November 23, 2004

In Character

I can't believe it, though I'm confident this was in the works well before the election, a new magazine has been launched to explore ethics and values in our contemporary, capitalist and commercial society. As someone who believes that our personal capital is as important as our financial capital, I think this magazine is well-timed, if not overdue.

In Character by the Templeton Foundation promised to delve "into the history, science, cultural perceptions and impact of "contrarian virtues" according to its editor Naomi Schaefer Riley.

    Riley said the journal is intended to bring back a concrete sense of what is important to aid personal and social betterment. “While some of the virtues have not been lost entirely, their relevance to everyday life has,” she said. “The connection between virtue and happiness made by ancient philosophers … is rarely mentioned anymore. The second goal of this journal will be to explore the link between virtue and personal fulfillment.”......

    Striving for a multidisciplinary approach, Dr. John Templeton Jr., president of the foundation and author of Thrift and Generosity: The Joy of Giving, said the journal “will illuminate the nature and benefits of virtues from different perspectives.” In Character aligns itself with the mission of the foundation, said Arthur Schwartz, co-executive editor ... The goal, he said, is to influence opinion leaders — including media leaders, public intellectuals and distinguished academics — on three levels. “First, we want facts and insights that can be sighted by thought leaders. On a second level, we want the editor of the Los Angeles Times to get this and make it a local story,” said Schwarz. “Third, we want some editor to say,  ‘Can we reprint [your story] in some other publication?’”Schwarz said he hopes the journal will continue to be published three times a year. Upcoming issues will highlight purpose, creativity, loyalty, generosity and modesty.

In its first issue In Character explored thrift

    Thrift is part of the American dream, allowing each generation to do better than the one before, but it is also an area where Americans today see room for improvement. In a survey that In Character commissioned in June, 79 percent of respondents say that Americans are less thrifty than they were 50 years ago, 77 percent believe that Americans today spend too much, and 80 percent think “there is a real problem with our ‘throw-away’ society.” And they weren’t just blaming this deficiency on others. Looking at their own behavior, 48 percent of those surveyed consider it important that they become more thrifty.

    But thrift, when it was practiced by the generation who made it through the Great Depression, was not to keep us thin or improve the environment. Thrift was a virtue of necessity, like a soldier’s courage in battle. But just like bravery in war doesn’t just manifest itself without the proper training, both of body and mind, so the behaviors that our ancestors demonstrated were not born only out of circumstance, but out of a cultural and often religious environment that considered thrift, as Jean Bethke Elshtain notes in her essay, “a constituent and necessary feature of both worldly success and moral achievement.”

    This idea of moral achievement, generally, not just thrift in particular, has been lost in recent years. It is not to say that our society is culturally bankrupt or that we are all, to borrow a phrase, “slouching toward Gomorrah.” Rather, it is to suggest that we do not think about building character and moral development in the systematic way that our ancestors did.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

The Power of Compound Interest

Oh, how I wished I learned this lesson when I was very young. Former janitor leaves millions to school

    When Genesio Morlacci left $2.3 million to a small college here, many people were astonished at the wealth amassed by a man who operated a dry-cleaning shop and later worked as a part-time janitor in retirement.
    Morlacci died last month at age 102. The University of Great Falls has announced that his endowment will generate roughly $100,000 a year for scholarships at the Roman Catholic school, a quiet campus with about 800 students.
    "He worked very hard for this, 18- and 20-hour days, and during each of those working hours he was doing something good for a student he will never meet," university president Eugene McAllister said.
    Morlacci, a widower, did not have any children. He gave the college nearly all he saved through work, investments and old-fashioned thrift -

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2004

Religious faith shortens hospital stays, aids recovery.

Religious faith and the power of prayer gives people confidence, hope, optimism and a sense of control over ailments and other issues in life according to a new University of Michigan study of patients undergoing open-heart surgery as reported by Psychology in the News.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:56 PM | Permalink

November 19, 2004

Does Daydreaming Make You Happy?

    After finding that about one child in 30 is brilliant and happy, (Harvard psychologist Burton) White did a great deal of research to determine what demographic or psychological characteristics distinguished those children. But the children came from a wide variety of backgrounds -- rich and poor, small families and large, broken and stable homes, poorly and well-educated parents -- and from all parts of the U.S. Finally, through extensive questioning, he determined that the bright and happy children had only one thing in common: All of them spent noticeable amounts of time staring peacefully and wordlessly into space." -- Michael Ray and Rochelle Myers (from Creativity in Business)

via Anita Sharpe's Thought for the Day at Worthwhile

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:10 PM | Permalink

November 17, 2004

Foundation for a Better Life

An essential part of the Business of Life is the development of your own personal character.

For most of our country's history character-building was seen as an essential part of education, as important as the acquisition of knowledge. Both constituted a type of wealth that could not lost, stolen or destroyed no matter what the vicissitudes of life. George Santayana called character the basis of happiness. Character is not to be confused with reputation as Abraham Lincoln pointed out, "Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing." Think of it as your personal capital not to be confused with your financial capital.

Today most schools and universities no longer see the building of character as part of their mission. Churches and programs like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are seen as too religiously-inclined for many. Much of the commentary on the recent presidential election would have you believe that only one party takes values seriously. Into the breech that's grown even wider in our politically correct age, Foundation for a Better Life is building a bridge.

Not affiliated with any political group or religious organization, the Foundation for a Better Life "creates public service campaigns to communicate the values that make a difference in our communities-values such as honesty, caring, optimism, hard work, and helping others. These messages, communicated utilizing television, theatres, billboards, radio, internet, etc., model the benefits of a life lived by positive values. The Foundation encourages others to step up to a higher level and then to pass on those positive values they have learned. These seemingly small examples of individuals living values-based lives may not change the world, but collectively they will make a difference. And in the process help make the world a better place for everyone. After all, developing values and then passing them on to others is The Foundation for a Better Life."

    The mission of The Foundation for a Better Life, through various media efforts, is to encourage adherence to a set of quality values through personal accountability and by raising the level of expectations of performance of all individuals regardless of religion or race. Through these efforts, the Foundation wants to remind individuals they are accountable and empowered with the ability to take responsibility for their lives and to promote a set of values that sees them through their failures and capitalizes on their successes. An individual who takes responsibility for his or her actions will take care of his or her family, job, community, and country.

Just look at what they've done with billboards. Click on any of the thumbnails for a larger image.
1 Ghandi
4 Lincoln
3 Reeves
4 Vision
2 bone marrow
12 Determination
5 Fireman Courage

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2004

A Wealth of Happiness

I just love it when even the Wall St Journal, recognizing there's been an explosion of research in what brings us happiness is now doing a series on it, Pursuing Happiness.

Some gleanings:
"Our emotional buoyancy is genetically set within a range, which acts as an anchor to our enthusiasm in good times and as a balloon in bad... This creates a happiness paradox: We may imagine we couldn't survive the end of a marriage or death of a family member, yet our innate "psychological immune system" is well equipped to greet these disasters when they occur, says Daniel Gilbert, a researcher at the department of psychology at Harvard University. The flip side is that things we imagine will make us happy -- a new car, a new career or a new spouse -- may give some temporary elation, but eventually the exhilaration fades.

Happier people tend to have a few key traits in common: they believe in causes larger than themselves; they are more optimistic; they don't look to material wealth for fulfillment; and they have many meaningful relationships. "They tend to be more resilient ... more flexible and more focused on the present and the future, not the past, says Gordon Parker, psychiatrist and executive director of Black Dog Institute, a Sydney-based facility for treating mood disorders.

The key to finding fulfillment at work -- and to finding overall greater happiness -- is "really figuring out what you love to do, and do that."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 PM | Permalink

November 9, 2004

What About the Rest of Us

In the Wall St Journal recently, Kathy Chu wrote how asset growth spurs adviser demand as more people join the ranks of millionaires and their finances get more complicated. There are about 7.7 million people world wide who have more than one million dollars in financial assets, up about 7.5% since 2002 according to Merrill Lynch. (It's about 2.5 million in the US)

    Even at a wealth level of $5 million in investable assets, individuals may have three or more advisers, including financial planners, accountants, insurance agents, attorneys or professionals affiliated with financial institutions, according to HNW.

    The demand for a formal relationship manager -- to oversee various financial professionals -- is growing. It's enough that Northern Trust, a Chicago wealth-advisory company, started a new title two years ago called chief wealth adviser

Well, I'm here to say that you don't have to have $5 million to have a financial planner, an insurance agent, an attorney and maybe an accountant. Normal middle-class people have several bank accounts and investment accounts, retirement accounts, numerous insurance policies, a lawyer or two and a tax preparer. They need a way to keep track of their assets and their advisors. That is the need we mean to fill with EstateVaults™.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

November 8, 2004

Analyst Blogs

In Analyst Blogs versus Investment Bank Research, Francis Good writes about independent industry sector advice that is truly independent from the inherent conflicts of interest existing at investment banks. It's blogs.

James Enck, a telecoms analyst at Daiwa Securities writes at eurotelcoblogwho reads 45 blogs with regularity picks his 3 favorites.

    I select these three [Andy (, Om (, and Martin (] because they, to my mind, demonstrate the highly individual qualities of blogs which collectively deliver what brokers' research typically lacks. All three have very sensitive BS meters, and are not afraid to court controversy. All three possess wide expertise and that rare quality of 360-degree, joined-up thinking, which allows them to consider the broader implications of what Company A is saying/doing, rather than the all-too-typical broker treatment: "Company A announced X. This is line with our expectations. STRONG BUY." The former quality is what good fund managers increasingly seek out, the latter is something they find oppressive (because their in-boxes are full of it) and irrelevant.

Blogs are live online, interactive and independent. They reflect a much wider view of the world and, in the aggregate, pose real competition to the analysis provided by investment banks and stock brokers. .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:18 AM | Permalink

November 6, 2004

Using Cancer To Live More Richly

If you know of anyone with prostate cancer, let them know of the Monument Park of other men who fought the cancer and won.

Many met the challenge to live more richly like Fernando Barrueta

    The cancer got him to change his life -- he left a 30 year career in commercial real estate to go to the Hispanic College Fund. He realized that he wanted to do something meaningful, and that time was getting short. He is very happy now, enjoying life to the fullest extent while working very hard, watching his terminally cute grandchildren grow, and playing a lot of soccer

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:53 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2004

Cruise Ship Care

In large cities, you can expect to pay upwards of $40,000 for a year in an assisted living facility.
By contrast, living in a dedicated cabin aboard the Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas costs only $33,260 a year reports The Economist in Till death us do part

    Luxury liners offer many of the same amenities as old folks' homes: meals and housekeeping, laundry and hair-dressing services, and even an escort to dinner. They have handgrips in the toilets and walk-in showers. And they also provide plenty of things that land-based facilities do not—such as premium-grade ozone, nightly entertainment and round-the-clock access to medical care.

    “Cruise ships could be considered as a floating assisted-living facility,” says Lee Lindquist, a geriatrician at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. She first took a cruise last year and was struck by the untapped potential. She has now proposed a new model for old-age living, which she calls “cruise-ship care”, to be published in November's Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 AM | Permalink

November 1, 2004

Playing the Odds Against Terrorism

Americans are playing the odds when it comes to a terror attack according to a recent survey by the New York Times.

    In the survey, 46 percent of the respondents said they did not think the United States was prepared for a terrorist attack, while 43 percent said the country was prepared. To questions of personal readiness, 61 percent responded that they did not have a stockpile of food and water at home in preparation for a terrorist attack. More than 70 percent said they had not selected a family meeting place in case of an evacuation due to terrorism, nor had they established a plan to communicate with relatives.

    Asked why her family had not designated a gathering place or plan to stay in touch, Gloria Peters, a retiree from San Pablo, Calif., said, "We really haven't discussed that, but we should." She added, "The roads are going to be so packed jammed that it's going to be insane."

    The survey found that women were more likely to regard both the country and their local communities as ill prepared to deal with another attack. Women are also more apt to express concern that someone in their family could become a victim of terrorism: 46 percent of women said they were very or somewhat concerned compared with 26 percent of men.

    David Ropeik, who teaches risk communications at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the survey results reflect a well-established, intuitive human response to risk known as optimism bias, in which individuals disproportionately believe that they will not be victims of a peril even though they widely acknowledge that it will occur.

    "We see the same phenomenon with smoking, obesity and natural disasters. If you don't think it will happen to you, then you won't take any precautions," Mr. Ropeik said. "When it comes to terrorism, there is some truth here. If an attack happens, it's unlikely that you or I will be a victim. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't be prepared."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 AM | Permalink