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Afraid of the Ball? (The Financial Athlete #94, rewrite)

October 23, 2009

“My heart don’t pump fear no more.” — Michael Vik

When my dad was a kid, he got a broken nose from playing baseball. When my uncle was a kid, he also got a broken nose from playing baseball. When I was a kid, I didn’t want a broken nose so I didn’t play baseball. I was afraid of that hardball thrown lightening fast at my face. No one ever told me every kid new to the game feels the same way; and that as your skills develop, you lose your fear of the ball. If they told me, I wasn’t listening.

On the playing field, one of the first things you learn is you need courage to play well. With investing and life itself, you need courage to succeed, too. To gain anything of value comes with risk. Be bold but not reckless.

As a bee seeks nectar from all kinds of
flowers, seek teachings everywhere

Like a deer that finds a quiet place to
graze, seek seclusion to digest all that
you have gathered.

Like a mad one beyond all limits, go
where you please and live like a lion
completely free of all fear.

— Dzogchen Tantra


Acknowledgements (The Financial Athlete #108)

March 8, 2009

This book would not be possible without the teachers who impressed upon me throughout my life, both inside and outside a classroom.

Special thanks to my parents and to my tennis instructor, who partially inspired the idea for this book by showing how “the tennis court is a microcosm of life.” And to my childhood hero, Bruce Lee, who was the first person I became aware of who connected the movement of the body to a philosophy of living.

Lastly, thank you, the readers of this blog.

Note: The Financial Athlete will be made available as an ebook and in paperback. The text will be presented in a coherent order.


August 16, 2008

In the evening I should say, ‘Thank God I have lived to see the sunset of this day!’

A full life

August 11, 2008

A full life is not made of all ups and no downs
Life is experienced in an endless cycle of ups and downs

A full life is lived with an open heart and open mind

A rich man cannot afford a full life
A poor man cannot offer it for sell

A full life is lived free of the weight of fear
free of the weight of contempt
and free of the weight of time

by ‘pastamanvibration’ (Ao)

The Pasta Man Vibration Prayer

August 1, 2008

Let my heart be comforted
for you are my comforter

Let me be strong
for you are my strength

Let me be loving
for you are love

Oh Lord, let me be your child
for you are my father

by ‘pastamanvibration’ (Ao)

Bob Marley — Forever Loving Jah

Interrogated by Wal-Mart?

July 16, 2008

I was interrogated in a dark, back room by Wal-Mart…in a dream. I had been caught by the hidden cameras passing through the sterile aisles. My offense: placing yellow stickers of a frowning face over the those annoying, yellow smilng faces, both of which are simple drawings with black dots for eyes and a black, curving line for a mouth.

The interrogators wanted to know my motive for this subversive activity and which organization put me up to this. I do remember acting on my own accord. I wish I could tell you the rest of the story, but dreams are often fragments of stories, and in this story there was only a beginning and a scant middle. I don’t know if my destiny was death by the firing squad.

What may have spun this dream is the local news of Wal-Mart gaining traction to build a superstore. Shouldn’t I put on my consumer, happy face about this news? Wal-Mart does some good for society. It offers low prices, reducing expenses for the poor. To a degree, it promotes healthy living by carrying some organic produce and at lower prices than from “Whole Paycheck” Whole Foods. It owns the world’s most efficient distribution system, which was used to help Katrina victims. Wal-Mart also provides employment in the ghettos. (Clap. Clap. Clap.)

Why then do I still hate Wal-Mart? Mom and Pop retail stores close shop because they cannot compete with Wal-Mart. Grocery stores with its union workers cannot compete either against mighty Wal-Mart with its low wage workforce. A Wal-Mart superstore changes the whole economic landscape in a community. Welcome to serfdom, 21st century, ultra-capitalist style. Never did I think we could learn anything useful from the communist, but in dealing with Wal-Mart we can. Communist China forced a union of workers at Wal-Mart stores in China. America should do the same.

Be like a tall tree

July 5, 2008

Be like a tall tree
Reaching for the heavens
and rooted to the earth

Without root in the earth
the wind drifts you away

Without reaching for the heavens
You get stuck in the mud

by ‘pastamanvibration’ (Ao)

Don’t compete (Financial Athlete #11)

June 12, 2008

An athlete trains for strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility. Training for flexibility should be approached gently. The tendency for many athletes is to push themselves too hard with flexibility. Rather than enhance athletic prowess as intended, injuries often result.

Good yoga teachers encourage students to “listen to your body” and “don’t compete against others” to avoid injuries. Better a half pose in good form then a forced full pose, even if the person next to you belongs on the cover of Yoga Magazine. A good yoga teacher will tell you to focus on the breath and not on the extent of the stretch.

Competing also can cause “financial injuries” for investors who place to much pressure on themselves for high returns. While I believe it’s good to take on some risk and invest beyond your comfort zone for sound investments, to do so excessively is over-stretching. An example of this kind of over-stretching is borrowing from credit cards and home equity lines of credit to finance purchases of stocks.

Now you may think yourself smarter than that and limit your debt exposure to well within your disposable income to pay off the monthly interest charges may sound reasonable. But later the prices of your stocks tank. Your supposed discipline to limit debt exposure suddenly vanishes. You act impulsively and increase your positions financed by more debt. While you may get lucky to see stock prices recover, a potentially devastating pattern develops. Eventually, large positions in a few stocks (or one!), accumulated from averaging down, never bounce back or when they do it’s too late…financing the debt is unsustainable.

Don’t compete. Be steady by placing more importance on managing risk over chasing returns. To focus on being steady runs parallel to yoga’s mystical “focus on the breath”. You’d be in great company to do so. The master of a steady path to investing is Warren Buffett.

“I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars. I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.”
–Warren Buffett

“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.”
— J. Krishnamurti

A soft war on Islamic radicalism

May 22, 2008

The battleground against Islamic radicalism must be fought in the hearts and fertile minds of future generations through education. New York Times article, Turkish Schools offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam,” examines the impact of a Turkish Sufi Islamic scholar’s vision for Pakistan.

War for dummies

April 25, 2008

A friend once told me, “War resides in human nature. War comes as natural as breathing to mankind. On the onset of war, people grow excited to join to kill the monotony of everyday life. War empowers them with the feeling of being very much alive. Mankind finds no glory in farm work, factory work, or work in the service sector, especially with petty compensation. Since ancient times, virtually all the mythological heroes were warriors, and war was the only means to feel connected to them. History books highlight wars. Peace times are glossed over. War will always have a central place in the hearts of men.”

Indeed, we live in a crazy world. I am not one to advocate dismantling a powerful American defense, which includes deterrence with nuclear weapons. Liberty must be protected with a feared military defense. However, this notion of a preemptive war strikes a dangerous chord and crosses the boundary of a legitimate defense. If there is a lesson learned from the Iraqi War, I hope it’s the realization of the insanity of a preemptive war strategy.

For an interesting and recent editorial piece on the insanity of war, read Paul C. Campos’s Warrior envy, mass psychosis and McCain.