Grow Your Portfolio the Intelligent Way

Resolutions Are Wishes, Take Action Instead 

By Jim Woods

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

–Yoda 

It’s New Year’s Day, and around the world people are resolving to be better. 

This is a laudable pursuit, as planning to be better can be the first step in becoming better. Unfortunately, most people who resolve to accomplish a goal in the upcoming year fail miserably at sustaining the effort needed to see that goal through.

According to one analysis, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. Now, if you had an 80% failure rate at your profession, or in your relationships, or in anything else you do, people would call you a loser — and they’d be right.

The fact is that New Year’s resolutions are usually just off-the-cuff proclamations (I call them wishes) of what people want the world to be. And one reason why I think people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions is because wishing for something doesn’t make it so.

Reality just doesn’t work that way. If you want to bring real change into existence, you have to do something that is damn tough — you have to actually change. 

Yet actually changing isn’t easy. That’s why eight out of 10 people fail to do what they set out to do every Jan. 1. So, how do you actually change?

For me, the first step in achieving actual change is to accept all responsibility for that change. It’s a tactic that former Navy SEAL officers Jocko Willink and Leif Babin call “Extreme Ownership.” What this means is you need to stop blaming the universe for your shortcomings. 

Here’s a little newsflash I figured out long ago — the universe doesn’t care about me. 

Once I accepted this, it was easy to come to terms with the fact that I was on my own, with my mind as my only tool of survival. 

So, my first recommendation to help achieve actual change is to stop blaming everyone else for your lot in life. The corollary principle here is that you then need to look from within for the source of your flaws and the source of your powers. 

One thing I do on a regular basis is to physically look myself in the mirror with rapier-like logic. This technique helps me identify my negatives (both physical and mental), so that I can psychologically carve out the negative and leave intact the positives that I must rely on to get me through the toughness of change. 

Another tactic I’ve found that helps me affect actual change is to do a postmortem analysis of my failures and victories from the previous year. 

This tactic can be a bit disconcerting, especially if there are far more failures than there were victories. Yet in order to bring about actual change, you need to learn from those defeats. You need to determine what went wrong, why it went wrong and why you failed — not why something outside of your control caused you to fail.

Take extreme ownership for your role in the failure. It’s both humbling and liberating, and it gives you the power of the force of change. 

Next, take responsibility for your role in the victories you enjoyed. Here again, don’t blame luck, or fate, or any other force of the universe for your hand in the victory. Take extreme ownership of what you did right and do more of that in the new year.

One good way of approaching a postmortem analysis of your year is to do what best-selling author and lifestyle guru Tim Ferris does, and that’s to conduct a past year review, or PYR.

According to Ferris, the process takes about 30-60 minutes, and it involves getting out a notepad and writing down the year’s experiences in two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE. Ferris then recommends looking at your notepad list and then asking yourself: “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”

Based on your answers, Ferris recommends taking your “positive” leaders and scheduling more of them in the new year. “Get them on the calendar now!” writes Ferris, as concentrating on these victories, or peak experiences, is essential to cultivating actual change. 

Then, Ferris suggests taking your “negative” leaders and put them at the top of your, “NOT-TO-DO LIST.” These are the people and things you know make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt or any other destructive emotion or nonsense reason. This too, in my view, is part of the mindset needed to affect actual change.

Finally, one little meme that comes in handy when you want to bring real change to your life is to remember the wisdom of Master Yoda. 

So, on this New Year’s Day (and every day of your life), either do, or do not — there is no try. 

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ETF Talk: Accessing Oil and Gas Services

“Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in a car.” — E. B. White

Given the recurring political instability in the Middle East and concerns about the planet, it is no surprise that oil and gas stocks crashed in 2014. Things were not much better in late 2019 because even though energy stocks were up 5.8% on the year, according to John Divine of U.S. News and World Report, their success paled against the 27.3% gains of the S&P 500 over the same period of time.

However, on the eve of a new year and a new decade, and with positive global growth and OPEC production cuts on the horizon, it is within the bounds of the imagination for oil stocks to finally rebound. Investors who want to get back into oil stocks but are risk-adverse, since oil prices (and oil stocks) are quite fickle, might want to consider exchange-traded fund funds (ETFs) that track this sector instead.

One of the ETFs that can provide investors with access into the world of oil and gas stocks is the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (NYSEARCA: XOP)

This ETF tracks an equal-weighted index of companies in the U.S. oil and exploration and production sector. The fact that it provides an equal-weight approach to both oil and gas production and exploration is a way to get around the problem that the industry in question is dominated by a few very large companies. The downside to this approach is that the fund is strongly biased towards small- and mid-cap stocks.

This fund’s top holdings include WPX Energy Inc. (NYSE: WPX), Apache Corporation (NYSE: APA), Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL), EQT Corporation (NYSE:EQT), Callon Petroleum Company (NYSE:CPE), EOG Resources, Inc. (NYSE: EOG) and Noble Energy, Inc. (NASDAQ: NBL).

This fund’s performance has been solid in the short run but less than ideal in the long run. As of 12/27/2019, XOP is up 12.67% over the past month and up 4.36% over the past three months. It is currently down 10.62% year to date.

The fund has $2.77 billion in assets under management and an expense ratio of 0.35%, meaning that it is more expensive to hold in comparison to some other ETFs. 

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

In short, while XOP does provide an investor with a chance to profit from the world of oil and gas stocks, the sector may not be appropriate for all portfolios. Thus, interested investors always should conduct their own due diligence and decide whether the fund is suitable for their investing goals.

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Bringing Excitement and Passion to the Dismal Science

When asked to think about the prototype professor of economics, most people are likely to conjure up the image of a staid gentleman in a bowtie buried in statistics.

Well, those people haven’t met Sean Flynn. 

In the 2020 inaugural episode of the Way of the Renaissance Man podcast, you’ll hear my fascinating, fun and humorous discussion with the eminently vibrant Scripps College economics professor.

Sean is the author of the best-selling book, “Economics for Dummies,” and he’s the co-author of the world’s best-selling economics textbook. 

Topics covered in this discussion include Sean’s personal history as an economist, how he was chosen to write “Economics for Dummies,” our mutual love of martial arts and his groundbreaking work in the field of free-market health care reform. 

Plus, you’ll learn all about Sean’s new book, “The Cure That Works,” which advocates for enhanced price transparency in health care, consistent pricing for every consumer, an insurance system designed so that individuals can actually pay their deductibles and real competition among health care providers.  

After listening to this episode, I suspect you’ll have a much different view of an economics professor.

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Failure Is Our Best Teacher 

“Let all the failures of your past year be your best guide in the New Year!”

— Mehmet Murat ildan

The Turkish playwright, novelist and thinker has many a brilliant insight, including our first bit of wisdom for the year. In this timely quote, he reminds us that failure is often our best teacher. A more pedestrian way of saying this is to try not to make the same mistakes twice. In 2020, this lesson will be my sidekick. 

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.

 

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