Author: Peter Kang

Minding My Own History

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“The historian always oversimplifies, and hastily selects a manageable minority of facts and faces out of a crowd of souls and events whose multitudinous complexity he can never quite embrace or comprehend.” “Obviously historiography cannot be a science. It can only be an industry, an art, and a philosophy—an industry by ferreting out the facts, an art by establishing a meaningful order in the chaos of materials, a philosophy by seeking perspective and enlightenment.” (Will […]

Agency Journey Episode 8 (Y14M11)

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Even after all these years, it still stings when I learn that a Barrel team member has decided to give notice and move on from the company. There are many reasons why people leave, but I can’t help feel like we’ve let them down somehow. It stings the most when I first hear the news because my mind races towards thinking about all the things we failed to do to keep that person. With time, I chill […]

Portfolio Spring Cleaning & New Investment Approach

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I spent a cloudy Saturday afternoon analyzing the stocks in my various brokerage accounts and decided to emerge with a clearer idea of my investment approach moving forward along with some “spring cleaning” to-dos that will consolidate my portfolio. A Bit of a Mess The best way to view my portfolio was to use Personal Capital (disclosure: referral link), which pulls in all my portfolio info from across all my investment accounts, and open up the […]

Recent Stock Buys #3: Redfin, Twitter, Dropbox, Teladoc, and More (March 2021)

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This is the 3rd edition of Recent Stock Buys, where I share my thinking behind recent stock purchases. Disclaimer: I’m not an investment professional, so please don’t take any of these posts as investment advice. I’m simply looking for ways to get good returns while learning about businesses. Intro I was hoping to ease off on the buying in March and adopt a more “watch and see” attitude after heavy activity in February, but as the market slid and […]

Finding Value in Quantity

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There’s the oft-referenced story from Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland, taken from the section on “Perfection”: The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure […]

Agency Journey Episode 7 (Y14M10)

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It’s been over half a year since I started writing these and looking back on my previous posts, it’s incredibly humbling to see that the ideas I felt so sure and optimistic about at the time didn’t pan out the way I thought. Likewise, there are areas that I felt we had largely figured out or were trending in the right direction but in hindsight, it looks like we’re still trying to find our way. […]

Client Experience vs. Quality Work

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“Deliver quality work and the client will be happy” is something I used to tell myself and our team members at Barrel over the years. Upon deeper reflection, this isn’t necessarily true. In recent years, we’ve talked more and more about the “client experience” – what it looks and feels like from the client’s perspective to work with an agency like Barrel. Do they feel like they’re taken care of? Are the cadence of communication and […]

Dark Moments and Counters

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I’d like to think that I live a happy and blessed life. And on most days, I feel pretty good. However, I would be lying if I said things were always smooth sailing. Like most others, I have my darker moments and they come at unexpected times. I wanted to catalog some of these (along with how they spiral down a darker place) and also share some counters that have been helpful for me to […]

Desired Future State for Our Culture

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A company’s culture is never a finished product. It continues to evolve with time as new rituals emerge, as the nature of the work changes, as personnel come and go, and world outside of work brings in new influences. I’ve seen the culture at Barrel evolve through the years with its highs and lows. There were moments when things clicked and we felt we were on an unstoppable rocket ship. And then there were times […]

Recent Stock Buys #2: 10 Picks Including Adobe, Snowflake, Asana, and The Trade Desk (Jan. & Feb. 2021)

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This is the 2nd edition of Recent Stock Buys, where I share my thinking behind recent stock purchases. Disclaimer: I’m not an investment professional, so please don’t take any of these posts as investment advice. I’m simply looking for ways to get good returns while learning about businesses. Intro I freed up some cash in January by selling out of my REIT and bond positions. With REITs, I felt that commercial real estate will only suffer more […]

Agency Journey Episode 6 (Y14M9)

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My brain’s been on fire the past couple of months as I’ve been processing and applying concepts from a few books that have resonated deeply with me. They are: The Courage to Be Disliked by Ochiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, The Three Laws of Performance by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, and An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. A common theme that runs through these books is […]

Agency Journey Episode 5 (Y14M8)

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Refreshed and back from the holiday break, it’s been a very fast-paced and intense January. Let’s jump in to episode 5. About Agency Journey: This is a monthly series detailing the happenings of my agency Barrel, founded in 2006. You can find previous episodes here. Highlights A Week of Looking Ahead The week of January 11th was a crucial “planning” week to help us prioritize initiatives and set goals for 2021. One session, two and half hours long, […]

Recent Stock Buys #1: 8 Picks Including Airbnb, IAC, and Stitch Fix (Dec. 2020 & Jan. 2021)

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Intro I’m starting a series to share my stock investments and what was going through my mind when I bought them. I’m hoping that over time, I’ll be able to revisit these posts and see what I got right and what I could have assessed differently. I’m not an investment professional, so please don’t take any of these posts as investment advice. I’m simply looking for ways to get good returns while learning about businesses. […]

2020: Habits That Stuck

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Having a system for keeping track of my daily habits and goals was vital in keeping me grounded and feeling relatively in control in 2020. I wrote more extensively about the mechanics of my tracking approach in my Q1 2020 Habits & Goals Report Card and showed how it looked again 6 months later. In 2021, we’re expecting our 2nd child, and I’m eager to see how well the system holds up and evolves. If […]

Agency Journey, Episode 4 (Y14M7)

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Barrel Agency Journey Episode 4

One question that’s kept up coming up again and again in my mind the past few weeks has been: “Are we in a better place than we were a year ago?” In other words, what kind of progress have we made? One bit that’s been a damper towards the end of the year has been the slowed momentum in new business won and receivables collected in Q4. While we’ll finish the year slightly above where […]

The Fundamentals of Knowledge Workers Revisited

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A few years ago, I wrote about how knowledge workers, like basketball players, ought to have a set of basic skills (e.g. shooting, dribbling, passing, etc.) that apply to their daily work and how mastering these fundamentals can make them more valuable team members (view original post here). These are hard skills that can be improved with better technique and repetition and are less about having deep experience, subject matter expertise, or intangibles like charisma […]

A Matrix for Qualifying New Business Opportunities

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At the start of this year, as we became more diligent at Barrel about tracking certain business development metrics, our Partner and Creative Director Lucas Ballasy wondered if it could be helpful to come up with a scoring rubric for new leads. The thinking was that, over time, a data set would emerge and offer some potential insights while making the exercise of qualifying leads less intuitive and more rigorous. Lucas and I quickly mocked […]

Agency Journey, Episode 3 (Y14M6)

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The past four weeks haven’t been the smoothest of times. We’ve had some hiccups in delivering for our clients that’s led to frustration for our clients and scrambling on our end to make amends. New business activity has also been slower than we’d like, so our numbers aren’t looking great at the moment. I trust that things will improve and we’ll find a way through these rough patches. What I’ve come to value more and […]

Reviewing My 2020 Stock Investing Activity

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I’ve had more stock trading action in 2020 alone than all the years leading up to it combined. It’s been a compressed period of learning and making mistakes. I thought it would be a good use of time to reflect on this year’s moves and ways to be a better investor in the future. Primary Catalyst The main reason I engaged in such high volume of trading activity was the sale of our condo back in […]

Agency Journey, Episode 2 (Y14M5)

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As someone who grew up watching and playing a lot of sports, especially football and basketball, the final quarter of the year in business excites me in a way that the 4th quarter might motivate and energize a competitive player. If there’s anything left in the tank, I want to put it all out there. Knowing there’s a holiday break to end the year, I want to give it my all and get lots of things done […]