A Charted Viewpoint

Well It didn’t take long (a new all time never before seen in the history of mankind always fuels this) before not only did I once again begin receiving smirks from others in regards to my thoughts on the financial markets, but a few thought they would jab a few elbows my way adding that maybe I should not have been so forth coming, or so quick to write my thoughts on what Tony Robbins had been expressing. For as one person said to me “You seem to have a little egg on your face.”

Yes, one could view it that way. And after all, when one is in the public arena and makes a statement publicly there are those that are going to question every aspect of it. (as they should) Especially when you’re talking or discussing a viewpoint diametrically opposed with some of the largest players on the world stages today. It comes with the territory at this level, and I both understand it, as well as accept it. It’s par for the course.

So with that said; I would like to express as well as expand what I was trying to get across using a different vehicle other than just words, but also with some pictures known as charts.

I’ve annotated them to try to make the argument for what I’ve been expressing for many years as opposed to what many in the financial media, as well as the media in general has been using as “the fundamental reasons” why the markets are where they are.

I’ll also add just one piece of history to bring some perspective on why I believe I have standing to state my ideas, and ask not to just brush them aside as “just another wanna-be trying to insert himself into a story or argument.”

Remember when High Frequency Trading (HFT) was nothing more than some “crazy tin-foil wearing people” making claims about something that basically didn’t exist let alone had any real impact within the financial markets?

This came from the highest authorities that either worked, owned, or regulated the firms of Wall Street. The “paper of record” as they would say in days before websites was non-other than ZeroHedge™ (ZH).

This was the lone voice (and still is in many ways) that pounded its keyboard over, and over, and over, again warning, documenting, and revealing the pernicious effects HFT was wreaking within the markets and the catastrophic effects that were growing beneath the surface that no-one was addressing.

Or, to state it better: No-one would even consider. Let alone acknowledge.

ZH is considered by some of the largest media news sites (both print, web, as well as radio and television) in the world today as the place where “the people who truly understand Wall Street express their views.” It is regarded as a “go to” site for many in the global media today.

I know there are many of you that probably don’t follow financial matters all that much where you also may have never really paid attention in hearing the name when you’re listening to your own news programs. But – now that you know. I’ll guarantee it’ll stick out next time you may hear it when listening to some news outlet.

As I’ve stated before you don’t just get to “contribute” as in a – you find them. It’s more like – they find you. You can’t even get a subscriber account name to receive email updates on what’s posted there without a 2 week wait in an “approval process” as they do some form of background checking.  Again, that’s just to read and comment!

So with that said here’s just one instance that I’ll point to where I was personally part of the larger discussion where at the time what people like myself were stating was being disregarded, laughed at, and more. Then suddenly, what we were stating was no longer all so “tin-foil capped” crazy. To wit:

Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (March 2014 W.W. Norton & Co.) is released and rocks the financial house of cards. As I said earlier. The paper of record making that argument when no one else would? ZH. Suddenly the tin foil hat wearing monikers turned into more of an all-seeing turban styled viewpoint.

It was also both previous, as well as during, that period the regulatory bodies were still standoff-ish when it came to looking into the true underlying issues for potential criminality. Then this headline was posted on ZH.
“If HFT Algos Were People They’d Be Perp Walked”
that article was written by yours truly. What happened next? Just 4 hours later this hit the wires:

Screenshot courtesy of ZeroHedge

Screenshot courtesy of ZeroHedge

Like I’ve said previously. No one would even contemplate the impact of HFT at the time let alone the regulatory bodies as to look into any possible legal issues. However, you don’t need to be trying to spin or conflate this issue to show that just maybe – you were right when everyone (including the most powerful voices on Wall Street itself were stating people like myself “didn’t have a clue as to what we were talking about.”

We did, and just how much of a clue gets reported in greater detail every passing day. And the picture isn’t getting any better or more settling. As a matter of fact, it’s becoming even more frightening.

This is just one example, (and there have been more) but I think it’s an important one as to show those who may be new readers and wonder what gives me the standing to interject my opinions or ideas about Wall Street based issues since for many I’m just some “motivation” guy.

So with all that said I’ll shift into what is becoming far more dangerous in my view today that once again seems no one wants to either understand, contemplate, or worse – they just won’t admit it.

Here’s the first of 8 charts. They’re annotated so just click on them if you need to see them in a larger size to read more clearly.

This where we basically were at the beginning of this year 2014

This is where we basically were at the beginning of this year 2014

Then when the proverbial stuff hit the fan

Then when the proverbial “stuff” hit the fan in Oct.

Then when it seemed as all that "stuff" wasn't what we thought

Then when it seemed as all that “stuff” wasn’t what we thought. Or were told.

But there were reasons for why and I show then in green

But there were reasons for why and I show them in green

Here's another view and reasoning's as to "why"

Here’s another view of the year and my reasoning’s as to “why”

More reasoning for "why"

More reasoning for “why”

Further explaining "why"

Further explaining “why”

And finally the most important one - Where the real questions to asked reside.

And finally the most important one – Where (in my opinion) the real questions to be asked reside. There are 4

First: Question 1.
This was the moment in time where it just seemed nothing could derail the economy. Everyone you knew seemed to have their own personal ATM machine. (Remember when owning a house seemed to fit that descriptor?)

Jobs were plentiful, construction was everywhere, people were shopping, buying cars, boats, vacations, luxury branded items, you name it. Getting a loan or credit card was as easy as breathing. And in some cases – breathing was optional. It was truly a form of economic euphoria for many. What was next to invest in, purchase, speculate, _________ (fill in the blank) Again – you name it. For good times seemed here to stay. The only question that wasn’t being asked was – for how long?

Question 2.
We found out. Not that long at all.

Near overnight everything you once thought, believed, or held dear as to your financial security or health was disappearing right before one’s very eyes.

Neighbors were suddenly being foreclosed upon, cars were being repossessed, stores closing, mass layoffs, businesses shuttering’s and far more.

Panic seemed to be both filling the air not only outside but inside one’s own home. What made matters worse were all those people who touted “they knew what to do” suddenly not only hadn’t a clue, they were just as dumbfounded and outright panic-stricken as their clients were.

Nobody knew what other proverbial shoe was to drop next. And just as many didn’t want to know.

The only answers any one wanted to know or hear were to: Would it stop? Or, would they survive it?

Question 3.
For the first time in months it seemed as if one could catch their breath and maybe put back the pieces of their financial life.

With a massive bailout now known as TARP and the introduction of another program tried for the first time known as QE1 the markets had not only seemed to stabilize but had regained some of its composure – although it was far from stable.

Then QE1 was touted as a one time only type fix and was ending. And with that end, out of the blue, the markets once again began to falter and began heading back toward the lows set during the first melt down stage.

This is where it became clear there truly was so much damage to the economic underpinnings of the capital markets that it was deemed unfit to be left on its own.

And with that then Fed. chairman Ben Bernanke make an announcement in what many deem (as do I) the “infamous” Jackson Hole speech. Where he announced the Fed. would basically not only reinstate QE, but would apply the pedal to the metal in a fashion never before seen in the history of the markets.

That took place precisely where that arrow points. Because up until that moment – all bets – were once again – off!

Now: The Real Question.
This is where we stand today with probably: the most important question that one can ask in relation to exactly how one views or how they’re going to treat their finances going forward.

Why is it so important? One would think the most important one was when we were nearing the abyss. After-all: Isn’t that the one? Along with answering: We answered it correctly did we not? After all -”Just look at that chart!”

I would like to say yes, but instead; I’ll base my answer this way…

When we started out at “Question 1″ it is hard for anyone who understands business, or finance, entrepreneurship, or even self-reliance and not see -  we were a little ahead (or maybe even full) of ourselves.

The economy, the jobs, all of it was fueled by an over-extension of credit within the economy that all of us were able to partake in. And I do mean near everyone.

Many would say that’s where we are now. In just an over extension of free money equaling basically the same thing. And a growing number seem to making some case as to which; we now know more on what to do and could handle a similar shock if it ever appeared once again in much the same manner. i.e., “The Fed’s got your back!”  So what’s all the worry about?

Even more are starting to fortify the: “Just do like they those guy’s on television say to do and “Buy the F’n dips!”

I mean, not for nothing – they’ve been right so far. Maybe it’s you that needs to ‘think like a billionaire’ and get with it. Obviously these  people are currently ‘Kill’n it!’”

And therein lies the real question that one must answer first before moving past GO and receiving their proverbial $200.00

What you must honestly answer first before you can “think like a billionaire” or contemplate a myriad of possible other myths that may pertain to the financial markets is this:

As faulty as the markets were at the point before the markets fell. And – as hallucinatory as the financial exuberance was for good, or for ill. What was different then from today is the jobs were real, the houses being bought and sold were real, the shopping, the construction, all of it. Again “for good, or for ill”  were real and everyone was basically reaping in the spoils.

That money (as in a literal economic fashion) did change hands, was put to work, however you want to describe it was there being swapped and exploited by near everyone.

Now, for all intents and purposes the only one’s that have benefited this time are the top 1%. The other 99% are more concerned about the economy than ever, because they know and can plainly see just by looking out their own front doors – this economy looks nothing like the economy that supported similar levels just a few short years ago. Regardless of any report or chart being touted and used to support validity on why “It’s different this time!”

Today, from where that third arrow sits, precisely where the Fed announced QE would not only once again be tried, but the amount to be unleashed will be one for the history books to wonder over for generations. All the way to the final arrow at the top where we are today. That whole rise, all of it – has absolutely nothing remotely close to the fundamental economic underpinnings or economics we had before the crisis.

Or if I may be so bold to say – anything to do with what you or I took to understand as “fundamental economics.” These “fundamentals” are more inline with “funny/fuzzy-mentals” which for my money ipso facto proves the markets themselves – are the myth.

The jobs aren’t there, the sales, the construction, the loans, the housing. There’s now falling GDP from not only the US – but nearly every other economy including – China. You know, the GDP producer that was going to save the world?

Yes, even theirs is contracting. Not only that, even Wall Street itself can’t take advantage all this rising market as one would think they would or could. They themselves are continually needing to layoff, or shutter certain operations, and a host of others.

The financial media such as the once darlings of Wall Street CNBC™ has ratings that have plummeted to levels not seen since their start 2 decades ago. Nobody cares, nobody’s watching, and more importantly – nobody’s buying this market except for the Central Banks which are now seemingly unleashing wave after wave of “beggar thy neighbor” monetary policies that are beginning to make even die-hard Keynesian devotees blush.

So maybe the real question that should be asked and answered should also be asked a little tongue-in-cheek style that fits the Clint Eastwood portrayal of Dirty Harry.

“Now that you’re here, at never before seen in human history highs in the market. And seeing you’ve just witnessed the Central Banks version of a monetary Howitzer™.

And seeing it is the biggest most powerful monetary gun in the world, and can blow the short sided or contrarian asset managers account clear off the trading room floor.

You need to ask yourself. Did they fire the last round of QE? Or is there still one left? For in all this parading of meaningless minutia and HFT fueled stop running algo programs I’ve kinda lost count myself.

So I guess the real question is…

Do you feel lucky?”

Sometimes a little brevity in the way one asks a serious question just might push forth the truth. For today, more than ever, truthful answers to the correct questions are what’s truly needed.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Why Tony Robbins Is Asking The Wrong Questions

First off let me make this statement plain and simple before one reads any further. This is not a hit piece, nor an effort to take swipes at Tony Robbins or worse, some feeble attempt at click-baiting.

I have been a true fan since he first hit the motivational stage decades ago. However, just as I am what many would call an Apple™ “fan-boy” (which I am) it doesn’t stop me from pointing out issues where I see a compelling reason to do so.

As I’ve stated before, I mean it in a manner the same way one would criticize a family member when they are either doing something that doesn’t make sense, or something other. Nothing more, nothing less.

I don’t know Mr. Robbins personally, but for this discussion please excuse the liberty I take with using “Tony.” It just makes the writing easier.

Like many I was intrigued to see Tony has a new book. His first in over 20 years. When I read the title, “MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom,” (2014 Simon & Shuster) I was both intrigued as well as apprehensive. Why?

It’s basically this: I’m also in the same field (e.g. entrepreneur, motivational speaker, coach, et al) as Tony. And my writings and thoughts on money or markets sometimes appear in some of the same arenas. e.g., Business Insider™, MarketWatch™, et al. Which is precisely where I read his thoughts as well as a few questions he was asking some of today’s Wall Street titans. e.g., Warren Buffet, Paul Tudor Jones, Carl Icahn and others.

In an article written by Tony on Business Insider, “Tony Robbins Shatters The 9 Most Common Investing Myths” As I read I and was left shaking my head.

The article goes on to discuss that there are nine “myths.” And you can read them for yourself rather than me list or counter each. However, to demonstrate in a real example of what I’m trying to get across, I’ll use the first in that series.

“Myth 1″ starts with quoting Warren Buffett and sums the premise in this paragraph.

“So instead of buying all the stocks individually, or trying to pick the next high-flying hotshot fund manager, you can diversify and own a piece of all 500 top stocks simply by investing in a low-cost index fund that tracks or mimics the index.”

The true myth is that what is actually in the index as a business, its economic makeup, its validity as a true business, or anything else that we once understood as what a business “is.” Is – no longer and doesn’t mean squat.

The only “is” that now matters is this : Is – the index one that has a bulls-eye that the Central Banks deem important? i.e., they will buy it directly or fund its purchase via their proxies. Period.

Want a little proof to put behind that statement you say? Fair enough. Remember when then Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke pointed out in meeting after meeting as to answer the efficacy of the Central Bank’s then quantitative easing programs: “Just look at the Russell 2000™?”

That was then – and now since he’s gone and that’s no longer the Fed’s key “go to” point of reference I’ll state: “Just look at the Russell 2000.”

What “indexing” prowess would one use to describe or answer the current lackluster relative showing as every other index hits another nosebleed level?

To reiterate what I’ve said so many times prior: Since the financial crisis of 2008 not only has the financial markets changed – they no longer resemble what many still believe, let alone think.

As I’ve stated over, and over, and over (did I say over?) again: Without the direct interventionist policies continuing to take place within the financial markets via the Federal Reserve and now other Central Banks such as Japan’s with the unleashing of “Banzainomics” there is no market.

The sad reality in regards to “myth 1″  lies the realization that the true unsettling answer is – the markets are the myth. That’s the true revelation. Sorry to sound harsh, but it’s true.

Even Mr. Icahn himself has been expressing some very onerous or cautionary overtones of late. As stated in an article on ZeroHedge™ during a recent Reuters™ Investment Outlook Summit in New York Mr Icahn stated:

“I am still concerned that one day you’ll see a break like you had a few weeks ago but it won’t come back.”

This is what I truly want to hear more of as well as articulated more in-depth as to know what an “investing billionaire” is thinking, doing, contemplating, positioning, and more.

The real issue at hand from my point of view is this: Looking for answers to both financial safety as well as financial freedom in the same light or viewpoint where it seems one only needs to “think like a billionaire” or “tweak” or “slightly modify” perceptions on how one approaches these financial markets today – will hurt more than it will help.

The markets for all intents and purposes are no longer for the “average” person looking to make gains in any form today. What is needed now more than ever is a direct understanding that safety – safety above all else – is paramount. And exactly how one can achieve it. Or get as close to the proverbial “cash in the mattress” understanding of it as humanly possible.

The idea of “diversification” is a great sounding idea in principle and theory. However, it is one of the greatest myths when it comes to protecting one’s assets in today’s financial market place aka Wall Street.

During the financial crisis of 2008 when the markets were in a free-fall and panic was ensuing “a diversified portfolio” did little if anything to help stem the tide. As a matter of fact, many found the “diversification” side of their portfolio which was to help “protect” not only fell just as far in value, but the ability of many to even remain solvent going forward was questioned.

The safest of all presumed “investments” were money-market accounts where many prudent investors with the ability to sell and go to cash were left sitting nervously when it was realized these very funds had begun to “break the buck” and was fueling the panic fire even more so than adding gasoline.

Forget the gasoline reference – it was more like nuclear fuel. Only when the Federal Reserve along with the FDIC stepped in with some bold actions which stemmed the tide within the money-market funds did we finally begin to see some form of stabilization come back into the markets.

Until that point all – and I do mean all – bets were off. Diversification was meaningless.

Today, I believe one must worry even more about safety than what one thought just 5 years ago, for what many still believe or thought about “money-markets” no longer applies.

Why would I say such a thing? Is it because you thought or presumed there’s even more improved safety since the crisis? Where we learned how to make one’s money-market account even safer? Or maybe even a more pragmatic willingness to step in and save probably the most astute financial class in the markets today such as someone prudent enough, or smart enough, to hold cash in a 401K or such? Nope.

Today (which I’ve written and warned about previously) in such an event where if the markets were to once again go haywire there’s no need for the Fed. to step in and help stem the tide of the money-markets. They can let them adhere to the same market forces as the stock markets themselves.

For as one may not be aware or remember, the new rules are that they can now “break the buck” without having to sell assets to protect that breaking quite so hastily.

Another way to state that is: the “dollar” value in your “cash” account doesn’t have to be worth a “dollar” any longer.

Nor if you want that “dollar” (which for whatever reasons could now drop to Oh, let’s say 50 cents or yes lower) you may not even be “allowed” access to it.

Why? Because these new rules also let the custodians of your cash “gate” your cash. i.e.,  Sorry, no money for you. Just visit our website, or reread that “updated” agreement you received which you probably slid in a drawer with the other five thousand “notices” of fine print you received and “accepted.” Thanks for banking with us!

That’s just handling the myth side discussed in this article. In another article (he just released a book so it’s more than customary to write more than one release article at the same time) that appeared on Market Watch™, Tony went into questions he asked of some very big players known by many on Wall Street. e.g. Mr. Icahn. Mr. Jones, and others.

Again, I understand Tony’s objective in trying to figure out answers to some very intriguing questions by these Wall St. players. Yet, as I stated earlier, I believe he’s asking the wrong questions.

In an opinion piece titled,“Tony Robbins tells you how to make money like a billionaire” Tony tries to get to the underlying premise as to answer how people can control their money and gain financial freedom. In it he makes a statement which I believe he’s sincere,

“After watching the global financial system almost melt down, I began an amazing journey several years ago to find a way for individual investors to take control of their money in a system that seems rigged against them.”

Here is where I both found myself asking the very same question Tony had been asking at the very same time. However, although we are both in the motivation business, and we’re both the same age. We both came to two diametrically opposite viewpoints on how one should proceed in anything financially related. (as far as anything Wall Street is concerned)

Personally I had the unique benefit as well as motivator to find or seek true answers. For I had just retired less than 36 months prior to the financial crash and had a real vested interest in finding those desperately needed “real answers” because, at that time, all the so-called “experts” were not only not making sense – they were more like deer in the headlights. I was then 45 years old.

I have great respect for Paul Tudor Jones, Carl Icahn, and the others he questioned. But here comes that word again; “however,” the questions are more or less in my opinion irrelevant and maybe of little value other than “mindset” type thinking for entrepreneurs.

The reasoning why is this: What they are doing is of little value to the average investor to use via making money in the markets or protecting one’s assets from harm. Especially in today’s “markets.”

For as I’ve reiterated over, and over again. “These markets are so adulterated with Central Bank imposed manipulations it would make Larry Flint blush.

The questions that should be asked in my opinion are far removed from what most will ask. Yet, I believe, there are some that not only should be asked, rather – it’s in their true answers that can or may help provide true insight.

An example of these might go like this: As far as exploring a “myth,” the right question for a myth might revolve around answering questions that people like myself and others find themselves in after they just cashed out, retired, whatever and went through the crisis of ’08. e.g., How do you do anything with your money safely where you also need that money to generate income to now pay your bills? And - you have absolutely no trust in what the markets resemble or have become today?

When I first retired you could easily (what was believed to be then) “safely” with “no risk” put your money in funds that would generate 5% (or more) interest. Today? That vehicle doesn’t exist. It only exists in name only i.e., “CD’s” “Direct savings” or “money-market savings” type accounts.

With the Federal Reserve now into another year of a zero interest policy environment now .5% is like “whoo hoo!”

Think I’m off base? Don’t take my word for it. In a recent interview on Bloomberg Surveillance™ another true hedge fund legend Julian Robertson founder of Tiger Management™ stated in a reply to an answer about trying to safely manage one’s own money as in a savings account type vehicle, (I’m paraphrasing) “Take the entrepreneur that sold his business and now has let’s say $3 million dollars in proceeds. Today, that money only produces $60K a year. And that’s before taxes. This is what many now find themselves up against in today’s zero interest rate environment.”

Just 5 years ago if you cashed out with $3 million from “Main St. you thought “Easy St.” was just another boulevard connected to “Wall St.” Today? Wall St. is now a thoroughfare seemingly located in a very high-priced area where at any moment it could turn into “Panic City.” Where the streets are lined with Wall St. styled hotels that sing a different extended version of a tune most know, “You can checkout any time you like – but you may never leave – with your money!”

Today the prudent are squarely focused on another old mantra; It’s no long “a return on” after 2008 it’s now “a return of” that dominates almost any – if not all my questions when it pertains to money. And I know – it’s not just me.

As we once again hit “new never before seen in the history of mankind all time highs” the outflows are still predominately outweighing the inflows. Nobody’s buying these markets – except for Central Banks.

A person I wish was asked questions who is also a top-tier status hedge fund manager that I believe could give some real answers or valuable insights to entrepreneurs and others of all stripes which they could apply is people like Hugh Hendry of Eclectica Asset Management.

Mr. Hendry known to many as a no-nonsense contrarian styled fund manager moved from the proverbial “bear camp” and changed his thinking as well as asset allocation to what’s known as the “bull camp.” His reasoning, and a whole lot more he expressed in his thoughts going forward in 2014:

“Last bear standing? Not any more… I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that the last bear is capitulating. It isn’t a good sign. Maybe it is that simple. But I think it is a little more complicated.”

Although I’m also a Hugh Hendry fan, I myself found his reasoning’s at first blush conflicting. That said, the real insightful answer to a question such as: “How hard was it to go against nearly everything you’ve thought or believed when dealing in the financial arena – to then basically change your business model and investment criteria in the exact opposite direction?

Not only that – in a direction that basically you’ve also railed against and made cogent arguments against that very viewpoint or investment stance?

Or: How exactly are you handling the stresses and strains having to basically push sound fundamental theories or market underpinnings aside and now trade and position money at risk based solely on what some Central Bank will do next?

This is the avenue I wish Tony had driven or sought.

Another relevant question I believe that would have brought greater insight would be to ask principal and veteran Wall St. trader Joseph Saluzzi of Themis Trading™ how he handled the backlash and dismal by industry mavens, as well as the financial media at large, with his nascent warnings that trading as we all once knew it – was no longer present. And – had morphed into what many now would call the greatest financial monster threatening the stability of the financial markets in a way never before imagined. Known today as High Frequency Trading (HFT).

I remember as I was trying to wrap my own head around the distortions that perplexed me I would watch Mr. Saluzzi take barb after barb laced “C’mon, you can’t be serious” brush offs from one after another Wall St. financial media commentator.

Everyone including the very regulatory bodies in charge dismissed his clarion call. Then to be vindicated overnight suddenly for everyone to see when Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt (2014 W.W. Norton & Co.) came out and rocked the proverbial house of cards being built.

Personally I remember one exchange that still sticks with me when one show host quipped to Mr. Saluzzi: (I’m paraphrasing) “What proof do you have?” And the reply was, “Proof? All I have to do is look at my screens!” It really was a noteworthy reply. However, at that time, no one listened – let alone would acknowledge the possibility.

Remember, this was a person working on Wall St. Imagine the sort of peer pressure alone and handling it, while not abandoning your conviction to what everyone (and I mean everyone) wants you too just keep quiet about – and play along. That is a question worth hearing the answer to for my money.

Again these are the forms or types questions that I personally would like to both know, as well as fully comprehend all the intricacies. For I feel there would be real pragmatic, useful insights any entrepreneur, as well as anyone watching their own money should hear.

I say it because just like Tony I feel it is something that anyone looking for financial freedom as to control their own monetary aspects needs to know the answers to.

Today I feel it is more important than ever. And Tony is a giant in more ways than one and commands a very big stage. It’s just what I’ve seen and read so far of the questions posed appears to have missed an opportunity. I could be wrong for I have not read the book, just what I’ve read in his most recent articles. And – it’s only my opinion. Nothing more.

The Wall Street everyone believes they are dealing with today is just in name and memory. What made sense just 6 years ago not only doesn’t but rather if you try to apply any sense that resembles “common sense” you might as well be asking the Cheshire cat for a more straight answer.

And as we stand today, the only place seemingly left thinking this meme of “Wall Street still leads to Easy Street” is Silicon Valley. Where many of today’s newly minted “billionaires” believe 2014 or ’15 “Is different this time” than it was in 1999 or ’00. It is – but is isn’t.

And the issue here is when the realization kicks in that the once “billion dollar darlings of Wall St.” realize they are no longer loved or sought after as vehemently as they were just a year ago, now that the Fed, has ended the open spigot hot money supply aka QE. What happens then?

There’s also another question that should be answered but this one comes from Tim Knight owner and prolific blogger of one of the top “bear focused” trading blogs on the web today: Slope Of Hope™.

He lives smack dab in the hottest real-estate market in Silicon Valley – Palo Alto CA. Where his neighbors are Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook™, and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo™, just to name a few.

He openly opines he’s trying to find a workable answer to a very relevant question as these markets are hitting these all time highs. His question?

“I wish there was a way I could buy a put option on my house value, because this place is just nuts!”

There’s a lot of answers to many questions about Wall St. in that above statement alone.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Confidence Lost aka When Words No Longer Matter

One of the first things one learns when they are in a position of leadership is this: Choose your words carefully, mean what you say, then do what you say you’ll do. If you find you were wrong – admit it, state the reasons why clearly, then articulate once again clearly eschewing as much obliqueness as humanly possible what your intents are going forward – then do them. Rinse, repeat.

The above comes via experience, not some text-book found on some dusty bookshelf within the hallowed halls of academia where theory and an overdrawn dissection of minutia allows one to feel empowered to “lead” others.

The attitude displayed for many who’ve partaken only in thought experiments is this: If they endured endless hours of discussion in classrooms, with noses buried in textbooks, listening to drawn-out oratory given by some professor (where they themselves more than likely never applied these principles in real life situations) and now bear some parchment stating they concluded the preceding, then by dint – they are now qualified to either “lead” or be “leaders.” It’s not only a misguided pretense – It’s a load of bunk.

No more is this phenom becoming more prevalent than in the political arena today. I don’t care if you’re on the Left, Right, or somewhere in between. This isn’t about which side you’re on, or the “your guy or gal” debate. I’m speaking directly about confidence in leadership and what happens when it’s lost.

Although the clearest current examples are what is taking place in the political, make no mistake – they are also happening within the business community at a similar breathtaking pace.

Currently politicians and others involved in policy making are clamoring up to any camera, microphone, or reporter to “clarify” what they stated clearly and emphatically previously.

The problem? More or less many are claiming they were either “taken out of context” or, “that’s not what they truly meant.” The real problem? They forgot about all the cameras, audio recordings, speeches, and more they made previously so there would be no confusion what they originally meant. Now it is they that stand confused.

It’s one thing to try as to clarify, or to make sure original intent is understood. However, when your clarification takes on the aura of an out right lie or revision to the exact opposite of what you said. No words are going to help going further. In actuality – they’ll only cause more outage.

Let me set the premise of this with a very simple example.

You can’t make the argument that you were “taken out of context,” or you now need to “clarify” what you said previously if let’s say you told everyone, “There would be a park filled with flowers, along with a pool, all paid for with new-found revenue sources, that everyone may enjoy to be built in the center of town.”

Then after the construction one finds themselves looking for the words to calm an angry group standing outside their office outraged for when they visited the site not only did they not find a field flowers – it was nothing more than a paved parking lot named “The Flowering Meadows Parking Lot” with meters to insert money into from carpool-ers.

There is no “explaining” or “clarification” or anything else that’s going to work here. It’s all too clear. The only confident thing one will take from any words going forward is the confidence, no matter what you say going forward – is untrustworthy.

You can make this example pertain directly to future earnings calls when the equivalent rational will be used when trying to explain why “earnings” missed because “buybacks” were no longer inevitable with QE no longer available. (availability subject to change I might add just to be “clear”)

When issues like these suddenly rear their ugly heads, textbooks and debate gymnastic skills are not going to provide the answers or resolutions they once believed. (and many will quiver in the realization that maybe – the only textbook answer that may refer to an example is from 18th century France. And we all remember how that worked out.)

The issue at hand that many gloss over, or worse, have no understanding of whatsoever is the undeniable fact as well as truth in the phenom: When people are both scared as well as mad; their memories of what one said are not only long, rather – they are mentally written in the equivalent form of set concrete.

What must also be added to this is the very fact most intellectuals never quite grasp (for their judgement is clouded via their own superiority complex) People may not know or understand the inner workings of X+Y=Z. However, if the resulting combination was told (especially if promised) by a leader that it would result in a monetary or security based payout – and it doesn’t? Katie barring the door as well as lifting the castle bridge won’t hinder the ensuing onslaught. Nor will any proceeding words as to help “clarify” work. It will all be nothing more than moot points shouted over the moat.

This is where that proverbial “fine line” once crossed instantaneously becomes the equivalent of “crossing the Rubicon” when trying to “walk back,” or “clarify” previous remarks.

Few are prepared for such an adventure. And the more one looks for answers in the “textbooks” the higher and brighter the flames rise from the masses as they proceed to burn those very books.

Here is where only action means anything. Words no longer matter. As a matter of fact words more often than not should be sheathed in such circumstances.

Only clear, decisive actions taken by the leader will make any sense as to possibly lay any form of sway to those who now feel disenchanted with either the leader, the organization, or both.

If you’re in the policy making arena there are no words, no statements, no clarifications, no nothing that will change both the perceptions as well as the ensuing anger when people scared of impending perils that may beseech them as in such things as healthcare or other personal issues.

All they will remember is: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” to then find clearly – they can’t.

Or, “If you like your health-plan, you can keep your health-plan” to then receive a cancellation notice stating clearly – they can’t.

Add to this the other mantra, “Your premiums will decrease by as much as $2500.00″ to then receive a bill stating clearly – they are going up by a minimum that amount.

There will be nothing one can say to “clarify” or state they were taken “out of context” or any other such revisionist request. People will not buy it – literally.

When times are good as in a raging economy, or a business that’s exploding in growth people as well as many leaders (whether in business or the political) for all intents and purposes tune out the minutia of most discussions and events.

Many will pay little if any attention to what might be seen in retrospect as a “costly set back” because the overwhelming mood or meme is, “things are going along pretty good, we can make up for it going forward.”

However, more often than not it is that exact reasoning that leads one into finding themselves up the river without a paddle just when a missed forecast or previous “unimaginable” tsunami hits.

Personally I only have a degree from the school hard knocks. However, I’ve been the one who received the phone-call or was asked to deal in a company more than once in both crisis management as well as a turnaround situation and have done it successfully. Again – more than once.

I know what it’s like to try to move a company forward picking up the pieces of the preceding “leader” or management where the only thing left behind seems to be distrust.

I’ve worked in both a union, non-union, as well as a mix of the two. What I’ve both learned as well as observed in both the implementation as well the resolution to a crisis is this: You only have one shot to say what you mean, then mean what you say articulated with decisive, immediate action. Other than that – no amount of words or oratory gymnastics will restore a molecule of confidence. Period.

The textbooks currently touted within the hallowed halls of academia all point to dealing with the masses or business interests based on “the state of the economy.”

In general it will be professed when the economy is going along well based on the capital markets, as well as the government reporting agencies (i.e. government reporting agencies reporting GDP is up, unemployment is down etc., etc.) that one can afford to do this, that, or the other thing with little too no concern of costs associated financially or politically. Fair enough one might say. What’s wrong with that?

I might tend to agree with that myself however like I said, I have had the privilege of gaining my education from “Hard Knocks U.” and have learned to be very leery and cautionary of what everyone else deems “conclusive evidence.”

Today we find the most egregious examples of policy makers backtracking, walking back, clarifying, restating, rewriting, you name it in an effort to vanquish the growing onslaught of outright anger festering within the populace.

And many are finding themselves with little time as to scratch their head let alone come up with the words to slow down the crowd as they try piling the living room furniture ever higher against the door in a hope this will allow for more time and find the “right words or message” that may quell the fury. It won’t, for this didn’t happen in a vacuum.

It happened because they believed the words of others that only parrot back what the policy makers wanted to both hear – as well as believe. Which people like myself and very few others have been pounding our desks and keyboards trying to get anyone to listen.

For it’s for these very reasons the interventionist monetary policies first implemented by the Federal Reserve and now being carried into the future in unison by other Central Banks are, and have been, so dangerous.

For they’ve been shielding policy makers as well as a great many of the business community from seeing or believing the true health and structure of the once best gauge of financial health and political stability – The capital markets.

Earlier during the dreaded days following the financial crisis of 2008 policy makers everywhere took to what was once known as the “business media.” Many were appearing more often on a “financial channel” than they were on CSPAN™.

Suddenly politicians and policy makers seemed to be (and currently still are) “the go to guests” crowding out the once coveted true “business leader.” Let alone any with an opposing viewpoint of true economics.

It became quite obvious any business leader (one that actually ran a company) that seemed indifferent to the “party line” that things were not all that they seemed, suddenly found themselves out of the on-air, rah, rah, “power rotation.”

What was not lost on some of us was when then House Leader back then was quick to state not only did they watch channels such as CNBC™ (which was where this interview was conducted) but that they were on in every office throughout Washington.

Is it any wonder why these leaders are suddenly finding themselves caught within the wrath of a political firestorm coming from all sides?

It would seem the only people still watching this channel (as per their reported ratings which are prima facie disastrous) are these very same leaders.

Words, numbers, earnings and more at one time had a believable meaning there also. But that was a very long time ago. So long – even the leaders of that network seems to have forgotten what the meaning of words like business, free markets, capitalism and others once meant.

Now it’s nothing but a televised version of crony styled capitalism cheerleaders rolled out one after another in such procession P.T.Barnum would be proud.

The problem is the more they talk – the more people tune out. For no amount of words stated matter any longer. Nor do the myriad of “charts” “reports” or so-called “facts” they hold up as evidence. No one is listening or watching. And what’s worse?

Nobody now cares.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

A Few Notes On A Few Things – “Coming Soon!”

Currently I have so many irons in the fire I feel like a ping-pong ball moving from one task to the next as it seems I have more than 5 going all at once.

Deadlines for one, conceptual arrangement for another, along with the all too frequent getting close to the finality of another – then deciding I just don’t like it and am willing to throw the whole thing in the trash and start from scratch. (Which I’m prone to do and drives StreetCry nuts!)

One thing has become quite puzzling as of late. The larger the audience coming to the site and signing up as to “subscribe” via email increases. Many times one post later – the same number might “unsubscribe.”

Yes many stay (and you are appreciated) and the base continues to grow. However, we have been watching as the phenom happens over, and over again. It was one of those things that makes you scratch your head. Then it dawned on me. The blog for all intents and purposes had become very eclectic in subject matter.

People originally came here to read my thoughts on leadership, entrepreneurship, motivation, etc. They’d see a speech I’ve made or during a discussion and want more info.Then my writing took on far more subject matter and diversity of topics where others would read something I’ve written discussing global markets, financial matters, entrepreneurial issues and more.

Then there are others that seem to take to the “I’ve got a bee in my bonnet” rant where I’ve basically had enough of an issue and want to share as to maybe help others avoid or tackle an issue. And as many of you know quite a bit more.

However as I related earlier this came front and center when one of my articles was carried like they often do across many leading news sites. People apparently liked what they read and decided to sign up to receive more by email. Then about 24hrs later they received my thoughts as I wrote and contemplated impending concerns on the Ebola issue. And near overnight all that signed up that night before – left.

If one had come for insights on business or something other; to then get a story about Ebola in their mailbox I myself might have done the same thing thinking “what the frig is this?” (ding) Unsubscribe.

However it made the issue apparent and when we looked back over the data you could see it before as well as after. (For the record that article on Ebola was so far ahead of what anyone else was saying when it truly went “viral” even I was taken back. When I saw my name and article on the front page of sites like InfoWars™ and others even I was like “holy moly!”)

So here’s what’s coming. I am currently in the process of putting together another website designed specifically for motivational work. It will be available next year hopefully early in the year however, I am in a battle royal trying to regain access to a domain which I own and have owned for years back under my control. Currently it seems I’m being held hostage in some form of retaliation for moving this site. The name is important and I don’t want to abandon it till I’ve exhausted all reasonable options. Lawyers are next but I just don’t want to pull that trigger. Yet I’m growing angrier by the day. I’ll keep you posted.

Will this blog change? Well yes, and no. What will happen is there will be a clear separation where people who want specific articles and other items coming on-line will get just those that’s all. I guess in one way it proves ipso facto I’m not just a one subject pony.

On my upcoming book, I’ve decided to push back the release date and I just might scrap the whole project as I first envisioned it. Why? Because a book, is a book, is a book, and this one was turning into – a book.

Although I was feeling comfortable with it something kept gnawing at me. Then I received an invite to get a first edition printing of Seth’s new book coming out and it hit me – that’s it! Don’t get me wrong I’m not copying Seth. What he is going to release is truly original and I can’t wait till its out. (and I encourage all of you to do the same)

However, it’s the format that I was tired of. The traditional “book” per se’ in many ways is just that – traditional. So I’m toying with another format that’s been used by others and I think following in this new format with my own personal tweeks fits what I want rather than the traditional book. (e.g. Paul Arden, Tom Peters, and a few others have used this varying format and when I dug out my copies I knew right there what I wanted.)

Currently the audio and video projects are coming along. It was precisely for these we had the subscriber sign up push where people responded – then as I said before received an article on Ebola or something diametrically opposed or off topic and (ding!) unsubscribed. But all in all it’s been a great learning experience. We learn more and more because – more and more visit the blog now from so many places I can truly say unequivocally “visited and read around the globe.” Just staggering to me as I even type today. It truly humbles one.

I remember when it wasn’t all that long ago I sat glassy-eyed as I stared at my computer screen when my first book was made available for download and was slack-jawed to see it had been downloaded in over 40 countries in about 3 days. I remember just as vividly how I felt when we had visitors routinely coming to the blog from over 60 countries. Now, that number is well over 100. (Just typing that made me stop for a moment.)

All this and I didn’t even mention anything about live events. (and some other things in the idea stages)  Yes, it is going to be a very, very, busy time.

And finally, as always, a sincere thank you too all of you that read or visit this blog in one form or another around the globe. So here’s in looking too pushing that proverbial pedal down even harder. It should be an even faster, wilder ride.

At least that’s what I’m trying for.

Mark

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Is Wall St. Now Just A Form Of Legal Gambling?

It’s really hard to tell the difference when one looks at the markets today to see any real difference from that of the floor of any casino.

For all intents and purposes financial shows seem to be more concerned with showing great legs on-screen as much as some sports broadcasts are pushing to have their female equivalent commentating from the side lines. What’s next – a cheer-leading squad of scantily dressed talking heads waving pom-poms every-time the camera pans? Sorry, I forgot…That’s CNBC™.

I find it almost uncanny in just how the once bastions of free market capitalism are morphing into both the look and feel of today’s casino. If you look at the myriad of assorted slot machines on a casino floor one can’t help but notice that all the lights and sounds with their inner entangled games within games seem to have all the color pallets and changing graphics of most trading screens.

“Look! You got three gold bars, Oh so close to the winning combination, but wait – here comes the free bonus round where you can win a great second chance. Just watch the screen above to see if you get that winning combo!”

Is it really all that dissimilar from today’s day-trader locked in their basement or “trading room” in the dark with screens flashing multicolored candlesticks with “alerts” ringing and buzzing to alert one “the three gold bars” have just been hit. So look to your other screen and see if the 50 MA crosses the 100 MA and claim another prize!”

Whether it’s on the trading floor or in one’s own trading room there will be at any time from one to multiple television screens showing the “box scores” ticketing across the screens from multiple sources with pre/post game analysis, game players, handicappers, et al touting exactly when, where, and how the next big game is about to unfold or has ended.

Who needs football, or basketball and all the others when the stakes for handicapping the Federal Reserve Bowl is about to take center stage at any given time?

Whether you sit directly at a casino table, or you sit at your own virtual one. The same sort of rules apply: Sure your playing against other players, but you’re all playing against the house.  And today that house is Wall Street where the actual bank is now solidly owned by Central Banks.

The equivalent of floor managers are the direct dealers of Treasuries with the keys to the “discount window.” Pit bosses are the regulatory agencies. And the croupier? Fill in you favorite discount brokerage firm ___________ here.

Nowadays more and more it seems everyone is only truly betting on one outcome or the other: Will the Fed. do this? Or will the Fed. do that?

Who cares about what it means to things like the economy, and more. All that’s cared about now is the “win.” i.e., Do they keep interest rates at near zero for another month or not?

Who needs to wait for a Super Duper Bowl-arama type event once a year when you have one you can bet on every month in the form of some kind of Fed. announcement.

Odds makers layout the spreads and more in detail via most option platforms that are available from near any discount brokerage house. These platforms now move with such swiftness as well as up to the near millisecond speed it brings a tear to the eye of book runners of yesteryear.

Banks themselves act as the “booking agents” where one can place their bet right directly into their own bookmaking brokerage platform. Just deduct it from the 401K account.  Don’t worry about the vig – “you’re a valued customer when you use XYZ’s custom platform with low, low commission rates.”

Tongue in cheek? Sure, but in reality – just how far off is it really?

Nowadays the markets have far less to do with capital formation than they do with the A or B choice of what the Federal Reserve is going to do today vs tomorrow. All one needs to do is figure if, or how, they’ll play the alpha of the move, or the beta. Can, and will, the carry trade cover the spread if it all goes against one? Will the counter-party be there to pay up? (Remember the MFS™ debacle of not that long ago?)

The only discernible difference I see from the Wall Street version of a casino it’s now so prominently become, and the one we find on some island or strip is this:

At the least, when I have a great winning bet placed on Red or Black…

The odds that someone from the house bank coming down to floor and yelling “Fire” as the wheel is about to stop right on my stop is far, far less than a Central Banker coming out touting “Well maybe we should or shouldn’t do…..” the moment the true free hand of market is about to expose itself.

At least at a true casino – they do have some level of integrity.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Leadership 202

The glass half empty analogy: and why the simplistic view can not be the focus for leaders.

Whether you’re in business, politics, or some other position where your job is to lead others in a cohesive way. A term that will come to mind more often than not when issues arise is the mantra: How do you look at a problem? As the glass half empty? Or the glass as half full?

In its simplistic form we use it as to help people in understanding there are two ways to look at an issue. i.e., Things could be worse. Or, It’s not as bad as it could be.

However, as a leader you can’t take that small of a position when viewing the glass. You must distinguish the reason or reasons for why the glass is half full. In other words: Was the glass full where now there is only half left? Or the flip side: Was the glass empty, yet now it has been filled, but only half way? And one that many leaders skip entirely: Is the glass half full or empty because half is all the water there is to be found or lost?

It doesn’t take more than a glass of water to observe the job of a leader is to have far more observation and inquisitive reasoning skills than most others. It’s points like these that bear out the reasoning and understandings that fall on many deaf ears that leadership is a skill that constantly needs to be honed.

Far too many get into a leadership position and think, “Whew…made it! Guess I do know what I’m doing. So now I can just hide out here in my new fancy digs and “lead.”

The “lead” part doesn’t come with a title. Many so-called “leaders” have found themselves with their backs against the wall all by themselves when their subordinates are not only remaining on the other side of that wall – but have locked the door to make sure there’s no way the “leader” can reach them as to give further orders.

Remember that other old sage: If it were easy – everyone would be doing it.

The viewpoint, the decision-making process, along with the decisions themselves are diametrically different as to challenges facing “a glass half empty” because it’s draining as opposed to “a glass half full” because it’s filling.

You can throw in a few other variables that a great many also miss and has in itself another complete set of issues that have to be dealt with in different ways: The glass is half empty because it’s just been left to stagnate and evaporate. Along with: The glass is half full because it’s in a place that occasionally drips or pours water into it without any intervention by the glass owner.

These are not distinctions without a difference. They are radically different issues that must be addressed sometimes employing diametrically opposing remedies.

Let’s use a hypothetical example where the exact same issues can be transpiring within an organization yet, they are for two completely opposite reasons.

While both may fit into the “glass half empty” scenario. Again, the decision-making process, the way that process is conducted, the way in which others need to view the reasoning’s of the leader, along with gaining consensus and building a cohesive action plan that people will both follow and help to achieve – is very different.

Example: A company is having severe worker orientated issues that is both effecting customer satisfaction along with customer retention. Workloads per department as well as employees have been increased by as low as 25% to well above 100% in some cases.

Although the process of hiring staff is onerous the HR department makes clear they are being bombarded with highly qualified resume inquiries. It seems everyone wants to work here. Sales are up 30% this fiscal year and backlogged sales estimate the beginning of next year sales will be even higher and profit margins are good.

However, you can’t seem to hire personnel quickly enough to handle the surge. This is also causing customer orders to be riddled with mistakes causing returns, customer dissatisfaction, and customer abandonment. Yet, you’re outgrowing your present location to handle this workload and what you really need is more space to handle all this growth.

Add to this, it would seem your competition is falling by the wayside as you gain more and more market share. Sounds like a perfect problem that fits the “Glass half full” analogy. For at least these issues are from growth – correct?

Not so. This is where careful analysis, an understanding of exactly what questions are to be asked for clarification, what are the true reasons for why X is producing Y, what is to be observed and what is to be overlooked. etc, etc, is imperative.

What many “newly minted” or “book trained only” leaders will do when faced with the above listed overload rears itself – is to seek counsel or advise based solely on the above criteria.

The problems and issues seem ready for text-book solutions and procedures to follow that will be heralded as “The thing to do in these situations” from outside sources. However, it just might be the exact opposite of what is needed and will have disastrous effects down the road.

Why you say? “For these are great problems to have!” One should be optimistic for the “glass is half full!” It could be worse: there could be no sales, no expansion, little work, no one wanting to work there, and more. “These are issues one should be happy with” you might conclude.

And, you might have a point. However, what I just described in the above scenario was not caused by growth. Its causation is borne out of the exact opposite. i.e., the final gasps within a dying industry.

You can envision this scenario happening at companies during the transition from CRT television manufactures when flat screens started to take hold. Vacuum tube manufactures when transistors were first gaining steam. Video stores as entities like Netflix™ or even Redbox™ first gained acceptance. The list goes on, and on. Along with the other variables as to “why there is any water in the glass at all?” as being a very pointed question that must be addressed and understood by a leader if they are truly serious about leading.

It’s not all that hard to get people to follow you into battle if they believe you know what you’re doing and have the fortitude to address the issues in a cohesive well understood pragmatic fashion. Even if they know you might not currently know the answer to every question. It’s in their knowing that you will seek to find those answers is what gives you their trust as too lead.

What they will not do is get behind you when they instinctively know what’s really happening is the exact opposite of what you’re saying. Unless it’s to push you out in front to be used as fodder – as they run for the hills.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Let Them Eat – Student Debt!

This past Friday I like many others were waiting for my comedic coffee break to be broadcast over the financial media outlets. When the set up was told I grinned in amusement and expectation. When the punchline was delivered I almost fell off my chair as I buckled in uncontrollable laughter. That punchline? The unemployment rate now stands at 5.8% Now that’s comedy!

Just when I felt my sides couldn’t take any more unbeknownst to me the preceding line of comedic humor unleashed by the so-called “smart crowd” was one line of ridiculous humor laced drivel after another.

What made this whole laugh-fest turn from outright humor to a living tragedy is that many of the people discussing these “facts” are both in positions of power, or worse, positions of teaching. All I could envision as I listened was George Carlin looking down saying, “Man I need to get back there. What material! Who’s in charge here I need a cab?!”

The more one listened to the analysis given as they dissected the data – the more the laughs kept coming. It was a bonanza of comedy from one channel to the next  as it seemed financial media morphed into its own version of a standup open-mike show across the spectrum.

A few points that were laughable but made me down right angry is the continued comparison as well as instructional overtones we are told to perceive from Europe and other countries as they deal with their financial mess and unemployment horrors.

I have nothing against these other nations, however, what I do hold vehemently too is the fact: the more these pernicious meddling intellectuals try to solve our problems as if our solutions will come from following what’s happening over there? The more problems they create here. For I would like to remind the chin scratching set – We are not Europe nor anywhere else. Period!

Just for the record I would like to point out one or two general observations that seem to get lost (or purposely ignored) by the parchment pundits.

First, to the casual observer that has to actually start, run, hire, and all the other mundane things the intellectual crowd seems to have never done, I can’t help but notice; the more they treat or espouse solutions to U.S. issues as if we were under a monarchy or imperialist rule – the more stagnant, wage disparate, over regulated, job killing, centrally planned, __________(fill in the blank) problems we seem to have.

Imagine that, who’d a thunk it?

Second: If I hear one more so-called financial commentator be regarded as “brilliant” for his/her comparisons with other time periods in our own history as well as other countries using data points, charts, and every-other bottle of snake oil they can pull out of their wagons to show the “healing effects” all this has had on the U.S. economy. While conveniently leaving out the stubborn little fly in the ointment – QE was never present within their comparison data sets, I’m going to scream.

None of it is relevant in direct comparison if: there were no interventionist policies of size and scope relative to 4 Trillion dollars of QE during that comparison. Period.

We are in uncharted waters with no charts, no maps, no guides, no nothing to compare where we are. We are currently making and writing the history daily.

Again, not only at best is most of the data points irrelevant. At worst saying that they are – is intellectually dishonest, and dangerous thinking. But this is what passes today as “Intellectual, and informed financial analysis.”

I heard one discussion when reflecting on the widely glossed over U6 data (the stat that gives a more informed picture of employment health or weakness) that the “trend” is going in the “right direction.”

Well, yes it has but (and it’s a very big but) that’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. You know, the same one that brings us the 5.8 current unemployment data point. (I still laugh just typing that)

Other reports such as Gallop™ (who by the way are actually pretty reliable when producing data) disagrees with the BLS# at 11.1 and reports their findings more at around14.8% and flat-lining at best.

No matter how you slice it one thing about this stat can’t be brushed under the rug to anyone serious about the labor force. Today over 90 million people in the U.S. available or able to work – are not.

So when the discussion of improvement using the BLS number as to be “pleasantly surprised that the vector of the data is showing improvement in the right direction” what are we really talking about here?

Should we be encouraged (as a hypothetical) we went from about 92 million people in the U.S. labor force unable to find employment to let’s say 91.5 million?

Outraged is what comes more to my mind more than anything else. I guess that’s because I don’t have a parchment for if I did, well then – this would be great news! Sorry, its more like pathetic news in my opinion.

What’s just as pathetic is the intellectual argument that for the many that can’t find jobs, “They are smart to be staying in school.” When I heard this my thoughts went immediately to how this was so reminiscent of history’s immortal quote of the 18th century when then Queen of France Marie Antoinette in reply to the citizenry not having any bread to eat famously replied “Let them eat cake.” Is it any wonder why we’re in such dire straights?

Is taking on more student loan debt as to not have to face the cold reality of the real world not that dissimilar than eating cake for nourishment in the place of bread? Once again this is coming from both the intellectual crowd as well as the policy making crowd. I would just like to remind everyone how that all ended.

Today we see actions by many groups calling or demanding wage increases; especially when it comes to the minimum wage. Yet, isn’t the real underlying issue more in line with what was once an “entry-level” position filled by teenagers has now turned into the only positions available for the now “entry-level, unskilled, first time employed, degree bearing” 26 year old’s and older?

The very one’s whom constantly are being told by the “intellectual crowd” then burdened down with oppressive debt (which continues to fund as in employ those very same intellectuals) to accumulate degrees in some aspect of business (or whatever) that for all intents and purposes will be of little value. To then find themselves competing with others in similar situations for that “minimum wage?”

All that school and debt for what? To keep intellectuals employed? (Those are two questions that demand serious honest answers in my opinion)

I wrote an article years back dealing with this whole phenom titled “The Problem With Kids Today: They’re 26!” I feel stronger today about my assertions than before.

We are on a collision course that inevitably will end not in a hangover from a celebration of gorging on “cake” rather, on the harsh reality of many finding themselves suddenly thrust upon a starting line they needed to be competing at a decade earlier, malnourished, overweight, with a ball and chain affixed to their ankle in the form of student debt so large in size – it could be used to anchor an aircraft carrier.

Again, for I can’t make this point enough in my opinion. Show me a data point and chart where you want to explain why housing formation seems to not be doing what the analysts first pondered – and I’ll point out the absurdity of comparisons if you don’t equal into the equation the amount of people not even beginning serious life or working careers till near 30 years old! (re-read that number again for it says a whole lot more than near anything else)

It’s one thing if you need a degree for some sort career as a prerequisite. i.e., Doctor, lawyer, et al. However, to be encouraged by both policy makers as well as the intellectual elite to stay in school “as a smart decision” as a way to insulate oneself from the current employment consequences transpiring throughout the economy is nothing short of channeling 18th century European styled thinking that for over a century was repudiated in the U.S. and produced a middle class which was envied the world over.

Let me add just one last thing to back my argument on this whole idea of “the value of a degree” from what it meant just a few decades prior to what it has become now…

If you are an MBA holder from some Ivy league Alma mater, chances are your “Ivy league” cherished moniker might get you first in line position ahead of others competing for the same job opening at a major international corporation. Only problem is?

The position maybe for the reason: It is cheaper to hire you than to purchase upgrading to the “Auto-burger Flipper 2000.” But don’t worry. I hear the policy makers and intellectual crowd is promising there will be even more desert later. And they’re willing to finance you for as much as you can eat. Bon appétit!

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

You Just Can’t Make This Stuff UP

Recently I wrote at length my feelings on search and more about the way it now has become (in my opinion) a near farce or maybe better stated; a complete waste of one’s time in using many earlier features or processes to find how much impact one is having upon the web.

For the record. As I type this just one of my latest articles was presented to an audience of both millions as it was carried via 3 of the top websites in the world, along with being distributed to all their own social media platforms, news feeds, re-blogging, and far too many others to mention. And what did I just receive telling me I was in so many places mentioned and printed by name? Zip, zero, nada, squat as always.

Then out of nowhere I received this. Ladies and gentleman I present to you exhibit A of this weeks “You can’t make this stuff up!”

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 7.52.05 AMAs I stated in my earlier piece. If you do the things these people tell you to do this basically shouldn’t happen. Not only that, they imply that if you do do things that make things like this occur – they will penalize you in ways even the inquisitors of the 15th century would think, “Yikes! Now that’s severe.”

So what can be garnered from this? Well we can spin it two ways.

One: This shows undeniably that most of the metrics many are chasing are now irrelevant. For as you can see. If I place my attitude, my business decisions, and few other things based on what “the web” is saying about me right now as we both sit here – I’m having no impact, or anything else for that matter. Just on my own site. And like I said in that article, “If I only have one person coming to my website and I’m happy with that…” (for the reasons I stated) It would be fair to assume that the only viewer, reader, or follower I have is probably my mom. And based on this evidence – you would have a very fair, hard to repudiate argument. Or…

You could put your (snake-oil) marketing or public relations jacket on and proclaim: The search engines find my site as the most important site as to be mentioned or appear on. So much so to the exclusion of all the others. For as the search shows by their own metrics used – this site (my site) is by far the most important, dominant, and informative on the web today.

Of course that’s tongue in cheek and one would be fool-hearty to even indulge that scenario with any serious thought. Yet, this is exactly how many are treating their work or businesses on the web. Kidding themselves as to if they are – or if they aren’t creating impact or doing real business. For too many as I said “are chasing vanity metrics.”

Don’t be fooling yourself or chasing your own tale (pun intended) when it comes to all this stuff. Get a true understanding of what is real and what you can truly build a business on. You can do it, and it can be done easiest – through hard work and effort. For there are a lot of people that want to sell you exactly: how you can make this stuff up easily. Don’t let them kid you. Remember: the worst person in the world as to try and fool – is the person you fool in the mirror.

That’s the one place where you don’t want to make stuff up.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

A Few More Thoughts On Music And More For Today’s Entrepreneur

I discussed my feelings on some of the aspects of music and writing here. And what this prompted almost to a person were questions on how I viewed the debacle that took place with the Apple™/ U2 free album sent to every new iPhone™. Where the album was placed within their music library for free without the customers firsthand knowledge or consent. Here’s how I answered it…

First off, the whole “I’m offended” meme that ran rampant in which droves were complaining because they received something for free but weren’t asked was in my eyes a little disingenuous. I mean as one of my favorite comedians Joan Rivers would say, “Can we talk here?”

I really don’t think it had anything to do in any aspect with U2. Sure it’s possible the many that complained were either too young to know who they are, or live on some remote island. But far too many (including both U2 and Apple) then, as well as still, continue to be focused on the wrong issue in my opinion.

I use this one particular issue as an example because that was one of the many lines repeatedly touted across media as to why people were complaining. You saw lines like, “WTF! Who the heck are these guys anyway?” Like I said, “c’mon…”

With all that said, I feel it did give an insight into exactly how the iPhone or other mobile devices are now viewed in today’s society. I think there was a great lesson buried within that debacle as far as I can see and was missed altogether by most. And not missed in the sense of “just not paying attention.” Rather, in missing or even understanding of exactly what was exposed.

In broad brush terms: The smart phone, regardless of brand, has now replaced what was once thought of or identified with “part of your identity” as in say a car, a home and items like that. Even down to the smaller things like, a diary, a secret box, or secret garden.

Whatever it is we now know one thing clearly: it’s personal – deeply personal. As well as revered. And who enters, or who we let see or touch, is inviolable. Period.

Let me describe it this way using the car example.

If you had let’s say a “cool car.”  Even if we knew one another. If I decided in the middle of the night to add a really cool cup-holder to the console without you knowing as you slept and had your car parked in the driveway. Locked. Can you see how one might take a little issue with that?

The cup-holder might be secondary, I’ll argue it’s for the very fact I entered your private or personal effects without permission and circumvented your locking of it that would make you take umbrage.

Even if the cup-holder is “the most awesome cup-holder since cup-holders were made” you might for what ever reason not like it. Or, not even drink liquids in your car. The umbrage might go to outraged when you find that not only don’t you like it or want it – you can’t remove it. Which by the way was also the case in this very debacle and the real critical factor for outrage in my opinion.

This is how what one thought as being a nice gesture turns into “WTF were you doing in my car in the first place! Who gave you permission? What were you thinking? Get that piece of #### out of my car before I call the cops on you for breaking and entering and destruction of personal property!”

Again, see how this can move from good intentions to bad idea quickly?

Same thing let’s say if the local grocer decided to do something wonderful for all their clients and gave a free turkey to every household. Everyone would think that is just terrific. Yet, if you came home to find that turkey had been placed in your refrigerator by some store clerk whom entered your home while you weren’t there – or anyone else? Thrilled will not be the term that comes to mind.

Think this doesn’t apply to even the youngest of demographics? Just try to give a wonderful thoughtful gift in the manner of sliding into the back of a 13-year-old’s diary say a $10.00 bill.

Just put that bill in the back of their secret diary to be found by them when they least suspect it as in “a surprise.” You’ll be thinking “I’m such a great parent! I give my kids money when they don’t even ask me for it.” Then…

I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts what you’ll hear will be something more reminiscent of the 13-year-old screaming bloody murder for you “violating” their personal space in a “How could you!!!” tirade.

You can plead to them how well-intentioned you were and to believe that you never even opened it. Yet, it won’t matter. It’s the act you were in their “personal space” is all that will matter. You don’t belong anywhere near it unless “invited.”

The ability to give away promotions or anything else is far from dead, and I believe will be used in even more instances going forward. And yes directly to “the personal device” aligned market.

However, the key take away from all of this was the demonstration of exactly how most people feel about their devices. They truly are just as personal and have many of the same attributes that one would expect if dealing with someone’s home, car, and other personal space or item.

Just because you have the ability to deliver a present in fabled Santa Claus fashion doesn’t mean people wouldn’t be both offended, as well as outraged, while calling for the authorities if they found you standing in front of their fireplace with a new expensive gift as they woke from their beds.

That’s fairytale land. In the real world – if someone wakes to find an intruder dressed as Santa Claus in their home? They’re going for the armaments first. Trust me.

If the U2 album would have been released as “To all new or existing phone users: You are entitled to download for free the blah, blah, blah as our way of saying Thank you for choosing us just click here, blah, blah, blah.” All of this would probably never have seen the light of day.

In this manner or form I think there would have been no fuss, and maybe even some great press. But, you learn as you go, and we are now still in learning territory. But (and it’s a very big but) there was a lesson to be learned here – and one that should be well remembered.

Personal devices such as phones and others are just that – personal. Just because you may believe you have an opaque understanding with your customers where you may have access or something similar, (as in there’s some line in a contract) you need to tread very, very, very (did I say very?) carefully.

People know instinctively if they did find you in their home or personal space for the reason of dealing with, or in answering to an emergency, there’s a fine line of accepted understanding. e.g., To find your landlord in your apartment because your hot water tank let go and was pouring water across the floor wouldn’t warrant you feeling violated or something other.

Yet, when it comes to interactions with customers where you can enter these now identifiable personal devices at any time: You would be best to view them as just that – personal. (that also goes for peripherals such as email, apps, social networks, et al)

To do anything less will only be seen as some violation of privacy – regardless of the good intentions that were trying to be displayed.

After all, just remember: A landlord has the written right in most tenant leases that they may enter that dwelling at any time. However, If they do it without the lessee’s knowledge or without a real good reason?

Consent in the paperwork goes out the window. As far as you’ll be seen going forward? You might turn a once happy tenant that viewed you in a pleasant light – to an angry customer that now just views you as some creepy landlord they need to get away from.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

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