Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lessons from the latest investment guru

I am encouraged today with the reading of this article on the latest investment guru/genius, Li Lu. This 44 year old Chinese survivor of the Tianamen Square protests has gone on to be one of the most successful hedge fund managers and heir apparent to Warren Buffet at Berkshire Hathaway!

Some lessons and analogies I take away from this great story are:

The power of the human spirit to overcome adversity and personal devastation to learn and thrive in the world at large. Mr. Lu was an orphan and at one point in his life lost most of those closest to him in a massive earthquake in China. The more crap life threw at him, the tougher and more determined he became.

Sometimes it is better to escape than to stand and fight. It seems obvious to me that the key to his freedom and success was to ESCAPE the repressive regime in China and pursue his personal freedoms. More and more people are on the move globally today looking for that personal freedom and sovereignty to compete and profit without hyper levels of institutional interference and robbery of both intellect and financial resources.

Mind over seems obvious to me that Mr. Lu used his natural intelligence and will to overcome his circumstances. People who overcome and succeed without the "silver spoon" are usually sharper and better equipped to make momentous decisions than those who grow up "spoiled, fat and content".

Risk/Reward...this man has chosen to take tremendous risks to get where he is in his short 44 years. While it sounds like he has made some great connections and had big people helping him...I'm sure they did not do so blindly or simply altruistically. Li Lu has had great failures before his successes...again an example of overcoming disappointment when your risky moves don't turn out. Like any great hunter, if you reload and aim again.

Use your knowledge and past experience. It seems this man has made his greatest "hits" with investments back in his Chinese homeland. How ironic that the country he rejected and rejected him has become his greatest, most profitable investment so far.

I think Mr Lu's example can be embraced by many of us Americans in this day and age. We are living in an era of increased government activism and encroachment on individual rights and freedoms. Many of us are being financially devastated by an economy run amok by government and financial institutions that have lost their moral conscience when it comes to self direction/responsibility and free enterprise. Our system is in decline and I personally believe America will someday have its own version of "Tianaman Square". Any of us who can maintain our dignity and sovereignty during these times of standing "against the odds" have the potential to turn things least for ourselves. If we don't save ourselves first, we will not be there to help anyone else. Martyrdom is a highly over-rated concept. Mr Lu's story tells us that sometimes in order to thrive, we must escape the prisons of our own environments first. That is something a majority of the world never considers...therefore never does.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We love the gore of human tragedy

Online and traditional news is totally cluttered with the filth and stench of human frailty and fallen state of existence. Personally I am real tired of filtering through the "news" items related to Mel Gibson's latest cellphone tirades to his new ex girlfriend over custody of his EIGHTH child. Why are people like this even HAVING children? Especially with the equivalent of what I deem a high priced Russian call girl who also has a child by actor Timothy Dalton. Why do I even know that level of detail about these strangers? I know more about them than my immediate family's personal lives. How sad.

Unfortunately there is obvious appeal and strong drive towards voyeurism within our human race. It seems easier to "live through other people" than to live our own lives and adventures. I think perhaps it has a lot to do with guilt and self denial. We humans have created so many rules and regulations for living that we can only find pleasure and lust in voyeuristic activities. It is safer and more satisfying for many people to watch porn than to have fulfilling sex lives of their own. And these little people we call "movie stars" play the game by pushing their drivel and personal lives on us as if we are a grand virtual audience intent upon watching their every move...or eaves dropping on every digital conversation.

Then again I have to realize that this is just another version of old habits in humanity. Society has hung for centuries on rumors and manipulation of class differences. The rich live in their own clusters/communities comparing who has what and who's "zooming who" while the poor lap up all the soap operaish fables of the poor maid ending up with the rich land baron or doctor. It sometimes happens, but mostly on TV. Now all of this is pushed to us through media and the internet...all connected by computers and cellphones. A growing number of people are addicted to their "Blackberries", unable to disconnect from the drivel for even a one hour business meeting. It quite honestly drives me nuts as I still try to do business by meeting people face to face...and I can't compete with the new i-phones for keeping people's attention and focus. Nope...I still don't have an i-phone or blackberry PIN. For the first time in technology development I am dragging BEHIND the curve because of the fear of affecting my lifestyle and tranquility each day. Plus, it is just another way that Mel and Oksana can push their way into my daily consciousness.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Heavy thoughts from the philosopher Hegel

I have been discussing, debating, what have you with a network of people on facebook today who are up in arms regarding the current conflicts between the government and the syndicates here in Panama. Personally I see these conflicts as a small example of what I believe is coming in a much bigger way in much of the first world during these tough economic times. As irrationality, desperation and unconstitutional actions on the part of both governments and citizens becomes the mode of the day...chaos and revolution are just around the corner.

One of my favorite philosophers studied way back in college was Hegel. These quotes I came across today are what Hegel might have to say on Panama’s (and maybe USA’s) current government and cultural crisis;

The State… is mind objectified. The individual mind, which, on account of its passions, its prejudices, and its blind impulses, is only partly free, subjects itself to the yoke of necessity---the opposite of freedom---in order to attain a fuller realization of itself in the freedom of the citizen. This yoke of necessity is first met with in the recognition of the rights of others, next in morality, and finally in social morality, of which the primal institution is the family. Aggregates of families form civil society, which, however, is but an imperfect form of organization compared with the State. The State is the perfect social embodiment of the idea, and stands in this stage of development for God Himself. The State, studied in itself, furnishes for our consideration constitutional law.

A peaceful revolution is also possible...when the changes required to solve the crisis are ascertained by thoughtful insight and when this insight spreads throughout the body politic. If a people can no longer accept as implicitly true what its constitution expresses to it as the truth, if its consciousness or Notion and its actuality are not at one, then the people’s spirit is torn asunder. Two things may then occur. First, the people may either by a supreme internal effort dash into fragments this law which still claims authority, or it may more quietly and slowly effect changes on the yet operative law, which is, however, no longer true morality, but which the mind has already passed beyond.

Revolutions take place in a state without the slightest violence when the insight becomes universal; institutions, somehow or other, crumble and disappear, each man agrees to give up his right. A government must, however, recognize that the time for this has come; should it, on the contrary, knowing not the truth, cling to temporary institutions, taking what — though recognized — is unessential, to be a bulwark guarding it from the essential (and the essential is what is contained in the Idea), that government will fall, along with its institutions, before the force of mind.

I for one truly hope reason and the power of the MIND overcome those who simply want to use violence and destruction in a vain attempt to get their way. That goes for both sides of the conflict...

And you thought Colombia was dangerous?

As I do business, travel and have family in Colombia...I am continually asked "isn't it dangerous there?". I had two people send me news about killings of 6 people in a bar in Medellin, Colombia last week. While I do not know all the circumstances behind those killings, I couldn't help but wonder how that somehow "proves" that life is dangerous in Colombia. As I have been explaining to many people in recent years, crime statistics are rising more in North America than they are in places like Colombia. Why are so many worried about Colombia and not the danger in their "own back yards"?

Here are a few interesting clips of the past few days that I think illustrate my point of where danger lies...a job site in New Mexico, a hospital in Tennessee, and restaurants in both Miami and Los Angeles. I maintain my claim that I sense more danger of violent crime in my own country than I do in Colombia or Panama. "Madness" tied to a gun unfortunately happens just about anywhere in the world these days. I will not allow this reality to keep me living in fear inside my own home...wherever that may be.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Happy July 4th to all my fellow countrymen. Today is a day that I usually like to spend in the USA though this year I am unable to. It is a time where we Americans are typically more least within our families and communities. There are parades, hotdogs and beer, a celebration of summer, and in most cases reminders of the costs of our independence over the centuries from tyrants, dictators, rulers and terrorists via military actions. This day usually is the most PATRIOTIC of all days in my country.

A friend sent me a card today featuring the "Great Seal" of my government which features the message "E PURIBUS UNUM", which for those of us who never studied Latin or recognize the roots to our English language basically means "Out of many, one". I couldn't help but catch some of the irony of that motto in light of current events and political sentiments.

This motto is the core of my faith and belief in the concept of "The United States of America"...and extends to my new sense of globalization and its challenges. The challenge of this motto also is at the core of our global crisis regarding military and economic wars that quietly undermine the truth of the motto. Until the MASSES understand those things that unite and divide the human race, there will forever be conflict, mistrust and competition for domination one over the other.

Right now in the world I am seeing the "many"...but I an not seeing "one". Even in this day of supposed enlightenment, instant connectivity via technology and communications globally, and increased capacity at least until recent times for individual travel to foreign lands...we seem to have little increase in understanding and global unification over the problems that face us. The fundamental problems of this are ones that I often write about in this blog and are some harsh realities that few of us relish contemplating.

Even in our enlightened times, we have little understanding or acceptance of DIFFERENCE and diversity. At the core of our humanity we have somehow been conditioned to believe and focus our identity on our differences and "uniqueness" versus our commonality and shared values. Our humanity continues to be defined by our race, religion, political views, class backgrounds and educational opportunities. Various schools of thought lead to varying viewpoints or definitions of our realities...and it seems the more we know the more difficult it is to KNOW for sure. If we all had the same knowledge, understanding and experiences, it would be much easier to have peace and unity in our times. Unfortunately that is not the world we live in.

If I could write an open letter to the leadership and general population of my country on this are a few things I would plead:

Being united does not need to mean mutually dependent. Nor does being "independent" mean you are not united. We Americans need to remember the positive values that made our country great and grow...creativity, work ethic, family values and yes...a strong DEFENSE. We also need to remember in balance the bad things we have done historically which continue to haunt our society...slavery, the wiping out of indigenous inhabitants, and more in the last century the loss of fundamentally sound economic practices.

To be truly independent as a nation and as individual citizens, we must re-educate ourselves to "take care of ourselves". It is VERY evident in these times that governments are NOT able to take care of us any better than we are able to take care of ourselves. Socialism is a dying, unsustainable system. It is fundamentally flawed. We must get back to the fundamentals of individual sovereignty, taking care of OUR OWN (at family and community levels) and taking PRIDE in our independence versus how much we are able to rake the system for.

Democracy and "independence" may be mutually exclusive. Democracy only works if the MAJORITY are for individual sovereignty. If democracy is all about the majority lording their ways over the minority or living off the "minority"...then there will never be peace and tranquility in this kind of system. To maintain our dignity and independence, we must turn the pyramid of governmental dependency and bureaucracy "right side up" where the individual is at the top supported by the large base at the bottom, versus the weight of government and bureaucracy weighing down and smothering the individual at the bottom.

Most fundamentally for our unity, we must have equal ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY for everyone within our country...and then extend that concept to global responsibility and equality. In general, our global government institutions continue the trend of raising taxes and building bigger bureaucracies to "take care of the people"...but more realistically this acts as a few controlling the masses and protecting the corporate elite. While I don't believe socialism or collectivism works...without some sense of human responsibility of man helping man...our civilization is doomed, especially in this era of weapons of mass destruction. Yet...this was never a concept that "government" was designed to "do" in place of humans. The majority now wait for "the government" to do something in the event of disaster or depression or international conflict. Few of us take any matters into our own hands anymore. We don't want the "responsibility"...and most of us feel helpless in light of the huge institutionalized approach to this from governments and religions.

I also realize the "opportunity" cannot be forced on anyone. The reality is "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink". If the horse doesn't drink, it will die. If people don't wake up and drink the water of productivity, education and good values...they will perish as well...either by starving to death or by being crushed by the very institutions they thought were going to take care of them.

Finally, we must realize that Pluribus Unum is more about actions than thoughts. As we are seeing during this month of soccer's "World Cup", patriotism and national identity are still alive and well in today's world. It is good that we humans are proud of our identities and cultures. Yet, the reality of these games is another allegory to life today. Some of the great dynasties of soccer such as Brazil and Argentina are out of the running...while some of the small emerging countries like Paraguay and Uruguay are playing harder and more united. One "star" on a team is no longer enough to win at the world stage level. Belief in a "Maradonna" is not enough to carry you to the top. It has now become evident that the team that is most united and having the best "game-plan" as well as fundamentals has the best chance of winning. I believe we will see this play out in the economic playing field of the world as well.

I am very concerned for my country in this regard. We are NOT at the top of our "game". Most of us are waiting for someone else to win it for us. Some of our "coaches" need to be replaced. Instead of bringing strong players down to the level of the rest of us...we need to bring the weak players up to STRENGTH. Most of us players in the system have lost our "fundamentals" of productivity and managing our resources. We are also still allowing ethnicity and belief systems to be our litmus test of who is "American" or not. Until we unite on all fronts in America...Republicans, Democrats, blacks, whites, Jew and Gentile, Arab and Latino, Christian and non, male and female...our team will not excel on the world stage. Instead of being defensive, protectionist, or living on the laurels of our past accomplishments...we need to excel NOW and for our future expectations. This will not happen until we truly experience E PLURIBUS UNUM.

Let us live the reality of "Independence Day"...