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10 Punk Rock Rules for Success

By Jim Woods

10 Punk Rock Rules for Success

“I just wish to shine brighter, and if it burns my body to a crisp, I’m happy to go right now.”

That bit of high-intensity wisdom comes from a man whom I admire deeply: singer, songwriter, spoken-word artist, author, actor, radio and TV show host, publisher and true renaissance man Henry Rollins.

Henry made his mark on pop culture as the front man for the quintessential punk-rock band Black Flag, and then later via the Rollins Band, and he turned that experience into a multi-faceted and eminently interesting career fit for a true polymath. His career continues today, mostly through writing and one-man spoken word shows that combine the intensity of a punk-rock concert with the intellectual stimulation of a TED Talk.

If you are a longtime reader of The Deep Woods, you probably know that I am a huge music fan and a huge fan of renaissance men (and women) who are able to do many different things in life and to do those things very well. In fact, I have an entire website and podcast appropriately called Way of the Renaissance Man, which is dedicated to extracting wisdom and knowledge from these types of individuals so that we can apply that wisdom and knowledge to our own lives.

A couple of years ago, another polymath I admire, entrepreneur, investor and business inspirer, Evan Carmichael, compiled a list that he called “Henry Rollins’s Top 10 Rules for Success.” You can watch the video on YouTube. I recommend doing so, as it will give you a sense of the intensity and focus Henry puts into just about every breath he takes.

Here is a list of those top 10 rules (complete with sage advice straight from Henry himself), rules that I also try to live by, and rules that can help everyone — regardless of what stage they are at in life — achieve just that little bit extra that makes life glorious.

Rule 1: Be Driven

Rollins says he uses childhood anger and fear of failure to fuel his sense of drive. “I descend from the sky and land on things really hard, and I go at everything with that amount of fury,” Rollins says. Now that is a definition of drive that we all can admire.

Rule 2: Work Hard

Rollins says that no matter what he does, he goes at everything “fully engaged, and that intensity has served him quite well.” He also credits his punk rock roots for that work ethic, as everything in the early days was a sort of do-it-yourself exercise in just trying to make it from week to week.

Rule 3: Keep Moving Forward

Continue to consistently work hard and always move forward in life. “I keep moving forward boldly because I have nothing to lose,” Rollins says. Of course, regardless of whether you think you have nothing to lose, life requires constant movement, or we fall into stagnation. “I like to work… It’s about activity and challenge,” he adds.

Rule 4: Just Do It

He tells the story about starting his own book publishing company, which was the essence of punk rock “DIY.” “You just do it; you don’t even think about it… and without hesitation I’m making my own book company. Stop me. I dare you,” Rollins recalls.

Your editor doing a little Henry Rollins reading.

Rule 5: Take Your Shot

The “shot” for Rollins came when he was asked to audition as the singer for the iconic punk band Black Flag. He took a train from his home in Washington, D.C., to New York City and sang every song the band had. About 10 minutes after the audition was over, he was offered the job as the front man of his favorite band. Now that is taking advantage of your “shot” in life.

Rule 6: Communicate Emotionally

“I feel a genuine need to communicate with an audience,” Rollins shares. That’s the way he describes his interaction with a crowd, because he sees it as the best way to genuinely connect with others. “It’s about communication, warning, broadcasting, emitting and trying to leave something of myself with the audience,” Rollins says. This rule is one of my favorites, because it’s also what I attempt to do each week in this publication.

Rule 7: Try Out Different Things

“Yeah, I’ll try that. I mean, why would I hold back?” This also is one of my favorite rules, as it encapsulates the fearlessness with which life should be approached. If there is something you want to do in life, try it out. The worse that can happen is you don’t like it, or you aren’t good at it. So what? At least you challenged yourself to stretch out and experience life in a different way. 

Rule 8: Manage Yourself

“The repeating factors of my life have been application, discipline, focus, repetition,” Rollins says. These keys for Rollins are also largely the keys to success of many high achievers. The reason why is because application, discipline, focus and repetition are how you really get good at something. No matter how much natural talent you might possess, you never will be extraordinary at a skill unless you apply yourself with the requisite discipline, focus and repetition required to achieve the highest levels of whatever it is you do.

Rule 9: Learn from Your Past

“The past holds all of your mistakes and humiliations. The future holds whatever you can make it,” Rollins says. He doesn’t think you should ignore the past, but he doesn’t think you should dwell on it and be miserable. Instead, you should learn from it and move on. “The future’s ready for you to not make those mistakes,” Rollins adds.

Rule 10: Have Passion

Here is the key rule to life that both Rollins and I embrace, as it’s really at the heart of your existence. Because whatever you do, and whatever time you have to do it, why not live it all the way? Forget about half-hearted effort or “just okay” results.

Have the passion to attack life like a punk rock front man — with all the intensity and hardcore aggression that meets life head on and that embraces the struggle. Because in the end, all we have is how we lived.

P.S. If you like this article, then I invite you to listen to a very special audio version of “10 Punk Rock Rules for Life,” which has just been posted to my website, Way of the Renaissance Man.


ETF Talk: Invest in Corporate Takeovers with This Fund

It is easy to admire the concept behind the IQ Merger Arbitrage ETF (MNA), seeking investment results that track, before fees and expenses, the price and yield performance of the IQ Merger Arbitrage Index.

The IQ Merger Arbitrage Index aims to achieve capital appreciation by investing in global companies that have been publicly announced to be bought by an acquirer. This unique approach is based on a passive strategy of owning shares of certain announced takeover targets, with the goal of generating returns that are representative of global merger arbitrage activity.

The strategy also includes short exposure to global equities as a partial equity market hedge. In doing so, it uses a tax-efficient, rules-based approach to gain exposure to global merger arbitrage activity.

The fund invests at least 80% of its net assets, plus the amount of any borrowings for investment purposes, in the stocks included in its underlying index. That underlying index uses a systematic investment process designed to identify opportunities in companies whose equity securities trade in developed markets, including the United States. The non-diversified fund invests in stocks that either have been announced as a merger partner for a buyer, an acquisition or another buyout-related transaction.


MNA provides diversification benefits and low correlation to other asset classes, since its returns are driven primarily by the successful completion of deals.

The fund’s total net assets are $461 million, and its inception date is Nov. 17, 2009. The exchange-traded fund currently trades just under $32 a share with an expense ratio of 0.76%, meaning it is relatively expensive to hold in relation to other ETFs.

However, as with any opportunity, I urge all potential investors to exercise their own due diligence, just as I do, in deciding whether or not this fund fits their own individual portfolio goals.

As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You may just see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.


In case you missed it…

When the Volatility Perplexes

“Jim, why is the VIX acting so weird?”

That was a question I fielded during one of my talks at last week’s Las Vegas MoneyShow. It’s a great question, and one that I’ve been writing about frequently over the past 12 months. In fact, the day I took that question also happened to be the day we did an update on the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, in my Eagle Eye Opener daily market briefing, which, if you haven’t subscribed to yet, what are you waiting for?

The reason this topic has come up recently is because certain dynamics of the typically inverse relationship between the market’s “fear gauge” and the S&P 500 have changed. In the early innings of the 2022 bear market, the “lower lows” in the S&P 500 were no longer coinciding with “higher highs” in the VIX.

Lower stock prices and a higher VIX is a relationship that is typical in bull markets, as hedging activity picks up meaningfully when stocks are driven lower by short-selling speculators (typically these are short-lived, headline-driven pullbacks, hence the use of options as a hedge and not liquidation by institutional money).

The most logical reason behind the change in market dynamics in early 2022 was that institutional investors, who typically employ more sophisticated hedging strategies that include options, started selling their long-time horizon equity holdings and simultaneously began to abandon their associated hedges as they were no longer needed.

As a refresher, the VIX is calculated with inputs from options prices on the S&P 500, so ceteris paribus, more bids in the options market would mean a higher VIX, while more supply, or offers in the options markets, would mean a lower VIX. The institutional selling of options hedges was most likely responsible for the sluggish price action in the widely followed, but often misunderstood, VIX in 2022.

Last week, the VIX fell to its lowest levels since the S&P 500 hit its standing all-time high in the early days of 2022 (just over 4,818). So, with the help of my partner in the Eagle Eye Opener, we took a dive back into history to further analyze how the VIX performed in market conditions similar to today. Here is what we found:

The single, most-dominant market dynamic right now is the deeply inverted yield curve, so, we looked back to periods in history when the yield curve was inverted, the economy was on the brink of, or actually in, a recession and stocks were either in, or falling into, a bear market. Since the VIX was first published in real time in 1993, we are only left with three examples to work with, but the findings are importantly consistent over all three.

In early 2000, the 10s-2s yield curve spread inverted, and later that year, stocks began to meaningfully rollover as the dot-com bubble began to burst. The VIX was volatile over this period but importantly hit 52-week lows in March 2002, just like we saw this VIX do last week. It wasn’t until the VIX became “overbought” on the weekly time frame, via an RSI reading over 70 in July 2002, that the S&P 500 began the bottoming process, putting in cycle lows later that year.

In early 2005, the 10s-2s again inverted, and it remained in backwardation through early 2007. In late 2006, the VIX hit a fresh 52-week low. In the following quarters, the VIX became “overbought” twice on the weekly time frame, the first time in summer 2007 when stocks were near the record highs, and the second in late 2008, just months before the market found a bottom from the turmoil in March 2009.

The 10s-2s briefly inverted in 2019 ahead of the short-lived, but historically deep, Covid-19 pandemic recession. In November 2019, the VIX closed at a new 52-week low. The VIX became overbought in January on its way to new highs, and again in March as the stock market was on the brink of putting in a bottom for the historic year that was 2020.

Today, we are looking at the yield curve hovering just above its deepest inversion since the early 1980s, while the VIX is sitting near 52-week lows, and obviously nowhere near overbought levels on the weekly time frame, a development that preceded all three of the major market bottoms in the “VIX era” of market history.

That suggests we remain in a “calm before the storm” holding period, and until we see the VIX reach overbought territory on the weekly chart (via the RSI indicator), among multiple other developments of course, it will be hard to believe the market is poised to casually cruise towards new record highs from here (i.e., the bottom of this bear market might not be in just yet).

If you’d like this kind of analysis delivered to your inbox every trading day before the market opens — and for about the cost of your morning cup of coffee — I invite you to check out my Eagle Eye Opener today!


Willie Wisdom

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”

–Willie Nelson

Eleven days ago, the iconic country music legend Willie Nelson celebrated his 90th birthday. And he did so in epic fashion, doing what he loves to do best — performing music in front of a packed Hollywood Bowl audience along with some of the brightest luminaries in the music world. Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young (two of my personal favorites), Rosanne Cash, Chris Stapleton, Stephen Stills, Dave Mathews, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris and even Snoop Dogg were there to celebrate Willie’s birthday.

Now, I didn’t get to attend this epic event (the tickets sold out too fast!); however, I was there in spirit, because if there is one thing that I want to be able to do at age 90, it is to celebrate with my friends while doing what I love best. May we all be that fortunate.

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

In the name of the best within us,

Jim Woods

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: We are having our Eagle Virtual Trading Event on Tuesday, May 16. If you haven’t signed up for this yet, there’s still time. Just click here now to sign up for free. Believe me, you won’t want to miss this online event — as we bring together all of Eagle’s investment experts at the same time to reveal the Second Half Outlook: 7 Ways to Beat the Market. Reserve your seat now by clicking here.

P.S. Come join me and my Eagle colleagues on an incredible cruise! We set sail on Dec. 4 for 16 days, embarking on a memorable journey that combines fascinating history, vibrant culture and picturesque scenery. Enjoy seminars on the days we are cruising from one destination to another, as well as dinners with members of the Eagle team. Just some of the places we’ll visit are Mexico, Belize, Panama, Ecuador and more! Click here now for all the details.

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