My ‘Best in Show’ for 2022
Every year at about this time, you see all sorts of articles about the “top stories” during the previous 12 months. It makes sense, as the end of December is a good time to assess the biggest news events that molded and defined the year. But today, rather than doing a top stories article, I am going to make it personal by giving you what I call my “Best in Show” for 2022.
The term Best in Show is a reference to the structure of dog shows, where the top dogs from each group (herding, toy, non-sporting, etc.) face off to capture the big award of the night, Best in Show. Now, in the dog show world, Best in Show isn’t really about which dog is better than another dog. Rather, the top award goes to which dog best represents what’s known as the “breed standard.”
In The Deep Woods, my standard (i.e. the goal of this column) is, as our tagline states, to present, “An uncommon take on money, ideas and society.” And with evaluative metric in mind, today I have selected my top five columns of 2022, columns that I think display my personal Best in Show, and that live up to the goal of my writing.
So, for your enjoyment, stimulation, food for thought and contemplation, I present to you my Best in Show for 2022 (as ranked from fifth to first), along with a couple of honorable mentions.
Although these stories didn’t crack my top five Best in Show, they are definitely worth mentioning. The first is the Sept. 14 issue “Reject This Game of Thrones,” which is my response to the death and subsequent social spectacle of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
There, I wrote:
“… as a man who abhors the notion of monarchy and its roots in such despicable ideas as the ‘divine right of kings,’ I find the pageantry rather loathsome. In fact, I am someone who has a visceral sense of nuisance whenever I see a picture of the royals, and the reason why is because I’m opposed to concepts such as one human having political province over others simply by accident of birth.”
I think it’s quite clear here where I am coming from.
The second honorable mention is my June 15 issue, “Kevin O’Leary Enters My Shark Tank.” This issue offered highlights from my podcast interview with “Mr. Wonderful.” The “Shark Tank” star told me all about his newest venture, cryptocurrency exchange platform WonderFi, a firm O’Leary says provides a compliant and transparent place for institutional and individual investors to trade cryptocurrencies.
Interestingly, O’Leary was in the news about his involvement in the cryptocurrency space soon after this interview, as he had ties to the now-collapsed FTX and its now-disgraced CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. O’Leary even testified in front of Congress about the issue, but before he did that, he was talking all things crypto with me on the Way of the Renaissance Man podcast.
5) The Curve of the Earth (Dec. 21)
Sublime moments in life may seem infrequent and evanescent, and many of the moments we categorize as “peak experiences” are, by their very nature, uncommon. Yet it is my opinion that these sublime experiences don’t have to be as infrequent and uncommon as most people perceive them to be. You see, the world of daily peak experiences, wonderment, and awe of the sort that many of us experience only on rare occasions is open to us, if we know how to pay attention to each moment.
4) What a Wonderful World (Nov. 23)
I was recently at a gathering of musician friends, and one of them asked me what my favorite song was. After a brief pause, I replied with a title that surprised my fellow artists. “What A Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong was my answer. After digesting the surprised looks in the room, I went on to tell everyone why this was my favorite song, and why the lyrics reflect the philosophical premise known as “benevolent universe.”
3) Goodnight, Songbird (Dec. 7)
The death of keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac hit me particularly hard. As I processed the news of her death, I felt the bittersweet taste that news like this leaves on one’s mental palate. The bitterness is that all of us will cease to be, and everyone that matters to us will one day be gone. Yet there also is sweetness in the memories of those past, and what they did while they were here, cannot be taken from us. McVie’s death serves as a reminder to us that what matters most in this world is to do something beautiful with our limited time.
2) ‘He Shot My Arm Off’ (Aug. 3)
“Don’t mess with Norco.” That was a headline of a story in the local Southern California press, as it described one reaction to video of liquor store owner Craig Cope shooting an armed robber with a shotgun. Oh, and if you are wondering why I chose this topic, it’s because this incident took place in my hometown of Norco, California. Sadly, the 80-year-old Cope died on Tuesday, December 27 (hat tip to subscriber Lee G. for telling me before anyone else). Yet what this incident demonstrates is the simple, yet undeniable fact that the best way to prevent someone from violating your rights by force is to employ a greater amount of force against them in your own defense. Too bad most lawmakers don’t realize this simple fact.
1) Welcome to the Hotel California (Nov. 2).
Some nights in a life are epic. This past Halloween eve, I experienced one of those epic nights when I attended a costume party at a friend and colleague’s home in Bel Air, California. In addition to this being the most magnificent home I’ve ever set foot in, the hospitality was equally magnificent. Yet what really made this night epic was the performance from iconic musician, member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and lead guitarist for the Eagles, Don Felder.
Your editor in his “capitalist hippie” costume, alongside the famed Don Felder.
Watching Felder up close and personal (literally a few feet away) was nothing short of spectacular, and it’s one of those life moments that I will be talking about and celebrating with an ultimate sense of joy and wonderment for the rest of my days.
You see, to me, life is about celebration.
Celebration that you are here and that you are a thinking entity capable of knowing how lucky you are as a sentient member of the universe. Just that realization alone is enough to be grateful, but then knowing you also can have the sublime feelings that come with peak experiences should make your sense of gratitude for existence overflow with a sense of awe and adventure.
Of course, life also is difficult. There’s pain, suffering and ultimately, you will no longer be attending the party. Worse yet, you will have to leave the party while the party is still going on.
Yet just because we know life is finite doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate. Indeed, it’s precisely because life is finite that we must cultivate the peak experiences and moments that make our days on earth worth the struggle.
As Felder’s signature hit “Hotel California” reminds us, “you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” I take that lyric to mean that, although we can choose to “check out” and live a life unexamined, we are still here and we exist right now, and we can “never leave” the responsibility of thinking and acting. And because we have that life, and that choice, why not choose to live it inspired, with a sense of purpose and with a goal of basking in peak experience?
I know which way I want my life to go, and if you’re reading this, I suspect you do, too.
Happy new year, and may we all live each moment of 2023 in the name of the very best within us!
ETF Talk: Invest in Liquified Natural Gas with This Fund
United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (NYSEARCA:UNG) holds near-month futures contracts in natural gas, as well as swap contracts.
UNG invests primarily in futures contracts for natural gas that are traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange, NYMEX, ICE Futures Europe and ICE Futures U.S. and other foreign exchanges. The fund offers straightforward exposure to front-month natural gas futures, rolling expiring front-month contracts to the next nearest month.
This method increases the sensitivity to underlying gas prices and to the shape of the futures curve. The commodity’s contract is for natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana.
The fund primarily invests in natural gas futures listed in New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and may invest in forwards and swap contracts. Structured as a commodities pool, investors should expect a K-1 at tax time and a blended tax rate.
UNG currently trades around $14.48, has $504 million in net assets and an expense ratio of 1.11%, meaning it is relatively expensive to hold in relation to other exchange-traded funds.
U.S. LNG inventory is currently well below its five-year average, said Michelle Connell, CFA, president and owner of Portia Capital Management, of Dallas, Texas. The biggest issue for the U.S. LNG industry is that production of the energy source has never been profitable on its own but is a byproduct of oil production, she added.
“There isn’t enough oil being produced,” Connell said.
Currently, only 11.7 million barrels/day are being produced. Pre-pandemic, production hit 13 million barrels/day, Connell continued.
Instead of investing to increase capacity, oil companies have been focusing on boosting their dividends, Connell said. If they pivot, these companies face a backlash from investors via the sale of their stock, Connell added.
“Their market value could get crushed,” Connell said.
Of course, you will want to exercise your own due diligence in deciding whether this fund fits your own individual portfolio goals and needs.
As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.
Wednesdays Mean Wisdom
This time of year is replete with reflection on the past 12 months. It’s also a time when we prepare ourselves for the coming year.
But before we get to either of these things, it behooves us to consider some wisdom from the great Benjamin Franklin on the importance of conscience.
You see, when our hearts and minds are clear, we can see the past for what it is and the future for what it should be. And that, my friend, will bring you holiday cheer throughout the year.
So, from all of us at the Way of the Renaissance Man team, we wish you the very happiest of holidays. And be sure to catch this week’s Wednesday Wisdom, featuring the genius of one of our most-brilliant Founding Fathers.
In case you missed it…
Ideas Are the Best Gifts
There are only a few more days until Christmas, and while I hope you have completed your holiday shopping, I suspect that you still may have a few names you haven’t crossed off your list yet.
Hey, I know gift giving can be difficult, as it is often hard to find the right present for someone. Fortunately, I had some help on this front from a wise mentor of mine, who told me some years ago that he had two rules when giving gifts.
The first applies more to a man courting a woman, and it goes like this: “The key to a woman’s heart is an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.”
From experience, I can confirm that this maxim works exceedingly well.
As for maxim two, it is as follows: “It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be special.” This rule doesn’t just apply to lovers, but to all of us during the holidays.
Now, I am of the opinion that the most special gift you can give or receive, and the gift that matters most, is the gift of ideas.
That’s why today, I am going to tell you about some of my favorite holiday gifts, gifts brimming with great ideas.
The easiest, most cost-effective and arguably the best way to give ideas is through books. Whether it is a great work of literature, an insightful self-help manual, or a great “how to” book on a subject close to the recipient’s heart, a really good book has got to be my all-time favorite special gift to give (and one that also happens to be inexpensive).
For those who love literature, fiction, action, adventure, mystery and philosophy, then give the gift that asks, “Who Is John Galt?” Here I am recommending the greatest novel ever written (in my humble opinion), “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand.
If you’ve read the novel, you know how brilliant it is. But if you haven’t read it in some time, give yourself a gift and read it again. And, if you have any young minds on your holiday shopping list, then giving them “Atlas Shrugged” will make them remember you forever — and it may indeed alter the course of their lives the way it altered mine.
For those who prefer self-help style works, I recommend one of the original works on how to be human, “Meditations,” by Marcus Aurelius.
This work is more than 2,000 years old, but the wisdom in it applies to what you are doing right now — and what a human being should do every day to maximize their time on earth. The insights, wisdom and practical guidance delivered on every page of this work are amazing, and the subjects vary from how best to deal with life’s inevitable adversity to how best to interact with others. I also highly recommend the Gregory Hays translation, as I think it is the smoothest and most poetic out there.
As for the “how to” category, well, I’ve always felt that a collection of wisdom from the best brains in that industry has been most special to me. And on this front, there is no better “how to” anthology than the one by my friend, fellow Fast Money Alert co-editor and brilliant economist, Dr. Mark Skousen.
The work I am specifically referring to here is “The Maxims of Wall Street.” This is a collection of some of the greatest wisdom ever to flow from the biggest and brightest names on Wall Street. Great investors such as Jesse Livermore, Baron Rothschild, J.P. Morgan, Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch and John Templeton are just a sneak peek at some of the names you’ll discover in this fantastic collection.
Then there is profundity from the likes of Ben Franklin, John D. Rockefeller, Joe Kennedy, Bernard Baruch, John Maynard Keynes, Steve Forbes and numerous other luminaries too copious to mention.
Your editor with his signed copy of “The Maxims.”
As Mark puts it, “For years, I’ve been compiling these financial adages, ancient proverbs and immortal poems found in new and rare financial books and quoted regularly by investors, money managers, brokers and old timers.”
So, whether this gift of ideas is to yourself or to someone special, you should definitely do everyone a favor and give “The Maxims of Wall Street” to those you value.
Now, for those who are into health and fitness, there’s one must-read book full of brilliant ideas on the subject that I recommend with all my being, and that book is “Body By Science” by Dr. Doug McGuff and John Little.
This work presents a scientifically proven formula for maximizing muscle development in the briefest time possible (although don’t confuse brevity with being easy, because these workouts are killers!). Yet the best part of the “Body By Science” protocol is that you can do it in about 12-20 minutes a week.
And while that may seem like an incredible claim, it is one backed by rigorous research. Moreover, I can tell you from personal experience that this training works, as the concepts contained in this work have been the basis of my workout protocol for the past three decades.
So, there you have it, a few practical ideas on how to give the best gift anyone can ever give or receive — the gift of ideas.
Make Mistakes in 2023
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”
Novelist Neil Gaiman is best known for works such as “American Gods” (which I highly recommend, especially if you are into fantasy literature). Yet here, he gives us great real-world advice, encouraging us to make many mistakes. You see, if you aren’t making mistakes, that means you aren’t trying to change — and in life, maintenance is almost always regression. Keep that in mind as we embark on the new year.
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,