Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Getting on the Bandwagon

The Financial Times reported that a study made by Insead concluded that “coaching programs based on introspection and meditation techniques, without any discussion about CSR [corporate social responsibility] topics, exhibit a significant impact on both the probability to act in a socially responsible way and on the factors that influence the probability to behave that way”.

Last week we heard that Verizon has purchased AOL for $4 billion. Considering that AOL is a holding in the Yoga Capital portfolio, it got me to thinking how this reflects on this portfolio’s purpose. It prompted a soul searching of social and environmental investing. If AOL, is indeed a stalwart of socially and environmentally aware companies, then does that mean that Verizon is also such a leader, or does it mean that AOL is not. Does this purchase by Verizon indicate a move by them toward being more sustainable. I’m not going to pretend to know the answer, but I do think the answer should be more obvious.

Again the question is prompted which companies are socially and environmentally responsible because they truly are compassionate and truly care about the community and environment as opposed to being trendy, or wanting investors and clients to see that they are playing their part.

The Insead study indicates what I believe to be the most important indicator of CSR. Companies whose executives or decision makers who have personal contemplative practices, tend to organically be socially and environmentally compassionate. It is these companies that are the most sustainable. It is these companies that represent a new era in capitalism – a new industrial age. To identify and segment these companies is to create an investment class that represents the future of investment. This is still advanced strategy, so to have a rounded portfolio might require broader exposure, but the tide is turning and to have a portion, if not all of ones money in this investment class is essential.

This type of awareness when investing represents our deepest knowledge and beliefs. There is not a sustainably successful investor who does not show attributes of mindfulness and social and environmental awareness.

In order for Yoga Capital to truly represent this strategy, it’s time to take its screening process to the next level. Currently we pick companies that score high on the CSRhub.com rating system, and then we find the companies whose executives have a personal mindfulness practice, and then we take those who have strong financials. But this is not enough. We must now look closer at the companies output and ask the question, “Is this company paving the way to the new era in business, or is it stuck in the old “profit is the goal” way of operation”.

Keurig Green Mountain has also been a holding despite the controversy around the plastic K-cups. My defense has been they have s short-term action plan to overcome barriers to recycling. But I was asking the wrong question. And then I saw someone using a Keurig coffee machine. The K-cup goes in, a pull of the handle and the user hurries off to the chaos of the day. The paradigm of the machine is the problem. I doubt quick coffee will be integral to the new era. Coffee, maybe. And just when Keurig comes into question, it offers up a soda machine.

Deutsche Bank is another one. They made the cut because of a company mindfulness program. A breath of fresh air in a stodgy banking industry. But that’s not enough. Investment banks in their current form have no place in the new era of capitalism. If a bank is going to make the cut, they will have to show extreme proactive signals that profit is not the goal. Goldman Sachs, believe it or not, is on the watch list, but certainly not ready.

Yoga Capital will shortly reallocate, and rebuild with a keener sense of awareness around the real trailblazers. We will find the boardrooms that decide with compassion, that strategize with the future of themselves, and the world around them in mind. As Patagonia does, build companies that will last 100 years. As Google does, do no evil!

Businesses on the mindfulness bandwagon - FT.com


Friday, May 8, 2015

Conversation with myself

Me “Whats the secret to being happy”
Me “Stop thinking about yourself”
Me “Huh, Easier said then done”
Me “You asked”
Me “OK, so how do you do it”
Me “Well that answer is not so simple.  Entire religions, philosophies, cultures, books exist to answer that question.  I don’t really know what to tell you other then…stop thinking about yourself”
Me “Is that even possible, what about if I’m hungry, or if I hurt myself.  How can you not think about yourself.”
Me “Well, when I say yourself, I mean your ego.  Don't think about the person you think you are.  When you are hungry or in pain, bring your attention to the feeling.  That is happiness.  As soon as that attention moves from observing that feeling to thinking about how uncomfortable it makes you, or how to wanting to get to the point of not being hurt or hungry, then you are thinking about yourself and you are unhappy”
Me “Hmmm, makes sense.  I can see how complicated it can become, because even when you think you are thinking about someone else, its quite possible that you are actually thinking about yourself, because thinking about someone else might make you feel better”
Me “Yes.  Say you have $20 in your pocket, and you go into a coffee shop and order a latte.  And today you feel like you really want to make the baristas day.  Option 1 - is to give the barista the change…all $15, but you hand it directly to her because you need to receive recognition or thanks.  Option 2 - is you put all $15 in the tip jar but make sure they see you from a distance so you are comfortable they know they have received the tip from you.  Option 3 - is you stuff the $15 in the tip jar when they clearly aren't looking and walk out…complete anonymous giving.  That is not thinking about yourself”
Me “Thats not easy”
Me “I hear you. When we become interconnected, we think less and less of ourselves and become happier and happier.  Try meditating for 5 minutes with the focus of brining your thoughts to your breath and away from yourself. Even if you only have fleeting moments of selfless thinking you will understand”
Me “I get it”
Us “So lets move forward one moment at a time…meditating, giving anonymously, loving unconditionally”
Us “And when we feel unease creep in, just recognize where are our thoughts, and allow thoughts of ourselves to drift away”

Us “I really appreciate our time together, it makes me so happy!!”

Listen to the whispers so you don’t have to hear the screams

The article below highlights and creates awareness around one of the most unknown, underestimated, and discounted indicators of health. Inflammation!!!

We can have internal inflammation and not know it, in fact most of us do. Overtime, if not immediately, internal inflammation wears down the body and leads to disease, injury and depression. Joint pain is inflammation. Congestion is from inflammation. Low energy is from inflammation. Any tiny aches or pains are usually linked to inflammation.  Research is now showing that some neural disease is also linked to inflammation. And the list goes on.

As this study shows, a diet change of just two weeks can affect inflammation. The good news is that we can enjoy immediate benefit (and we love anything immediate that is good!)

An Apache proverb says…”Listen to the whispers so you don’t have to hear the screams”


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Life begins at the edge of our comfort zone

4 a.m. Wake up, take an Uber to pick up a rental car and then drive up to Carpinteria.  By the time I got there it felt like a long day and I hadn't had anything to eat or drink, but I still had two hours before my meeting.  Hedonism was pulling me toward the Lucky Llama coffee shop where I might enjoy a hot almond milk latte and relax while mindlessly scanning the Internet. But part of me, a small part wanted me to pull into the parking lot of the Carpinteria Bluffs and go for a hike.  Spending time sitting in a car seems to drain my energy, and it was bit chilly out...all in all the Llama seemed a lot more appealing.

At the last minute an invisible force yanked the steering wheel to the left and into the parking lot I pulled. Whew, what happened, who did that? Well I'm here, I might as well get out. I just started walking.  Two hours later I was back at the car, feeling more alive then ever.  Thinking that without fail, going to edge of my comfort zone is always the best option, but certainly a very difficult decision.  The instant gratification of hedonism lasts for a moment, the transformation that comes from a bit of struggle lasts a lifetime.

And the interesting thing about my morning, is that it was far from a struggle. It was a state of flow, struggle ceased to exist.  The only struggle was deciding not to take the comfortable option.

I hiked along the cliffs and then down a gulley to the beach.  Along the rocks I found a three foot Leopard Shark trapped in a rock pool. I grabbed her by the tail, and after a bit of a wrestling match, I got her back home into the sea.  Further along, I saw a spout and stopped to eventually sea a Grey Whale making its way north about a hundred feet off the beach. A couple miles later I stopped at Rincon point to watch some short board surfers enjoying a quick left/right break wave. Then back to the car I headed. Buzzards circled high in the distance. A few dogs were walking their owners.  The sand was displaying the sea floor bounty left behind by a full moon high tide.

I cruised into the Llama ready for my scheduled meeting on how to propagate well-being in the world.  With energy that caffeine couldn't dream to offer...I indulged in that latter nevertheless!

Rest and relaxation is so important, but in order to transform, to evolve, to really appreciate life, to have fun....making the uncomfortable choice, especially knowing that it is a good choice, seems to come as an epiphany each time, and yet each time the rewards are infinite!

Monday, May 4, 2015

What is the American Dream?

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" - says nothing about making a lot of money, but somewhere along the line we made that translation.

Recently I heard someone say that successful people consider money a reward for self-actualization.  Said differently, my guess is Warren Buffett would not do much differently if he lost all his money or if he was making the minimum wage. If you happen to cross paths with him please ask and let us know? The American dream is the freedom do do what we are good at, what we enjoy doing, what we look forward to doing, and for most people that does not have to be restricted by net worth. That same "most people", however, now are anxiously chasing pay out, the title and the recognition - constantly managing our identities - and are missing out on doing what we would really enjoy doing. Yes, the latter might mean an adjustment in economic expectations, but the quality of life becomes much higher when one is doing what we love to do then by owning a nice house, nice clothes, a new car and the latest iPhone. If your not convinced look to those who are dying. As they say 20/20 vision is the most acute and perhaps the most objective, and without fail people who are at the end of their life report their regrets of not spending enough time doing what they wanted to do, even at the risk of less money. Let's learn from the wise!

So what about this selfish perspective. This selfish approach turns out to be the most selfless way we can live. When we are doing what we are meant to do, our impact over our lifetime will be much greater on the world then if we conform to spending our time cultivating our image. We will enjoy an optimal experience which will reflect in our work, and our interaction with others, both of which will have unimaginable positive impact on others. There is an expression - "if a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, there will be tornado in Texas". In the same way, maybe you love to build rock gardens and after building one for someone, that person everyday will enjoy seeing that rock garden and their interaction with each person they see that day will be positively effected, and those people in turn will be effected and so on. And the joy you might feel after building that rock garden will reduce the chance of any destructive behavior that may come from stress. 

The American Dream is not to make a killing, it is do what we love to do. It doesn't necessarily mean a drastic change of career or job, but simply to find the opportunity to realize our gifted talent within what we ready do. And make no mistake, we all have a gift...an innate talent.

Life, liberty and doing what we enjoy doing...that's the American Dream!