Book Review: The Box

The full name of the book is The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

It was recommended on the Ryan Holiday reading list and I filed it under business books I wanted to read. And then when Ryan also mentioned it in his book The Obstacle is the Way, I moved it up on the reading list.

It’s a book that’s hard to describe so I apologize if it seems scattered.

The things I learned from it are

  • How large business have to think about supply and demand and the changing world economy to stay ahead of things.  They have to think about the price of commodities, interest rates, inflation, currency fluctuations etc. Mind boggling.
  • How the decisions countries make in response to unions are so detrimental to the overall health of the country. I’ve seen the horrible impact of unions in companies I’ve worked at, so it was interesting to see the impact they can have on the broader economy. Reason #286 that we send our kids to private schools to keep them away from the teacher union run public schools.
  • How thinking outside of the norm and two steps ahead of the competition was how the main character Norm McClean succeeded.
  • It also spends time summarizing the world narrative (albeit a bit American-centered).  It makes me take a step back and try to see our current economic times in perspective. I can read investing books but I’m humbled be how the world and our country is constantly changing and evolving. And how smart people constantly try to predict it but are consistently wrong.  It begs the question … what am I doing to succeed in the current environment and what am I doing to prepare for other scenarios?  Also, am I in tune with how history is unfolding and am I learning and remembering how it has unfolded in the past.
  • How companies have to pay attention to small costs because they add up. The same principle applies in our personal financial lives. We live on 50% of a single income. And that is in large part due to closely watching our costs.
  • How hard it is for companies, countries and cities to stay competitive.  The ports that didn’t quickly adapt were bypassed and they missed out on a lot of business.
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