A few years ago, a friend asked me to describe my personal “ethos” with just a few words.
Now, judging by that question, you can tell that I hang out with some pretty smart friends. And in this case, I knew my answer needed to be appropriately thought out to satisfy my friend’s curiosity. At first, I thought this task would be difficult. Yet, after just a brief period of reflection, I answered with the following three words…
Focus. Integration. Celebration.
Naturally, my friend demanded I amplify this answer, and so I went about explaining these “three pillars” of my personal ethos so that each concept would be simple and easy to understand. So, with your permission, I would like to do the same here.
Focus. The first pillar here is the most essential, as it also serves as a basis for all information processing, and for the application of the two other pillars of my ethos. The term “focus” here means much more than just concentration. By focus, I mean focus in the wider, philosophic sense. Perhaps a quote here from my favorite philosopher and novelist, Ayn Rand, will explain what I mean by philosophic focus:
“In any hour and issue of his life, man is free to think or to evade that effort. Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness. The act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional. Man can focus his mind to a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality — or he can unfocus it and let himself drift in a semiconscious daze, merely reacting to any chance stimulus of the immediate moment, at the mercy of his undirected sensory-perceptual mechanism and of any random, associational connections it might happen to make.”
So, when I say “focus” is the first pillar of my personal ethos, I mean it in this sense. I mean it in the sense that whatever it is I am doing, whether it is writing, speaking, analyzing companies, reading, composing and playing music, horseback riding, weight training, martial arts, combat marksmanship, driving a race car, walking a dog or just petting my cat, I do it in a state of full focus. I do it with the full, volitional and conscious awareness of reality — in the moment.
You’ve no doubt heard about the importance of “living in the moment,” as it has become somewhat of a cliché in the self-help movement. So, let’s avoid this cliché, and just say that living in the moment requires that you live each moment in full focus.
Integration. The second pillar of my ethos comes after you’ve focused your mind on the facts and sensations of reality. Through the process of mental integration, you can categorize the facts, sensations and feelings you’ve experienced in that state of full focus, and you can begin determining what they all mean and how they fit into your broader, and deeper, philosophic premises, such as the things you value.
For example, let’s say you focus your mind on something that is on the surface mostly a physical pursuit: weight training. Yet, is it mostly a physical thing? While the actual performance of the movements might be primarily physical, what you’ve likely already integrated before you even decide to begin weight training are the facts that challenging your muscles with progressive resistance loads is a good thing for your physical well-being.
Indeed, the integration of higher-order concepts of “well-being” requires a long chain of philosophic integration that has to do with the value you place on your existence, your health, your appearance, the maintenance of your functional ability, etc. The wider point here is that the ability to focus on facts and integrate those facts into your philosophic matrix is the necessary second pillar of a rational ethos, and it’s one you must be consciously aware of if you are going to engage in the third pillar of this ethos.
Celebration. Once you’ve focused on reality and integrated those facts with your personal worldview, i.e., your personal philosophic premises, then, and only then, can you rationally indulge in the most pleasurable pillar — celebration. For me, celebration is the result of the focused integration of the concretes of reality and what they represent in my life. Staying with the weight training example, I know that a focus on facts means I need to weight train to stay in good physical shape.
Staying in good physical shape is a value to me because I’ve integrated the virtue of good health and the absence of disease in my life as rational values for me to pursue. And despite being on the losing side of my fifties, I am for the most part in excellent physical condition, largely free of disease, strong, flexible and fully functional. It is this combination of focused integration that permits me to celebrate this circumstance.
You see, when you live a life in full focus, and one in which you integrate the ideas and values that really matter to you, then and only then can you rationally celebrate your existence. It is this celebration, in all its glorious forms, that makes life worth living.
Whether that celebration is the pleasure of watching your children grow up, staring into the eyes of the person you love most and feeling that love come right back to you or something as simple as performing a set of intense barbell curls — when you live a life of focused integration, you can justly celebrate life in all of its forms.
For me, the three pillars of focus, integration and celebration comprise the basis of my personal ethos. And thanks to my friend’s question some years ago, these three pillars also represent the consistent themes running through my lifestyle website and podcast, Way of the Renaissance Man.
If you want to hear more about the various ways I and others focus, integrate and celebrate life, I invite you to check out the articles, interviews and podcasts available right now at WayoftheRenaissanceman.com.
ETF Talk: Let’s Give Our Profits Some Momentum!
Last week, I introduced the SPDR Russell 1000 Low Volatility Focus ETF (NYSE: ONEV), a multi-factor smart beta fund that focused largely on low volatility stocks.
Today, I want to introduce you to one of its cousins, another multi-factor smart beta fund with a different core value set: one focused on momentum. Founded in 2015 by State Street Global Advisors, the SPDR Russell 1000 Momentum Focus ETF (ONEO) tracks the Russell 1000 Momentum Focused Factor Index, whose stocks are selected and weighted by four factors, and are then scaled by market cap.
Despite its name, ONEO doesn’t focus solely on high-momentum stocks. Instead, the fund stands alongside ONEV and ONEY as part of a suite of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that score the members of the Russell 1000 index on three “core” factors — value, quality and small size — and one “focus” factor, which in ONEO’s case, is momentum. These factor scores are then scaled by market cap to determine their weighting and holdings. Russell 1000 equities with weights below a certain threshold get dropped from the index.
The result is a portfolio that loosely resembles the broad market, but with emphasis on the four factors, including momentum. ONEO’s focus on the Russell 1000 means it holds a significant amount of mid-cap investments. That focus is amplified by the fund’s small size factor tilt.
At present, ONEO has $152.34 million assets under management, and has an expense ratio of 0.20%. Its current top holdings include the Marathon Petroleum Corporation (NYSE: MPC), Cardinal Health, Inc. (NYSE: CAH), the ON Semiconductor Corporation (NASDAQ: ON), the McKesson Corporation (NYSE: MCK) and Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. (NYSE: RS).
Courtesy of www.stockcharts.com
As of Sept. 19, the fund is up 0.02% in the past month, 0.27% in the past three months and up 5.91% year to date.
While this fund may be focused on high momentum, it is better for investors to slow down and take their time. Remember to always consider your personal financial situation and goals before making any investment. Investors are always encouraged to do their due diligence before adding any stock or exchange-traded fund (ETF) to their portfolios.
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…
The Beautiful Banality of Sublime Moments
Sublime moments. They 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. I say that, because all too often, we overlook, take for granted or otherwise fail to really notice the beautiful banality of sublime moments happening all around us.
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.
For example, last year, I flew home to Southern California after a business trip to Washington, D.C. During my flight, I looked out the window and essentially witnessed the curve of the earth.
The curve of the earth as viewed from my window seat.
Now, I suspect you have been on a commercial airliner and looked out the window. But when you did, did you really pause and notice that sublime curve?
Did you drink in the wider notion that you were thousands of feet in the air, hurtling through the atmosphere at hundreds of miles per hour? I noticed this that day, and I did so with a glass of wine in my hand, and while also ironically listening to the song “Curve of the Earth” by the great Matt Nathanson.
Check out the chorus from the song here, and I suspect you’ll understand why it made such an impression on me at that moment:
Tell me does the world revolve the same?
Tell me do the people all take care of you?
Did you doubt the curve of the earth?
And every word, every word…
The serendipity of this confluence of circumstances was not lost to me. In fact, I had to pause and make sure I really noticed everything about this moment. The feeling of wonderment at the technological achievements of the human mind that allowed me to fly across the country in about five hours while listening to music that was recorded, digitally reproduced and then pumped into my aural canal from little white pods wirelessly broadcasting the sound directly into my brain.
Yes, these things happen to millions of people every day, but most people don’t really notice how truly sublime an achievement it is.
Instead, many people lament the fact that things aren’t even better, or more convenient, or less expensive than they are.
Hey, I understand this. We all get used to modern life and the convenience of our wondrous world, and we all often take for granted that the luxuries produced by capitalism are here, on demand, for us to enjoy. And when things don’t go as planned, or when there is a glitch in our desire fulfillment chain, people take the opposite tack of noticing peak experience and focus on the distressed experience.
But in my opinion, this is a huge mistake.
Now, I am not saying we should accept things that are broken, damaged or that don’t work. And if there is a problem to be solved, a need to be fulfilled or a fix that needs implementing, we should do it.
Yet, in a world surrounded by brilliant achievement, wondrous technology and tremendous bounty — I think each day demands a bit more sublime notice.
So, right now, pause and notice the sublime nature of the wondrous things in your life.
Look around the room, look at the computer, tablet or phone you are reading this on, and let that sense of awe at the achievement wash over you as if you were seeing the curve of the earth for the first time.
Then, I want you to reach for the tissue to blot your eyes, because when you stop to truly notice the beautiful banality of sublime moments, the swelling of your spirit might just evoke a few teardrops of wonderment.
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
This beautiful reflection by the Stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor on the impermanence of life is known as “Memento Mori,” which is Latin for “remember you will die.” I let this thought animate me, not in a morbid sense, but in a celebratory sense (remember, “celebration” is one of the three pillars of the Renaissance Man ethos). You see, Memento Mori serves as a constant reminder not to take your time on earth for granted and not to worry about things beyond your control.
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,