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Rollercoaster Riding… wheeeeeee….

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The Year of Living Dangerously is sort-of over and a new calendar Year of Future Hopefulness is upon us…

HALLELUJAH!

It’s important that we all don’t think only of COVID… life has to manage through the struggles and go on, whether through personal challenges, world wars, pandemics, racial divides, or weather-related tragedies.

So, in that light… if you know me at all, you know that one of my passions is investing, more specifically, stock market investing; it’s welded to me like my underwear and socks when taken from the dryer without Cling-Free (or for my lab friends: like a colony of E. coli on room-temperature beef.)

Investing well births money.

Money in itself is not evil despite the aphorisms suggesting otherwise; money is like shaving cream on my face. I can shave without it and manage to get by, but using it saves me from a lot of nasty nicks and bloody cuts throughout my life from Day One to Day Gone.

Money is my shaving cream.

Every one of us needs a source of money to feed and house ourselves and our kids, to pay for education and transportation, to find our way upwards from the base levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Money, I love ya, but I’m not part of the elite 1% group. *sad face*

Working for the dollars is admirable and good. But I like it even more when my money returns the favour and works for me.

I really appreciate that money can work the graveyard shift sans complaint and reward me when I awake in the morning with a dividend cheque without me tying my tie or shining my shoes.

Research and sweat-thought in investing has assisted me and my wife in procuring a less hectic lifestyle than might otherwise be the case, and also to pursue other interests and passions without a huge concern for financial stability.

Of course I worry about a possible lack of funds, especially as my REAL senior years approach, but I don’t lie awake at night in worry and fret … I save “frets” for my guitar playing fun!

OK, it’s MEA CULPA time.

For a number of years now, I’ve shared my annual investment “disclosure” with you. My yearly Walk of Shame… or Fame!

Two years ago, I brought up the term FUCKedUPedNESS to describe my less-than-stellar year (-1.8%) in investing; then last year, with arms raised high, I told you of an annum of much improved UPedNESS(+24.6). A tale of 2 years, one down, one up; a rollercoaster ride over 2 years. This year compressed the bilious ride into only 12 months. (NOTE: FUCKedUPedNESS describes U.S. politics today much better than my investing!)

This past year of COVID was an investment period of intense rollercoaster riding, with a huge shutdown/downhill run in March and April followed by the steady climb up the other side.

End result? My final year-end increase sidled in at +5.0% for my combined RRSP, TFSA and Locked-in Retirement accounts. This compares with a U.S. Dow Jones Index increase of +7.2% and the Toronto Exchange increase of +2.2%.

On a bright note, the increase inside just my RRSP account was +33.2% largely due to fairly substantial investments in APPLE and AMAZON… the world of our technology-bound future.

Here’s my basic financial return facts:

  • 1 year              +5.0%
  • 3 year avg.     +9.3%
  • 5 year avg.     +9.6%
  • 10 year avg.   +14.2%
  • 12 year avg. +18.9%
  • 15 year avg.   +13.3%
  • 18 year avg.   +14.2%

These numbers are just OK in my books. I accept that I’m not Warren Buffett or Bill Gates (two fellas I admire for their intelligence and philanthropic bents), but I’d really like to be a point or two higher in my results.

My long-term goal is an annual return of 15%. I’m skating around that number in the 10 and greater years, but showing signs of lagging in the shorter time-frame.

Looking forward and trying to see through the haze of my crystal ball, here are some solid stock picks I’m watching for future possible investment. Aside from the ARK ETF’s (High Technology fund), these choices all pay a healthy and safe dividend every 3 months :

  • Bristol-Myers (BMY)
  • ARK ETF’s
  • AT&T (T)
  • Enbridge (ENB)
  • Abbvie (ABBV)

One thing I’m ever so slowly coming to realize (about 25 years late *head slap*) is that in investment terms, the world is being pushed by this monstrous boulder called TECHNOLOGY

… the companies that participate in its rapid development, or at the very least, embrace its use in a big way, will most likely be the business survivors in today and tomorrow’s Darwinian struggle.

A good part of my job now in researching future investments is to ensure that technology is in the forefront of corporate management thinking, for anything less a company will join the faded dinosaurs and buggy-whip makers in a museum display case.

And so finally my good friends, to plagiarize my words from last year:

… I’ll never stop dreaming in lots of directions, and looking for a fine balance between my world’s opposing cultures of self-interest and giving to others.

Remember that investing in life is about time, money and energy. Take a few deep breaths and choose your investments with intent in all regions of your life.

A New Forking Year…

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What to do… What to do…

OK, I didn’t anticipate the year we’re just finishing.

You did?

Well, I bow in homage to you Nostradamus… maybe I didn’t read my Chinese horoscope closely enough as we leave the Rat behind us and enter the Ox’s domain!

I placed no DoorDash or SkipTheDishes order of COVID virus for 2020.

Traditionally, starting out a new year, I’d think and ponder about Christmas bills, my running and swimming goals, and if stock markets would rise or fall through the year and how my and my kids’ investments would fare… silly me…

… because… then came the virus. 1918 redux.

All of our lives changed immediately… overnight.

Millions were and are affected. Tragedies and near tragedies abounded in every nook and cranny of the globe.

It just happened and we’ve all had to whip ourselves into a different pretzel contortion of ourselves each week to adjust to the “new” world.

Another set of protocols for daily life were pronounced regularly, sometimes every few days.

Every country, every province/state/county, every town and city had its own set of rules du jour. We’d slog to the top of Mount Sinai and pick up our updated slate of Ten Commandments… depending on the current bend of the “curve”.

Looking back to pre-COVID time, my normal ADHD-based world was filled with lots of activities and social interactions in a swath of different directions. I typically thrive on a cornucopia of varied pursuits.

Not in 2020, nope nope nope.

But away to the window they flew like a flash… yes, Santa’s research elves went right to work in their North Pole labs …

… and through the miracle of today’s research, technologies and communications, science’d the shit out of this virus, and here we are in less than one year with a solution in a syringe, set to reverse the tide of this microscopic demon.

Despite our worldly problems and challenges, we are so very fortunate to live in 2020 and not 1918.

Fortunate that in only six months or a year from now, we’ll open our doors, rip off our masks, and step out into the sunshine of the world-as-we-once-knew-it… and clocks will start to tick once more.

Which begs a big question of us all.

Should we return to the old “me” or… is it a chance to create a new “me”? It can be our version of New Year’s resolutions.

Let the inner debate begin. What have we learned about ourselves during this period?

Isn’t the inner dialogue best faced now while in the throes of isolation, before the push and pull, the swell of the tides drags us back into the sea of “normality”?

I can’t answer the questions for you.

For myself, I know I have a tendency to over-schedule my life. It’s a blessing and a curse of having many interests and desires. I want to do everything that grabs my inner passion.

But I also know that as a semi-introvert (I guess the true term is omni-vert), I’m also beginning to feel a minor pulse of uneasiness rising.

As much as I enjoy the outside world, I also enjoy solitude, and the need to reflect and just let my mind wander aimlessly into corners and alleys where I discover inner worlds that no airliner can carry me.

Isolation has given me time and permission to focus so much more intensely on one of my great interests, music. Practising, writing, playing, creating, experimenting.

Almost 2,500 years ago, Socrates gave us his guidance: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Occasionally old white guys have wise messages (but ONLY occasionally!)

So, entering 2021, I’ll challenge you to examine your trajectory as will I.

Will the road you journey be the same as before… or will the Ox lead you to a courageous turn down the fork of a road unknown, novel, and undiscovered?

Whichever path you trek, make it YOUR path.

And in a nod to a year’s end and your new beginning… a song for Old Times Sake, a reminder of longstanding friendships: remember to take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Here’s a little guitar instrumental based on Robert Burns poem that I put together this week.

The 7 Year New Year’s Itch! Your New Decade Awaits…

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happy new year.png

I’m busy this week writing year-end investment letters to my kids and find myself running low on time… so …

I’ve been re-reading some of my end-of-the-year posts from days gone by and came across this scribble I published in December 2012.

Today as we approach not only a new year, but a new decade, I’m re-posting this entry with a few minor revisions and comments to reflect the “newer, better, more-modern” me.

Five People I’d Like to Have for Christmas Dinner 2012

turkey-protest

HURRY… kill the turkey!

The year end is approaching quickly.  And this means that many of us spend the long, dark wintry days turning inwards (especially us Introverts!), becoming introspective, seeking meaning and reason in life. Do you think there’s more to it all than Facebook?

This search may be especially true for those of us who don’t put our trust in a higher power or being.

Not believing in a deity and/or afterlife compresses the time I have allotted for finding significance to our existence. After all, to us heathens, existence and eternity usually means something like 40 up to about 90 years, really not a whole lot of time after you make your bed, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, and sleep.

Turn off the TV I tell myself, time is running out. Time management for the atheist is the #1 priority right after food and sex!

So I say…

Damn you Christians with your eternal time in heaven with all of your loved ones and no worries about global warming.”

Damn you Muslims and your reward of 72 (some say only 40) virgins.”

Damn you Buddhists and your Nirvana and reincarnation.”

I won’t damn YOU Jews since you’re a bit confused on the whole afterlife side of things already, so why should I make you suffer more consternation with my words.”

Christmas 2012 will be unusual in my world as this will be the first time in 27 years that we’ve not had all or most of our 3 kids at home (2019 Update – had 2 kids and partners here this week with the bonus of our 1 1/2 year old grandson).

They’ve provided the meaning to the season for so long, that I’ve forgotten that there were other reasons, you know… all of that birth of Christ child stuff and Wise Men and Shepherds and HOHOHO and pretty girls…oops sorry, I’ve slipped off on a Charlie Brown tangent. Blockhead!

Since the Christmas dinner table will be extra light on offspring this year, I’ve decided to enjoy a very special Christmas meal serving up 6 courses of my most appealing and satisfying guests from now and days gone by.

centennial-james-a-michener         Trinity by Leon Uris

Course 1 – Appetizers

With Authors James Michener and Leon Uris… a dinner that starts with appetizers should be filled with creative ideas and thought to whet the appetite. (2019 Addition: I’d like to have Stephen King sit in for this course too with his incredibly imaginative mind)

These guys aren’t literary heavyweights. But they have written a huge volume of amazingly researched, diverse, and well-written historical fiction covering all parts of the world. I devoured their books in earlier years.

And today I’d love to bite into some of their ideas on the writing process and organization. I’m astonished by those who can be so determined to focus and deliver a huge body of work in one lifetime. Sure they’re old white guys, but inspiration comes in all colours, ages, and genders.

I also loved radically individualistic Ayn Rand’s ideas in my younger days, but just can’t bring myself around to her level of narcissism at this point in my life. Fortunately, just looking in my bathroom’s mirror and seeing the “funhouse” image it reflects back is enough to keep me grounded at this point!


Course 2 – Soup

Mom photo

With My Mom...Warm and inviting and full of goodness, this soup course will be my visit with a Ghost of Christmas Past.

It will be wonderful to have my Mom at my table this year. It’s been 39 years since she died and I was last able to sit at her table and share in the Christmas feast.

She made the BEST roast potatoes.

Like any good, doting son, I’d want to tell her how much I love her and miss her after all of these years.

As the first person I encountered in life who showed me unconditional love, I would want to tell her about my successes and mistakes, knowing that she would listen, but not judge. And I’d want to tell her that she gave me the grounding and support I needed to go out and make a pretty damn good life, despite all of my fears and worries (Mom was a HUGE worrier herself).

And I’d want to apologize to her for not knowing the basics of CPR when she needed it back in 1973.

Course 3 – Salad

Warren-Buffett-ninja

With Legendary Investor Warren Buffett…what would a Christmas buffet be without a Buffett? Well, not overly filling, but chock full of nutritious thoughts and concepts.

Buffett is known as the Oracle of Omaha, and probably the best investor of this generation. He’s also such a folksy kind of guy. It should be fun to have him at the table, telling little stories about life and making great stock investments. It’s not very often that you meet people who are highly intelligent and independent-thinking who can also relate to people in a relaxed and personal way.

Making billions of dollars, almost all of which will go to charity when he dies, while playing a silly NINJA makes him my kind of guy.   Buffett can take a story about a one-armed baseball player and an Iowa chicken and make a heartfelt parable of it that relates directly to the reality and oftentimes insanity of the investment world.

Course 4 – Main Entree

obama_clinton

With Former U.S. President Bill Clinton…Clinton needs to be the main course because, despite his personal foibles (I’m buying you pants without a zipper for Christmas, Bill!), he’s one of the most substantial minds in the whole wide political world.(2019 Update: Not a fully-fallen angel, Clinton, over #MeToo time has dwindled a bit in my hierarchy of heroes… conversely, Obama, if anything, ranks even higher in this Trump nightmare world than he did in 2012)

Clinton, like Obama, is one of the seemingly few rational and caring political-type Americans out there today. Clinton can spontaneously dissect just about any complex world issue and bring to it a common sense approach and potential solution.

There are many minds out there to admire, but Bill Clinton’s is at the top of my list. One discussion with Bill and I’ll be feeling overful this Christmas.

Course 5 – Dessert

With Actress Reese Witherspoon…dessert should be a light, fluffy, and sugary sweet confection. The perfect dessert, like fine wine, also has an underlying layer of complexity and depth. This is why I’ve invited actress Reese Witherspoon to this occasion rather than my gut-instinctive initial choice, Pamela Anderson (2019 Update: WHY I even mentioned Pamela Anderson here is beyond me).

The Queen of Jiggle, Anderson is just too much fluffy cotton candy that leaves me feeling sickly nauseous after consuming. The first lick is sensually encouraging, but a few bites later you can only feel regret.

I like Witherspoon even though she isn’t my favourite actress… she is sweet and light, but hidden behind her fluff-laden translucent facade is a woman of some core substance. She has a nice finish on the palate that leaves me satisfied and wanting more (2019 Update: I think Witherspoon has stood the test of time and continues to rise)

pamela anderson

Jello served in two cups…

Perhaps you'd like "FUDGE"?....

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Course 6 – Cheese and Wine

With Singers/Songwriters Carole King and James Taylor…it takes two to finish this delectable Christmas dinner because they’re inescapably intertwined for me.

After a large repast with so much to digest, some harmony is needed in this course for settling purposes. Other beautifully harmonious cheese and wine pairings could be Simon and Garfunkle, Karen and Richard Carpenter, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Lennon and McCartney, Milli Vanilli (just kidding there!).

But ultimately, what better finish could there be to a meal filled with symbolism and meaning shared with friends and relatives than with a blending of voices in “You’ve Got A Friend”? Whenever I’ve been “down and troubled”, a touch of musical melancholy from either of these two feels like rays of warm sunshine on the first sunny April day.

TaylorKingJT Carole King Now
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Finally, the anxiously anticipated Christmas dinner is done, the turkey (2019 Update: or just as likely Tofurkey!) has been deboned and made ready for the next week’s soup and sandwiches.
There’s an awareness of satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made it through another year, however tumultuous or sensational.
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A year filled with events that made us jubilant, made us cry, made us impatient, made us content, made us angry, made us appreciate.
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So. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza, Splendid Solstice…whatever you choose to pay tribute to, I celebrate with you and I can only hope that your gala feast with whomever you’d like to share it, is SPECTACULAR!
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2019 Update: Thanks for joining me for another year’s reading of THE MAN ON THE FRINGE.
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And Happy New Year as YOU look forward to an exciting new decade…

A Thing or Two I’ve Learned in 2017

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Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.

Patti Smith

…………….

Today, some navel-gazing… a few assorted ragtag thoughts that float through my mind as we near the final weary coughs of 2017 and prepare to draw in an invigorating infantile inhalation of 2018.

Calendar 2017.jpg

New words and expressions I’ve learned this year: FAKE NEWS, Rip a New One, Throw Shade, Unpack an Idea, Man Flu…

…………….

The notion that, in my world today, a passing decade has a similar meaning and inner sensation to the passing of just a year in my early life.

Do you know how long a year takes when it’s going away?” Dunbar repeated to Clevinger. “This long.” He snapped his fingers.

“A second ago you were stepping into college with your lungs full of fresh air. Today you’re an old man…” 

“… You’re inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age? A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as a close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise. Only a fifth of a second before that you were a small kid with a ten-week summer vacation that lasted a hundred thousand years and still ended too soon.  

Joseph Heller

…………….

Manhood is a dangerous occupation, perhaps exceeded only by womanhood, but best lived as humanhood.

Men are sitting at the twilight of their golden empire, the human equivalent of the Industrial Revolution being succeeded by the Information Age. Men are seeking final testosterone-laced solace in a Trump that is dripping blood, halfway crumpled to the boxing canvas.

…………….

• I am at my best when I am in a sense of discomfort.

I think my wife nailed it this week when she brought this to my attention. It had never occurred to me that I thrive when I walk the sharp knife-edge of my personal cliff.

I constantly seek newness and innovation, heart-raising experiences that if nothing else, fool me into believing that I’m alive.

Sure, there’s discomfort and pain, but when lightly blended with patience and perseverance, and maybe even some luck, lead to elation and celebration.

Most of my early years were lived in the shadows, timid and fearful of danger, both real and perceived ones. For certain, I still have lots of fears, but as I’ve aged, my ability to distinguish between real and perceived peril has matured and enlightened.

You and I have our own version of when we are near the edge of the cliff. The precipice varies hugely for each individual. Your cliff edge may be further or nearer than mine, but it exists in every one of us.

Endorphins are those naturally delicious chemicals that dance along the rim of our precipice.

A few examples of experiences that have triggered varying degrees of loose-bowel discomfort for me over time are:

  • training for the Ironman race, training for marathons and half marathons, Tough Mudders, boot camp classes…
  • sliding down Nicaraguan volcano mountainsides…
  • cooking and eating Peruvian guinea pigs…
  • consuming the street foods of New Delhi, India…
  • ripping down a bedroom wall with no idea how I’d rebuild, reconstruct the sucker…
  • sipping snake wine in China…
  • writing a blog that I share weekly with anyone in the entire world who cares to read my thoughts…
  • playing my guitar and singing in the public spotlight, sharing my abilities, my voice and my songwriting for audiences to love or hate, or egads, worse, ignore…
  • learning anew each week about how best to tutor and teach individuals, young and old, male and female, English speaking or otherwise.

Today, I can usually recognize those fears that are a true danger to my life and limb, and those that are mere contraptions, shadowy smoke and mirrors, constructed within my head.

skydiving joy.jpg

The mere thought of skydiving used to scare the sh*t out of me.

But here are the numbers: In 2012, 19 people died in parachuting accidents in the United States, or roughly one person per 100,000 jumps.

In contrast, motor vehicle deaths worldwide sit at 27 per 100,000 (only 6 per 100,000 in Canada)… now for a number’s guy like me, this makes my statistical odds pretty damned good for jumping out of a plane and surviving in 2018, right? It’s already booked…

The most fulfilling human projects appeared inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains…

Alain de Botton

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• Some of the most uplifting and pleasing moments I experience are as easy as plying words, ideas, metaphors, attempting to forge originality in blog posts like this, or the notes and lyrics in songwriting.

Creativity in all its forms is like a wonderful wide-awake dream – an amazing source of inner joy.

No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life”

Friedrich Nietzsche

…………….

Finally, allow me this end of 2017 to share a few words with you in poster form… something called the Holstee Manifesto.

A few years back, Holstee’s founders, Dave, Mike and Fabian sat together on the steps of Union Square in New York to write down how they define success. The goal was to create something they could reflect back on if they ever felt stuck or found themselves living according to someone else’s definition of happiness.

This is Your Life… make every day a personal loving and learning adventure… welcome to 2018.

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