Think The Opposite

A few years back I was applying to business school and I had to take the G.M.A.T  test as this was one of the prerequisites for applying.

Doing The OppositeI started to read the book and take the practice test and I never scored that well on it and came to the conclusion that given the scores I was getting I would not get in to any decent school…that is until I came across the Princeton Review.

The Princeton Review is a testing company that helps test makers pass the various entrance exams that schools require from the S.A.T  to the L.S.A.T. and they are quite good helping students getting better test scores. After I took the class, I improved enough to get into the school that I wanted and so I can attest their process works.

What I found fascinating about the Princeton Review was their philosophical bent on test taking and for that matter life in general. Here is the summary:

  • On most tests you can expect to get 50% of the answers correctly. Since these are usually the easiest questions you should do well in the section
  • The next 25% of the questions are significantly harder and someone of average intelligence will only get a few of these answers correctly.
  • For the last 25% of the test, you should expect to get all of them wrong, since by definition and mathematics most people are of average intelligence.
  • So by knowing that you are of average intelligence you should score higher.. huh?
  • If during the test you encounter  a hard question and if you think you know the answer, that is a clue that you are probably wrong. And since it is a multiple choice test, look at the answer that you probably would never have picked and pick that one.
  • By picking the questions that you normally would not pick on the hardest questions, you will be right more often than not and get a higher score.

When I use to work at trading the same principles that applied to successful test taking applied to trading as well as it was called fighting your natural bias an inclination.

Here is how fighting your natural bias works:

  1. If you see the market going up and you are bullish you should buy.
  2. But since you are of average intelligence and everybody else is thinking the same way as you do, the market can’t go up any more.
  3. So you fight your natural inclination to buy and actually start selling.
  4. Traders make money doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

What I found interesting is that even on Wall Street where everybody thinks they are smart understand and know their limitations- that in reality they are probably of average intelligence and need to be careful in their basis when betting money.

I always found this concept fascinating in doing the opposite of the herd as the key to life. As many of times the real joys and success in life are found in doing the opposite.  For example look at some of the snippets below and how thinking the opposite can help your life.

  • Walt Disney went bankrupt but later made a fortune when he created his theme parks with only one exit and entry. He knew that by creating altered and brand new worlds and by funneling people in a systematic way, real money could be made.
  • Henry Ford also went bankrupt but later made a fortune by mass producing automobiles at a reasonable price point. Previosuly autos were only used by the wealthy.
  • Richard Branson  got into the airline business with Virgin Airlines after seeing how poorly they treated their passengers. He made a fortune by giving the customer a world class experience.

As in everything else, real money and happiness can really only be found by doing the opposite.

Bill Maher Gets “American Sniper” Wrong

Bill Maher is funny, illogical and Jewish. Let’s take them one at time.

Funny: I have little in common politically with Maher yet, more times than not, I have laughed at excerpts I’ve seen from his performance. Whether he writes his jokes himself or simply delivers them, he’s really good at what he does. Not many comedians can make me laugh out loud.

AMSniperIllogical: Maher has been quite vocal as of late in his condemnation of radical Islam and of anyone, President Obama included, who sees its intention being other than what it is: to maim, torture, kill and/or tax anyone who refuses to submit to Allah and Sharia law. He has also recently called deceased American sniper and Navy Seal Chris Kyle a “psychopath patriot.” It makes me wonder exactly who Maher thinks we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan…or precisely how “careful” and “non-psychopathic” one should be in preempting radical Islam’s goal.

Jewish: Maher was raised in an Irish Catholic environment. Growing up he didn’t know his Mother, Julie Berman Maher, was a Hungarian Jew. Judaism defines religion as anyone born to a Jewish mother (father’s religion is non-determinative). Consequently, Maher is Jewish whether he practices it or not.

When I combine his three characteristics as outlined above, I wonder if Maher would be making jokes if radical Islamists were here in the U.S. beheading Jewish comedians who mock Allah? If yes, and he were concerned about his jokes and his Jewishness making him a target, would he prefer to be defended by Rosie O’Donnell sitting in a tree singing “Kumbaya”…or the likes of Chris Kyle armed with an M4?

It’s a rhetorical question.

In his craft, Maher has great timing. It is, however, a lot easier to be funny and judgmental from the safety of a TV studio in the United States than it is from behind a wall in Iraq trying to save your compatriot’s lives and making life altering decisions with split-second timing.

It’s a dangerous world. I’ll leave Maher’s timing to him and the Liberal Left. Personally, I’d prefer Chris Kyle’s timing any day of the week. And if box office is any indication, so would a whole bunch of other Americans as well… to the tune of $162 million and counting.

Howard Dean, former head of the DNC, said on Maher’s show that people are flocking to see American Sniper because they are “angry.” No, Mr. Dean, they are flocking to see it because they are tired of being lied to and treated like children. They are flocking to see it because they are hungry for truth and courage in action.

Chris Kyle’s life was what’s lacking in America. As long as there is radical Islam on the march, Maher, Dean and the Left would do well to sit up, take notice and pay closer attention to the message of American Sniper.

White Lives Matter

It’s being reported that the Justice Department is preparing a memo stating that no Federal Civil Rights charges will be brought against Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. So I’m wondering if we will now get days on end of front page coverage of this anti-climactic ending to the politically motivated and, dare I say it, racist narrative? (Yes, false claims against white people because they are white is racism too).

livesNow that the internal police investigation, local prosecutor’s investigation, and even Eric Holder’s DOJ have found not insufficient evidence warranting charges against the officer who was doing his duty, where does Darren Wilson go to get his life back?

Surely there will be those who think that question an insensitive one. After all, Darren Wilson is alive and it was Michael Brown who literally lost his life. Yet, while I grieve for any loss of life, and certainly for surviving family members, there’s no moral equivalency here.

Michael Brown was a thief, a bully, a drug user and in search of confrontation following the commission of  crime. Darren Wilson was a trained police officer acting professionally in service to the community to which he was assigned. Michael Brown lost his life as a result of his own bad choices and criminal behavior. Darren Wilson lost the privacy and peace of mind he is entitled to absent any finding of wrongdoing. And after extensive efforts to find sufficient cause for charges or indictment, certainly on Eric Holder’s part, it turns out there simply is none.

So might I suggest to all those people, of every color, who are so concerned with black lives mattering, that they find some form of transportation and get themselves to Chicago. You know, the President’s home town and gun-free zone, where over the past few years black youth have been murdering black youth in unprecedented numbers.

Or is it just too easy to blame it all on white police officers in a cultural environment that has made it nearly impossible and political incorrect to speak truth to power.



I doubt that illusion as opposed to reality, or fiction as opposed to fact, has recently been more front and center than it was tonight in the President’s State of The Union (SOTU) address. Of course, if you’re 1) a Democrat; 2) in the habit of getting your news from headlines or 3) from Jon Stewart, then you would have missed the smoke and mirrors. But smoke and mirrors it was none-the-less.

smokeWe’re beating ISIL. In whose reality? Since we began our brilliant bombing campaign and affiliation with “friendly opposition forces,” ISIL has taken control of more geographic area in Syria than it held before we began.

The national debt has been reduced. From when? The President is talking about now reducing part of the debt he increased by 8 trillion dollars during his two terms. That’s like you’re spouse coming home, telling you they spent $5,000 on a purchase but saved you $3000 because they could have spent $8000! The logic is as absurd, and deliberately disingenuous, in either case.

I still believe we are one people. Quoting his 2004 DNC speech in Boston that catapulted him to national attention, he neglects to own responsibility for being the most divisive President in modern times, such that a recent NBC poll had 42% of Americans using the word “divided,” “troubled” or “deteriorated”to describe the state of the nation.

Unemployment is 6%. Well, yes, in Federal La La Land where the unemployment rate only includes people who are currently working or looking for work, and fails to include those who have stopped looking for work. The real unemployment rate is closer to 21%. The “misery index,” a economic calculation made famous during the Carter Administration, is at a 40 year high.

We are moving towards energy independence. Pure hubris to take credit for private industry in Texas and North Dakota in spite of his Administration that shut down 50% of federal lands for exploration. You didn’t build that, Mr. President.

All lives matter. His round about reference (and tip of his hat) to the Ferguson/Staten Island protestor’s mantra “black lives matter” while neither he nor his “Civil Rights Adviser” Al Sharpton have spent 5 minutes publicly condemning the ongoing slaughter of black youth by black youth in Chicago, a gun-free zone.

I could go on but I actually sat through that whole speech and I’m tired. It’s quite draining to watch such deception and arrogance without being able to respond. So I’ve hit a few highlights to make the point that if you don’t want to wake up in a country you no longer recognize  you’d be smart get your information first hand, from multiple sources, and go deep in your research.

The purveyors of illusion are working overtime from the top down, full steam ahead to convince you that they’re here to help you and all you have to do is go along to get along. That’s never been the path to a free society and it never will. Like with Hurricane Katrina, the people who ran the opposite way FEMA was advising them to go are the ones who got to safety. The rest of them found themselves floating downstream on the rooftops of their houses or holed up in a football stadium along with thugs, rapists and robbers.

Which would you prefer?

Light, Darkness & Radical Islam

Protests in the Arab world have turned overtly violent against Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover picturing a tearful Mohammed saying “All is forgiven.” Jews whose ancestors have been living in France for 200 years are making the fastest exodus for Israel they can arrange. I think its time we here in the United States wake up and…while I’d like to say “smell the roses”…smell the winds of global Jihad.

LightI don’t care what the verbal or drawn insult is, murder is NEVER the appropriate response nor should it EVER be justified. Sure, do I wish that we were all so aware of our connectedness to one another that we’d never say or do anything to offend another person or their beliefs? Of course. But apparently, we’re not there yet as a species. However, it does not therefore follow that using perceived personal or religious insults to torture, decapitate or murder by any means whatsoever is a civilized remedy.

As I see it, radical Muslims are taking over the entire religion with way too little opposition from peaceful Muslims…or the rest of the world for that matter. As I see it, centuries old hatred and quest for domination found a manufactured cause celeb in the “Palestinian people” whose situation since 1948 has been the scapegoat for the Arab world’s blind determination to annihilate Jews and wipe the State of Israel off the world map, even at the expense of the “Palestinians” they claim to care so much about.

Now, generations of teaching false history and hatred to unaware and, dare I say, unenlightened Arabs has metastasized that disease, spreading its poison to the entire world. The “mask has been lifted.” It’s no longer about the Palestinians at all. It’s about hatred against and vengeance upon anyone who does not have the Muslim world view.

Human history is not without individuals and societies that had similar dreams of world domination who tried to inflict those dreams upon unwilling and, at times, resistant populations. They have never succeeded. The reason being that while we may be late in awakening to the magnitude of the threat, once awakened, the human spirit’s prime directive is to live free while choosing how, when, where, and even if it returns to God. We also get to define God in our own way in our own time. No one person, group or religion has a Divine right to impose upon any individual what that journey should look like.

Not then. Not now. Not ever.

It may be long, ugly and painful. But in the end the darkness, in our time known as radical Islam, will be defeated by the Light because in the end, that’s all there is. Light.

Not 72 virgins.



Did Reagan and Marino Know What Defines Us?

I used to be a big fan of Dan Marino, the legendary quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. He brought a special talent to the game that made him a pure joy to watch. He was light on his feet, graceful, fun to observe and could throw the ball with such velocity that it seemed as if he had a cannon for an arm.

reaganMarino retired after a long and glorious career in the late 1990’s. He broke most of the records set for the position of quarterback.  Yet, when his name comes up today, he is remembered almost exclusively as “the guy who did not win the Super Bowl.”

Football is one of the most complex games on and off the field. The General Manager of a team has the responsibility of drafting the players and forming the team. The coach has the responsibility of training the team and devising plays and strategies for winning. The reality is that these two positions are just as important as the quarterback in winning a Super Bowl. Despite this fact, the Media gets to define Dan Marino as a great quarterback rather than one of the best ever…and, sadly, as one who lost the Superbowl.

The pundits and the journalists are the ones who weigh in on his legacy while the players who knew him best remain silent. I find it appalling that people who’ve never played the game get to shape and place value on the contribution and legacy of someone like Dan Marino… while the opinions of players who started and endured the game alongside him are discounted or bypassed.

This shaping of opinion by the Media can be seen well outside the parameters of football. Media directs its “slings and arrows” at select targets… all the while having themselves never fully entered into that aspect of life where actions speak louder than words.

A good example is former President Ronald Reagan.

While he was president, Reagan was labeled a simpleton, an idiot and a warmonger. Yet he knew his ideas were profound. He had such deeply held convictions that during press briefings, he would stand face to face with the press debating, sometimes for hours, his views and beliefs. Despite being bombarded with challenging questions, he stood in the middle of that arena explaining and expounding upon his polices. Contrast that today, where most press briefings are run by a White House spokesperson with the President nowhere to be found. Briefings with a press that is today so controlled, or intimidated, that their questions pose no meaningful challenge to the scripted “party line.” Yet, their President gets a pass Reagan neither sought nor received.

During his short time as President, Reagan was instrumental in dismantling the Soviet Empire, liberating millions of people and starting one of the largest booms in economic history, the benefits of which are still enjoyed today in the West. He won the Cold War without firing a shot, invading a country or risking the lives of millions. He accomplished what he did mainly through the power of his convictions and his willingness to act accordingly. There were times that his own Cabinet tried to reign him in, even deleting parts of speeches he had personally drafted because they thought his words overtly hostile. The famous, world-changing line spoken in Berlin, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” was first deleted by his speechwriters as too antagonistic. Regardless, Reagan reinserted and delivered that historic line.

The press had  no qualms asserting that Reagan was mentally incapacitated during the final years of his Presidency. This despite the fact that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the early 1990s’s, many years after his term had ended.  Bob Costas, a sportscaster with no expertise in politics (and no civility, either), slandered the President’s name without mercy for executing the Office in such an allegedly “diminished mental state.”

It was only following Reagan’s death, when the the outpouring of love and admiration from the American people and world leaders alike was so undeniable, that the Media was finally silenced and his legacy given the credit it was due. Had he listened to the naysayers, his Presidency may well have been a failure rather than the resounding success that it was.

Sadly, this is the culture into which we have devolved.  A Media with a compromised integrity gets to label, attack and destroy people for not living by their standards or reflecting their political agenda.

The Reagans and Marinos teach us an important lesson. Its in adherence to the integrity of who we are and what we believe, with struggle and unwavering perseverance, that the real battles are won and the real heroes emerge; not by the opinions or through the words of others safely hiding in the wings whose only real “skill” is destruction.

Hubris and Its Peril

I was on a train in NYC with my daughters one day when sitting in front of us was a young lady who, by the looks of it, had been in a very bad accident. She had a cast on her arm, her leg was in a brace and she had a black eye.

humbleIt happens I was on the way to my daily Aikido class and was taking my kids along so they could roll on the mat with me. The lady must have noticed something in the manner in which I was playing with my kids and asked me if I practiced Aikido. When I told her I did and was in transit to my next class, she informed me she was going to the same place to talk to one of the instructors about her injuries.

She shared that she was in such bad shape because the day before she had suffered her horrific injuries in class while trying to pull off a move way to complex for her skill set. She had been a visitor to the “dojo” and wanted to train with some of the best Aikidoist’s in the world to see where she stood. By the looks of it she had fared very poorly.

Her error was not in her technique but in her approach. She lacked the necessary level of humility to perceive the dangers that faced her and for that hubris she paid a terrible price.

Sadly this was a very common occurrence. Visiting students would come in and try to train with some of the advanced students and get seriously injured. The most common cause of their injuries was hubris and the mistaken belief that their skill set was better than they thought.

People have a tendency to see themselves better at something than they actually are. In fact, it seems that as we get better and more successful in one area… we have a tendency to think that this then makes us experts in other areas.  Consequently, we see errors in judgement all around us.

In the military there’s actually an expression about this that says, “you get promoted to your level of incompetence.” In the financial world, we see it as well where profitable companies crash and burn when a new but unseasoned manager comes in and brings down the firm. The business landscape is littered with massive failures by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in their area of expertise. Microsoft failed miserably with their music player Zune while Apple’s first foray into the tablet field didn’t end well.

When I earned my black belt in Aikido after 10 years of intense work, the senior instructor congratulated me and said, “Now you understand how little you know and it is only now where the real learning can begin.”

Regardless of your chosen field or arena, real learning and understanding are born from a sense of humility to perceive that there is always more to learn.

How Not To Oppose Radical Islam

There’s a great dialogue exchange in the movie The American President between the characters played by Michael J. Fox, as presidential aide Lewis Rothschild, and Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd:

sandRothschild: “People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”
President Shepherd: “Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

It is a movie. However, in real time, we’re there.

Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) is an anti-Islamic political movement in Germany begun by Luzz Bachann. Bachmann has numerous criminal convictions, including 16 burglaries, driving drunk without a license and even dealing in cocaine. In 1998, he fled to South Africa to avoid German justice, but was finally extradited and served his 2-year jail sentence. This week, following the tragic terror attacks in Paris where 16 people were murdered by Islamists, PEGIDA had 25,000 people show up at its rally in Dresden, the largest turnout ever, as well as smaller turnouts at several other cities across Germany.

Today, on, I commented on the danger of groups like PEGIDA in that they “paint with a broad brush” and appeal to our baser human instinct to blame an entire population or group rather than the philosophical underpinnings and bad actors of that population. Such an approach sets the stage for oppression of an entire people. It’s happened many times throughout human history and mostly ironically in Germany where PEGIDA got its start.

It’s also how Adolph Hitler came to power.

What followed my comment on were many hateful and derogatory responses. I was explicitly and implicitly accused of being, at best, a sympathizer with Islam and, at worst, with the terrorists. Those who responded and simplistically interpreted or dismissed my view (which also included a statement that radical Islam needs to be countered, just not by taking a neo-Nazi approach) actually reinforce the point I was making about allowing bigotry and hate to cloud one’s approach to problem solving.

As with the above quote, people all across the globe are “thirsty for leadership.” We here in the United States are particularly thirsty for it having endured its absence, and the consequences, for far too long. And so we must be careful not to “drink the sand.”

Drinking the sand means rallying behind anyone or any agenda that shows up with a bullhorn to tell you who are causing your problems, why it’s all their fault, and exactly what you should do to eliminate…not the problem… but the people.

The problem with Islamic extremism is that it uses God as its premise to murder and enslave. This isn’t a new tactic. It’s as old as human history. The problem isn’t Islam. It’s the use of selected, antiquated aspects of Islam to justify being barbarians. Historically, its occurred in Judaism (conquering the Canaanites) and in Christianity (the Crusades). However, both Judaism and Christianity evolved beyond such thinking and today their adherents, as a general rule, no longer problem solve with murder. Such is not the case for radical Islam.

So, it’s not all Muslims that need to be eliminated, it’s those principles and tenets of Islam that in any way provide the basis and justification for murder and submission to a dogmatic theology seeking global domination that is combined with an oppressive political agenda.

We must not drink the sand, again. We took our last big gulp of it with “Hope and Change.”

Whether its an individual or an organization, let no one convince you it’s an entire people that is the source of your problems. It’s the perverse principles being taught to people that fills them with hate and causes them to act as barbarians.

Hate won’t solve anything but it will spawn more hatred. Let’s stand against those abhorrent principles without hating the uneducated, the misinformed and the as-yet-evolved.



Banks and Foreclosures

In 2008 Merrill Lynch faced bankruptcy. It was sold by the government to Bank of America. The bank had been leveraged 37:1 and went under as asset prices all over the world collapsed. The U.S government came in and bailed out the following banks: Wells Fargo, Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, etc. The list is almost endless.

revolutionThe banks were given cash, loans and, with the support of the Federal government, access to make money through a government bond purchase program. The U. S treasury signaled to the banks that it would be buying massive amounts of U.S. treasuries and told the banks to start buying the same bonds. The banks were able to rebuild their balance sheets thanks to the Federal government’s help.

Yet, at the same time, ordinary U.S. citizens were suffering through the same financial crisis. The average citizen saw his wages decline, his savings wiped out and the prospects for employment plummet. However, during the crisis and after, the citizen was given no help at all. To be very clear, the banks were bailed out by the American taxpayer. So as the average citizen worked to pay his taxes which then went to the banks to bail them out, that very citizen was given nothing in the way of financial assistance or support. In fact, the financial crisis resulted in many homeowners being unable to pay their mortgages leading to massive foreclosures nationwide.

To recap:

  • The banks were over leveraged and essentially went bankrupt;
  • Bank collapses resulted in an economy that went bust;
  • People lost their jobs, saw wages stagnate, and their retirement accounts wiped out;
  • Taxpayer dollars were used to bail out the banks;
  • The banks then used the assets they held (i.e. mortgages) to foreclose on the same people who provided them funds for their bailout.

And people wonder how revolutions get started.


Failing To Show Up in Paris

I have been divorced twice. The first time was after an 11 month marriage at age 23. The second was after a 17 year marriage that began at age 42. After the first divorce, which was the icing on the cake of a very unhappy childhood, I tried to commit suicide. When I was being resuscitated in the emergency room someone called my estranged husband to tell him what had happened. Not knowing what he should do, he called his lawyer. The lawyer advised him that if he intended to reconcile then he should go to the hospital; if not, then don’t bother going. He didn’t show up.

showupWhile separated from my 2nd husband my mother died. We have a daughter from that marriage and at the time she was 17 years old. My estranged husband did not come to my mother’s (his daughter’s grandmother) funeral.

At the time, and in hindsight, I think the absence of both of those men at critical times was a statement loud and clear…whether or not I agree with how they chose to make their statements.

While countless world leaders, friend and foe alike, flock to Paris today to take a public stance against radical Islam and show solidarity with the civilized world, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden chose not to show up.

There are critical moments in life when showing up defines who you are. As Kevin Costner’s character, Roy Mcelroy, says in the movie Tin Cup, “When a defining moment comes you define the moment… or the moment defines you.”

I could close this blog with the obvious conclusory sentence about our current Administration, but if you don’t already know what it is you’re part of the problem.