Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tools for Titans #4 : Derek Sivers

I used to shut myself down when I read about Derek Sivers because I hear about him all the time from Internet Marketers. Fortunately, thanks to Tools for Titans,  I was able to acquaint myself with this person properly. Derek Sivers started a CDBaby, a business selling music CDs online and made $22 million from the sale.

I think Tim Ferriss is more excited about this section than I am.

But nevertheless, we can learn quite a bit from Derek Sivers:

a) What I like - Don't be a donkey

Will an upcoming M&A succeed ? What going on with Fintech ? Do they code this Ruby of Rails ? I wonder how they deploy this application ? Did they consider IP rights when they launched this product ?

This section resonates with me a lot because even if I was not a donkey, I am very likely to become one. With skills in IT, Finance and Law, I get more distracted these days because I can get my hands dirty looking underneath the hood of any piece of news I read.

This section reminds me not to become Buridan's Ass and become so inundated with choices, I get starved to death. If there is a generally good idea with a great pay off just go with it and don't get distracted along the way.

b) Of questionable value - Be more open to opportunities when you are new to something, you can be more selective later

This is too intuitive but there might be number of folks who get it wrong.

When you are starting out in something, you might have to be very open-minded and say yes to any gig you get. Subsequently, after you succeed at something, you might want to raise your standards a little so that you only do the stuff with a higher pay-off.

Maybe a reader can explain to me why this is such a fabulous idea.

c) What I dislike - Always choose options which maximise flexibilities

The third idea is to always choose to maximise your flexibility, preferably options which produces more options for you.

I would be careful with advise which is so general in nature.

Of course, having an option is better than having no option. But doing something with the expectation of a certain payoff can beat merely buying an option with a probabilistic pay-off. For example, a general degree opens many doors and provides many options but is worth less than a medical degree which locks you down for many years and only provides one solid career path upon graduation.

Underlying the decision tree is a probabilistic payoff equation and cannot be reduced a simple heuristic.


  1. Regarding point B. Think of option pricing theory.

    Early in the game, T is large and Volatility is high because of high uncertainty. Exercise price is also low as opportunity cost (i.e. lost income) of exploring options is low since you have no experience and can't command a high salary.

    Actually the whole section seems to be about option pricing. For C the theory is correct but it has ignored the cost of obtaining the options. Which is a rehash of A which is essentially keeping your options open restated.

    Finally a totally unrelated question.

    Any advice on how to prepare for CFA level 2?

  2. Also, thank you very much for your posts. They are very educational, practical and thought provoking.

  3. Thank you for sharing your insight here !

    Scary how much personal development advice can be covered by real option analysis.

  4. As for CFA 2, I remember it to be the most mathematical of the exams which is chump change for engineers.

    Buy Stalla or Schweser if they still exist. Do them like 10 year series.

    If you are super kiasu, go to Bras Basah and buy previous year preparation guides.

    I struggled with CFA 3 though...

  5. Thanks for the tips. Will be busy preparing from now.

    Actually I find that there are a lot of repeating patterns in life which have already been modeled in the sciences. The difficulty is in identifying which is the best model to use and trying to decide which of the assumptions hold and by how much.

    Life to me is interesting in this way.

  6. I think there is little guidance on model selection but applying more models would provide a better perspective to the issue.

    Have you tried this Coursera course from the University of Michigam called Model Thinking?

    You will love it !