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Springing Into Real Happiness

• Springing Into Real Happiness
• ETF Talk: Offering Exposure to the Genomic Revolution
• Capitalism: The Ordnance of Rational Ideas
• My Favorite Oprah (Yes, Oprah) Quote

It is the first day of spring, and the eternal optimist in me is using this occasion to promote what I call “springing into real happiness.”

Not coincidentally, this personal push is also coming out on the same day as the release of the World Happiness Report 2019. This annual report measures the state of global happiness by ranking 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

According to editors John F. Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey D. Sachs, “This year’s World Happiness Report focuses on happiness and the community: how happiness has evolved over the past dozen years, with a focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes.”

I always find this report interesting reading; however, be forewarned that the findings for our beloved United States aren’t too favorable this year. This year, the United States dropped one spot in the rankings from the prior year, and we now are in 19th place. The report also has an ominous chapter titled, “The Sad State of Happiness in the United States and the Role of Digital Media.”

In it, chapter author Jean M. Twenge argues, “The years since 2010 have not been good ones for happiness and well-being among Americans. Even as the United States economy improved after the end of the Great Recession in 2009, happiness among adults did not rebound to the higher levels of the 1990s, continuing a slow decline ongoing since at least 2000.”

Twenge offers a question that is indeed troubling. It is also one that I think requires serious reflection. Here’s the gist of the question that is stated in the report; “By most accounts, Americans should be happier now than ever. The violent crime rate is low, as is the unemployment rate. Income per capita has steadily grown over the last few decades. This is the Easterlin paradox: As the standard of living improves, so should happiness — but it has not.”

So, why hasn’t happiness in the U.S. increased?

Twenge offers up a credible analysis which says Americans are less happy due to fundamental shifts in how we spend our leisure time. Although her findings are concentrated on adolescents, her basic conclusion is that the sharp increase in digital media use has resulted in people of all ages likely spending less time interacting with each other in person. This includes getting together with friends, socializing and going to parties.

“The way adolescents socialize has fundamentally shifted, moving toward online activities and away from face-to-face social interaction,” writes Twenge. She also points out that other “non-screen” activities have also declined, including attending religious services, reading books and magazines and even sleeping.

Now, because of my various digital media projects, I know that I now spend more time engaged in my digital and social media life than ever before. And admittedly, my “non-screen” activities have, albeit only slightly, declined.

The one thing that hasn’t declined for me is my happiness. That’s actually improving on a regular and consistent basis. And, it’s not because I’m without personal and professional struggles. I suspect we all face very similar struggles in life, because life is, by its very nature, a daily struggle.

I suspect that my happiness level is increasing has more to do with how I approach being happy.

That approach has to do with looking at happiness as not simply a result, but as part of the process of living. It’s the kind of happiness that Aristotle called “eudaimonia,” which can essentially be defined as “the success of being human.”

That success is not, however, found in the end result of your activity. Rather, the success is in the doing of the activity.

For me, it’s the act of thinking that allows me to spring into real happiness, because thinking about a problem, figuring out a solution and then implementing that solution is the real eudaimonia of life. It also is an individually heroic pursuit that anyone can engage in — if he or she is willing to do the work.

Some of the best ideas I’ve found on happiness, and ones that have shaped my pursuit of this often-elusive concept, come from the work of psychologist Dr. Joel Wade. His book, “The Virtue of Happiness,” is one that I highly recommend as the first giant step in nurturing a lifetime of happiness.

As Dr. Wade wrote: “A human life that’s happy is not a trivial matter of being lucky, of getting what we want; pleasant pastimes or the absence of responsibilities or pain. A human life that’s happy is an accomplishment — a triumphant, sometimes even heroic creation.”

I love Dr. Wade’s sense of life, and it comes through brilliantly in his writing. It also comes through in person. If you ever get the privilege of meeting him, you’ll know what I mean.

I had that privilege last July at the annual FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas. In fact, Dr. Wade was generous enough to share his thoughts on happiness with me via an interview for my podcast, “Way of the Renaissance Man.”

Photo Courtesy of Unlock Your Wealth Today

In this illuminating episode, Dr. Wade taught me one of my favorite intellectual memes regarding happiness. As he explained, happiness should always be “on your radar like a point on the shore to aim your boat.” I like that a lot, and ever since hearing it, I’ve tried to aim my boat in that direction.

Some of the other topics we discussed during the podcast include Dr. Wade’s recommendation that people create what he calls a “virtuous cycle,” which means focusing on cultivating key virtues such as gratitude, courage and integrity which create the foundation necessary for a truly happy life.

We also talked about the role of “grit,” i.e. the ability to persevere through challenges and hardship to achieve goals over time, and how that relates to happiness.

“Sometimes we have to overcome tremendous physical or psychological hardships. Sometimes we have to resist strong short-term temptations or struggle to make sense of our path,” wrote Dr. Wade. “As with any big, long-term project, a happy life takes work; it’s complicated and time consuming — more like a great symphony of harmony and counterpoint than a simple, catchy jingle. To create a life that’s truly happy over time takes discipline, passion, and courage.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So today, why not make this first day of spring your occasion to spring into real happiness. Starting is easy too, because all you have to do is listen to my podcast featuring Dr. Wade.

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Join Me at the MoneyShow in Las Vegas, May 13-15

I invite you to join me for the MoneyShow in Las Vegas, May 13-15, when I will be a featured speaker to share my latest views about the market and the best investments to make now. The event will be based at the Bally’s/Paris Resorts and feature more than 200 presentations. Other featured speakers include Steve Forbes, Dr. Mark Skousen and Hilary Kramer. Click here to register free as my guest or call 1-800-970-4355 and be sure to use my priority code of 047465.

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ETF Talk: Offering Exposure to the Genomic Revolution

The genomics industry currently is working hard to develop treatments for Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis and other genetic scourges that still remain outside the scope of modern medicine to cure.

As this field of science continues to grow, investors might want to take note of the ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG), a multi-sector exchange-traded fund that is designed to give investors exposure to companies that are involved with the genomics industry.

While this ETF is theoretically identifying companies located around the world, ARKG currently only holds assets in companies that come from three countries: The United States (96.29%), France (3.52%) and Israel (0.20%).

Some of this fund’s top holdings include Invitate Corp. (NYSE:NVTA), Illumina, Inc. (NASDAQ:ILMN), Intellia Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:NTLA), Editas Medicine, Inc. (NASDAQ:EDIT), Veracyte Inc. (NASDAQ:VCYT), Medidata Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:MDSO), Crispr Therapeutics AG (NASDAQ:CRSP) and NanoString Technology (NASDAQ:NSTG)+.

The ETF’s top sectors are biotechnology (63.27%), advanced medical equipment (9.20%), medical equipment, supplies and distribution (7.77%), IT services and consulting (4.96%), pharmaceuticals (3.98%) and semiconductors (3.26%).

The fund currently has $379.76 million in assets under management and has a $3.72 million average daily volume of traded shares. ARKG also has an expense ratio of 0.75%, so it is more expensive to hold in comparison to other exchange-traded funds.

In short, while ARKG does have several advantages over some of its peer funds, its risks and costs are not zero. Furthermore, it would be wise to mention that the fund’s performance has been lackluster since its inception, even though the sector it is supposed to be following is still quite lively. Its liquidity is also quite thin, and it often has a very wide spread when compared to other ETFs in the same sector.

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

As the preceding chart shows, the fund has been on an upward trend so far this year. As always, interested investors should do their due diligence and decide whether the fund is suitable for 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 just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.

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Capitalism: The Ordnance of Rational Ideas

In a recent lead story, “This Is the True Face of Socialism,” I addressed one of the major philosophic issues confronting the world today — the rise of socialism and the concomitant demonization of capitalism.

More importantly, I addressed a subscriber’s question regarding what one can do to combat the rise of this malicious form of collectivism. As I explained, the only solution to bad ideas are good ideas, and socialism is a very bad idea whose only solution is the very good idea of capitalism.

Make no mistake, the conflict between socialism and capitalism is indeed an epic battle that needs to be fought with all our might. And to fight it properly, we must arm ourselves with the only munitions that can do any real damage — the ordnance of rational ideas.

So, what’s so bad about the essence of the idea of socialism? What’s so good about the essence of the idea of capitalism?

It’s a legitimate question that doesn’t get asked very often, particularly because the “essence” part isn’t usually included in the discussion.

What’s usually discussed in arguments about socialism vs. capitalism are issues such as income inequality, uneven playing fields, the social safety net, government healthcare, breaking up big banks, big tech, big pharma or big whatever the prevailing successful industry is at the time.

These issues all are tangential to the essentials operating underneath the concepts of socialism vs. capitalism. So, when arguing with someone over whether too few individuals “control” most of the wealth, whether government needs to “level the playing field” among industries, or whether healthcare is a “right,” you are arguing from concrete outcomes and not principles.

To argue from principles, you have to argue by identifying the core essence of each concept.

The essence of socialism is that the individual does not own his or her own life.

Instead, he or she is the property of the collective. A corollary to this is that his or her life, liberty and the byproducts of her mind are not his or hers to dispense with, but rather, they are first and foremost, in principle, the property of the state.

The essence of capitalism is that the individual does own her own life.

This recognition of individual rights comes with its own set of corollaries, one of which forbids of the violation of the right to an individual’s life, liberty and most importantly, property, by means of physical force. Absent the absolute right of an individual to her own life, the state has de facto permission to violate everyone’s rights based on the notion that society “needs it.”

Now, many times when arguments are made on either side of the socialism vs. capitalism debate, capitalism’s defenders argue from pragmatism, citing the tremendous wealth that free markets create and how much good they do for — here it comes — “society.”

Well, as soon as we, capitalism’s defenders, start to engage in that line of argument absent the principle of an individual’s absolute right to her own life, we have already ceded the moral high ground.

As the philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand, who is, in my view, one of the most ardent, eloquent and brilliant articulators of capitalism’s morality, once wrote:

“The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve ‘the common good.’ It is true that capitalism does–if that catch-phrase has any meaning–but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is justice.”

So, to combat the bad idea of socialism, first boil it down to who owns your life.

Do you own your life, or is it owned by society, the group, the collective, the state, the monarchy, the church, the Führer, the Politburo, Parliament, Congress or the White House?

To me, the rational answer is obvious. And sometimes in the battle of ideas, the most-brilliant salvo is the most obvious.

If you want to arm yourself with as much rational ordnance as you can carry when arguing in favor of capitalism’s essence, here are some intellectual munitions that you simply must have in your arsenal.

  • “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,” by Ayn Rand
  • “Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand
  • “Human Action,” by Ludwig von Mises
  • “The Road to Serfdom,” by F.A. Hayek
  •  “Economics in One Lesson,” by Henry Hazlitt
  • “The Big Three in Economics: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes,” by Dr. Mark Skousen

Although there are countless more brilliant defenses of capitalism, these texts will be more than enough rational ordnance to combat any social justice warrior who claims that government force should be employed for the “good of society.”

Oh, and whenever you hear the term “good of society,” it’s usually a veiled euphemism for “you don’t own your life, it’s the property of the collective.”

If any bad idea needs to be fought with every bit of intellectual valor we can muster, it’s that bad idea.

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My Favorite Oprah (Yes, Oprah) Quote

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

—Oprah Winfrey

Although I’m not a big consumer of her television products, there is no denying that Oprah Winfrey is a media and branding genius. Her ability to appeal to much of the American psyche is remarkable, and she unapologetically deserves, and has earned, every bit of her tremendous success. In this quote, Oprah reminds us that it’s up to us to give ourselves praise and to celebrate our own lives. Because when you do that, you spark a celebratory fire that spreads benevolently and makes the world just a little bit better. And what’s more deserving of celebration than that?

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

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