As a youth open to the world’s influence, you never know what will captivate your interest, and what will lead you to the paths you take in life.
It was August 1974 when I, along with the rest of the world, watched then-President Nixon resign his office in disgrace. And while I was only 10 years old, thinking about that event brings me right back to the Southern California suburban home where I grew up, and right to the scene of my family watching our RCA console TV and, astonished, taking in the historic moment.
A few years later, I began to read about this still-fresh historical wound on society, and I started exploring the reasons why the president had resigned (rather than undergoing the indignity of being impeached and removed from office). At the heart of that resignation was, of all things, a burglary. Specifically, it was one of the most famous burglaries in American history, the crime known as the Watergate burglary.
In reading about Watergate, one quickly comes to learn the name G. Gordon Liddy.
Gordon Liddy was one of the key figures in the scandal, because he was the person who basically organized, planned and sent his team of former intelligence industry operatives into the Watergate complex to bug the Democratic Party headquarters in June 1972.
On Tuesday, George Gordon Battle Liddy died. He was 90 years old.
So, what’s so important about G. Gordon Liddy, and why am I writing about him today?
Well, because G. Gordon Liddy helped shape my mind. He also helped me forge my own will, and he helped me become the man I am today. Let me explain.
In 1976, “Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy” was published. My father told me that he heard that the book was very interesting, so he purchased it for himself. But I had the habit of beating my father to the punch when it came to reading, so I grabbed his copy of “Will” and read it before he had the chance.
Well, this book was a huge eye opener for me. Not only was it a fascinating tale of politics and intrigue during that time, it also was the story of how G. Gordon Liddy took control of his own destiny and basically created the man he would become (for better or for worse).
As I read Liddy’s book, I was mesmerized by the story of his personal transformation “from a puny, fearful boy to a strong, fearless man,” as he writes it. This transformation took place via a regime of intense exercise and physical bravado, including capturing, killing and then eating rats. He did this to overcome his fear of rats, so that now, the rats would fear him!
This overcoming of fear really resonated with me as a youth, and I sought out to do the same thing in my life. No, I never ate a rat, but I did decide to confront the local bully at my junior high after reading Liddy’s book. Although this bully was substantially larger than me, he crumbled when I punched him in his ugly mouth. Yes, I can still picture the bloody, busted lip and the tears on his cowardly face. From then on, he feared me.
Fast forward some 14 years, after high school, after college, and just as I was leaving the U.S. Army, I had the pleasure of not only meeting G. Gordon Liddy, but of also actually working alongside the man.
Liddy was setting up an academy where he would train security people in executive protection, firearms, military and intelligence operations and hand-to-hand combat. Through some mutual acquaintances, I was brought to Liddy’s attention to see if I could help with the project as one of the instructors.
Your youthful editor with Watergate icon G. Gordon Liddy.
The photo here was my first meeting with “Gordon,” as he liked to be called. One of the most interesting conversations we had was about a project he planned to call “Hurricane Force.” It was to be a private security force made up of former special operations personnel, and it would conduct operations such as child kidnapping recoveries and other “high-risk ops” where law enforcement wouldn’t or couldn’t intervene.
I never participated in Hurricane Force, and I don’t really know if anything came of it. But just the idea of being considered for a private special ops force was supremely interesting to me, especially when talking to G. Gordon Liddy about it over drinks at a Miami hotel.
The more important takeaway here is that in life, sometimes you are influenced by an unlikely hero. Sometimes that hero is less than 100% good. After all, Liddy’s attempted subversion of the 1972 election is not something I endorse. And I don’t endorse criminal behavior such as burglaries, or break-ins, or any of the other crimes Liddy was convicted of.
I do, however, endorse the man’s mindset, which cultivated an iron will strong enough to abide by principles in life, principles that Liddy would not abandon even at the price of going to prison.
Sure, he could have testified against his co-conspirators and likely gotten a much-reduced sentence, or no sentence at all, for his role in the Watergate burglary. But what he chose to do was live by his convictions, convictions that told him if you engage in an operation with others, you never give up those others just to save your own tail.
Stated more colloquially, you never “rat” on your friends. Instead, you eat the rat, and make him fear you.
R.I.P., Gordon, your influence will remain with me always.
ETF Talk: Invest in Large-Cap Semiconductors with This Fund
The VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ:SMH) is an open-ended fund that tracks a market-cap-weighted index of 25 of the largest U.S.-listed semiconductor companies.
This exchange-traded fund (ETF) is highly concentrated in common stocks and depositary receipts of U.S.-listed semiconductor companies. Mid-cap companies and foreign companies listed in the United States can also be included.
To be initially eligible, 50% of company revenues must be primarily in the production of semiconductors and semiconductor equipment. The top 50 eligible companies by market cap are then given two separate ranks based on free-float market capitalization in descending order and three-month average daily trading volume in descending order.
Then, those two ranks are summed, and the top 25 companies are selected. A capping scheme is applied to ensure diversification and more weight is given to the larger companies.
The Index seeks to track the most liquid companies in the industry based on market capitalization and trading volume. Index methodology favors the largest companies in the industry, leaving SMH with over 98% of its holdings in large-cap companies. Its portfolio may include both domestic and U.S.-listed foreign companies to provide enhanced industry representation.
The fund currently trades around $241 and has a 0.62% yield. Its inception was in May 2000. With an expense ratio of 0.35%, the fund is relatively inexpensive to hold compared to other ETFs, and it has an average spread of 0.01%.
SMH seeks to replicate as closely as possible, before fees and expenses, the price and yield performance of the MVIS US Listed Semiconductor 25 Index (MVSMHTR), which is intended to track the overall performance of companies involved in semiconductor production and equipment. Plus, semiconductor stocks generally have pulled back in recent weeks, so those looking to gain exposure to the sector can do so now for a nice discount compared to just a month ago.
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.
In case you missed it…
What the Bleep is a Renaissance Man
I was at a social gathering recently with familiar acquaintances, and also with many people who I had never met. One of my acquaintances introduced me to the group in the following fashion: “Hey everyone, meet Jim, he’s a Renaissance Man.”
While many of the newly introduced smiled and said hello, one rather bold young gent blurted out this response: “What the bleep is a Renaissance Man?” Of course, he didn’t use the word “bleep.”
Now, while some people may have been put off by this response, I was not. In fact, I took it as an opportunity to educate this young gent, as well as the rest of those gathered around, as to just what the bleep a Renaissance Man is, what that actually means in action and why it matters to my life — and to the lives of countless others.
I started off first with a little history lesson on the Renaissance itself, which is the term historians use for the period in Europe where there was a cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” following the Middle Ages. This period is usually thought to have taken place from the 14th century to the 17th century. The reason why this period in history is so important is because the leading thinkers, scientists and artists of the time promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art — i.e., the things that move the world, and that make life worth living.
After establishing the history, I explained that the modern use of the term “Renaissance Man” is a moniker to describe someone with a wide breadth of knowledge, competence and actual hands-on experience in multiple different fields. I further explained that a Renaissance Man is someone interested in just about everything, knowledgeable in many things and who can do a whole lot of things well.
To bring a specific example to life, I told this group about the one person I know best. Here, I described a Renaissance Man as someone who can write about complex subjects such as financial markets, investing and the economy, and make sense of it all for tens of thousands of readers. And that same person also can play piano, guitar, harmonica and can sing and compose and perform original music. He can and has competed in bodybuilding contests, martial arts tournaments and strength competitions. That same person also served in the U.S. Army as an airborne infantryman and special operations soldier. He also holds a BA in Philosophy from UCLA. Oh, and that same man is an expert horseman, marksman and racecar driver.
Of course, the person I know best is me, and the above description is just a brief outline of my personal biography.
I then explained to this group what it means to think, act and live like a Renaissance Man. I told them it starts with an approach to existence that incorporates three key concepts, or what I call the “three pillars” of the Renaissance Man ethos, which are “focus,” “integration” and “celebration.”
“Focus” 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 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 my favorite 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 racecar, walking my 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.
“Integration” is the second pillar of my ethos, and it comes after you have 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 have 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 is the fact 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 Renaissance Man 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” is that third pillar of the ethos, and it comes 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 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 50s, 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.
The way I see it, 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, or whether it’s staring into the eyes of the person you love most and feeling that love come right back to you, or whether it’s 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 the young gent’s bold utterance, “What the bleep is a Renaissance Man?” I was able to go much further into the issue than anyone at the aforementioned gathering was ever anticipating
Now, as a reader of The Deep Woods, you may already know that I have put these Renaissance Man concepts and ideas into the world via my lifestyle website and podcast, WayoftheRenaissanceman.com.
Today, I am proud to announce a new and improved Way of the Renaissance Man website. The new site features enhanced video content, including a new welcome video that explains more about what the site and podcast are about, and highlights some of the new and improved features.
One of the improved aspects of the site is the new Way of the Renaissance Man Lifestyle Shop. Here you can show your enthusiasm for celebrating the rational life by grabbing some of your very own Way of the Renaissance Man gear.
Also today, be sure to tune in to this week’s episode of the podcast, the “Last of the Curious Conversations with Gabe Bautista and John Paul Mendocha.” This episode is the third and final installment of my fascinating conversations with two of the country’s leading business consultants.
Finally, I am pleased to tell you that my recent educational presentation on Bitcoin, the blockchain and cryptocurrencies has been picked up by the Global Financial Wealth TV network. To watch my presentation, simply click here now.
So, check out the new and improved Way of the Renaissance Man lifestyle website and podcast today. Oh, and the next time you are at a party and someone is introduced as a Renaissance Man, you will know exactly what they mean!
“They were afraid, never having learned what I taught myself: Defeat the fear of death and welcome the death of fear.”
–G. Gordon Liddy
It is the hardcore nature and intensity found in this G. Gordon Liddy quote that made me so enamored with this aspect of the man’s mind, especially as a fearful youth trying to forge his own iron will. I suspect that if more young men adopted this perspective, there would be far fewer “snowflakes” in society and far more real men.
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,