Monthly Rounds (October 2020) - Doing Less and Living with More

Hi friends,

Below is my favorite content from October.


During my time at Stanford medical school, it quickly became apparent that amongst a very impressive faculty, a select few stood out as being once-in-a-generation talents -- world-renowned experts whose academic contributions would alter the foundation and landscape of science for generations to come. Dr. Sam Gambhir was one of those individuals. Sadly, he passed away in July 2020 at the age of 57 from the very disease he spent his life studying. I don't think any piece could do justice to the type of educator, mentor, scientist, and physician he was, but we must atleast try so as to sustain his legacy for years to come.

"The goal of his research: cancer detection. Over some 700 scientific papers and 40 patents, Gambhir, a physician-scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a principal investigator in the massive health-monitoring research endeavor Project Baseline, had pioneered steps toward finding the earliest, currently unfindable, cancer cells before they had a chance to spread.

Then, in the spring of 2019, his pursuit took on unanticipated urgency. His own bone marrow was seeded with a metastasis that had migrated from an unknown site somewhere in his body. Gambhir convened a scientific all-star team from around the globe, but even they couldn’t figure out the source. Medicine calls this rare malignancy “carcinoma of unknown primary”—a sad, darkly poetic, and, in Gambhir’s case, tragically apt name."


One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is the following: "I apologize for such a long letter - I didn't have time to write a short one." Becoming busy has never been easier, but there is growing appreciation for the beauty of less. I enjoyed this HBR piece on a few actionable strategies for editing one's life.

"Tom Stafford describes a cure for this that we can apply to career clarity: Instead of asking, “How much do I value this item?” we should ask “If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?” And the same goes for career opportunities. We shouldn’t ask, “How much do I value this opportunity?” but “If I did not have this opportunity, how much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?”


In last month's edition of this newsletter, I shared a piece about Chuck Feeney, the billionaire founder of Duty-Free Shopping and General Atlantic, who gave away over $8b in his lifetime and launched the "giving while living" approach to philanthropy, which has since been adopted by many of the most wealthy individuals of our time. This piece outlines some practical advice for “giving while living” for the non-billionaires amongst us.

"After speaking with Bill Perkins about his new book, “Die With Zero: Getting All You Can From Your Money and Your Life,” I was shocked to find myself convinced that spending more money while you’re alive is more fulfilling than leaving behind a nest egg. “With each year that passes … our ability to convert dollars into positive life experiences declines over time,” Perkins tells me. The “optimal utility of money,” as he calls it, is using money to have the maximum greatest experiences you can in your living years."


With all of the recent SPAC buzz, I felt compelled to include a piece about Chamath in this month's edition. This profile touches on his upbringing, controversies, and vision for the future. What struck me most was one of the sections toward the end of this piece:

"Poverty fueled the young man’s ambition, but it also made him acutely aware of the importance of the country’s social safety net. “I went to one of the best schools in Canada, but it cost me $8,000 a year,” he says. (Palihapitiya earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Waterloo in 1999.) “I am a by-product of an enormous number of progressive ideals — universal health care, almost-free basic education, a social welfare policy to take care of the lowest rungs of society but give them a path of upward mobility.” His goal, at an early age, was to make it onto the Forbes billionaire list. “I guess I’m like the 300th- or 400th- or 500th-richest person in the world now,” he says..."Still, he insists he has loftier goals. “I care more that there’s change. I like to think that if all of these starting lines are evened up, there’s people way better than me who will do even more than me. I’d like to see some of that in my lifetime,” he says."


This is a captivating longform article about Bill Benter, a card counter and sports bettor who used regression analysis to earn close to a billion dollars on horse racing in China. It demonstrates the power of data analytics… especially when you are the only one using it.

"On the evening of Nov. 6, 2001, all of Hong Kong was talking about the biggest jackpot the city had ever seen: at least HK$100 million (then about $13 million) for the winner of a single bet called the Triple Trio. The wager is a little like a trifecta of trifectas; it requires players to predict the top three horses, in any order, in three different heats. More than 10 million combinations are possible. When no one picks correctly, the prize money rolls over to the next set of races. That balmy November night, the pot had gone unclaimed six times over. About a million people placed a bet—equivalent to 1 in 7 city residents.

Benter and Coladonato watched as a software script filtered out the losing bets, one at a time, until there were 36 lines left on the screens. Thirty-five of their bets had correctly called the finishers in two of the races, qualifying for a consolation prize. And one wager had correctly predicted all nine horses.

“F---,” Benter said. “We hit it.”


As always, I would love to hear updates about your life and what you have enjoyed reading, watching, and engaging with over the last month. If you are free to catch up or reconnect, please reach out. And if you know anyone who else would enjoy receiving these content, feel free to direct them here.