Marvin’s Best Weekly Reads May 8th, 2022

Marvin Liao
15 min readMay 8, 2022

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change.” — Paulo Coelho

  1. “People do argue why would Putin kill the golden goose — if he cuts gas supplies to Europe, it’s not as though he can easily divert this supply elsewhere. He either has to divert into storage which will fill quickly, flare (oil derived gas) or simply cut production. There is a financial hit to Russia — but does he care given he will assume this business is dying anyway.

And perhaps having withstood the first sanction impact, having stabilised the ruble, he thinks he is well set for another round of geopolitical battles with the West over Ukraine but played out in energy markets.”

2. Friedman is an American bull so take it with grain of salt but he has been very prescient in his writing over the last decade and half. So worth watching for geopolitical insights. He is bullish on Japan, Turkey, Poland.

3. Scary new face of war. Cyberwar turned kinetic.

Russia getting a taste of what they have done all over the world, especially to Eastern European countries like Finland, Estonia & Ukraine of course.

4. Always interesting macroeconomic view with a crypto lens.

“Given that Russia exports significant amounts of energy and food to the world, the trade disruptions that raise transportation costs and thus prices will continue with no abatement. Please read the last two truly epic Zoltan Pozar pieces about how difficult and expensive it is to re-route commodities to willing buyers in the Global South now that Europe has cancelled Russian exports.

It will leave you convinced that higher prices are here to stay, and global growth — which is a derivative of the cost of energy– must slow. Therefore, slowing growth will take global equities down with it, unless buttressed by ample liquidity from central bankers who are supposed to be fighting inflation.

Let me repeat– the crypto capital markets are the only free markets left globally. As such, they will lead equities lower as we head into the downturn, and lead equities higher as we work our way out of it. Bitcoin and Ether will bottom well before the Fed acts and U-turns its policy from tight to loose.”

5. This is a pretty damn disturbing discussion albeit it was done March 22nd, so its 18 days later now & the situation in Ukraine has changed.

Zeihan always gives us food for thought for the longer geopolitical view.

6. “To me the Russia-Ukraine-US-other-countries dynamic is the most attention-grabbing part of the changing world order dynamic that is underway, but it is essentially just the first battle in what will be a long war for control of the world order. It is a very important battle because it will tell us 1) if Putin and Russia win or lose this first battle, 2) how powerful a weapon the American-led sanctions are, and 3) how other nations will align with either side or remain neutral.

The internal conflicts over wealth and values that are causing political conflicts that are so great that they threaten the domestic order of the United States and the enormous amount of debt and money creation that are reducing the value of debt and money are reshaping what money and stores of value are.”

7. “If we look past the nuclear weapons problem, then a prolonged conflict will favor the Ukrainians given the state of the Russian military. The repairs that Russia is implementing are turning its military into a Frankenstein Teddy bear with differently trained soldiers — even some trained for logistics being sent into combat units and vice versa — unfamiliar with each other, with low morale, and strangers to the unit commanders put together in the middle of an offensive campaign.

If I am correct in this analysis, then the Russian military is about to hit a new low in performance. This will further diminish its capabilities and would even provide a domestic political liability to Vladimir Putin. Under these circumstances, with our support, a Ukraine free and whole is a very attainable objective.”

8. This is a must watch for what’s happening in commodities/food & energy markets. Also highlights the grossly incompetent energy policy in the west that needs to be fixed now. All for ESG unless it enables barbarians like Putin (ie. ahem Europe)

9. This was a good discussion on potential deflationary environments coming & also sovereign individual from crypto perspective.

10. “De-Globalization is going to be one of, if not the most important thematic of the 2020s, and as such, it’s one we’ll be following closely and discussing regularly.

It’s likely to drive new investment in underutilized and often overlooked regions such as Latin America, it will impact every part of global supply chains affecting companies large and small (which in turn will affect every product you see in your immediate surroundings), it will generate new and significant amounts of economic growth for some countries/regions, at the expense of others, and it will shift domestic political policy and the geopolitical landscape for decades to come.

All of this, paired with the Weaponization of Money and Finance, will also lead major countries (mainly large Emerging Markets) to diversify their reserve holdings among a broader set of currencies, commodities, gold and maybe Bitcoin. These are all systemic changes that are happening slowly but fast and are dramatically changing the world around us, one quarter at a time.

This decade is set to be one of those rare moments in history where economics, finance, domestic politics, and geopolitics will all collide, resulting in significant changes to our basic understanding of an interconnected world. Interesting times ahead.”

11. “If you hit $10,000,000 USTT in net worth, do you think your “friends” will expect you to pay the bills? How about your relatives who told you that you would fail? You know the answer, so why make it public

If you have been watching the world unfold (outside Florida and Texas which are seeing prosperity), do you think it is wise to wear a $200,000 watch and post it on the Gram? You know the answer, so why increase risk of robbery

If you understand the above, why would you want to pretend to be rich and become a public figure? You know the answer, to sell you the dream. No rich guy wants you to know he is rich. The rich guys who want you to think they are rich are hoping you follow them like puppy dogs”

12. This is good advice for the Democrats. Too bad they probably won’t follow it. Progressive morons.

Yes, I voted for Democrats not because I like them but because they are less worse than Republicans.

But they are all grifters. Just voting for the one less grifty & medieval….man the system is broken.

13. This seems pretty spot on. We’ve lost touch with the important basics in America: food, energy & water.

14. This is a smart fella. So many nuggets in this long discussion.

“What I have learned, and the way we operate, is we have the solo decision-maker model. One of the general partners will sponsor an investment and we will have a vigorous discussion, which I think is important; you want to get to the truth and not to delude yourself. I believe it is very important to have individual decision-makers who are closest to the topic and know it the best, not have decisions by committee.

I think that is the number one failure mode in venture capital. I don’t know other areas of investment, but I am guessing it is also the failure mode for those areas, and a general failure mode in management. I believe the same way for recruiting. We have what we call the Ocean’s 11 model; there are the people that blow stuff up and there are the people that do the backflips. If you went and tried to find an all-around great person, you would have a different group than if you went out and said, “I want to get a specialist in each area.”

“I view the internet today as millions of subcommunities. I think NFTs are a way for subcommunities to have cultural artifacts and create little economies within them. It is a big world, so some of the popular existing ones will go awry, but my bet is that there will be many positive communities.”

“I think the fortunate thing is that securities laws and the ethos of Web3 happen to align, and that they both want highly decentralized networks. We try to encourage people when they are in this space to build it in the right way — similar to Bitcoin and Ethereum — where it is truly owned and operated by the community, and not by the original creators of the system. Ideally, everybody is 100% aligned by owning tokens. Ultimately, many of these projects should not even have companies, they should just be like Linux.”

15. All of this makes sense now when you look at present underperformance of Russian orc army right now. (and the out performance of Ukrainian army).

16. “To be clear, China deported much of our media over a year ago, and mostly what we’re relying on now for information in the country is social, comprised of what could be anything from misinformation to propaganda to errors in translation.

But it looks like the simple act of singing, in protest from a starving city locked indoors allegedly in the middle of a new viral outbreak, is being suppressed. “Please comply with Covid restrictions,” implores the voice of Robotic Hell Karen via drone. “Control your soul’s desire for freedom.”

This must never be America.

Powerful people aren’t interested in solving the problem of “misinformation.” Powerful people are interested in suppressing dissent. The end. Full stop. It’s this.

It will always just be this.”

17. Incredibly valuable. Andy drops lots of wisdom here for anyone living in high stress world of Startups (and high stress modern world in general). Worth a read.

“However, since I decided to take a major step back to focus on my health and not continue with the same stressful lifestyle, I am no longer earning nearly that much per year.

Yet it was worth it. Within 30 days of making several major lifestyle changes to focus on my health, my level of blood cortisol, a dominant stress hormone, dropped by 30%. And I finally had months of dedicated time to work through the childhood trauma that had been taxing my nervous system for decades.

That’s the beauty of knowing when to say “enough is enough.” Given my modest lifestyle goals and my desire to focus on my health, I was able to call it quits with the stress of running high-growth startups and give my nervous system the rest that it desperately needed. And I was able to make a complete investment in the other aspects of my life that had been neglected for years.”

“There will be times when it makes sense to push very hard on career growth, so long as it aligns with the vision you have for your future and respects the boundaries of your personal range of tolerance.

The purpose of life isn’t to sacrifice our well-being. The purpose of life is to flourish.”

18. “This is why I don’t think one should overestimate the fighting capability of Russian forces from seeing some crazy martial arts stunts, or guys that knock you out in one punch. Modern wars are not fought with fists. The effectiveness of a military is down to a lot of boring and mundane stuff. Do you have working logistics? Russian forces seem to have run out of both fuel and food, thus halting their progress. Trucks broke down because they were not maintained properly before the invasion.

Stuff like that was very strongly emphasized in Norway when I served over 20 years ago. We spent a huge amount of time on maintenance and inspection of equipment. It is not cool action stuff, but if you don’t get this kind of stuff right, your equipment will break down in war and you will run out of key supplies and components.

Coordination and teamwork is paramount. Some of that is cultural. I only have a small sample, but when playing online shooter games where team work is important, I always enjoy being on a team with Germans. They always seems to have a plan, communicate it effectively, and stay committed to carrying it out. Other people may be more prone to leave to be a hero doing their own thing.

This has been written about in WWII as well. A lot of German effectiveness came from good coordination between troops. Russians downplayed this with their tanks. While Germans coordinated their tanks through radio communications, this was often not the case with Russian tanks.”

19. This is absolutely nuts. Poor dude: 3 month quarantine in China. Bad luck and ritarded zero Covid policy in China.

20. “Firstly, democracy matters. The contrast between Russia and Ukraine goes back at least to the Baroque Age. Ukraine’s traditions of decentralised power and suspicion of the state are rooted in the old Cossack zeal for individual and group liberty. Ukraine never developed the traditions of a strong imperial state.

In the struggle against Russia, this has proved a great advantage: while Putin leads his army from an empty ballroom in the Kremlin, Zelensky visits the wounded in the hospitals and walks the city streets at night. The president is a servant of the people, not the other way around.”

“It is this deep love of light and hatred of darkness that has turned Ukrainians into contemporary heroes for so many people from Europe to India, Africa or Japan. Glory to the heroes.”

21. This is a massive deal & major blow to the Russian economy. Maersk: world’s largest shipping co leaving Russia.

22. This is a very solid episode. Learning about what’s up in Crypto and gaming.

23. This seems very prudent. Finland has been smart about this unlike most of Western Europe. If you want peace, prepare for war.

24. Good observations on venture capital.

25. Pakistan Startup scene is on fire. #ZaynCapital

26. This is so damn true. Low burn rate is the key to optionality and happiness in life.

27. “Putin’s personal humiliation may be well deserved, but a humiliated Russia is a grave threat to international peace and security. A vision of a better peace in Europe is now more essential than ever before — not merely a ceasefire or an end to atrocities and occupation, but a just and therefore enduring political order.

The United States, still the indispensable nation, must lead the West in shaping that peace. That peace cannot include Vladimir Putin or the generals who committed war crimes in his name and under his orders.

However, that peace must include Russia. When the Soviet Union justly disintegrated, President George H.W. Bush envisioned “Europe whole and free and at peace.” That vision is as vital today as it was 30 years ago. Russia is a European nation, and peace in Europe must embrace Russia as vital a part of Europe.”

28. “PayPal isn’t the only company to build a tech mafia. There are a number of companies that have produced a huge amount of high quality talent like Stripe (though they probably don’t love getting referred to as a mafia anymore), Segment, Dropbox, Apple, and Airbnb.

Other companies like Figma will likely see their own alumni networks spread out and build more world-class companies once they have more time. A lot of the best people at Figma are still there basking in the glory of their meteoric rise. If a tech mafia is the outcome of a high concentration of talent then the input is a successful talent vortex.”

29. “The plan also calls for the construction of more renewable energy projects, the burning of more coal and heavy fuel oil (although the EU’s dependence on Russia for these materials calls into question the wisdom and viability of this approach), developing of more biogas, and implementing a significant energy conservation drive. Here, the plan feels long on ambition and short on details, except for the whole “using less” part.

We close with something that is frustratingly absent from Europe’s current thinking (at least at the continent level): a nuclear energy renaissance. According to an admittedly ambitious plan from RePlanet called Switch Off Putin: Ukraine Energy Solidarity Plan, by simply arresting and reversing the nuclear phase-out underway in Germany, Sweden, and Belgium, Europe can offset 1.4 bcf/d of Russian gas (or approximately 10% of the gap).”

30. “One does not need psychic powers of prediction to see where this leads. Each act of willpower and bravery by one country creates a precedent for another country to do a bit more. Only an outright US veto could (perhaps) hold back Ukraine’s friends from providing larger quantities of heavier and more lethal weapons.

The result: few talk now of Ukrainian defeat. The consensus prediction is a bloody months-long stalemate. But on the ground, Russia is retreating — and the hideous cost of its occupation is becoming clear.

That creates a kind of virtuous circle. The better Ukraine is doing, the easier it is to justify taking risks on its behalf. As more barbaric behavior by Russia is revealed, the greater the urgency, and the moral case, for doing more. And the more weapons Ukraine gets, the better its armed forces fare.”

31. “Humor in Ukraine is now mainly of the darkest kind. At certain moments, Zelensky appeared stunned by the cruelty of it all. He tried to explain why he cannot feel — why most Ukrainians cannot feel — much sense of satisfaction in their underdog battlefield victories.

Yes, they expelled the mighty Russian army from the northern part of the country. Yes, they killed, by their count, more than 19,000 Russian soldiers. Yes, they claim to have captured, destroyed, or damaged more than 600 tanks. Yes, they say they’ve sunk the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Yes, they changed the image of their country, and their understanding of themselves. But the price has been colossal.

Too many Ukrainians, Zelensky told us, died not in battle, but “in the act of torture.” Children got frostbite hiding in cellars; women were raped; elderly people died of starvation; pedestrians were shot down in the street. “How will these people be able to enjoy the victory?” he asked. “They will not be able to do to the Russian soldiers what [the Russians] did to their children or daughters … so they do not feel this victory.” Real victory, he said, will come only when the perpetrators are tried, convicted, and sentenced.”

32. This is a pretty good one. Lots to digest here: Coming world famine & recession, growing CCP world influence if they play their cards well.

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com