Overnight Success Takes Years

We can all think of people who became overnight successes. From The Beatles, to Kenny Rogers,  to J.K. Rowling, to Tobi Lutke. There are dozens more. But, overnight – NO!

It depends on how you define success.

I can believe in overnight recognition, but if you define success as something talent and skill related, all of these people were successful long before they became known. The idea of overnight success diminishes attention to the skill and creates the illusion of something for nothing.

Kenny Rogers once pointed out that he was an overnight success after spending ten years doing one night stands. The Beatles spend years in Germany. Their first concert outside Liverpool drew 18 people. J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers, and Tobi Lutke spent 9 years building Shopify.

If the people above and the many more like them had never become known would they be less successful in an objective sense? They might have fewer fans or less money or both, but objectively, they would have been a success.

Know what you really want

A thought from the investment world addresses what really matters.

“The manageable variables for a lucky outcome are persistence and time.” Joel Greenblatt

You can wait for luck to find you, or you can build a skill stack that supports what you want from life. Most outcomes are the result of long practice.

Derek Sivers spent 15 years working several hours a day to become a competent singer. After becoming that, someone told him he was “gifted.” How demeaning must that have been? No one is “gifted” in the sense they can be excellent at anything without having worked at it. People with an aptitude plateau much sooner than they could.

Tell your children. Tell your self.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” Tim Notke.

There will be mistakes, but that’s how you learn. I doubt the publisher printed the first draft of Harry Potter.

Things I and others have noticed.

  1. Successful people read a lot. “In my whole life, I have known no wise people over a broad subject matter area who didn’t read all the time. None. Zero.” Charlie Munger
  2. Successful people work at becoming competent with weaknesses and develop nuanced skills within their strengths. “It’s good to strengthen weakness but better to know and play to your strengths.” Dan Rockwell
  3. Successful people never stop learning. “If you don’t keep learning, other people will pass you by.” Charlie Munger
  4. Successful people value mistakes. “Few of us enjoy being wrong. Finding joy in having been wrong is a step toward keeping an open mind.” Adam Grant
  5. Successful people know there is much more to learn. “A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” Albert Einstein
  6. Successful people say “no” a lot. They pick their battles. “If you want above average results, you have to say no to average opportunities. If you spend all of your time chasing average opportunities, you’ll have no time for great ones. ” Shayne Parrish
  7. Successful people have an attitude that lets them practice and improve. “Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.”  Teacher Wisdom

The takeaway.

“First, decide exactly what it is you want. Most people never do that. Second, determine the price you’re going to have to pay to get it, and then resolve to pay that price.” H.L. Hunt

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

Risk and Uncertainty Are Different

It would be nice if stock market data lea to conventional statistical assessment. There is certainly enough information that you would think it would average out and provide a strong signal.

  • Is this manager better than that one?
  • Is there a way to diversify so as to minimize risk?
  • Are there indicators that are usable?

Maybe. But I doubt it.

It’s about meaning

  1. Suppose you are value investor like Buffett or Klarman. You base decision on what you believe the prospects for the business  may be. Things like free cash flow, difficulty to compete, depth and quality of management, market share and other business variables. You know what you think a share is worth and you buy when there is a sufficient margin of safety. All value investors know they can be wrong. The future always delivers things previously unknowable. These investors intend to hold what they buy unless the factors change or someone offers much more than they think is worth.
  2. Growth investors look for different factors. The business financial structure still matters and so does management, but cash flow tends to be low or non-existent. Prospects matter a lot. New product or vastly better way to do old things will draw attention. If the growth rate is big, margin of safety is not so important. Holding time depends on how the trend line behaves. It is “the bus theory.” When you see something moving you get on when it stops you get off.
  3. Traders are those who buy stocks that they believe others will value more highly in future. They think they can assess information better or have access to more and others will catch up and the price will rise. “Anticipating the anticipations of others” is what Keynes called it. Timing is two-sided. When in, when out. Never easy but usually not long.
  4. Other traders listen to pundits, tips, and hunches. They are often the loser in the transaction. If a stock goes down they often hold it forever,
  5. Technical traders rely on charts, graphs and amazingly complex algorithms.
  6. High volume traders find anomalies in the market and exploit them. Buy a stock in London and sell it in New York to make a dime. The holding time for these trades is measured in milliseconds.

The questions – Does the data available for statistical analysis provide the same information to each style of purchaser? If it is style dependent, how can you use it objectively?

What it means to you

If you want to use the information, it is readily available. Your task will to sort out what it means given your style. If Buffett buys 100,000 shares of apple does that mean the same thing as some high-velocity trader who bought 100,000 shares of apple and sold them to Buffett half a second later.

Try to understand the range the price operates within. The noise. And why it is noisy.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

AI, VR and Business History Rhyme

While we are presently obsessed with Covid-19 fear porn, other things are happening that we may not have noticed. The forefront of new products and services just now is Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Especially the combination of them.

We can understand the movement if we look at history.

The progress

A hundred and fifty years ago a wealthy person had dozens of servants and many horses. The cost to maintain that was substantial. Thus, only the rich had many servants and many horses.

By 1900, the writing was on the wall for the horses. Henry Ford and others were replacing them. As electricity became more commonly available, home appliances replaced many (most) of the servants.

Fast forward to now. Three hundred horses under the hood is not uncommon. Two dozen appliances, washer, dryer, stove refrigerator, dishwasher, blender, toaster, iron, air conditioner, and others have improved life and replaced most of the servants. Even for the rich.

The thing to notice is that there were many inventions needed to replace everyone. Computers evolved differently in the beginning.

How computers evolved

In the 1950s and early 1960s two things became obvious. Computers had a purpose and they were expensive.

Software delivered on the purpose, and as computers advanced, the ability to run many kinds of programs on one machine grew. The problem was price. General purpose computers were few and beyond the financial reach of almost everyone.

Two solutions appeared over the next 20 years or so. Capability increased exponentially and price fell per unit of serviceability. By the mid 1970s mini-computers and micro-computers started to appear. Less capable, but less expensive.

Since the mid 1970s, the combination of ubiquity and price opened opportunities for new applications from the fast growing cadre of programmers. Moore’s Law reduced the price to near nothing. I recently checked the capability of my smartphone in terms of memory and processor speed. It exceeds the world’s fastest super-computer in 1992. It makes you wonder what 10 more years will bring.

AI and VR

It is inconceivable that the future will not include a combination of these that will replace many of the things we use now for entertainment, learning, and convenience. How hard is to imagine a walking tour of the Louvre with a highly skilled guide, while travelling to the cottage in your autonomous car?

Not hard at all. Actually kind of exciting to look forward to that ability.

The computer parallel

In the 1960s general purpose computers were too expensive and while it was nice to have them do the payroll, keep track of inventory, solve engineering problems, and calculate rocket trajectories, some people only needed a computer for a single purpose.

Enter Max Palevsky. He taught philosophy, particularly logic at UCLA for a while and eventually moved on to Northrup where he worked on building a computer that solved differential equations. Only.

In 1961 he and Robert Beck set up Scientific Data Systems to address the small, more confined, computer market. Their advantage was if you just needed one thing done you could harvest the power of a genral purpose computer for a tenth of the price. But it might not do the payroll. Their technology improved quickly and the company flourished.

In 1969 Palevsky and the others sold the company to Xerox for $920 million. And Max took back his initial investment of $60,000 and a $100 million more.

Nice story but how does it apply? The growth of AI and VR will happen with special purpose devices not general purpose.. An autonomous car will not run with one robot. More likely several dozen each tasked for a single variable. Proximity, control, global position, travel plan, and many more. Just as Max found the niche, developers today are not looking for general purpose robots. The same will happen with VR. It may parallel the home entertainment market. You will have a console and a control. The software or the link to the internet will supply the information it needs to show you the Louvre.

It is far cheaper to have a central repository of information with the ability to draw on it than it is for everyone to own a copy of the information. Public libraries serve everyone. Home libraries of the same size would be prohibitively costly.

The Future.

Ai will be everywhere but the interface will be VR. We don’t need to watch robots do mundane tasks, we just want the results of their work. Fortunately that parallels the way society is moving. Young people are more interested in experiences than things. Want to visit the Galapagos Islands? There will be a virtual reality app for that. Follow your favourite golfer at the Masters? There will be an app for that.

Want to discuss oriental art while using your autonomous vehicle. Easy. You could probably do that now.

How about learn to operate an excavator? I have done that. It is a little clunky, but nonetheless, compelling.

The only limit is time to develop the pieces, processor power, and bandwidth.

The takeaway.

The technology is limited so far, but as it advances you will see ambient advances like the way the room it smells. Maybe the wind or temperature. High end bike simulators have some of those now.

There will be new ways to make money with new products and ideas. There will be many more ways to lose money. Be  aware of your targets and their possibilities. Like Radio in the 1920s. Only one survived from the hundreds of entrants.

Gather experiences . You probably don’t need to see the Louvre several times. Tomorrow you can go the Hermitage for a couple of days and MOMA next week. Work out the airfares for that. And you won’t need a passport, a visa, a vaccination log, or a mask.

Travel destinations can be understood in depth before going to the islands. Better than brochures by how much?

Want to tour a mansion in Malibu. Easy enough. Real estate brokers will be on this application very early on. They will need a producer. Maybe that’s your skill.

Life is good  and will be better despite the madness surrounding us today. It has always been that way.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

Covid-19 in Context

I have spent way too much time learning about Covid-19 -SARS CoV-2. I still know almost nothing. For a while, I thought that was a bad thing, but eventually I decided almost no one knew much. That did not trouble me much, science takes a while to learn new things and the SARS CoV-2 case is a complicated one.

It is not a natural virus so the rules that apply to natural viruses may or may not apply. It will take a long time to understand if they do not. Knowledge of conventional viruses is even yet incomplete.


Viruses have a short time between birth and reproduction. Unlike humans where a new generation with a new mix of genetic material can take 20 years or more, some viruses mutate easily and quickly. RNA viruses like SARS CoV-2 are especially capable of mutations and the mutation, if helpful, quickly becomes the dominant strain. The advantages include, easier spread, and ability to avoid defences. Some are more lethal than others but that is not a good mutation so far as the virus is concerned. Better to have many hosts sharing their virus load.

Varieties extant

So far we have seen the original version, The Alpha version found in England early on, Beta is the South African case, Gamma is the Brazilian version and Delta is the current concern, active first in India. All good so far.

I recently noticed a “lambda” version found so far primarily in Peru. That got me thinking. Having taken mathematics at one time, the Greek Alphabet is not totally unfamiliar. I know that lambda doesn’t follow delta. What about epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, and kappa? Should I be more concerned?

There are two categories

Scientist allocate variants to one of two categories.

  1. Varieties of Concern – so far alpha, beta, gamma, and delta, and delta plus. According to the World Health Organization, a variant of concern is one with increased transmissibility, greater lethality, or avoidance of vaccine defenses.
  2. Varieties of Interest – This category is where the missing Greek letters fall. According to the WHO, these have the capability to spread more easily, be more serious, escape defences, and be harder to detect. Emphasis on capability. No one knows for sure yet.

What we might expect

RNA viruses mutate continually. There will be more Greek letters appearing. I don’t know if the viruses know there are only 24 letters in the Greek alphabet and so will stop at 24 varieties. Probably not.

Some people seem to think the virus will “burn out” as more people are immune and thus poor hosts. The history of RNA viruses would suggest otherwise. Hepatitis C, HIV, Ebola, polio, and measles, to name a few, are RNA viruses. Some have been controlled by vaccines, while others are suppressed upon first recognition. Some have treatments that minimize the effects.

We don’t yet know how the war between defense – vaccine, and offence – mutation, will play out. What we know from military history is that in the conflict between warhead, offence, and armour, defence, warhead wins. Defense always plays catch-up. We have examples in virology, too. What was the cost to minimize HIV-AIDS? Worldwide 38 million people have the disease. We don’t hear much about it in North America any more, but it is still there.

The other unknowns

For reasons that suit only them, politicians have decided to use the pandemic to enhance their control. Objectively analyzed that is always a losing proposition. There are few examples of where top-down management worked. Will they eventually stop or will they grow more shrill?

Will news and opinion media find something else more compelling to talk about? The media doesn’t care much what they report. It just has to be emotionally stimulating. It’s about clicks not about useful information. Plausible fiction is every bit as good as reality.

Suppressing information and promoting a single approach seems inherently foolish, but if control is a value for you, very hypnotic. Fear is a powerful motivator and fear is what is being sold here. Masks are the symbol. Vaccines are the social good. Opposition is futile – we have the power to compel.

Power is like heroin. Fun until you overuse it and it kills you.

Information and context are missing. There have been other health risks in the past. Some quite serious. The plague in the 14th century wiped out at least a third of the population of Europe. It was bacterial and hygiene standards were abysmal. It would pose a threat today, but not a third of the people would pass away. Small Pox killed 30% of the people who got it. No longer a concern because of effective immunization. Measles has nearly disappeared as has polio. Again because of immunization.

The same will happen here, but maybe not as quickly as we would like. The current vaccine may be capable. We will know in a year or two. By presenting it during the high wave part of the disease, did we merely insure that only the strongest or most capable versions of the virus would remain.

So far there are about 200 million cases worldwide and slightly more than 4 million deaths. So far, and reporting is far from perfect, about one person in 38 has acquired the disease and of those one in fifty has died. Not exactly the “Black Death” The only questions are how long will it take for everyone to get it and how long until effective treatment is available?

We should be able to know how many Covid-19 only deaths there have been. So far, intuition says the only deaths occur where there are serious co-morbidities. Thus mostly older people. Knowing more would be very hard to determine just now because hiding the details is a political advantage.

What we have learned and can use

Co-morbidity issues matter. If you are over-weight by a lot, or are out of shape, or a smoker, you can help yourself by overcoming those. It will make the rest of your life better too

Other conditions like diabetes and heart conditions are not so much of a problem if you control the condition. That’s on you. Manage your diet and take the medications.

Age is factor but there is not a lot you can do about that. You will have to work a little harder to avoid or manage the co-morbidities.

Stress is an issue. You could stop paying attention to hysterical news anchors and their political agitators.

The takeaway

The disease will not be going away.

We will discover ways to deal with it.

You can manage some of the variables.

We need media and politicians with better ethical standards.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

Stories Persuade

Is written history vastly superior to oral traditions? While it might be easier to trace the reasoning for why a particular written history is reasonable, oral histories have a bigger emotional impact.

We communicate best with stories

Stories may not be as rigorous as Edward Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” but emotional content is easier to remember and to relate to. 

When you hear a story you automatically translate it into your life experience and then draw value from that because it is a familiar condition seen from a different viewing point. The idea of a different viewing point is fundamental to increased understanding.

Stories become metaphors that lead us to new or deeper understanding.


I know of no language in common use today that is metaphor based. There may be some and the contrast to our formal languages would be worth understanding. The closest I can come is Star Trek: Next Generation episode season 5. Episode 2, “Darmok.”  Picard and Dathon, the captain of an alien ship are trapped on a planet and must avoid a local beast. Unfortunately,  Dathon’s language is metaphor based and not subject to translation. Eventually the two work out enough meaning to communicate the idea they can be friends.

Language is not always a reliable communication tool.

The 7-38-55 rule.

Some communication theorists believe that only 7% of communication involves the words. The 38% is the tone and the 55% is body language. I have no idea if that’s right, but I am willing to believe it is not 100-0-0. That being so, written material cannot be as powerful as a verbal communication. Bandwidth if you prefer that idea.

Written communication must have some kind of story. Could be your personal experience or the experience of others. The idea is to provide a viewing point that is similar to, but enough different, that the reader can adapt the point to their own experience. Maybe only enough to ask questions.

An example. Use concrete terms. They evoke images. If an architect asks, how many square feet should the garage be?, the answer may be unsatisfactory. If instead they ask, How many cars will you want to park in the garage, the answer, will provide a baseline, and the further question of what else do you want to put in there will narrow it further.

Jokes can help. Novel viewing points and surprise Surprise of any kind can help. Obscure facts can help. Steve Jobs audited a course in calligraphy while at university and what he learned helped make the MAC the choice of graphic designers and other similar professionals. If I were selling MAC I would treat that fact as a memorable thing for any prospective customer.

The takeaway

Communication is key to persuasion.

It is quite simple. You cannot believe what you cannot understand and you cannot understand anything far from your personal experience and knowledge dataset.

Your idea of meaning will be at least a little different. Stories can accommodate both.

Stories connect ideas to experience.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

Find Better Ways

Yesterday I came on an article about Gridley Bryant. I can’t say the name was familiar to me and yet he was an inventor of things we still use today. For context, he built the first commercial railroad in the United States, at Quincy Massachusetts, in 1825. He did not patent any of his innovations and so his connection to them is lost. The railroad roundhouse is one, but the one that caught my eye was the Railroad Frog. I think because I have seen them and never paid attention.

Bryant built it because he needed it for his business and took it for granted thereafter.

You’ve seen them too. They allow two railroad tracks to cross each other.


Shopify is one of the most valuable businesses in Canada. How does it relate to railroad frogs?

You can get a clear idea about how to create a business from a Farnam Street podcast with Tobi Lutke. If you have a business or would like to have one, you should not miss this. You will find many important messages you can apply. Just remember Shopify is 15 years old. They became an overnight success after 10 years of intense mistake making and innovation.

Why you should listen

The cheapest experience is someone else’s experience. As an example, these are four things that came up in just 10 of 105 minutes of the presentation.

  • Complexity hides cause and effect.
  • Perfecting the measurables can harm
  • Looking back to what we did, and how we did it, will be embarrassing. Maybe we would score ourselves at 6 out 10.
  • It is hard to build a company without competent competitors

You would take years to learn those if you go the do-it-yourself route.

Other aspects of creating and growing a business

Learn from biographies. Not the obvious but the underlying realities. Rockefeller was not primarily in the oil business, he was in the oil refining business.

Silicon Valley has important resources of people and their skills, but those are available elsewhere. Sometimes you must improvise.

Understand the keys to your business and recognize when you look back a decade later, even if you are successful, you will score yourself poorly. Be willing to change to improve. Seek change from others.

Complex systems obscure cause and effect, so you must look deeper to secondary and tertiary effects. Few do.

Read more.

Businesses come about in three ways.

  1. Make something impossible, possible
  2. Make something complicated, very simple.
  3. The other 99.9% come about by seeing things from a slightly different perspective.

Learn to learn from mistakes.

Tobi Lutke treats it as the discovery of things that don’t work. That is the positive way to view mistakes.

You need to know why you made the choices you did and then discover how they could have been better. That is a nice approach but you must have a system to capture your thinking when you make the decision and a way to compare outcomes to that decision. You must do it too.

“I try to never waste a mistake”

It takes longer than you think.

Shopify began in 2006 and became a public company in 2015. In 2021, they support 1.7 million venders in 175 countries. If you listen to Tobi Lutke, you learn that evolution drives business. The advantage of small and new is the range of variables and interactions is limited. The nine years it took Shopify to become public is not so far from normal. Over that time you improve exponentially or you fail. The growth of skill is exponential, but only if you pay attention. He definitely does and knows why and how he does it.

An example, If you can improve at 50% per year, easy enough in the beginning, in nine years you will be 40 times better at what you do. Even if that slows down as you grow, 20% growth in skill and processes is huge.

The payoff is enormous. Mostly because businesses tend not to improve their strategic vision and their processes as they learn more. It is far easier to tinker with the details. The payoff to keeping on top of the big picture is profound. A Lutke question. If I just took over this business, what would I change?

Shopify became a public company at $17 per share. $10,000 invested then is worth about $1.1 million today. More than 100 times your investment in six years is surprisingly rare.

The takeaway.

If you own or think you would like to own a business, listen carefully to the podcast. Success is not an accident. If you listen every six months you will see why some of the ideas are more important than you expected. Eventually you build something of value. Nonetheless you will still look back and assign a 6 out of 10 to your methods.

Be like Tobi Lutke and try to build something where you are able to see a 7 out of 10. Always improve.

Be willing to find your errors. There will be many. Ego is not your friend.

You will find value and some ideas here. The Observer Effect.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

Society Is Becoming More Risky

Risk exists everywhere and in all times. The risk of losing money in the stock market, or having your employer move to Viet Nam is always there and everyone at least acknowledges the possibility. You cannot avoid risk, but you can understand it.

Once you understand it, you can manage it.

Risk assessment

There are two parts – the cost of the event, and the probability of it appearing in your life. In most cases you would be guessing at the outcome because we know neither of the factors with certainty. We can usually get a range of costs and probabilities though and we should assess those.

Risk management

There are several approaches to this subject.

Accept and ignore because you can afford the risk of loss. With odds of one in a hundred and a $30 umbrella the value of the risk of losing it is 30 cents.

Reduce the probability of loss. Drive more carefully, avoid penny stocks and private equity, avoid street drugs, be selective about who you work for.

Transfer the loss to others. That’s what insurance is about.

Reduce the cost of a loss. Keep your cash at home in more than one place. Have a deductible on your insurance policies.

Some risks are not manageable

You should be aware of those and you should do what you can do to find mitigating methods.

One of the big risks we have is how our governments behave. It could apply to the management in your business, or the faculty in your university. The thought of note is from famed psychologist Amos Tversky.

“It’s frightening to think that you might not know something, but more frightening to think that, by and large, the world is run by people who have faith that they know exactly what is going on”

The takeaway

Understand the risks in your life.

Certainty about anything is risky.

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” Mark Twain

Common sense is your friend

“Success is more a function of consistent common sense than it is of genius.” An Wang

Make decisions that optimize your risk reward ratio.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

Time Changes Everything

I can still recall our family’s first television set. It coincided with the beginning of local television broadcasting. That was 66 years ago.

It was an exciting time. Except for the vertical hold issues. Eventually that came under control and life was good.

Compared to television sets today it was primitive, but satisfying nonetheless. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. The Honeymooners. The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. The World Series. Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Dick Clark.

The analog control supposed we could find 12 channels. We could not. Four was about normal. Do you remember how special “by satellite” was?

The three large TV networks in the US ruled. Today I could stream thousands of stations and networks are less important.

I wonder if children today know about rabbit ears or a TV antenna with a rotor control? Probably not. People know what they need to know.

Time passes

Television quality grew over the decades, but the NTSC format of analog transmission remained essentially the same. Colour was added and peripherals like VCRs and video games appeared, but there was no fundamental change until Cable TV became dominant. That form allowed digital signals to be received. in 2009, in the United States, digital became the norm and on 12 July 2021, the licenses expired for the few last TV stations that broadcast analog signals.

Stick broadcasters are no more.

The message

There were hundreds of millions of television sets that received over the air broadcasts. Even with that market share, technology made them obsolete. Time in the market did not matter. The end came about 80 years after the first wide area broadcasts began.

No technology, no cultural imperative, no political standard lasts forever. NTSC format TV, the Soviet Union, labour unions, the phone company, many large businesses (none of the original members of the Dow Jones Industrial Index remain there), many religious denominations, and even the idea of family, have disappeared or are becoming less dominant than they once were.

Change is the norm. Change improves products and well managed effort makes the things we want and need cheaper and more readily available. Did you ever think how hard it was to find information 60 years ago. We take internet search for granted. In 1965, if I wanted to do an essay about the development of television in the world, it would have taken me days to find the data. Today, in seconds, I can find a history by year of when non-experimental TV appeared throughout the world. Wikipedia

Learn that change will happen and the old technologies will be replaced by new. What works will be replaced by what works better and cheaper.

The takeaway

Expect change and anticipate what can happen. In general, moving from the R&D department to the marketplace takes twenty to thirty years. Likely less now, as times change and development and marketing is easier.

Social institutions seem not to be driven by better and cheaper. In 2011, Thomas Sowell opined, “Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area – crime, education, housing, race relations – the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.”

Anticipation is an important aspect of both investment success and career success. Work at it a little. Notice what is happening around you and assess what it means.

Be careful of what sounds good.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

You Don’t Have To Build A Microsoft

Some niche businesses have huge market share and their product is used by nearly everyone.

Not quite like Ferrari, this one sells billions of units per year. I would bet you cannot find anyone who does not know what the product is and how to use it. It is made by Kwik Lok Fasteners of Yokima Washington.

They make the plastic things that close your bread bag after each use, I have not paid much attention before, but they are oddly interesting.

Founder Floyd Paxton invented the bread clip in 1952. He cut the first one from a credit card. The business was in operation by 1954.

He passed it to his son Jarre, who died in 2015 and left no clear transition plan. With the help of his accountant and strategic advisor, by 2019 the company was on solid ground. It continues today,

Its product line includes fasteners of many types and the machines to use them. They have six factories and employ about 330 people.

Three lessons.

You should have a business succession plan

Never underestimate how a niche business works once it dominates its sector. I had a client who claimed to build more houses than anyone in the world. He made plastic houses for the Monopoly board game.

Be aware of opportunities. Your ideas may have more value than you think. I am currently thinking about ice cream cupcakes for those who don’t want an entire ice cream cake.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

Where Should We Look For Authoritative Answers?

Notice: I have no medical training whatsoever. I am probably not even a good patient. Nothing here should be taken as advice. It is intended to question authority and consider simpler answers to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are two sides to the answer business. Strategic or theory, and practical. Each side has its own priorities and methods.

The nature of the difference

Theorists want to know why something happens and practitioners don’t care so long as their action doesn’t create new problems and the the outcomes are predictable. Theorists will sometimes settle for large double blind studies that confirm the result without knowing why it is so.

The difference arises because practitioners want answers sooner rather than righter. Practitioners will take the no harm possible benefit as acceptable. Their approach is if it works at least some of the time, harms no one and is  inexpensive, let’s go.

Theorists are in the place that says if we can’t prove it works then we can’t approve it. That motivation leads them to test things that theorists might never consider. Sometimes they find things not otherwise available. In situations where not much is known, but when you need a protocol urgently, the practitioners have the advantage.

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is”  Johannes Lambertus Adriana van de Snepscheut

That quote is not quite accurate. In reality, theorists think there may be small differences, while practitioners think the gap is larger.

Choosing a source

Choosing practical answers relies on two factors:

  1. What is the cost to wait for a better answer?
  2.  Is there something available that seems to work?

Application to Covid-19

Covid-19 is not something people have experience with from times past. That means there are no specific experts. There are people who have considerable experience and skill with viruses, but not this one. In the beginning everyone is an amateur.

Politicians needed to be seen to be doing something. Every action they could take was at best an educated guess. I find nothing wrong with that, but I have great difficulty accepting that a year and half later they are still guessing.

When there is urgency, you cannot wait for the perfect theory, the perfect study that proves it, and the perfect way to implement. Instead of looking to experts whose bias is to why something will work, they should have been looking to practitioners who have been trying things.

A perfect answer to Covid-19 three years from now is not as good as an 80% answer now. Even 50% now. We undoubtedly know far more at the 80% level now than we did, but the theorists and their media and social platform allies are behaving as if nothing is known.

There are practitioners who would disagree.. Their reasoning begins with a Friedrich Engels thought,  “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory”

We should be taking action now and developing perfection as we can do so. Ignoring what practitioners have learned is not smart. While it may prove to be less than perfect someday, in the interim lives are being lost for want of the “right” answer. Discouraging if there is a plausible alternative.


Suppose there is a familiar drug that seems to work against Covid-19. There are small tests that support the idea. There are no large, rigorous, scientific studies. The drug is Ivermectin.

The elite have decided to prohibit it. apparently because there is no large study. I would be fine with that if they had a reason. I do not accept the not-proven idea. We are in a situation where certainty is a luxury good.

Could prohibition make sense? It would if there were safety concerns, but there are none. The drug has been in common use for decades. Maybe it’s too expensive. A course of treatment would cost less than $50.00. Non-scientific observation shows it can have value as a preventative and possibly as a treatment. Observation is what practitioners rely on, while theorists want statistically significant proof. Observation to date puts it into the likely helps and won’t hurt category.

Are there alternatives? Remdesivir is approved for treatment in some countries and allowable as an emergency use drug in others. There seems to be no study of its use as a preventative and its efficacy in treatment is debatable. A recent study showed no significant advantage. The cost of a course of treatment is high – at least $3,000.

Why is Remdesivir approved and Ivermectin is not? Hopefully the answer is not high priced lobbyists and the profit motive.


I can appreciate the need for safety in drug application. At the same time if a drug is inexpensive, safe, and seems to work, what is the potential harm even if there is no rigorous scientific proof of efficacy?

Why are there no government studies being done to decide the question? There are some being done with private money. Does the government see political advantage to having the pandemic continue?

How many will die for want of using an imperfect answer? How many have already? Who will be responsible for that outcome?

Why have physicians been told not to use the drug? Are there factors that can reasonably override their professional judgement?

Eventually it comes down to the old detective question, “Who benefits?” There seems to be lots of power and money in the system. Would a cheap, easy to manufacture, safe alternative, hurt some of the players? Who?  Vaccine makers, politicians, other drug makers, lobbyists, activists, social media platforms.

The takeaway

I can be of almost no help in deciding, but from what little I have seen and read, the current approach seems to be a loser.

In some countries, Ivermectin is prescribed upon testing positive. That seems to slow down the progress of the disease and often prevents it from becoming acute. What is the risk to do that? $50.

In countries where Ivermectin is in common use, principally in Africa, there seems to be a strong preventive effect. For its price, why would we not all use it as a preventative. Even if it reduced the severe cases and deaths by 5% the cost benefit study would be positive.

The drug requires a prescription yet doctors are not permitted to prescribe it as a preventative. Why not? Is there known evidence that supports the edict?

Maybe Ivermectin will be the next street drug. At the moment I could likely buy Fentanyl easier.

From mathematics

In 1931, Kurt Gödel shocked the mathematics world of the time with his “Incompleteness Theorem.” It establish that there are more things that are true than can be proven. Waiting for proof may take a long time. Time some of the people don’t have. The practical implication is proof would be good, but in the interim, probably helps should not be overlooked.

I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

%d bloggers like this: