To Be And To Last #38

This week we play with sand, roast popular business books, and look at China’s stock market.

⏳ We’re running out of sand

Surrounded by desert, the United Arab Emirates imported $456m of sand, stone and gravel in 2014. Why?

Desert sand is too round to be used for almost anything. The wind makes each grain so perfectly spherical that it’s impossible to fully bond with other grains.

This is why - despite ever growing deserts - our planet is running concerningly low on the types of sand needed to build skyscrapers, create glass, or fabricate computer chips.

😱 Please stop idolizing risk

“Entrepreneurs aren't trying to re-invent the wheel. The ones who do fail … Do common things uncommonly well and you'll win.”

- Nick Huber in a provokingly contrarian book roast thread

We’re taught to worship the idea of the startup founder who risked it all to build the next billion dollar company. That’s irresponsible and stupid.

The vast majority of people will be more financially successful and personally / professionally fulfilled by choosing a large chance of medium success rather than a small chance of huge success.

Or in the words of Elon Musk on yesterday’s moderately interesting Clubhouse room:

“Doing a startup is like eating glass and staring into the void.”

- Elon Musk on Clubhouse (live tweet summary)

🎮 GameStop already happened in 2007?

“I don't listen to others, I buy by feel, and it's a pleasure to make money.”

- song titled "even the dead shouldn’t sell

As WSB Reddit rallies with cries of “hold the line” and “diamond hands” (contrasted with the “paper hands” of those who sell), you might well expect song lyrics like those above.

But this song is actually from the Chinese retail stock bull market of 2007/2008 (h/t to Jordan Schneider with further commentary here). Since that time, Chinese A-shares (a class of domestic stocks only available to China citizens) have largely been controlled by retail buyers, complete with livestream financial advisors.

Is this GameStop activity a signal of increasing retail influence in the US financial markets, or merely a one-off exception?

PS: Literally everyone has written about GameStop in the last week, so I won’t bore you by airing my own thoughts. If you’re curious though, Josh Gross and Chamath Palihapitiya both wrote illuminating Twitter threads.

To Be And To Last: Thinker Nate Desmond’s weekly roundup of long reads, contrarian thoughts, and hidden jewels that aren’t getting enough attention.

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