life, Sport

Favorites Books And (Virtual) Ironman 2020

It’s been a challenging year.
A year that caused lots of misery and the long term implications are still going to be discovered in the future. Nevertheless, I’m trying to focus on the hope we see just around the corner.

As for books and running/biking and swimming, it was all ‘virtual’ events. The Ironman race I was registered to do at Santa Rosa was first ‘pushed’ to ‘later this year’ and a after few months it was canceled.
As we learned during this year, it’s best to have patience (and endurance). Looking backward, there were quite a lot of new events that we managed to do. Both Strava and Zwift saw their platform taking an uplift. The new (or old) way to do a group ride: Zwift and Discord is quite cool. It won’t replace the real thing, but with the ‘new norm’, it’s quite a nice option.

Virtual Races

This year moved ‘everything’ into ‘virtual’. Sports events are just one example.
Since all the official races were canceled I did some virtual ones.

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Business

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises (and the current one) – Quick Review

After the last few weeks, it clear we are in the biggest financial crisis in our generation. I read “Stress Test” a few months ago and there are several perspectives that are good to be remembered. Especially during these crazy days where the market shows ‘no bottom’.

“The fundamental causes of this crisis were familiar and straightforward,” Geithner writes. “It began with a mania — the widespread belief that devastating financial crises were a thing of the past, that future recessions would be mild, that gravity-defying home prices would never crash to earth.”

The causes of the crisis, in other words, were the same old-fashioned madness of crowds and extraordinary popular delusions responsible for every panic dating back to the Dutch mania for tulip bulbs. The entire society — including all the big banks and some nonbank financial firms, like the insurance company A.I.G. — simply ignored risk.

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life

What It Takes – Book Review

What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” is a book I enjoyed in the last two flights. It’s a classic entrepreneurship story and half of the book is talking about his path in starting, building and expanding Blackstone. The other half is composed of stories in his life.

Who is Stephen Schwarzman?

Well, he manages over $500 billion as the co-founder/CEO of Blackstone.
He also wants to teach readers “how to grow organizations, and do positive things, and how to help their careers”. 

I felt through the book that there are some good lessons.

One lesson is around the same (more or less) rules that Buffet coined around:

  1. Don’t lose money.
  2. Go back to confirm you are executing rule #1

A few little details make the book fun to read. For example, when he explained how Angela Merkel raised her hands to imitate a locust and how he mimics her. Another good one is when he tells of why he earned the nickname “Farmer Blackstone” in China. It is because he promised that the company’s stock price was like a seed that would grow in time.

I also liked this suggestion:
“There is nothing more interesting to people than their problems. Think about what others are dealing with, and try to come up with ideas to help them. Almost anyone, however senior or important, is receptive to good ideas provided you are thoughtful.”

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life

Factfulness – Book Review

It’s one of the best books I read during 2018. 

Hans Rosling was a great author (and a speaker) and he expressed his ideas in a very clear way. One of the great things that open this book, is the test that he gives you at the beginning. It comes to prove you, how little you know about the world we live in. It drives the point home very clearly.

Don’t believe?

Try it for yourself:

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life

The Emperor of All Maladies

I’ve just finished this interesting book on the biography of cancer. On one hand, it’s a depressing story, as we are still losing many battles.
On the other hand, there are many ways that progress have been made and hopefully, we are in a phase (e.g. genomics research and the cost reduction in analyzing DNA) that will bring us more victories. It is a story about the  history of research with eureka moments and decades of despair.

The author, Dr Mukherjee does a great job in describing the history from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago (when the Greek historian Herodotus records the story of Atossa the queen of Persia and the daughter of Cyrus, who noticed a lump in her breast.) through the progress in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. 

I found somewhere this encouraging answer he gave to the question “With all that you have learned up to this point, are you hopeful in terms of cancer research and possible cures?”
Mukherjee: “I feel pathologically hopeful!
The opposite of hopeful is hopeless.
How can you be hopeless?
Discoveries have occurred, and discoveries are occurring.
Look at history, does that mean that every move becomes the most brilliant discovery or the universal cure for cancer? No.
But history clearly shows a track record of progress. Medicine is caught in this moment of pulling out from a sea of uncertainty these little pieces that are more certain than others. I often tell fellows and residents, to me there is no discipline we practice as human beings that manage this level of complexity. Not just statistical or scientific complexity, but emotional complexity. That’s what makes it one of the most unbelievably moving professions that exist.”



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life

The Evolution of Everything – Book Review

the evolution of everythingLast week I finished an interesting book by Matt Ridley (the author of several good books on genetics and evolution) – “The Evolution of Everything”.

The main idea from the book is simple, yet to many people disturbing: government, technology, society, religion and other areas evolves without any real control over the process. Although we neglect and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world in many aspects. Continue reading

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life

Two Books On World War II

2 books

I don’t know why, but in the past month I read (again) two books that tell personal stories during World War II / holocaust.

I didn’t plan it. But like most things in life, while we are making plans, things happen.

In retrospective, it was a powerful, sad and interesting time. You can hear a lot of stories about WW2 and the holocaust but there are some that hit you right in your heart.

As the say, “Long story short”, here are the two books I recommend.

The Nightingale

Kristin Hannah is so talented. She does a great job in capturing an intimate part of history from a unique perspective: the women’s war. It is a combination of two stories or two sisters. They are separated on many levels: years, experience, ideals and mostly character. Each one is paving her own path toward survival in German-occupied France. It’s a beautiful, sad story that shows the real strong gender – female.

 

Beneath a Scarlet Sky

It’s a real personal story of Pino Lella, a young Italian teenager who wants to ski and have fun. Up to here it’s just like any teenager who lives near the amazing mountains in north of Italy. But, there is a war and he started it by joining the underground where he helped Jews escape over the Alps to Switzerland. From one step to another he become the personal driver of Hans Layers who reported to Hitler. The story tells how is manage to spy for the allies and his relationships with Hans, Anna (his love) and his family. During the book, you keep thinking it can’t be a real story. But, you keep realizing, it is all happen in Europe only 60 years ago.

 

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life

How Nike Became Nike

I just finished this book and really enjoyed it.

Any entrepreneur and/or a runner should read it. Such an amazing story of a startup (they didn’t have this term back in 1962) that fight against the giants (e.g. Adidas, US customs, Tiger etc’) and succeed to win. Big time.

It’s told by Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight and he does a great job to describe the inside story of the company. From the early days as a one man show startup and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

In 1962, fresh out of Stanford business school, Phil Knight traveled the world. When he visited Japan he was able to get a deal with Tiger (well known brand at the time) and with fifty dollars from his father he created a company “Blue Ribbon Sports“. They had many issues and problems (like any startup) but in the end, Nike’s annual sales last year top $30 billion. The story between these two extremes is fascinating.

It’s a candid and humble memoir. Knight details the relationships he had with the first employees and the (many) risks and daunting setbacks that stood between him and his dream. He is a real problem solver and keep learning on the go but the most impressive quality I learn about him is the relationships he was able to make (with very few words) with athletes, employees and friends.

Enjoy it!
…And go for a run.

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