Grow Your Portfolio the Intelligent Way

Victory Belongs to the Most Tenacious 

By Jim Woods

The statement “Victory belongs to the most tenacious” is stenciled onto the inside of the stands on Court Philippe-Chatrier, the center court at the Stade Roland Garros.

In English, the “Stade Roland Garros” translates from French into “Roland Garros Stadium,” and it is the name of the complex of tennis courts located in Paris that hosts the French Open. That tournament is taking place right now, and on Tuesday, the viewing world was treated to an epic match between two of the greatest in the history of the sport, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

The outcome was a Nadal victory in four sets, with the final set an intense tiebreaker that saw some of the match’s most brilliant shots. It also showed the resolute nature of both men, battling with what appears to be every fiber of their respective beings in the pursuit of a single goal, i.e., to make a great shot, to win a point, to win a game, to win a set, to win a match and to win a tournament.

Both incredible competitors will go down in the annals of the sport as two of the most tenacious players ever to pick up a racket. And that is appropriate, because tenacity is a trait that embodies the actual person the Stade Roland Garros was named after.

Now, you might think (as I naturally did) that given this is a tennis stadium, the Stade Roland Garros would be named after a tennis great. I mean, in America we hold the U.S. Open at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, and the featured center court matches there are played in Arthur Ashe Stadium. That stadium was named after one of the greatest American tennis stars, Arthur Ashe, a man who won the inaugural U.S. Open event in 1968.

Yet Roland Garros wasn’t a professional tennis player.

The intense eyes of Roland Garros betray his tenacity. Photo is in the public domain.

Roland Garros was a French businessman, an aviator, a World War I fighter pilot, an inventor, a skilled pianist, a pioneer, a hero, a trailblazer — definitely a Renaissance Man. Born in Saint-Denis de la Réunion on October 6, 1888, Garros was educated at the HEC business school. At the age of 21, he started his own company, a car dealership near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Now, mind you, this was in 1909, and there weren’t many car dealerships at that time.

Interestingly, in August 1909, his life changed as he attended his first air show in the Champagne region of France. Garros is said to have fallen in love with these new winged machines, and soon thereafter, he bought a plane and taught himself how to fly.

Two years later, September 6, 1911, Garros broke his first altitude record, reaching 3,910 meters (about 13,000 feet). He was soon a regular on the nascent air show circuit and in competitive air races, and he became known for his daring aviation skills. He even became a bit of a star in the aviation world, as hundreds of thousands of people in both Europe and South America would come to watch him in action.

Just two years after that altitude record, Garros took his airplane across the Mediterranean Sea, something that had never been done at the time. On September 23, 1913, he flew from Saint-Raphaël on the French Riviera to Bizerte (Tunisia), a journey that took nearly eight hours.

At the onset of World War I, Garros employed his aviation skills in defense of his native France. Now, at that time, aviation in war was new, and airplanes were equipped with little or no weaponry. That changed, however, once Garros decided to invent a machine gun that could be mounted on a fighter plane — one that could be synchronized to fire through the propeller.

In April 1915, Sub-Lieutenant Roland Garros had already used his aviation skills and new invention to win several aerial battles against German aircraft. But on one mission, his plane was hit by German anti-aircraft fire over Belgium. Garros was forced to land, and he was subsequently taken prisoner before he had chance to destroy his plane. His brilliant invention unfortunately fell into German hands, and that nation’s engineers used his ideas and adapted them to their own aircraft.

But the story gets even better. After three years in captivity, Roland Garros escaped his captors, and he did so disguised as a German officer. Unfortunately, his health had suffered mightily during captivity, but that didn’t stop the tenacious Garros from rejoining the fight.

As a result of his capture, he became badly short-sighted and had trouble seeing well enough to fly a plane. But Garros didn’t let this ailment deter him. So, he made himself eyeglasses in secret, not telling any of his fellow French aviators, so that he could see well enough to keep flying and keep battling the Germans. Sadly, on October 5, 1918, Roland Garros was killed in the skies of the Ardennes, doing what he wanted to do, and becoming legendary in the process.

In 1928, about a decade after his death, France had turned her attention to sport via the building of a large tennis stadium in Paris. One of the heads of this tennis stadium project was a man named Emile Lesueur, a former business school classmate of Roland Garros at the HEC. It was Lesueur who made sure that the Stade Français would be named Stade Roland Garros in honor of his friend and fallen hero.

So, what can we take out of this story that I suspect you never knew about until now?

Well, by reading about the valorous lives of those who shaped the world around us with their intelligence, courage and, most importantly, their tenacity in the face of unspeakable adversity, we can draw inspiration in our own lives when it comes time to meet our own challenges, set our own records, battle our own enemies, escape our own captors and rejoin the fight to defend our values.

Because as Garros said, “Victory belongs to the most tenacious.”

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ETF Talk: High-Yield Bond ETF Offers a Potential Safe Haven

The stock market is a challenging place for an investor’s money right now, and that trend has investors seeking alternative investments to continue to grow capital or find a safe haven.

Bonds are typically considered a safer asset class and are classically seen as a good investment in market downturns because they are less volatile than stocks and have the potential to go up when the market goes down. A relatively aggressive way to play bonds is by investing in higher-yield instruments through an exchange-traded fund (ETF) such as SPDR Bloomberg High Yield Bond ETF (JNK).

High-yield or “junk” bonds offer potential returns by way of yield. This fund invests in high-yield corporate bonds with higher liquidity.

Similar to most ETFs, JNK is a lower-cost method of playing a basket of assets. In this case, the fund invests in bonds of different companies.

Year to date, JNK has lost less value than the major stock indexes. It is down by about 10%, while the NASDAQ is down more than 23% and the S&P 500 has slid further than 13%.

This return does not include JNK’s yield, which currently sits at 6.19%. In general, the fund’s value comes more from yield than price increases. JNK has increased in value during the last month, however. Assets managed are just over $6 billion, while its expense ratio is a reasonable 0.40%.

Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com

The bond holdings of the fund cover a wide range of yields, blending to just over 6%-plus at present. A selection of the broad range of corporations whose bonds it holds includes TransDigm Group, Inc. (NYSE: TDG), Centene Corp. (NYSE: CNC), Caesars Entertainment Inc. (NASDAQ: CZR), Carnival Corp. (NYSE: CCL) and American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL).

For investors looking to find yield outside of the volatile stock market during current conditions, SPDR Bloomberg High Yield Bond ETF (JNK) provides one route to that goal.

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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In case you missed it…

Panaceas Are a Fool’s Ointment 

Whenever there is tragedy, there is an immediate reaction from all sides to first ascribe blame and then to propose a solution.

This is our nature as humans, as we are, in essence, problem-solving creatures who use our primary tool of survival, our reason, to prevail. And while humans have become the dominant species on Earth due to our capacity to mold the raw materials of reality into our visions, there are many things that we still do not have control over.

Now, I don’t think I need to remind you of this, but I think it begs reminding here that the world is a difficult place. And while we are brilliant in our ability to solve problems, often the rush to panacea in the face of bad things is a futile endeavor.

The latest tragedy to consider here is the horrific school murders in Uvalde, Texas, where at least 19 children and two adults were killed by an 18-year-old gunman. Now, we don’t know the motive behind these killings, or what kind of weapons were used. What we do know is that we want answers, and we want solutions — because we are humans.

Moreover, and here is where things tend to go awry, we want our answers simple and our solutions easy.

In this particular case, we want to assign a variety of easy answers as to the motives of the killer, such as mental illness, racial animus, immigrant status, drug use, etc. As for solutions, well, the understandably heartfelt proclamations from politicians, pundits and empathic persons around the world that we need to “do something about guns” also represents an easy solution.

Yet, unfortunately, the complexity and intricacy of reality doesn’t often lend itself to easy blame and easy solutions. Perhaps most importantly, the futile rush to panacea ends in misguided efforts that do as much harm as they help.

In the case of gun control, the panacea for stopping these horrific mass shootings would be to ban a particular type of firearm, or better yet in this view, ban all firearms.

In the case of speech considered to be “hateful,” the panacea here is to ban anything that anyone considers “offensive” or “disturbing” or “harmful.”

In the case of abortion, the panacea is to simply overturn decades of legal precedent and hand things over to the states and then let states put their restrictions on the legal aspects of this issue.

In the case of drug use, the panacea is to make certain drugs illegal and to put people in jail who use/abuse these illicit substances.

In the case of income inequality, the panacea is to levy pernicious taxes on millionaires and billionaires, who, the thesis goes, aren’t already paying their “fair share.”

Yet a simple step back into the realm of reality will tell you that no legislation or restrictions on firearms is going to end any individual’s propensity for malice or ill intent. And the idea that we are going to disarm America or repeal the Second Amendment is an equally fallacious panacea.

As for free speech, well, the only way to combat the ugly, evil and anti-human ideas such as racial superiority or anti-science or communism or even silly notions such as Flat Eartherism is to allow those ideas to be disinfected by the light of reason. Because the simple truth is that the only antidote to bad ideas is good ideas.

Regarding abortion, do we think that there won’t be abortions because certain state legislators deem them illegal? Can anyone really conclude that a woman who doesn’t want to carry a pregnancy to term is going to just do so because the state says she must?

As for drugs, well, we’ve had a “war on drugs” now for decades, and nearly every year, the number of drug overdose deaths has risen sharply. So, does anyone actually think more laws are the answer here?

Finally, is anyone really of the opinion that we are going to end income inequality simply by the raising taxes on the most financially successful among us? Even if this were a good idea, which it definitely is not, we all know that there are differences in human traits and circumstances that account for some people being better at certain things. It is like chopping down all the trees in the forest to make them all equal. Yet neither hatchet, axe nor saw is a panacea here, as trees will grow to the height their nature dictates.

Please don’t get me wrong here. I am truly sympathetic to the urge to “do something” in the wake of tragedy. But in life, panaceas are usually a fool’s ointment. And the better we understand this, the better we can dig deep and do the rational work needed to come up with sound solutions to complex problems.

In the end, I believe we can solve big problems, as we are problem-solving creatures. But as long as panaceas are thrown about like the intellectual bromides they are, real solutions will remain murky.

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On Unguarded Thoughts 

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.”

— Buddha

The cavalcade of impressions, feelings and ideas that come into one’s head on a constant basis are where we live our lives. And while deliberately contemplating everything from cats to the cosmos can be an enormously gratifying pursuit, being consumed by what the Buddha referred to as “thoughts unguarded” also can be the greatest source of one’s unhappiness.

So, the next time you notice (and the key here is to notice) negative, self-loathing thoughts stream into your consciousness, allow them to stream right out of your consciousness as silently and inauspiciously as they invaded. Learning to do this is what the practice of “mindfulness meditation” is all about, a practice that I and millions of others have embraced in recent years to help us make our thoughts less “unguarded.”

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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