Nico Appel

personal blog

Last seen in: Berlin, Germany
Connect on Twitter @nicoappel

Why Germans can’t make money

Obviously, the full title should have been: “5 reasons why Germans can’t make money, #2 of which you would have never thought could be real”. But seriously, this should be interesting.

This article is more literal than you probably expected.
First, it’s true, I’m not kidding and this wasn’t just click bait: Germans can’t make money.
Now let me tell you how come and what the specific problem is. (more…)

Random Days of Fasting

Fasting once a week seems to be effective in controlling inflammatory responses, but longer fasts (Longo) are necessary for response against cancer. – “Fasting” by Taleb

I’m borrowing a small bit from item no. 3 of Nassim Taleb’s resolutions for 2015 and will experiment with fasting, one day per week on average.

A few weeks earlier Taleb had pre-seeded the idea with his little paper on Fasting.

The main idea is to imitate the periods of famines that our ancestors were exposed to. (more…)

Building a Digestion Machine

I have mentioned the goal to Digest – Develop – Share more than six months ago. A lot of my writing efforts went to while at the same time all the other input wasn’t well channeled to proper output media.


The lastest experiment has just started: Max is building a little application that will enable us to pull bookmarks from and create a (daily) list of what we read with our comments and favorite quotes.

First attempt here.


The second part of our continuous digestion tool will be our new podcast. Under the working title “The Call”, we have already test recorded a few episodes, getting a feel for content, tone, style, and the amount of work that is involved.

I am really looking forward to launch the podcast as soon as we got the missing pieces together (ordered part of the artwork today). The format we will be using is quite unusual, so we have no clue how it will work for the audience.

What I don’t do – acts of omission

Meeting people, you might also get asked quite often what it actually is that you are doing.

I, for one, am beginning to realize that this is the less important and interesting question to ask or answer. Because of what I do and how I do it, more could be said about what I don’t do – consciously and intentionally.

Nassim Taleb uses the phrase via negativa (slightly redefined) in Antifragile. He writes:

Yet in practice it is the negative that’s used by the pros, those selected by evolution: chess grandmasters usually win by not losing; people become rich by not going bust (particularly when others do); religions are mostly about interdicts; the learning of life is about what to avoid.

It’s fascinating. The underlying mechanic is this:

Positive action, doing, is “respected and glorified by our primitive minds” (location 5042).

Negative actions, not doing something, “are not considered acts and do not appear to be part of one’s mission” (location 5047).

So when we meet next time, let’s talk about what we don’t do that is working for us.

Good Pain

Inducing and accepting a certain level of pain or discomfort is a trait of professionalism.

I am not talking about enjoying it, as in sadism or masochism. But when you’re serious about something, you won’t get far if everything has to always be nice and cozy.

I realized this recently when I received massage therapy.

You might think, “Oh, massage, nice.” Well, yes, but … if you’re getting a good massage, it will also hurt. There is some discomfort.

The reason is simple: When the skilled therapist finds a spot that is tight, he or she stays there, trying to loosen it up. That hurts, but it also works and improves your condition.

When you’re getting a “spa massage”, you won’t have that – and you also won’t have the same benefit.

The other side to this, is: It really helps if the client understands and accepts this mechanic as well, so the therapist can do a good job and be effective.

In my work, doing online marketing consulting, I see the same thing going on. Most prospects are looking for a “spa massage”. I make an effort to not take them on as clients, because I need my clients to actually look forward to (or at least, anticipate) some discomfort and pain, so that I can be effective – and they can benefit.

The Millionaire’s fallacy

Here is a quote that I took from the book notes to “The Millionaire Fastlane” by

Being wealthy means being healthy, being surrounded by great friends and family, and the freedom to live life how you want to live it. DeMarco calls these the 3 Fs (family, fitness, freedom)

So, what’s the relationship between being wealthy (as defined above) and money?

What money does for you

Although it is certainly true that poverty (as the opposite of wealth) may limit your choices in some aspects, it isn’t necessarily the case that money creates, enables, or leads to personal freedom. I would go even further and say, it might be the other way around: personal freedom often times “helps” people to become wealthy. (more…)

Two Unlikely Paths

Let me share two unlikely paths and where they led me. I hope it’s a bit entertaining as well.

Shit literally happens

We were driving around Da Nang a few weeks ago, on a scooter, as almost everybody in Vietnam uses a motorbike as a primary means of transportation. While I was trying to handle the traffic that does not follow any rules whatsoever, Anke was checking our route on her phone and we just realized that we were completely lost as a bird shit on her – sitting in a tree, I suspect it was a drive-by shitting.

In order to assess the damage we pulled over and (more…)

The Coffee Geekery can certainly be overdone

Good article be Marco Arment, a coffee enthusiast himself:
Throwing K-Cups In Glass Houses

My thoughts on this

Think, please!

Something really annoying just happened – again. This time I will use it as an example and make the effort to write about it, so I can refer people to this article in the future – probably time and time again.

Before I get to the example itself, let me say this:

Lazy thinking destroys lifes

… and creates a world of stupidity.

  1. I dislike lazy, fuzzy thinking.
  2. I don’t particularly appreciate (more…)

Learning things is overrated

I have always been keen on learning, but there is a inflationary use of learning as a substitute for pay (as in the exchange of material goods). This mechanic is haunting those who haven’t established a proper perception of their skill and expertise with their buyer/employer/client/customer yet.

Look who’s talking. I’m affected too. Time to rethink this a little …

The trap

Witty entrepreneurs looking for cheap labor have long mastered the “you will learn something” argument as a justification to not spend any money on (more…)

If Warren Buffett says he buys it, why shouldn’t I?

It’s interesting how down-to-earth one of the wealthiest people in the world is. Warren Buffett provides some great insights into longterm investment and his success (in collaboration with Charlie Munger).

Most relevant to me and my current situation is …

Beware of macro opinions. Instead focus in on things to get a better understanding.

“Forming macro opinions or listening to the macro or market predictions of others is a waste of time.”

Know your “circle of competence” (more…)

How the heck did I become a fan of Jack Reacher?

Jack Reacher appeared on Netflix not long ago. It was late at night on the weekend when I decided I was kind of in the mood for a probably mediocre action movie – and possibly fall asleep while watching it.

I was mistaken. The opposite happened: I really enjoyed the movie.

That was particularly due to the fact that Tom Cruise (more…)

Fire Alarm

A few days ago I was just taking a shower when the fire alarm was set off. Anke came in and told me that everybody appears to be leaving the building (although no fire, smoke or anything similar could be detected from our apartment).

So I stepped out of the shower, threw on some pants and packed everything valuable within less than a minute: My laptop and a hard drive, my phone, iPad, the JamBox, my passport and credit cards – done.

We left the building with everything really important on us. I carried a small daypack weighing about 2-3 kg.
Seeing me a minute later on the motorbike, you would never have suspected what just happened.

I really enjoy how little I own.

Why it’s hard to just listen

I sometimes find it hard to listen, as in just listen, for a simple reason: 

I have the feeling that if I don’t interrupt or at least comment when something is said with which I don’t agree, I agree by default.*
It gets even worse if the person talking to me unconsciously inserts some “… you know (what I mean)”  here and there.

Now that being said, I do make an effort to let you finish your point without interrupting. However, if I don’t take notes I can only keep quiet for so long.
If you intend to just talk for a while –and want me to just listen– , I actually do wonder why you’re even talking to me because you’re certainly not talking with me.

* This might be just ego or whatever, but please, read on before you judge.

Other people’s success

It’s hard to enjoy other people’s success.

It can be very uplifting at times to have other people share their success stories.
It can also be very frustrating – especially when you’re struggling yourself.


Bookshelf additions


Following the recommendations of Merlin Mann and John Gruber from their conversation on The Talk Show podcast, episode 61, I purchased these two today:


Inspired by recent discussions on our business mastermind call (more…)

Digest – Develop – Share

Although this is nothing novel …

Here’s what I will do more:

1 Digest

We consume all kinds of information in various forms. Digest simply means to give the things that resonate with you in your current situation some time to get over the first reaction and see (more…)

Domain Independence

Nassim Nicholas Taleb differentiates between “domain dependence” and “domain independence” in his book ‘Antifragile – things that gain from disorder‘. He writes:

Some people can understand  an idea in one domain, say, medicine, and fail to recognize it in another, say, socioeconomic life.

Here’s how my endeavours in chess lead to some curious insights in other areas, or domains, for that matter. (more…)

Chess lessons

It’s all Max’s fault. He was the one that pointed me to the highly entertaining and educating chess videos of Jerry. This is where I re-discovered a game I had long abandoned after some dabbling while still in school. What followed were a few months of playing and studying the game.
I also mostly followed the recent chess world championships. The match ended with Magnus Carlsen now being the new champion.

Chess, seriously?

What a boring topic, you may think. I can understand that. I even partly agree.
It won’t be fascinating at all to watch (more…)