Friday, December 21, 2012

Thoughts for the Holidays

The last few weeks have been a big challenge for me - seem to have slid into a cycle of depression. One never knows what brings these cycles on. I just don't seem to be making any progress on a lot of fronts and this is raising my frustration levels. I do suffer from what the psychologists call a low frustration threshold. Failing (or not succeeding to my standards) at a few things does not help.

Taken a while to recover from the passing of my friend, Cate Clewett who died a few weeks back following an extended struggle with cancer. I went to her funeral - with 500 people in the church for the service, I got to thinking about the impact one makes in life. I was wondering how many people would come to my funeral and what they would say. I can tell you it would not be 500 people unless one found a way to magically transport people around the world from all the places I have lived in. You see, Cate grew up in the suburb the church was in; she went to the local school next door to the church; she went to high school down the road; she went to university in the city; she lived and worked down the road. For me the failure is I have not made enough friends in each of the places I have lived in - because I have always been moving, I protect myself from future pain by not making friends. Cate's funeral was a strong reminder to me to keep in touch with the people I do make as friends. The wake was a good opportunity to put some of that in place with reconnections made to Cate's husband (Gene) and a few other mutual friends. the other big action step coming out of cate's untimely passing (she was just 60 and had been ill over the 12 years i have known her) was to nominate a Breast Cancer charity as one of the two charities my businesses will support. We have some great initiatives here in Australia and also some great research capability - I will find a charity that supports research - that way the benefits can spread wider than these shores.

I did attend a 40th birthday party for a former colleague (Tom Sonnen) last week. This was a grand example of not keeping in touch. the last time I saw Tom he was in his 20's. easy to make excuses as he moved from London to San Francisco before I moved from London to Sydney. I last saw his wife, Amy, even further ago than that. The bad part of the story is that Tom and Amy moved to Sydney about 18 months ago and I have not made one single call to plan to meet up. I guess I am a whole lot more comfortable writing rather than phoning. We had a grand birthday party as it was a chance for me to catch up with a few other former colleagues. The others i had seen more recently - for example, had dinner with Ron Chernin in Bangkok a couple of years ago when we were living there. Sad to say, Ron has been in Sydney a while now.  The best part of the party was meeting Tom's daughters. Jade especially impressed me - at age 11 she was very switched on to the value and importance of life.

She was explaining to me the 5 keys to a successful life:
  • Getting along
  • Resilience
  • Persistence
  • Organisation
  • Confidence
She could articulate how each applied in different situations - e.g., if you were being bullied at school; if you had a lot of jobs that needed doing.  I did suggest she add a few - imagination/creativity will be key to making changes to life if things are not working as well as you like was one.  I was cross examined about what I do. When I explained that I no longer had a job or needed a job, she was a little taken aback. She did say that if she was in that psotion she would like to travel the world a bit and write books - to create things. Very switched on young lady and a delight.  Made me happy to be in her presence.

My daughter received her final results for her Higher School Certificate and her university admission score (called an ATAR) this week. With an ATAR of 96.3 she is in the top 5 % of all students in the state. That means she will be able to do the university course of her choice. It also brings to an end a chapter of schooling as all 3 of my children have competed school. there is no doubt that Katherine carries the 5 keys to success that Jade talked about - I just need to find a way to bring that back into my life.

I have been able to get on the bicycle and have put in a few kms of training with 4 rides completed since my last post. The plan is to ride 3 or 4 days a week with rides of about one and a half hours for a couple of weeks. Then I hope to be able to add in one longer ride a week. We are blessed to be living close to one of the National Parks which makes a large part of each ride a traffic free experience. Weather has been a bit strange - one hot day followed by one cool day. Riding the cool days is working well for me. It's all a bit strange as we are in an El Nino cycle - the low temperatures are not consistent with that though the lack of rain is. The big challenge - displace a few surplus kilograms from my waistline (currently weighing in over 90kgs).

FX trading continues to be a problem. Have lost 13% of my main trading account over the last 3 months (in roughly equal proportions). Last week was a great example - I made about 5% in the first couple of days after recovering a 1% loss on the first trade of the week. I promptly then gave almost all back to the market on Friday. 2 trading rules in place not followed - no trading on Fridays is one; the other is no trades on Monday until full review of market is done. It is not all bad: My trading robot is up 4.4% for the month (has a maximum of 3% at risk at any time). My outsourced service produced 2.4% in the first month and is up 4% this month so far.

Have pretty well got my personal investment portfolio in place for the expected big market moves. With the view that the US would find a solution for the Fiscal Cliff, the portfolio positioning was looking really good. The news today that the House of Representatives had delayed voting on the Fiscal Cliff matter has put a bit of a dent into all that positioning. The worst part is I have a few option contracts expiring at the end of December - they were in positive territory and now are not - prices have dropped dramatically. Luckily we have a few days to go. Just sitting tight here heopiong that the US Govt does more than kick the can down the road a little way. That would place the time element of my options-based strategy at some considerable risk.

Hard to pass through this weeks affairs without mentioning the Newtown, Connecticut massacre.  That so many young people should lose their lives in this way beggars belief. What has heartened me is the ground swell of support that is growing to tackle the gun issue in the United States. There are always a set of factors that drive these sorts of events which are linked in a much more complicated web than we ever can fathom (or the journalists will never dig into). Fareed Zakareer writing for the Washington Post summed it up quite well in his article The Solution to Gun Violence by comparing the rate iof gun homicides across countries adn comparing also social factors that drive aberrant behaviour. His conclusion is that it is not the social behaviours that are the problem, it is the access to guns. Having lived through the troubled times in South Africa when it was easy to buy an AK47 assault rifle on the street for $10, I can relate to what he is saying. I was exposed to a sinister side to that story too. I posted a tribute on Facebook to one of the teachers (Victoria Soto) who laid down her life to protect the children. I copped a heap of abuse from a Facebook friend about the fact that we did not tribute the loss of life in Afghanistan in the same way; about he American way and about the fact that my post was a publicity stunt. I was not happy - so much for the freedom to speak.

Well we are into the final days before the holidays. We have survived the end of the current round of the Mayan calendar. Now it is time to hope that the US House of Representatives reminds themselves that their obligation is to the world economy, not just the US political scene and hope we all have a happy holiday. For me it is time to take stock of all the things that have passed me by this year and to reflect on a year that has had its moments, continues to have its moments but has been filled with a lot of love from close and afar.

1 comment:

Lorraine said...

quite thought provoking and congratulations on Katherine's fantastic result. No matter what you think it is a great reflection on you and I am glad you are supported by love from near and afar xxx

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