9 Things I learned visiting the House of Mouse

There I was at the gates on Disneyland Resort in Anaheim on the 21st of April 2023. Disneyland is a magical place but even more exciting is the Parks & Recreation business. Uncle Scrooge would be a happy owner.

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1744489/000174448923000097/fy2023_q2xprxex991.htm

Since the end of the pandemic the Parks division of Disney (DIS) has seen tremendous growth, 17% YOY in Revenue and 23 % YOY in Operating income. I was right there during this period and it feels about right.

The operating margin is an eye popping 25%, excluding the consumer products.

Financials aside, these are some observations I made.

  1. Captive Audience -Disney has a captive audience when people visit their resorts. People who are already persuaded to locate themselves in a real estate utopia owned by Disney. People who can be sold expensive food, drinks & souvenirs.
  2. The Power of Attention – In the park the attention is on all things Disney. IP that has been created by Disney over the past 100 years is front and center.
  3. Time is money – Disney will sell you the right to skip lines on rides with Genie+ and individual lightning lanes to save time. They are implementing the time is money maxim. Here’s a tidbit from their 10-K filing. This is literally money for nothing.

4. Product Placement – Stores right when the rides end, perfect persuasion for families to buy Disney Merchandise. Being aware of this, Me & my wife were successful in dodging this with the only souvenir being a 8$ driving license from Autopia.

5. Content is King– The fuel for Disney’s empire is the content they have. From Mickey Mouse to Lightning McQueen, the catalog of characters that Disney has is unmatched and they come to life in the park, giving users the Joy of interacting with their favorite characters. Here’s a photo of Woody!

5. Reinforcement – What Disney does well is reinforce its content via its rides and shows. So any character that you are familiar with be it Woody or Mickey or Lightning McQueen you would see the character and story being reinforced in a ride. For me the two favorites were Mickey’s Runaway Railroad & Runaway Racers. The Rides are reliving their content.

6. Immersion is Persuasion

You are in an environment that immerses you in the Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Starwars world. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make purchases. My favorite immersions were in Radiator Springs & The starwars world where I bought a special edition Coca-Cola. It was a lot of fun to meet Lightning McQueen in Radiator Springs.

7. The Power of Branding

Disney IP is front and center, be it on a ride, the name of a street or even a bakery item. I loved the Mickey Pretzels and cookies ūüôā

8. Creating a Spectacle

No one does this better than Disney. That is some cool projection technology, projecting their content on their castle & waterworks. Their Parades are legendary too. A spectacle creates a feel good effect which gives people happy memories associated with Disney IP. This also serves as a reminder to check out content on Disney+ once you are out of the park.

9. Here is Walt Disney’s strategy chart from 1957 and it still rings true.(source). What a delight to see it in action.

I hope you find this educational and are amazed by the corporate machine which Walt Disney Created. Thanks for reading.

Why I love News

The earliest memory I have of reading a newspaper is 4th Grade which may be early or late depending on where you grew up. It was the most fascinating thing I ever laid my hands on. The ultimate never ending story. 

I remember reading the Times Of India discovering the intrigue of politics & business to the steady statistical reporting from Sports, It was magical. The story of the world unfolding in real time. I was hooked, News is my crack. I begin every day reading the Wall street Journal. I am restless on Sunday when there is no edition. I fill that gap by reading the Financial Times which thankfully releases their Monday edition when its Sunday afternoon in california.

News today has evolved beyond the traditional news paper to Twitter feeds, Substack and Patreon. So the question really is, do you really need the news?

News to me is entertainment & a window to the world. If you are seeking truth, it may be disappointing as news is littered with bias and misinformation. The way to fix it according to me is to read a lot of it, right, left center and then form an informed opinion about where the truth lies. Following people on twitter, Subscribing to newsletters from Individuals who are subject matter experts is good too. For me, that means following Matt Levine, Ben Thompson and the anonymous Doomberg.  

News can be terrifying reading about the War in Ukraine or the massive earthquake in Turkey. News can be humorous too, with articles such as Jeff Bezos’s yatch being stuck in rotterdam because a bridge would need to be dismantled to reports about a person who went for a fish bone extraction from his throat and complained about nearly dying from starvation due to the amount of time it took before the 10 minute procedure was performed. News reveals the quirks and edges of humanity.

News can also be inspiring. I learned about Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger &  How they built Berkshire, to learning about how software is eating the world. For someone in technology hacker news is a fantastic source of information, that is where where I first read about bitcoin and now chatgpt.

Reading news for me is energy. Connecting the dots across different stories and perhaps getting a peek into what‚Äôs next.. 

That is why I love the news. I’d love to know where you get your news from?

Why I love Golf?

It so happened that a friend suggested we take up Golf. So there I was at a driving range trying to hit but not quite succeeding. This was followed by a 9 hole following my learn by doing philosophy. I ended with a sore arm. It was so frustrating and indeed time for a lesson. I learned my grip was completely wrong as was my stance. My coach corrected that and “Thwack” a perfect hit with a 7 iron. Never thought a grip could make such a difference.

Golf is ridiculously simple, get the ball in the hole, yet incredibly hard. Golf is the perfect pandemic sport with distancing made easy after tennis of course. Golf is about strategy and execution, How do I not land in the sand pit or pond ? What club do I use? Remember Archimedes, “Give me a long enough lever and I will move the earth.” Well It turns out the different numbered clubs are actually levers. The lower the number the longer the length and the farther you can hit. I thought it was the reverse when I played my first 9 hole. Golf is about learning technique and applying it.

Golf is a vacation for the mind. When I go to the course I forget about everything else. Golf is about making that drive that lands you on the green. Golf is about making that perfect putt that will land the ball in the hole or that prized hole in one. Golf is about cheering your friends land that perfect shot. Golf is about walking a lot. Golf is about building camaraderie and that is why I love golf.

The value of a dollar.

Imagine I write a contract which will give you exactly 1 dollar on 1st  January of each year forever.  Now I put up this contract for sale. What is the value of this contract?

A 100$, a 1000$, a million dollars?

It turns out there is a rational answer to this question. But first lets dive into the concept  of time value of money.  What it means is that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow due its growth potential when invested, risk and inflation.

For example a investing 100$ today at 5% annual interest would yield 105$ one year from now. Therefore 105$ a year from now is same as 100$ today at a 5% interest rate.

We can verify this with.

FV = PV x (1 + r) ^n

where FV = Future value

PV = Present value

r  = rate of interest

n = no of  periods

Coming back to our problem:

Compute the value of a contract that gives 1$ on the 1st of January of each year forever.

Assume a discount rate of 5%. [the return that could be earned per unit of time on an investment with similar risk]

To compute the value of a our contract we need to discount each payout to its present value and sum them up.

PV = FV/(1+r)^n

Present value of 1$ 1 year from now = 1/(1.05) = .95$

Present value of 1$ 2 years from now = 1/(1.05)^2 = .90$

Present value of 1$ 3 years from now = 1/(1.05)^3 = .86$

………..

Present value of 1$ 10 years from now =1/(1.05)^10 = .61$

………..

Present value of 1$ 100 years from now = 1/(1.05)^100 = $.007

 

……..

 

Note that as the no of years increase the present value of a future 1$ tends to 0.

asymptote

Using the  NPV (net present value) formula found in excel or summing all  individual present values that were computed gives us an approximate valuation of 19.85$. Note that changing the discount rate would change the valuation.

To conclude given a discount rate of 5% the value of a eternal contract paying out 1$ every year is only 19.85$ today !

 

 

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_value_of_money

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_present_value

 

The Snowball

I read “The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life” recently. ¬†The Snowball is about the power of compounding. How Warren Buffet has applied it to his money, his business and his relationships.

I couldn’t have though of an more apt name. Now this is a person who does not use email or computers. ¬†Rather serendipitously I also saw “Becoming Warren Buffet” the documentary on his life. ¬†I am blown away by his simplicity.

Here is a person who doesn’t work for money and has been tap dancing to work for over 50 years. Surely We can learn something from him.

Health – We have one body and one mind. Take care of it. Warren Buffet doesn’t drink alcohol and exercises every day. What did you do today to take care of your health?

Reading – Warren Buffet is a reading machine, reading 500 pages every day. Transforming information into knowledge. Reading is one of the best investments we can make. What have you read recently?

Leverage ¬†– Warren ¬†Buffet transformed Berkshire Hathaway from a struggling textile company to Global conglomerate with the power of ¬†Leverage. He was the first to use insurance premiums to buy public companies rather than invest it in bonds. ¬†The premiums effectively were other people’s money (OPM) . Premiums collected for years before any payouts were made. How can we find ourself in a situation of leverage? I can think of automation, effective teams and unique knowledge.

Moats – Warren Buffet is a master of investing. He is an expert identifying companies with moats that are hard to breach. A moat can be thought of as an unfair competitive advantage. Berkshire is a company with a huge moat. Each time an iPhone is bought, a Coke is consumed, a Geico insurance policy is purchased and much more Berkshire gets a part of the profit. What Moat are we creating with our skills?

Time- He gives his investments time. Think Decades. What was the last time you thought about something in a decade timeframe? When we think and act in the long term the power of compounding can take effect. This applies to money as well as knowledge.

By being 1% better each day we can have an outsize impact over our lifetime. Good luck on this journey!

‚ÄúLife is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill. ‚ÄĚ – Warren Buffet

 

 

What I learned in 2017?

Happy new year to you on this first day of 2018.  Here is what I learned.

  1. The most important thing is to cherish time with loved ones. Death is final. You and I both move towards it each moment even as ¬†we pretend it will never happen. I lost my grandfather early in 2017 ¬†and was deeply anguished by his loss. He had led a full life, so there wasn’t much to mourn but I was surprised by my own reaction. ¬†I read a beautiful quote by Osho “We mourn not for the person who died but for ourselves, we mourn for the lost opportunity.”¬†That has led me to meditate more and be in the present. Make death a guide to take the important decisions in life.
  2. Persuasion is a skill every software engineer should learn. To execute ideas you care about, you will need to persuade managers, program managers,  executives and even your peers about its value. Every product you see has an enormous amount of persuasion baked in by the creator.  A good place to start is http://blog.dilbert.com/2015/09/24/the-persuasion-reading-list/.
  3. To become a better public speaker and communicator, I completed the Dale Carnegie course. This I did on the recommendation of Warren Buffet and Scott Adams. Try it out, it will transform you. I went from being a nervous public speaker to enjoying it. One nugget I got out of this is that adults are as starved for appreciation as children. Sincere appreciation shown to people will energize them. You being here and reading this post tells me that you are a seeker of knowledge and a constant learner. I wish you a very fulfilling 2018!

Why I love to Swim

I enter the water, feel the change in temperature and dunk inside. Then I swim, propelling forward as I exert my body in this amazing medium that is water. Swimming is a way to summon my attention. Attention which is constantly stolen by the internet, by phones, by people. Swimming is a way to clear clutter from the mind. A garbage collector for the mind.

Each breath utilized to move forward. Each action taken with the purpose of  floatation or movement.  Swimming is meditation. Swimming  is a reminder of life with each breath. Swimming is a reminder of death with each dive. Swimming is about living in the present and being in the moment.A good swim is energizing. That is why I love to swim.

 

why I love Tennis?

Tennis is civilized battle with the sword replaced with a racket. Tennis is about observing your opponent for that moment of hesitation. Tennis is about coming up from behind when you are down a couple of sets to win the match. Tennis is about focus and silencing your inner voice. Tennis is about living in the moment. Tennis is about believing that the next serve will be an ace, the forehand you hit will be a winner and when you barely get the ball across the net, you will stay alive to mount a counterattack. Tennis is about long term strategy and short term tactics.

Tennis is about asking questions, Can I best my opponent with a fierce forehand or a blazing serve? Or can he get the better of me in that time? Do I serve and volley or do I play from the baseline? Did that extra power on the return unsettle him? It is about adapting¬†to your opponent and employing the right tools. There are many¬†tools that can be applied: the serve,¬†the forehand, the back-hand, the slice, the lob etc. It is about asking what new tools can I employ? Tennis is about statistical thinking, what are the odds of me making this shot? Okay I admit I’m not good at this. There is this constant process of learning that goes on. Tennis is about making decisions in a split second with incomplete information.

Tennis is about showmanship and making elegant shots. I relish the crack of the ball hitting the racket on a shot and the silence of a well executed serve. Tennis is about rooting for your opponent to make that hard return because it adds to the fun. A good game of tennis is energizing. Playing tennis is about loving the battle more than winning and that is why I love tennis.

The Apprentice

To be a master, one must first be an apprentice. In the modern world,  typically your first job is where the apprenticeship begins. I would prefer working on a craft much earlier than that. But, we are limited by the systems created around us like school and university. With medieval guilds no longer around, we have to craft our own apprenticeship path. The first challenge is finding masters.  Some places you will find them are Universities, Companies and Open Source projects. The software industry as dynamic it is will not afford you the luxury of one master. People move on or you do. So be comfortable with the idea of having many masters over the course of your apprenticeship.

The big mistake I made when I was younger is to think that the golden key to opportunity is a degree from an elite college. A degree is just a tool that can open certain doors and maybe give you a head start. So don’t lose hope in case you didn’t go to one. The real world only cares if you can solve a business problem.

There are in fact two keys to opportunity, curiosity and a hunger to learn. Ask if it is your time to earn or time to learn?¬†Most of the times it will be a time to learn. To learn one must have a beginner’s mind. Use your curiosity to learn things that you like. Don’t Panic if things don’t make sense, everyone begins somewhere. Learn from books and the internet, the greatest learning tool of our time. Teach what you learn. Leverage what you have learned to get in a guild[read company or open source project] that aligns with your curiosity. This creates a feedback mechanism for you. Learn from everyone, your peers, your superiors and even the interns. Then let the magic begin, with the right people around you will learn exponentially faster and have a meaningful apprenticeship. In the path to mastery, the journey is the destination. I would love to know about the path that you have taken.