how to profit from coronavirus: investing through the pandemic

How to Profit From Coronavirus

There are a couple of cheap/free options you can to take out to limit the near-bottomless downside risk of COVID-19. I mentioned them in the last post, but they’re time-sensitive; hopefully you took those steps before the panic-buying began.

Now it’s time to think about the upside. When a black swan flaps its wings, great risks and opportunities swirl out of the same chaos.

So: what would it take to not just weather this situation, but profit from it?

Inevitable Coronavirus Post

The truly horrifying part of becoming an adult is the realisation that other adults don’t know what they’re doing. Remember the feeling of falling asleep in the back seat while your parents drove you home? You will never, ever experience that level of security again. Growing up is the constant disappointment in discovering that no-one is infallible: not your parents, not your teachers, not your personal heroes, certainly not your politicians.

It’s dangerous to rely on the judgement of ‘grown-ups’, or to wait until someone gives you permission to act. Sometimes you have to take the initiative, even if it means doing slightly goofy stuff…

premature exploitation: popping the bubbles a little too soon

The Embarrassing Problem of Premature Exploitation

Babies love putting things in their mouths: dirt, insects, bits of grass, their own poo. They have no sense of fear or self-preservation, and come up with endlessly creative ways to place themselves in mortal peril. Once they learn to talk, their constant experimentation with the world transcends the physical to the philosophical. They want to know everything. They are bottomless pits of curiosity, with very little in the way of attention span or self-discipline. Your typical two-year-old can only concentrate on a task for six minutes at a time. Young children are not self-aware enough to feel much in the way of shame, or embarrassment. Nothing is off-limits. In a word, very young people spend almost all of their time exploring.

The elderly are set in their ways. The only foreign objects they put in their mouths are dentures and hard caramels; occasionally followed by a fork to extricate said caramels from said dentures. They tend to have stable routines, rituals, hobbies, and social circles. They rarely try new things or experiment with new identities. They’ve lived long enough to know what they’re about, and they intend to wring out every ounce of enjoyment before the curtains come down. In a word, very old people spend almost all of their time exploiting.

The ‘explore-exploit’ constraint is one of the most useful ideas I’ve come across…

Life of Paisa: The Cost of Living in Medellín, Colombia

Shortly after arriving in Medellín, I got The Fear. I barricaded myself in my tiny, claustrophobic Airbnb, binge-watching Narcos and compulsively reading up on the lurid crimes that still plague the former murder capital of the world. Every backfiring engine was a gunshot. Every taxi driver was scheming to deliver me into the hands of the paramilitaries lurking in the jungle. At the calisthenics park, I carefully guarded my water bottle, in case someone slipped in the scopolamine drops that would turn me into a zombie.

My salvation came, as it often does, through a basic grasp of statistics…

the art and science of mental time-travel: cover image

Time Travel for Pleasure and Profit

Our meatsack bodies slavishly plod along at the precise rate of one second per second. But our minds are unbounded by the constraints of time or space, free to wander the past at will, and poke into the distant corners of the future.

The ability to create vast, hyper-detailed simulations of the past and future is the closest thing we have to a superpower, because it lets us do the following…

2019 spending report: the year of becoming a fancy bitch

2019 Spending Breakdown: The Year of Becoming a Fancy Bitch

Well, time to hand in my frugality card. In 2019, my expenses jumped 38 per cent!

…or perhaps not just yet. I spent most of the year in the Americas, including three of the most expensive cities in the world, which was a shock to the system after so much time in Asia.

It’s only fair to separate this out. After doing some very technical analysis, I calculate that my lifestyle has inflated by 1.25x this year.

Not quite as bad, but still a big leap. This was the year of becoming a Fancy Bitch. Honestly… I’m kind of into it.

The Best of the Best Books I Read in 2019

Last year I finally cracked my goal to read 100 books. After completing the challenge, I decided that I wasn’t going to get too hung up on the number this year.

Sure enough, I dialled it back: I only got through 56 books in 2019, which feels a little disappointing.

But having looked through my list, I realised that this was still a great year for quake reading. As always, it was agonising trying to choose between a worthy field, but I’ve winnowed it down to my top 10.

These are the books that blew my mind, made me howl, or filled my notebook to overflowing. In no particular order:

good enough cover running up stairs

Getting to ‘Good Enough’

It’s always jarring and mildly insulting to hear that extremely famous and successful people are unhappy with their position in life. You ingrate! How dare you be miserable! Stop appropriating my culture!

The reason I feel betrayed by superstars like Tim Ferriss who talk openly about struggling with feelings of inadequacy is not so much actual class resentment, but the assault upon my own convictions that once I achieve [$NEXTBIGTHING] I will be content with my own position in life…

An Interview with Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton thinks you’re a hellish proposition.

It’s nothing personal, mind. Basic sanity is simply beyond our reach. Everyone has an appalling amount wrong with them. The only people we can think of as profoundly admirable are those we don’t yet know very well.

I’m eager to establish my muttonhead bona fides as soon as possible, so I botch six separate attempts to secure the Skype connection to London. De Botton waits patiently, gently offering suggestions as if to a rather dim child.

That ought to do the trick. Now we have a clear line, from one hellish human to another…

Better to Reign in Hell Than Serve in Heaven

‘Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven’ is the fervently-held belief of many freelancers, entrepreneurs and digital nomads I’ve met over the last few years. They’ve all walked away from overbearing bosses, steady paychecks, and nine-to-five office hours to build their own dominions.

There are no rules in hell! You can set your own hours and fire annoying clients and be your own boss and blow off work to go drinking at 11 in the morning. But liberty always comes at a price…

the optionality approach to getting lucky: dead ends, treasure chests, and bottomless pits

The Optionality Approach to Getting Lucky

We’ve established that there is no such thing as cosmic justice: it rains on the just and the unjust alike. But over the course of a lifetime, we at least vaguely shuffle in the direction of getting what we deserve. The goal of this post is to get us from ‘vague shuffling’ to ‘slightly-more-purposeful ambling’.

If you want to get lucky, the usual advice is that you have to be prepared, and then wait for opportunities. This is not very helpful.

Instead of wandering aimlessly and hoping for the best, we can use a simple framework to figure out which opportunities are worth pursuing.

This is the filter I run over pretty much every decision these days. It’s called the optionality approach…

how to make your own luck dartboard cover image

How to Make Your Own Luck

There’s no such thing as cosmic justice. Plenty of good people suffer in various horrible ways; plenty of bad people die rich and happy and surrounded by loved ones. This is not part of some grand plan. It doesn’t ‘mean’ anything. It’s just the arbitrary shuffling of atoms bouncing around a universe-sized billiards table.

There are three common ways of responding to this situation. Unfortunately, two of them are kind of messed up…

eating the same food every day

Same Salad, Different Day

Probably you’ve read articles about how Obama wears the same suit every day, or Mark Zuckerberg has seventeen identical grey t-shirts in his wardrobe. The idea is to deliberately eliminate inconsequential daily choices and free up mental bandwidth for more important decisions; like ordering extrajudicial killings or strip-mining billions of people’s private information to sell to advertisers.

I say this lifehack is is much more useful and wide-reaching than streamlining your wardrobe: you can automate the important things, too.

If you wear the same outfit over and over, nothing bad happens. Maybe you don’t get invited to Fashion Week. But what if you eat the same food every day?

stockmarket charts: how safe are index funds, anyway?

Beware of Geeks Bearing Formulas

The history of finance is a history of brains dashed on the pavement. The fact that many people tend to be ‘irrationally’ wary of the markets starts to take on a new significance: the suspicious folk-wisdom has often been correct, while the ‘experts’ have consistently been dangerously wrong.

Hence Warren Buffett’s warning: beware of geeks bearing formulas…