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Is Depression the Mark of a Strong Leader?

Harry Dent had some interesting thoughts on depression.  You would think that depressed people would be failures in life, but in fact the exact opposite is true.  Many of the most successful people in history faced chronic depression.  It was their emotional struggle that made them into the leaders that history remembers.  Here’s an excerpt of Harry’s piece from Economy and Markets.

My father worked in politics with many great leaders [Note: Harry S. Dent, Sr. was a prominent power in the Republican party for decades and worked closely with Richard Nixon, Strom Thurmond and Barry Goldwater–CLS]. I also had the opportunity to speak, and work with many great communicators and entrepreneurs. It’s appropriate for most people to admire accomplished leaders… but on the inside, they also get envious. They wish they could be like them.

Remember the old adage — be careful what you wish for…

Being an entrepreneur or a great leader can take you down a very lonely path.

You don’t have many peers with which to socialize and often, don’t have any. You’re typically swimming against the current like a salmon moving upstream. The leader role takes a great level of commitment and you end up not having many opportunities to be with family and friends like most of us do…

I recently watched an incredibly interesting documentary on the Roosevelt family as they showcased the true-life challenges they faced. As a child, Teddy was a sickly child and almost died from an asthma attack. It’s hard to believe because of his robust nature as an avid outdoorsman and hunter… as well as a bold leader.

FDR not only had polio but he also suffered from depression and frequently isolated himself because of his workaholic nature. Yet he led our nation through a depression and a World War. After his death, his wife Eleanor went on to great achievements yet behind the scenes, she too suffered from depression.

Just days before watching this documentary, I heard about Robin Williams’ suicide and then Joan Rivers’ accidental death. Two talented celebrities — Williams was a great comedian and actor and Rivers was one of the top female comedians in history.

Both battled depression their entire lives and despite of it… were incredibly successful. Williams was also plagued with drug and alcohol addiction and Rivers was an intensely busy workaholic, even at 81.

Then I recalled a special I watched on Abraham Lincoln. No one had to tell me he was depressed. He’s perhaps the most depressing looking leader I’ve ever seen in history. He was treated for melancholia and was even placed on suicide watch during his presidency…

Look at Winston Churchill… another leader who was depressed and a heavy drinker. He’s said to have called his depression his “black dog” that followed him around. Churchill even avoided ledges and train platforms. He’s reputed to have said that you never know when a whim will overtake your sense of self-preservation. Yet his contributions to the political history of Great Britain are huge.

Depression is perhaps the most intolerable of emotional afflictions and if you can conquer that, you can probably conquer pretty much anything. But it can certainly prove to be a strong motivator that will get you off your ass to do something.

I was talking to one of the best speakers in his field of sales training and he told me that he had learned that he was inclined to depression. He found that working and being constantly engaged was the best and healthiest antidote for it.

Success Through Hardship

I realized through all of this that the underlying common thread in all of these leaders and successful individuals is the presence of depression… and it all fit together…

So here’s my first insight… if there weren’t a small percentage of depressed and otherwise so-called “afflicted” people in society; we wouldn’t have the innovation and leadership that has driven our remarkable progress, especially over the last few hundred years.

We should appreciate such people for the internal battles they have to fight, not just the external ones they tend to win. But you may want to think twice about envying them and wanting to trade places.

I don’t like calling things like depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, etc… “diseases” or “afflictions”. I think that we should learn to look at and work with people simply in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

As Peter Drucker said: “Great people have great weaknesses.” But they obviously have great strengths as well. Everyone should learn to focus on their strengths and to minimize, or offset, the weaknesses where possible. If you’re depressed and want to address it, it’s better to be a workaholic than an alcoholic.

To read the full article, see Depression and the Economy of a Country.

Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA, is the chief investment officer of the investment firm Sizemore Capital Management. Click here to receive his FREE weekly e-letter covering top market insights, trends, and the best stocks and ETFs to profit from today’s best global value plays. 

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The Economics of Disney’s Frozen

Frozen fever” largely passed over my house.  As the father of two young boys, I’m a lot more likely to have Teenage Mutuant Ninja Turtles playing on my living room TV. Still, even my rowdy boys have watched Frozen a few times, and I’ve caught my wife singing Let It Go more than once.  Frozen is the highest-grossing animated movie in history–bringing in more than $1.2 billion–and it is selling more merchandise than ever.

fwb_frozen_20140110

Research firm Panjiva had some interesting statistics to share on the Frozen phenomenon:

As you may have seen earlier this week, Disney (DIS) released that they have sold over 3 million Frozen costumes this year, and the latest data from Panjiva shows that fans aren’t ready to “let it go.”

According to an analysis of shipments from July to October (the time when retailers stock their shelves for the holidays), the Disney blockbuster is freezing over retail shelves this holiday shopping season, with shipments being up more than 570 percent in 2014 compared to last year during the same time period:

  • Frozen is taking over retail shelves: From July to October, there was a total of 1,508 shipments of Frozen products, up more than 570 percent from last year (Almost doubling the total number of shipments for 2013 Disney favorites, Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins, combined)
  • Elsa v. Anna: Queen Elsa has proven she is the true ruler of Arendelle, beating out her sister Anna by 46 percent in number of merchandise shipments
  • The major characters support demand: While Elsa might be dominating merchandise shipments, the other major characters aren’t doing to shabby in terms of demand. Elsa, Anna and Olaf all saw more than 1,000 percent increase in shipments in 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013.

Now, you should consider the time periods involved here.  No one was buying Frozen merchandise this time last year because the movie hadn’t come out yet.  All the same, it’s interesting that enthusiasm for the merchandise appears to be stronger than ever even though the movie hasn’t been in theaters for months.  Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that half the elementary-school-aged girls trick-or-treating in my neighborhood were dressed as Elsa…and a fair number as Anna.

Bottom line: Don’t be surprised if Disney enjoys a blowout quarter.

Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA, is the chief investment officer of the investment firm Sizemore Capital Management. Click here to receive his FREE weekly e-letter covering top market insights, trends, and the best stocks and ETFs to profit from today’s best global value plays. 

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Happy Guy Fawkes Day

guy-fawkes-maskRemember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, ’twas his intent
To blow up the King and Parli’ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s mercy he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Hulloa boys, Hulloa boys, let the bells ring.
Hulloa boys, hulloa boys, God save the King!

–Traditional English nursery rhyme

It doesn’t get much press on this side of the Atlantic, but it should.  Today, November 5, is Guy Fawkes Day, the day that the English remember one of their most notorious villains or one of their most celebrated heroes, depending on their mood or ideological leaning.

On this day in 1605 Fawkes, a disgruntled religious minority tired of official abuse, attempted to take down the entire English government—king, ministers, parliament and all—by blowing up the House of Lords with a large cache of gunpowder during the State Opening of Parliament.

Fawkes was discovered and promptly executed, but he is remembered—in typically dry English humor—as the last man to enter parliament with honest intentions.

Yesterday, Americans elected a new congress.  I expect the new Republican-controlled Senate to be at least a little more business-friendly than the one it is replacing, and now that the Republicans control both houses of congress, they will be able to control the legislative agenda.

We’ll see what they do with it.  The optimist in me hopes to see the American energy markets opened to export and a reform of Obamacare…and maybe a new free trade deal or two.   But I have a feeling that instead we’ll get a lot of populist grandstanding about “securing the border” and “protecting marriage.”   Oh, and probably a lot more pork-stuffed military procurement deals.  You know, since our armed forces, which are bigger than the next 17 countries’ militaries combined, aren’t nearly big or well funded enough.

Sigh…

Tonight, pour yourself a drink and offer a toast across the Atlantic. Wear a Guy Fawkes mask if you feel like it, or burn a Guy effigy or the effigy of whatever politician irritates you the most. But tomorrow, tune out the political noise, roll up your sleeves, and focus on your investing.

Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA, is the chief investment officer of the investment firm Sizemore Capital Management. Click here to receive his FREE weekly e-letter covering top market insights, trends, and the best stocks and ETFs to profit from today’s best global value plays. 

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The Most Expensive City in the World is in…Angola?

“Cost of living” can be a relative term, as I’ve discovered in my time in Peru (see “Investment Insights from a Peruvian Beach“).  Yes, in Lima I could hypothetically live on a small fraction of what I pay here in Dallas, but there is a difference between living and living well.  Living in one of  Lima’s chic neighorhoods, with all the assorted lifestyle trappings, would actually be more expensive than my current living expenses in Dallas.

Still, I was shocked by CNN’s recent listing of most expensive cities for an American to live.  The usual suspects made the list: Hong Kong, Singapore, Zurich, etc.

But the two most expensive cities on the list were Luanda, Angola and N’Djamena, Chad.

Angola? …and Chad??

In Luanda a club sandwich and Coke will run you nearly $20, and a two-bedroom apartment will set you back $6600 per month.  And this in a country with a GDP per capita of just $6,300.  And even this is skewed by oil wealth; most Angolans survive on far less.

So…what’s the story here?

It’s really quite simple.  While locals live modestly, you can’t reasonably live like a local.  In order to live in Angola safely, you need security and have to import items you might normally take for granted.

Check out the slideshow if you found this as interesting as I did: 10 Most Expensive Cities.

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Sharia Compliant Investing In…Brazil?

ThinkAdvisor ran a piece this morning on Banco do Brasil’s latest offering: a Sharia-compliant stock fund.  That’s right, Brazil–a mostly Catholic country in South America–is launching a stock fund that complies with Koranic prohibitions on the payment of interest and on pork products, among other restrictions.  I contributed my thoughts on the subject to the article:

Regarding the tough slog that sharia-compliant investing has often had in the U.S., Charles Sizemore, a portfolio manager for online investing marketplace Covestor, said, “This tends to be a politically charged issue, particularly in the 13 years that have passed since the 9/11 attacks by Al Queda, But it really doesn’t need to be. It’s a marketing gimmick to differentiate an investment product from the competition in the eyes of strictly observant Muslim investors. And this is nothing new in the West.”

Sizemore said, “London competes with Dubai as the center of ‘Islamic finance’ despite being a Western Christian country on the northwestern fringe of Europe. Britain has gone so far as to announce its intent to launch sharia-compliant ‘sukuk’ bonds. And if you want to go really far back in time, during the days of the Caliphate Jewish and Christian merchants in the Middle East and Asia often engaged in Islamic contracts, even between each other, because of their universal enforceability in Muslim lands.” [See “The Long Divergence” for a history of Islamic business structures and for an explanation of why the coporate structure evolved in the West rather than the Islamic world.  Partnerships are specifically sanctioned in Islamic law, but the rules are very specific and favor small, short-lived entities rather than permanent going concerns.]

It may seem a little weird for Western countries to adhere to Muslim financial regulation, but countries often have legitimate reasons for agreeing to foreign terms.  Turning more broadly to emerging markets:

“[M]ore recently, emerging markets agree to ‘Western’ terms when raising capital because doing so reduces their borrowing costs, though this sometimes has unintended consequences. Consider the recent case of Argentina and its creditors duking it out in the U.S. court system rather than the Argentine court system. It may be distasteful to many Westerners, but if it lowers the cost of capital, it’s hard to argue against it too vigorously.”

 

Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA, is the editor of Macro Trend Investor and chief investment officer of the investment firm Sizemore Capital Management. Click here to receive his FREE weekly e-letter covering top market insights, trends, and the best stocks and ETFs to profit from today’s best global value plays. 

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