Financial Fiction Review: ‘The First Billion’ by Christopher Reich

Love financial fiction? So do I. And I review them for you!

In this post I’m reviewing…

The First Billion by Christopher Reich

Financial fiction with international adventure, plenty of IPO and stock market action, big dollars, and a corrupt Russian businessman.

OVERVIEW: This story is about John “Jett” Gavallan, a former pilot who now owns Jet Black Securities and is in the midst of taking a Russian media company public on the New York Stock Exchange. His company is stretched thin to make this big win and they are pinning all their hopes on this media company… when a mysterious blogger starts sharing alarming information about the media company. Suddenly, everything starts to unravel as Jett globetrots from the US to Europe to Russia to learn the truth and save his struggling company.

REVIEW: This is Christopher Reich’s third book, published in 2002. I really enjoyed Reich’s other books (Numbered Account, The Runner, The Devil’s Banker — I will be reviewing all of them here) but I gotta be honest, I didn’t love this book. The characters seemed like they were stereotypes (the all-American jet-flying hero, the bureaucratic Swiss banker, the seductive Russian woman named Tatiana, the corrupt Russian businessman, the by-the-books FBI agent, etc., etc.) These characters then felt plunked down in a plot that seemed tired and stretched thin. I also find the inconsequential details, like on page 129-130, which lists the brands of empty drink containers he has in his garbage can. I think Reichs did this to give it a sense of realism and to root the story in the real world (maybe?) but I think it distracts from the pace of the story and pads the runtime. And most disappointing, in my opinion, was the the climax: the characters all converged at the New York Stock Exchange for one final showdown but nothing really happened. Yes justice was dealt but (spoiler alert) the villain got away and so did a turncoat on the inside of the main character’s business… therefore justice was done but not by the main character. The book just felt like a bloated story with cardboard cut-out caricatures.

FINANCIAL FICTION QUOTIENT: The financial fiction quotient comes and goes through the book. At times there is a good amount of financial content, especially as they introduce the concepts of the stock exchange, how an underwriter works, and all the money moving around the world. That part was great. But it came in bursts and then vanished, to be replaced by a bit more punching-and-shooting action. Nothing wrong with with either. This is probably better for newbies to financial fiction because it’s very approachable and not overly detailed. That said, you also need to remember that this book was published in 2002, which means it was probably written in 2000-2001 at the height of a tech bubble, so some of the info is dated.

SUMMARY: I hate being so critical of this book, especially since I normally love Christopher Reich… but I just didn’t love this book. It was hard to get through and I almost gave up a few times. This book will appeal to someone; just not me.

Find more financial fiction reviews here.

Are Microshows The Next Trend In Entertainment?

I grew up before the internet. We had old-school TV.

On Thursday nights, my dad would come home from work with a bag of Doritos and a bottle of Coke, and at 7:00pm my family would sit down on the couch and watch whatever the TV line-up was. (The Cosby Show… and others that I don’t remember as clearly right now.)

TV shows in the US and Canada followed a pretty predictable schedule, not just of when they aired but in how long each was. A half hour show might be 25(ish) minutes plus time for commercials; an hour long show might be 50(ish) minutes plus time for commercials.

Of course, Netflix and similar Video On Demand services transformed how people consume video entertainment, allowing us to watch whatever shows we want whenever want without having to sit down altogether at a specific time.

I love it.

Yet, Netflix (and others) didn’t change everything: when I cut my cable a couple of years ago and switched to Netflix and similar services, I found myself watching shows that were still formatted to that length 25(ish) minutes or 50(ish) minutes.

(And, yes, I realize that Netflix buys some of its shows from television networks that once aired them with commercials, so that explains the time on those shows… but not all episodic shows were purchased from television, yet they still seem to be within the 25-30 minute range or 50-60 minute range; even “Netflix Original” shows that were not filmed for commercial-timing requirement of television.)

Coinciding with my transition to Netflix, my viewing habits have changed a lot: I don’t always have the time or patience to sit through an hour-long show (or a 1.5 to 2 hour movie) anymore. I’m busy. I run a few businesses and I have a social life. I look to Netflix as a quick escape for a few minutes in between my other commitments.

And I don’t think I’m alone. Most people’s viewing habits have changed: people are binging shows, for example; which is a relatively new phenomenon.

As people (in general) find themselves busier and busier, with less and less time to enjoy a full half hour or hour-long show, I think we need shorter alternatives.

There’s YouTube, of course, and how many of us with a few minutes here or there haven’t turned to YouTube for some entertainment? Little videos of 5 to 15 minutes in length are the perfect way to waste that sliver of time you have before going on to the next thing or while waiting for your meal to finish cooking.

But there’s a gap. Do you see it?

  • Netflix provides professionally produced stories of 30+ minutes.
  • YouTube provides a variety of videos in a variety of formats, including less than 30 minute videos; some are professionally produced but many are not.

What we don’t have is a well-produced story that takes only 10-15 minutes to consume. Sure, if I dig around on YouTube I might find something. CinemaSins, ThugNotes, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver are three of my go-to choices when I have a few minutes. But most YouTube content is made up of shorter shows by amateurs—nothing professional;nothing episodic.

And that, I think, is a HUGE opportunity, and perhaps the next big trend in video consumption: what I call Microshows.

Imagine if Netflix produced a number of shorter shows, each just 10-15 minutes long. Some could be standalone, perhaps tied together in the way that Black Mirror is a series of standalone shows; others could be episodes in an ongoing story.

The challenge producers would have would be to tell a story faster, or break up the “chapters” into smaller parts (as if you were watching an old-school TV show but only from one commercial break to the next in a single sitting so that, over time, they’d finish one storyline).

I don’t think the costs would be that much higher since you’re still telling stories, just spread out into multiple episodes.

And of course it probably won’t do away with the longer-format content but with the way people consume content now (short, fast, mean and lean) I think Microshows are the way we’ll want to consume some of our entertainment in the years to come.

If we’re going to see this happen, it will ultimately come down to whether or not Netflix (or a competitor) sees new-subscriber attraction or existing subscriber stickiness in providing this. And if Netflix doesn’t do it then Microshows could be an angle that an upstart may want to take on to differentiate themselves.

“Tools Of Titans” Lesson: Amelia Boone’s Resilience

I’ve been reading Tim Ferriss’ Tools Of Titans.

Aaron Hoos

It’s an engaging book of solid, practical wisdom about high performance.

I was struck by Amelia Boone’s quote on page 2:

I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering.

I love that.

I’ve always had a high pain tolerance so I am fairly good at physical suffering when necessary, although I’ve noticed that the more successful I get, the lower my tolerance for suffering gets (actually, that goes for physical, mental, emotional, even financial suffering) probably because I can build a cushion around me that protects me from suffering. I’ve been trying to push myself in my workouts to break that down and get back to a higher tolerance for suffering.

Amelia’s quote really resonated with me. And just a couple pages later when she describes how she loves doing training runs in the rain and cold because she knows her competition is probably opting out… well, that hit me between the eyes because there are many times when I opt out of things that I should have pushed forward on.

I’m going to give this some serious thought and ask myself how I will actively break down the cushion I’ve built up around myself and work at building my tolerance and resilience to pain and discomfort.

I think that’s the way forward to growth. In any aspect of life.

My First Facebook Live Video Is In The Books

Hope you’re having a great start to 2018!

One of the things I want to do more of this year is provide more video training content for real estate investors. I already provide some training content… on YouTube, and elsewhere, but I love Facebook Live and I wanted to do some there too.

So here I am getting ready for the video (just testing out the camera position and lighting)…

Aaron Hoos

And here I am practicing…

Aaron Hoos

And practicing some more…

Aaron Hoos

And then I started!

Here’s the video below…

There were some quirks and kinks to work out but I’m happy with that as my first video attempt.

Note for next time:

  • Manage the glare a bit better
  • Avoid wearing a striped shirt maybe?
  • Speak a little more slowly

Here’s what I drew on the board, in case you’re curious…

Aaron Hoos Sales Funnel

And here are the 3 actions that I ended the video with…

Aaron Hoos