Meeting a 2.5million TikToker
Haiku death poetry. UK Charity investment law. Book marketing. What I'm reading. A week in investing. Podcasts. JP meets a 2.5million follower TikToker, by chance. We are fans.
JP meets a 2.5million follower TikToker.
Haiku death poetry
UK Charity investment law: charities can exclude investments
Book marketing: why it is so hard
What I am reading: memoir, talent, haiku
A week in investing, why investing is one of the toughest, yet most fulfilling jobs for the curious minded.
Coming soon: Podcast with Wholegood Founder, Carl Saxton-Pizzie. Future podcasts: Sophie Purdom, Larry Temkin, Nadia Asparouhova.
Long-term/Sustainability UnConference September, Chatham House
JP meets a 2.5million follower TikToker, by chance. We are fans.
Links: Seed round valuations; what makes us happy + rich. Memos vs slides. Climate, Shareholder votes. Divestment Debate. Tesla Impact.
There is a tradition with Zen monks and Chinese, Japanese poetry to write a poem when you are dying. In the Japanese tradition, this has ended up being a death haiku – although some have been written in other traditions, like a Chinese poem rather than a haiku. Many of the stories relate to the very final few minutes of life. For instance,
Goku Kyonen died on Oct. 8, 1272. He was 56. Here is his death poem:
The truth embodied in the Buddhas
Of the future, present, past;
The teaching we received from
the Fathers of our faith
Can be found at the tip of my stick.
And the story:
When Goku felt his death was near, he ordered all his disciples to gather around him. He sat at the pulpit, raised his stick, gave the floor a single tap with it, and said the poem above. When he finished, he raised the stick again, tapped the floor once more, and cried, “See! See!” Then, sitting upright, he died.
Perhaps the story is “fake news” but it does seem to be handed down.
I think I am going to write my own death haiku to put in my next performance of Bigly | Death, if I do it again this year.
I like this one as it centres around people. The image zings out to me. The sentiment is one I feel clearly, and so many of my friends and loved ones seem to feel at times.
We really miss and want to be with people.
Yes, sometimes, we really do not want to be with people.
And this can be the most important thing of a moment.
JP will often articulate this to me.
I do not want you with me, Daddy.
Sometimes, I want you.
But now I want to be alone in good fortune.*
JP has this with people. The presence of others is sometimes too much for him to bear.
(*This is a reference to Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Song of the Open Road'“, which JP often quotes phrases from.)
But, other times, company is enjoyed. Like most of us.
In UK investment world for charities, there has been an important UK court case. This is very ESG/charity specialist but, in short:
Should charities, whose principal purposes are environmental protection and improvement and the relief of poverty, be able to adopt an investment policy that excludes many potential investments because the trustees consider that they conflict with their charitable purposes?
The decision - in my view - of this judgment is that charities now have the discretion to exclude certain investments, even where the potential return from those investments would be greater, if the trustees reasonably believe that the investments would be in conflict with the charity’s objects.
More on decision and judgment is here.
I was interested in this blog on the blurb and marketing of books. I had not thought of how important reviews are and how new books appeal to only a small number of people.
Taking about books, these are 5 books, I am reading at the moment.
Preti Taneja’s Aftermath. Part memoir, part explorative essay form examining terror, trauma, grief.
Usman Khan was convicted of terrorism-related offences at age 20, and sent to high-security prison. He was released eight years later, and allowed to travel to London for one day, to attend an event marking the fifth anniversary of a prison education programme he participated in. On 29 November 2019, he sat with others at Fishmongers’ Hall, some of whom he knew. Then he went to the bathroom to retrieve the things he had hidden there: a fake bomb vest and two knives, which he taped to his wrists. That day, he killed two people: Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt.
Preti Taneja taught fiction writing in prison for three years. Merritt oversaw her program; Khan was one of her students. ‘It is the immediate aftermath,’ Taneja writes. ‘“I am living at the centre of a wound still fresh.” The I is not only mine. It belongs to many.’
Abi Morgan’s this is not a pity memoir:
One afternoon, Abi Morgan returned home to find her longtime partner and father to their two kids collapsed on the bathroom floor. Jacob, who had been undergoing treatment for multiple sclerosis, had suddenly experienced a series of seizures and had to be put into a medically induced coma. As he slowly regained consciousness after six months, he made tentative steps to communicate with those around him, and grappled with the host of issues that had been triggered by the damage caused to his brain. But while Jacob recognized his family and friends, he didn’t believe that the Abi standing in front of him—who had sat by his hospital bed, juggled care of their children, and liaised with his slew of doctors as he slipped between life and death—was in fact his Abi. Instead, he saw a woman whom he believed to be an imposter.
Larry Temkin’s books, that I mentioned last letter. In particular, Being Good in a World of Need.
Using real-world examples and illuminating thought experiments, Temkin discusses ethical imperialism, humanitarian versus developmental aid, how charities ignore or coverup negative impacts, replicability and scaling-up problems, and the views of the renowned economists Angus Deaton and Jeffrey Sachs, all within the context of deeper philosophical issues of fairness, responsibility, and individual versus collective morality.
Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross on how to find and evaluate talent - but indirectly anyone of “creative spark” - Talent. A range of curious questions to use.
Lydia Davis’s short stories and essays.
The visionary, fearless Lydia Davis presents a dazzling collection of essays on reading and writing, exploring the full scope of possibility within existing forms of literature and considering how we might challenge and reinvent these forms.
(You can read an essay on a bus ride, or tube journey)
Death Haiku… Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death
Although the consciousness of death is, in most cultures, very much a part of life, this is perhaps nowhere more true than in Japan, where the approach of death has given rise to a centuries-old tradition of writing jisei, or the "death poem." Such a poem is often written in the very last moments of the poet's life.
… the book where I am reading all these death poems. They really make me stop and think.
Investing in well covered competitive markets are always tough. You need to have an insight the market does not have, but will come to have over the longer term, in order to outperform. (See my book of aphorisms on this!)
Along the way, if you are mostly concerned with long term business investment ( there are many other types of investing, trading and speculating) you come to understand - or need to understand - a wide variety of industries and companies, which provide the majority of services and products to humanity. How they work, why they work - why they fail - why some are worth more than others - why that changes over time… all this is deeply fascinating.
This week, amongst many happenings, I considered the market for ostomy bags, and also separately running clinical trials.
Ostomy bags, are sophisticated plastic bags that are used if you have an hole in your stomach - a stoma. These stomas come about for a variety of medical reasons such as after stomach and bowel cancer surgery. Many of these bags are made in Hungary. The cost of labour in Hungary (inflation), whether your factory runs on gas for heating or heat pumps, the risk of war spillover are all factors to consider. Many of these bags are made and sold in China. The lock downs (due to COVID) in China, the difficulty in moving these bags by train through Russia - not possible any more, they now go by boat - impact both supply and consumer ability to purchase. Digital and technology developments where sensors can automatically detect bag leakages and ping your phone are an innovation that has to be considered. How useful is it, would consumers or health organisations pay for such an innovation, at what price?
The cuurent ostomy bag market is worth circa $2bn to $3bn in value (depending on what type of bags and accessories you include in the calculation). In the US (where typically you have the best data), there are 500,000 people with stomas and they spend $1,000 to $1,500 a year on bags alone. How do they choose bags, why do they have stomas, how old are they, does cosmetics of the bag matter, is the rate of stomas going up, will the price of bags go down, or go up, by how much…. All these questions and the whys and wherefores are a small part of what you might try and figure out if you want to invest in such a company that sells ostomy bags - and for someone curious about the world - it continues to be fascinating.
Here you can also observe the detail through the “lens of sustainability”. A business that moved their Hungarian factory away from natural gas has shown greater resilience this year (but cost more a few years ago in capital expense). Plastic is a great material for these type of bags, but there is not a lot you can do with the bag after use (so single use plastic). Ostomy bags bring a great deal of value to patients who otherwise would not be able to live a normal life without them. I think most people would judge them a useful human invention and growth in this invention to meet the needs of ill patients would meet a “sustainable development goal”, yet plastic itself is often considered a problem. The bags go from China and Hungary all over the world and importantly to the 500,000 people in America. That supply chain is a modern miracle bringing all types of wonders and problems.
This is one small slice of a human product today. This analysis makes being a business investor one of the most interesting occupations if you are so minded.
JP met Francis Bourgeois.
My guess is many of you reading this letter will not know who Francis Bourgeois is, but he has 2.5m followers on TikTok and 1.6m followers on Instagram. He has recent crossover videos with Rosalio (20m IG, so famous as to be known by her first name in social media circles) and Joe Jonas. He was recently sponsored by Gucci, with his video ad reaching >1.2m views.
This 1 min video explains his journey on reclaiming his love of trains.
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JP is his authentic self. I somewhat doubt he will ever be as eloquent as Francis. But I recognise JP’s joy of trains is like Francis’ joy of trains.
That Francis can make a living as a trainspotting influencer, I actually view as the bright side of social media.
I had a podcast chat with Carl Saxton-Pizzie, founder of sustainable wholesale grocery company, Wholegood. Should be dropping in a couple of weeks.
I’m also on track to record with Sophie Purdom (Climate Tech VC), Nadia Asparouhova (working in public, microgrants, intellectual), philosopher Larry Temkin. Let me know if you have questions.
Still planning an Unconference on Sustainability / Long-termism in September at Chatham House. Let me know if this could be your thing.
Seed rounds, one of the earliest for VC funding - taking an investment activity dip.
Review of what makes us happy, and what makes American rich, $1m+. Happy things are obvious love, friends (gardening, exercise). Rich things a bit more surprising (auto dealers, and beer distribution in the US). And maybe also analysis + market research.
Short, great memos take a long time to write. But are worth it and better than decks for complex thoughts.
Share holder activism (or lack of), debate:
Ideas are one thing, executing on them is another….
Divest. Debate. In the real world selling brown assets to less responsible people is bad.
Essay on culture war
Tesla on Impact
Do please feel free to recommend or share if you like this letter…. shares, tweets, forwards, replies, comments, criticisms, suggestions all very useful.
PS: newsletters get stuck in Gmail’s Promotions tab. If you find it in there, please help train the algorithm by dragging it to Primary. It makes a difference to the algo and takes it out of spam for people