
  • Curiosity – the world is changing at a rapid pace, and it is therefore helpful (and in some cases necessary) to not remain stuck with the status quo, but also be aware of trends in the market, world, and environment around you.
  • Fairness – one aspect that requires significant attention is this trait. Fair and decent treatment of people around you. It is especially important if you wish to keep the moral of the staff at such a level that everyone works efficiently, and the firms receives their best work.
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Integrity – Nothing is more important than the quality and integrity of an organization’s people and its product.

As terrific as it sounds to hold the position of CEO, and then also for a terrific company, one needs to realize that it does not come without its sacrifices. As you read the chapters you come to understand that the author had to move a few times between New York City and LA, had to fly for work most of the time, and therefore didn’t spend as much time with family as some people are able to.

The position is not for every one, but what Robert has managed to achieve for the company and for himself, he has done a great service to many people out there, and now shares his lessons of leadership from his book.

Summary:

The story line is well told, the book grabs you from the start of the chapter and tells a tale of what it took for this leader to become the leader who he is today. The book is great for inspiration, not just for CEOs but also junior managers who aspire to grow in ranks in the coming years. The book gets my rating of 4.1/5