Book Review | The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump

Here is an actual, complete, real life, top 5 (as of this writing) Goodreads review of this book that I tried to have removed (to no avail):

I have not read the book.

But then hey, Trump did not write it.

DONALD TRUMP’S GHOSTWRITER TELLS ALL

27/03/2017

Well, I guess he’s not such a great deal-maker after all. The first chance he had to make one in the White House, he failed miserably.

Or maybe he’s just a dealer?

04/08/2017

I am interested in what kind of “deal” he’s going to make with North Korea.

25/01/2019

Opposing bills to end US shutdown fail in Senate, with no clear path forward

I would like to call your attention to line 1 of this review: “I have not read the book.”

When I was growing up, George W Bush was president

I saw religious dogma take Howard Stern off the radio.

I saw my favorite cartoons and Detroit rappers fighting legal battles with the freakin’ FCC about what they were and weren’t allowed to say.

And I watched Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert say out loud what everyone was thinking and challenge Fox News and the government to tell the truth.

All of this led me to believe that liberals were interested in freedom of speech, freedom to have different ideas, and critical thinking whereas conservatives (Fox News + the Government at the time) wanted nothing to do with it – instead holding on to ideas of the past.

My belief held through 2016. Much to my embarrassment now, I remember weeks before the 2016 election telling my dad over the phone that “Republicans will never win re-election”. And I remember being afraid the night that Trump won the election, because I thought pro-censorship, anti-critical thinking, racists had taken over America.

Coming back to the Goodreads review, someone (likely) of the critical thinking pro-science school of thought reviewing a book on a book reviewing site without having read the book and adding it to the “never-ever” shelf – AND THE REVIEW HAS A TON OF LIKES!!!

I don’t think many in the mainstream media have read the book either because I haven’t heard anyone refer to the president as “Donny” a name he says he hates in one of the first few chapters.

I don’t know how we got here, but it’s made me realize that critical thinking, irrationality, and dogmatism is not unique to one political ideology.

As for the book….it’s really not great. You’ll learn a little about some high profile deals Trump made, but I think where it shines is hearing some of the things he said in the 1980’s that don’t fit the media narrative we’re led to believe about him now.

If you go in with an open mind you might learn something and get to wrestle with some cognitive dissonance about very concrete opinions you hold about a man you’ve probably never met.

If you don’t go in at all, you might be able to get some Goodreads clout if you’re biting, self righteous, and sarcastic enough.

Book Review | Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

2015 was a tragic year for Joe Biden, who is an incredibly empathic family man. The story about his son Beau and the rest of his family in 2015 was heartbreaking. If you’re close with your family and siblings it will move you (if you’re not completely turned off by the book because of some political cognitive dissonance).

It will be even an even more tragic third act if it comes out that Joe Biden is actually suffering from some cognitive decline that mirrors what happened to his son. If he is elected I hope he can put some of the plans he talks about in this book in place – namely the aggressive emphasis on cancer research (that we haven’t heard much about since this book’s publication), and then retire to enjoy the rest of his life with his family.

I was listening to this audiobook alongside The Art of the Deal – written by your favorite current president. And the tone of the Audible exclusive portions was a stark contrast (audio seemed to be from 2016 for Trump and early 2017 from Biden). It sounded like Trump re-recorded a message for the opening portion of his book asking people to vote for him as he really wanted to be president – as you would expect. Promise Me, Dad starts off with Joe longing for a return to private life (his first in nearly 50 years) and ends with Joe promising “as a Biden” that he has no current plans to run for president and doesn’t want to live in the White House, but that if no one competent shows up in two years he’ll think about it.

Big persuasion L for Biden here.

Something else I picked out was his questionable financial history. At the time of his VP confirmation in 2008 Joe Biden claims to have owned no assets – stocks, bonds, etc. I find this shocking from someone who has been making six figures as a Senator since 1991 (and a good wage as a Senator since 1973). Hopefully the rest of his administration can sort out the economy and he can focus on foreign policy – that seems to revolve around the idea that Vladimir Putin is uniquely evil and “soulless”.

If you don’t want me to label you a low information voter during yuppie cocktail hour you should read this book and The Art of the Deal.

How to Buy Bitcoin for Beginners (2020)

I’ve broken this blog post down into three sections for people with:

  1. No Technical Experience – I am afraid that if I held my own Bitcoin, that I would lose it and don’t bank on my phone
  2. Limited Technical Experience – I am comfortable using mobile devices and I bank on my phone
  3. Technically Proficient – I understand what a private key is

If you have No Technical Experience:

You can get exposure to Bitcoin through your brokerage account through the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust ($GBTC)

The upside of this is that you don’t have to worry about taking custody of your Bitcoin. You don’t need to know what a private key is. You don’t have to worry about misplacing or losing and of your Bitcoin.

The downside of this is that GBTC won’t get you the best price on Bitcoin exposure. You’re paying a premium (in peak times – a large premium) to get exposure to Bitcoin.

However, if you’re very comfortable operating in the traditional “stock” world, you have a brokerage account and you have no interest in doing something different and don’t mind that an outside institution is holding your Bitcoin – GBTC is a good bet.

If you have Limited Technical Experience:

You have a lot of options here.

Really any of the well known exchanges will do the trick in terms of allowing you to purchase Bitcoin. Some popular ones include:

These apps work just like your traditional bank account. You sign in, create an account, link a funding source (checking / savings account / credit card*)

*Buying Bitcoin with a credit card or on margin is baby brain, don’t do it you’re better than that

Most of these exchanges will allow you to keep your coins on the exchange, and if you don’t want to deal with private keys or taking custody of your own Bitcoin you can stop here.

The pros of this is that you won’t have to learn any more and if you are unsure about your ability to keep track of a private key you don’t have to worry about that.

Additionally with some of these services above (like BlockFi) you can earn interest on the Bitcoin that you allow them to custody (like you would with a bank). As of this writing BlockFi is giving 6% interest on Bitcoin and 8.6% interest on stablecoins like USDC and GUSD (crypto tokens that track the price of the US dollar).

I have used BlockFi for almost 6 months now and it has consistently returned 5x the interest of my traditional “high interest” savings account with half the amount of money invested in the BlockFi account (that’s a 10x difference in interest)

If you are interested in BlockFi we both earn crypto when you use this link to sign up: https://blockfi.com/?ref=e20a2aef

The cons are that some of these exchanges have higher fees to pay than others, and you are still not taking custody of your own Bitcoin.

There is a common phrase in the Bitcoin community: “Not your keys not your coins”. And there are historical examples of exchanges, like Mt.Gox, going kaput leaving people with all their Bitcoin on the exchange with their hands in their pockets.

The Crypto world was a lot less advanced back then but some are still wary of this risk, so they choose to custody their own Bitcoin (think hiding your gold in a safe at your house rather than having it with a bank somewhere you’ve never seen it).

Like it or not there will always be counterparty risk until you fully custody your own Bitcoin.

If you want to learn about private keys, this is the video that got me into Bitcoin:

Private Keys – the video that got me into Bitcoin

Basically a private key is just a really big number that acts as an address for your Bitcoin. Some wallet apps (like Bread Wallet (BRD) on iOS) generate a private key and allow you to take custody of your Bitcoin on your iPhone.

***IF YOU LOSE YOUR PRIVATE KEY IT IS UNRECOVERABLE UNLESS YOU WRITE IT DOWN***

Basically the private key number is so big that even with every computer working together for the next 1000 years no one will ever recreate that number.

This is the double edged sword that comes with taking custody of your own Bitcoin. Literally no one can ever take it from you – unless you lose the key.

If you are Technically Proficient:

You should be looking to minimize your fees and storing your coins in a hardware wallet or cold storage depending on your risk preference.

I use Coinbase Pro (.5% fees) and their available API to automate trading and dollar cost average everyday. Then once a week I send the Bitcoin out of the exchange into a Ledger Hardware Wallet.

Hardware wallets are basically just small computers that securely generate a private key.

In this case, I am still trusting that Ledger doesn’t somehow know / keep a list of every private key they generate. The counterparty risk still exists it is just lower.

The full Winklevoss Security System™ – rolling dice in a blacked out house with no cameras/ technology inside and then scattering copies of private key fragments into safety deposit boxes across the world with your identical twin has just about 0 counterparty risk but there’s a lot of room for failure in the setup, so if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s better to just keep it simple.

It seems like there are some ways to get Bitcoin for 0 fees but I’m not totally up on that, if anyone wants to walk me through it I’d love to chat.


So hopefully now you know how to buy Bitcoin and have figured out what level of security you want for yourself.

If you have any questions feel free to email me rhett@rhett.blog or find me on twitter @Rhettre

Below are my results for buying Bitcoin everyday for a year (August 2019 – 2020)

In the video I discuss dollar cost averaging, why bitcoin, BlockFi, how I automated my purchases, and how much money I made.

Book Review | Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

This translation is excellent. Marcus Aurelius’s insights are capital-T-True, evidenced by the fact that people are still reading and finding value thousands of years later. You could come back to this book for advice for the rest of your life. Definitely going to read it again.

I had a discussion with a great master in Japan.

We were talking about the various people who are working to translate the Zen books into English.

He said, “That’s a waste of time. If you really understand zen,” he said “You can use any book, you could use the Bible, you could use Alice in Wonderland, you could use the dictionary.”

Because he said,

“The sound of the rain needs no translation.”

– Alan Watts

Book Review | The Price of Tomorrow by Jeff Booth

I’ve been trying to explain this idea to people forever. The idea that this 2% inflation target is not being met because technology was driving the costs of some goods down. Why do phones cost the same every year even though they keep getting better? Why are some goods cheaper than ever on Amazon and Alibaba? Where was the inflation occurring?

This book has the answer I was unable to articulate. Technology is deflationary.

Unfortunately that nugget of good information is contained mostly in the first chapter of the book (with some what should we do about it in the final chapter of the book – hint: bitcoin [duh])

The middle chapters read like Andrew Yang’s The War on Normal People – a scary and exciting picture of things to come from technology painted by a tech entrepreneur who has made his fortune and is now out to make the world a better place.

To be honest, I barely remember any of those middle chapters. I’ve already heard all the theories about AI and job loss and robot workers and how polarized the world is and the rise of populism – it’s exhausting even recounting these ideas.

I was primed to love this book as the author shares my views on inflation and bitcoin (my two favorite things to talk about), but I would have liked more of the author’s opinion and analysis of what to do about it rather than explaining to me how the world is doomed (which seems to be a pretty fashionable thing to talk about).

That being said the timing of this book (published January of 2020) is remarkable. It was pre-trillion(s) dollar stimulus, pre-bitcoin halving, pre-coronavirus (the acceleration of all these futuristic trends). And I’m sure Jeff Booth has many lucrative speaking opportunities and doesn’t care about my 3 star review of his book (that I mostly agree with and really enjoyed some parts of).

C’est la vie.

Book Review | The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

I follow a lot of people online who have raved about and other who have hated the 4 hour workweek. People who love it will claim that it was the catalyst for them starting an entrepreneurial journey or a remote lifestyle. Detractors say that it’s not practical advice for the average person (try telling your boss you’re working remote next week see how it goes) or that it’s more marketing hype than truth.

As with much of life the truth is somewhere in the middle. Can you go from Chipotle cashier to working remotely on your SAAS business in 6 months? Gonna be tough. Do a lot of the claims seem outlandish or too good to be true – yes.

However, I haven’t heard of anyone who took the advice and has had bad results (part of a larger problem that deserves its own discussion of how most readers of self help / business books myself included don’t implement much of what they learn and instead just read more self help / business books). And there’s a reason that it’s the most highlighted book on Amazon.

It can be uncomfortable to hear about all the things you could be doing to succeed or achieve the things you want (especially when the author is telling you he’s done it and kind of sounds like an asshole bragging about it). When I was younger I would freak out at my parents and other people who would try to give me advice – even when they were really nice about it.

While some of this book seems like slimy marketing hype, I’m going to ignore those parts and assume based on the countless hours of Tim Ferriss content I’ve consumed that he’s a good guy who means well and is trying to empower people to think outside the box and design better lives for themselves.

This is one where I don’t recommend the audiobook (I’ll be picking up a physical copy to page through later) because there’s so much content that you can’t implement right away. It’s also frustrating to hear him plug four hour blog (that no longer exists – now tim.blog and is difficult to navigate) and other technology solutions that don’t exist or are obsolete (is blackberry still in business?)

Pick up a copy.
Check your ego.
Learn what you can.
Implement what you learn.
???
Profit (probably).

Book Review | The Deficit Myth by Stephanie Kelton

How I got Here
I picked up this book after watching a friend’s instagram story where he claimed that after reading this book, Joe Biden’s 2 trillion dollar climate plan made a lot of sense. I disagree, and thought I’d read the book because I wanted to experience cognitive dissonance.

The Thesis
The thesis of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is that currency issuing countries that hold debt denominated in their own currency can print money at any point to make all the debt go away.

MMTers see (currency issuing) government debt as an irrelevant metric to measure financial stability instead opting to view economic health through the lens of how much inflation a country is experiencing. They’ll argue that we should print as much money as we can before causing a big inflation problem to get massive public works projects underway (employing everyone possible through a federal jobs guarantee) and that taxes are not meant to fund the government, only to reduce the spending power of citizens.

The Good
This book makes great points and, because of the credentials of the author and how well structured the arguments are, is very persuasive.

I agree that this is how the government is operating now (spend and print as much money as you want, the debt doesn’t matter as much as people think because the government is not a currency user it is an issuer).

The Bad
However, I disagree that MMT is a reasonable path forward.

Forgetting the Loserthink that demonizes politicians by reading their inner thoughts like:

“Lawmakers can feign empathy with their constituents while claiming their hands are tied by the deficit. If they couldn’t hide behind the deficit myth what excuse would they use to justify withholding support?”

the real problem with the MMT philosophy is the obvious black swan hyperinflation risk it creates.

Stephanie admits in the book that printing tons of money will eventually lead to inflation (she just thinks that we’re far from that point – we’re a “6 foot man hunched over in a home with 8 foot ceilings”. Which is totally possible – she would know better than I would). What we likely disagree on is the effectiveness of the government or any group of people to appropriately predict what the outcomes of pulling all these different levers (interest rates, printing more money, artificially creating full employment, etc). We’ll only need to get it wrong a few times (with very different people controlling this massive responsibility for the rest of America in time) to really mess things up.

The ultimate irony occurs when Stephanie is railing against the US’s failing infrastructure pointing to a dam (that was recently inspected and given a review noting the fragility to a low probability catastrophic event) burst and killed a man and destroyed his home when that low probability catastrophic event came true.

MMT is the dam. MMTers are the inspectors. And the water coming to flood our homes is hyperinflation.

MMTers will tell you that the chance of hyperinflation is low and that they’ll create robust government systems (paradox?) to avoid it, but by the time we’ve spent hundreds of trillions dollars on projects that don’t need to ROI it will be too late to turn back.

The Bitcoin
*gets on soapbox*

“Well Rhett, if you don’t like how unpredictable the money supply from the US government is that’s too bad, there’s no alternative.” – They

If only there was a way to convert my unknown supply dollars to a fixed supply asset that adds new supply to the system in a programmatic, predictable, public way and doesn’t take decision making advice from lobbyists.

Stay away from They.

*stays on soapbox until the soapbox is on the moon*

The Conclusion

Yuppies who fantasize about one upping their friends with political / economic knowledge at dinner parties should read this book because upcoming policy debates are no doubt going to come down to your feelings on MMT. If nothing else, it will make you think differently about the problems the country faces.

The 2 trillion dollar stimulus (so far) and the proposed 2 trillion dollar climate plan are 4 trillion more reasons to buy bitcoin.

(None of this is financial advice)

Book Review | Black Swan by Nassim Taleb

If you add the fattest person to ever live to an arena of 10,000 randomly selected people, the average weight doesn’t change much. If you add Bill Gates to an arena of 10000 randomly selected people , the average net worth skyrockets. This idea illustrates the difference between bell curves and power laws, Mediocristan and Extremistan, and a world where all swans are white and a world where black swans exist.

Nassim Taleb is an asshole. But, I have yet to find a good argument against the thesis in The Black Swan, Antifragile, or Skin in the Game (the three books of his Incerto series that I have listened to so far). In fact, the more books/tweets/media I consume the more I see: references to, obvious misinterpretations of, and arguments clearly inspired by Taleb’s writing.

Maybe that’s who you become when you invest your free time sorting out your thoughts, presenting a thesis that is proven right over and over again just to be summarily dismissed by the very audience you’re trying to warn.

COVID19 wasn’t a black swan. It wasn’t unforeseen – task forces and marginal supplies had been put together and several high profile people gave prescient talks years in advance. However, I think it would be fair to say that the response to the pandemic (at least in the US) was a black swan to most of the civilians.

If I told you a year ago that US federal, state and local governments would shut down small businesses across the country mandating that people stay inside you’d think I was crazy – but here we are.

The lesson we should take from this book (as a society and as individuals) is to build more robust, less centralized / predictable systems. Living life this way – at both ends of the barbell (exposed to massive risk but with cash under the bed) protects you from the inevitable unknown monster that’s coming to eat everyone in the middle.

Book Review | I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression by Terrence Real

Due to the nature of the author’s work (as a psychologist for depressed men) he definitely has more experience with depression and broken people than I do. However, I fundamentally disagree with the victim narrative framing of this book.

Some points we agree on – throughout the book, the author makes a few quick passing references to what I believe are the answer to overcoming depression. Namely: discipline, exercise, and finding a purpose. I would have liked to see the author dive deeper in these topics at the expense of some of the completely off topic climate discussions towards the end of the book and/or the incredibly cliche epilogue (where spoiler alert: you find out that “love is the answer”).

Where we disagree – I think that framing my life as: “a series of decisions that you are free to make by exercising discipline” is ultimately a more positive and uplifting long-term framing than: “I am a victim of generational emotional violence and need to confront my father’s broken inner child by shouting my affliction in public therapy”

Based on the book, the author’s response to my choice of framing would be something like, “This is typical male behavior programmed by a hyper masculine gender biased society.” – (shameless mind reading on my part)

But maybe it isn’t. Maybe the average man isn’t suffering from debilitating depression and maybe we shouldn’t apply logic, used to help tail case depressed men, to all of society in an effort to uproot traditional masculinity and the work ethic of the most entrepreneurial society in human history.

Maybe I’m not old, depressed, or woke enough to understand this book and I don’t doubt that it provides a lot of value to some people. I, however, am not one of those people.

As a palette cleanser, I recommend a hefty dose of pull ups and burpees.

Get some.

Quora Question | Why does Donald Trump Jr. believe that teachers are losers?

Why does Donald Trump Jr. believe that teachers are losers?

This is a classic case of what Scott Adams has labeled “two movie reality”

In a rant about how America will never be a socialist country, Donald Trump Jr. said:

You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth.”

Movie A:

Donald Trump Jr. thinks all teachers are losers. Every teacher he has ever had in his life: loser.

The people who will be responsible for educating his children: losers.

The conservative Trump fans in the crowd (of which some are likely teachers who might have even cheered his statement): losers.

Movie B:

Donald Trump Jr. thinks that a disproportionate number of university professors (and maybe even some high school teachers), whose classes are made up in part by young conservatives, are pushing an activist socialist agenda on their students and alienating the students who have contradictory views.

Because he thinks the teachers are alienating half their class and radicalizing the other, Trump Jr. called them losers.


Clips like this are so interesting because they are more or less Rorschach tests for people’s biases.

If you hate Donald Trump Jr. this is going to make it really easy for you to hate him even more.

How dare this spoiled brat attack selfless educators? He’s never worked a day in his life!

If you love Donald Trump Jr. you likely agree with him that colleges have become havens for radical left ideologies and you’ll be more likely to excuse the questionable way that he phrased it.

Thank goodness someone is standing up for people like me who are alienated by the current education system.

I’d encourage everyone (on both sides!) to try to step back from initial outrage (it can be very difficult) and contend with the best possible version of what someone you disagree with is saying.

This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but it stops you from imagining them to be monsters by attributing their actions to horrible intentions.

We shouldn’t be so quick to mind read each other and ascribe the worst possible motives.

Maybe he’s an evil rich kid who’s trying to tear down the American education system so he and his billionaire cronies can be geniuses relative to the oppressed poor people….or maybe he’s a nervous guy who hasn’t had much practice speaking in front of thousands of people and is willing to say clunky, provocative things to rile up his audience.