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June 22-June 26, 2020

 

a look back at this week’s essays…

 

Does Sex Hormones Determine Our Thoughts?

Let’s talk about hormones.

I have just come up with a theory. But before I present it, you should know this…

Click here to read more.

 

 

Why It’s Okay to Fall in Love With Your Investible Art*

Passion is a popular emotion these days. We are encouraged to be passionate about our careers, our hobbies, and even our ideas. Like most popular ideas, this one is mostly wrong. On the risk/reward scale, it ranges between dumb and dangerous. But there are some noteworthy exceptions.

One of them is art. Let’s talk about that.

Click here to read more.

 

 

The Unpleasant Truth About Asking for Favors

You have to be careful when you ask for favors. Because the person from whom you are requesting the service may not think of it the same way as you do. Such was the case with the favor my partner was about to ask in the memo I intercepted.

Click here to read more.

 

 

 

quick quiz

 

  1. How much do you remember about this week’s “Words to the Wise”? Use each of these words in a sentence:

 

*  strident (6/22/20)

*  prescind (6/24/20)

*  lethological (6/26/20)

 

  1. Fill in the blanks in this week’s quotations:

 

* “Testosterone is a rare ­­­­_____.” – Germaine Greer (6/22/20)

 

* “They say you cannot argue _____. Of course you can. It is one of the most rewarding conversations two people can have.” – Michael Masterson (6/24/20)

 

* “Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further ­­­­­_____.” – François de la Rochefoucauld (6/26/20)

 

  1. Are these statements True or False?

 

*  People that have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic are significantly more likely to transmit it than people that have symptoms. (6/22/20)

 

*  The name for the CoBrA avant-garde art movement was derived from the last names of its most important artists. (6/24/20)

 

*  Paul McCartney was recorded munching on celery on the taping of the Beach Boys’ song “Vegetables.” (6/26/20)

 

 

 

recommended links from this week’s blog

 

* A report on Motor City from my colleague Tom Dyson – to read it, click here.

 

* “A study on infectivity of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers” – to read it, click here.

 

* (“Father Absence: The Biggest Issue Facing Black America”) Here.

 

* “COVID-19 Never Grows Exponentially” – Watch it here.

 

* The skill level required to do this is beyond belief… (“Carving a Bird in a Cage on the tip of a Pencil”) Here.

 

* This video says more to me about what is wrong and idiotic about racism than a dozen essays I’ve read…here.

 

 

 

Q&A

 

Your Question:

 

What do you think about real estate, given what seems like an inevitable recession and possibly worse?

– P.J.

 

My Answer:

 

Good question. I am certainly concerned about the real estate investment market going forward, and I have given it some thought – but not nearly enough to give you a good answer. Here’s what I have so far…

 

The Corona Crisis has impacted the future of the real estate investment market in two important ways:

 

* The economy has crashed in a serious way. Forget Wall Street. We have huge unemployment and record levels of small businesses shutting down for good. That’s bad for a good swath of real estate.

 

* The extended shutdown has given tens of millions of American workers and thousands of companies the opportunity to experience business with an office-less office. This could prove deadly for many large and high-end commercial real estate investments.

 

I’ll keep working on this, and I will answer your question at length tomorrow. Look for it.

 

Have a question for me? Submit it on our Contact Us page.

 

 

 For a look back at the stock market, click here.

 

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Passion is a popular emotion these days. We are encouraged to be passionate about our careers, our hobbies, and even our ideas. Like most popular ideas, this one is mostly wrong. On the risk/reward scale, it ranges between dumb and dangerous. But there are some noteworthy exceptions.

One of them is art. Let’s talk about that.

 

Why It’s Okay to Fall in Love With Your Investible Art* 

“They say you cannot argue taste. Of course you can. It is one of the most rewarding conversations two people can have.”– Michael Masterson

When investing in real estate, it’s generally a bad idea to become emotionally attached to what you are buying. When considering the purchase of a rental property, for example, you should determine what to pay for it by studying market rates for “comparable” properties in the area, not by some subjective feeling about how “cute” the place is.

The same is true for stocks or precious metals or digital currency. Buying and selling decisions should be based on market metrics. Innumerable studies have shown that when investors fall in love with individual assets or asset classes, they tend to do poorly in terms of long-term gains.

It also makes sense for art investors – especially new and amateur investors. If you want to give yourself the best chance of getting optimum, long-term returns, you should make your buying decisions based on verifiable data, not on how much you love the piece.

That goes against the most common advice art brokers and dealers give their clients: Buy what you love.

They do this for two reasons:

When a buyer loves a work of art, he is much less likely to be critical of its value. It goes like this:

“I love that!” he exclaims.

“You have great taste,” the broker assures him.

“How much is it?”

“It costs $X. But it’s a great piece and a good value.”

So that’s reason number one. When the buyer loves a piece of art, it’s easier to sell it to him.

The second reason is that when an investor loves a piece of art, he’ll be more likely to keep it. His attraction to it was validated by the broker. (“You have good taste.”) And his decision to buy it creates what psychologists call confirmation bias. (He wants to believe he made the right decision.) So if, in the future, the investor discovers that the piece is worth less than he paid for it, he’ll be more likely to believe that the lower valuation is wrong than to question the integrity of the broker that sold it to him.

Does this mean that the art investor should never fall in love with the art he buys?

My answer is yes and no. Or, rather, no and yes.

You should not allow your love for a particular piece to influence the price you are willing to pay for it. You should, as I said, make that decision based purely on verifiable market data. But after you have bought a piece at the right price, you can fall in love with it. Because forming an emotional attachment to a well-priced piece of investment-grade art will work in your favor.

Let me explain.

When I buy investment-grade art, I am looking primarily for value. I’m looking to buy a piece that is priced at or below its current value – as determined by current auction prices for similar works by the same artist. It doesn’t matter whether I like it or not. My decision is based on the numbers, not on my feelings.

After the buy is made, I put my investment mind aside and allow myself to fall in love with the piece. And interestingly, most of the time, I find that I do.

Falling in love with well-bought, investment-grade art makes it more difficult to sell it when an offer is made. This creates a bias towards holding the art for a long time. And that is definitely the way to optimize your ROI as an art investor.

When I bought my first piece of investment-grade art, an oil painting titled Invierno (Winter) by José Clemente Orozco, I had a reasonable expectation that it would increase in value. I knew that Orozco was one of the three most important muralists of the 20th century, that his production of small oils was limited, and that the market for Mexican art was heating up.

But I also liked the image. The three figures, standing outside in the cold as if they were waiting for something, intrigued me. I liked the way the artist used quick, strong brushstrokes. I liked the somber hues.

I bought this painting in 1991 for $18,000. It’s been appraised by two of the major auction houses at between $125,000 and $150,000. That’s an average annual appreciation of 7% to 8%. But I wouldn’t sell it for twice that price because (a) it’s a rare piece (an oil painting by a modern Mexican master), and (b) it still makes love to me every time I look at it.

Let me give you another example…

I have an oil painting in my office by a Pakistani artist. I bought it almost 30 years ago from a neighbor who was in financial straits. He sold it to me for $3,000. He told me it was worth more than that. But since I didn’t know the artist, $3,000 was as high as I was willing to go.

I liked it immediately. It was a large, abstracted image of a woman seated under the outstretched hand of a man. The bodies were aqua green. The background was black. The way one figure curled around the other appealed to some tender part of me. And yet, the impression was almost stark. More like an etching than an oil on canvas. The artist’s technique – drawing into wet paint with the hard end of the brush – was new to me. I was smitten.

I didn’t know who the artist was when I bought it. And perhaps the man who sold it to me didn’t know either. Or perhaps he did but didn’t realize that he was a rising star. Several years later, he tracked me down and offered to buy it back for $5,000. I demurred. A year later, he called me back and offered me $10,000. This continued on and off until I turned down $50,000.

By that time, we both had done our research and knew its market value.

I could probably sell it today for $60,000 wholesale. Or retail it and try to get $90,000. But I haven’t the slightest desire to do so for the same reasons I’m holding on to the Orozco.

Had I invested $3,000 in a stock index fund back then, it would have been worth about $50,000 today. In this case, my emotional attachment to this wonderful piece of art has given me a profit of between $10,000 and $40,000.

One last example:

In 2008, I bought a large painting by the CoBrA artist Jacques Doucet from a dealer in Amsterdam. (See “Did You Know,” below.) I didn’t particularly like this piece at the time. Its gloominess was more than even my usually gloomy temperament could connect with. But it was a strong painting, and I felt that the price I had negotiated – $20,000 – was a good one. I bought it and installed it in our “entertainment” room, a largish room we use for parties.

In 2016, someone called my partner at Ford Fine Art and offered to buy it for $40,000, doubling my money in 8 years. That was a nice 9% annualized return. In fact, the offered price was at a  premium because the buyer “loved” the image.

Meanwhile,  I had fallen in love with that painting. I couldn’t bring myself to sell it. So I turned down the offer, and I’m glad I did. I’m happy to have that painting in my collection so I can enjoy it now. And I expect that it will continue to appreciate at 8% to 10% annually.

The point is this: When it comes to holding for the long-term, it is easy to do with investment-grade art because you do fall in love with it. But with stocks and bonds, it’s not possible to have the same attachment. Instead, you get emotionally attached to its pricing.

And that makes you a bad investor.

The financial industry understands this. That’s why brokers and the investment media bombard investors with the real-time value of their stock holdings. The moment a stock drops, the investor knows it. He sees that big red loss on his account statement. For most investors, this creates anxiety. And frequently, they rid themselves of that anxiety by selling.

But investment-grade art is less reported upon. Therefore, the value is less subject to the emotional whipsaws of investors (and computer-based investment programs). Prices change from year to year, not day to day. This reduces the ups and downs in valuations. More important than that is the fact that most art investors, like me, are reluctant to sell their art for decades.

I believe this is the main reason I’ve done as well as I have with the better part of my collection. And it’s the reason I recommend investment-grade art to anyone interested in investing in art.

Falling in love with it is not a bad thing.

You get to have your cake and eat it too.

* This series of essays gives you an advance look at a new book that I’m working on, based on my experiences over the past 40+ years as a collector and investor in fine art. 

 

This essay and others are available for syndication.
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“He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both.” – Francis Bacon

Book Review: How to Elevate Your Life by Robert Glazer 

I swear – almost everything I read these days in the self-improvement genre seems to be a knock off of advice I was giving 20 years ago.

Self-improvement is one of the first ideas I promoted in Early to Rise. And like just about everything I’ve ever written, it was based on what I’d learned from my own experience. My advice was to focus your efforts on four areas of your life: your health, your wealth, your intellectual development, and your social relationships.

In How to Elevate Your Life, Robert Glazer covers the same general territory in a slightly different way.

The secret to “elevating” your life, Glazer says, is not to do more things but to “build capacity.”And he breaks that down into these four categories: 

  1. Your Spiritual capacity– understanding your desires and values
  2. Your Intellectual capacity – thinking, planning, and solving problems efficiently
  3. Your Physical capacity – improving your health and fitness
  4. Your Emotional capacity – dealing with challenging situations and getting the most out of your relationships

The Spiritual You 

You can begin to develop your spiritual capacity, Glazer says, by thinking about the things that energize and depress you, and the values you cherish. (Independence? Achievement? Passion? Connection? Money? Status?). From that, you develop a core purpose.

If you’re struggling to come up with your core purpose, he suggests an exercise I wrote about way back when: writing your own obituary – what you would want people to say about you after you die.

 

The Intellectual You 

The key to building intellectual capacity, Glazer says, is a “growth mindset – i.e., “embracing the factthat it’s never too late to learn new skills and that mistakes and failures are simply part of the process.” He points out that “The growth mindset is vital to your efforts to expand your intellectual capacity, but it’s not something you can cultivate on your own.” So he recommends finding mentors and coaches to help you develop the skills you are seeking.

I wrote about this many times, arguing that it takes 1,000 hours to become competent at a complex skill and 5,000 hours to master it. (I did this years before Anders Ericsson and Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea.) My thought was – and is – that you can reduce those hours by as much as half by having an experienced teacher, trainer, or mentor.

As I’ve done in countless essays, Glazer also recommends routines: “Routines are important because they help you make a habit of being productive,” he says. “That’s crucial when it comes to achieving long-term goals like learning a language or writing a book.”

And his final recommendation is actually the first bit of advice I gave in Early to Rise (hence the name): “The best time [to work on your long-term goals] is in the morning. It’s as simple as waking up 15 minutes earlier than usual and using this extra time for quiet, focused work. Once this habit has been consolidated, you can start adding extra minutes to your routine. What, for example, would happen if you got up a full hour before your family and used the time to meditate, work out, and jot down ideas for your book?”

 

Build Your Physical Capacity

“Physical capacity,” Glazer says, “is about more than just being able to run a marathon. When your body is in poor shape, your brain also suffers: You’re more easily distracted, less resilient, and more likely to be knocked back by stress and setbacks. That means it’s time to start looking after your health.”

His formula for improving your physical health includes eating well, sleeping well, and managing stress.

* Eating: “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t have recognized as food.”

* Sleeping: 6 to 8 hours

* Managing stress: Take short breaks throughout the day.

I agree with (and have written about) all three of the above. But Glazer’s formula also includes…

* Embracing competition: “Competition shouldn’t be about crushing your opponents and winning at all costs,” he says. “What it really means is going the extra mile and challenging yourself to become better. Whether it’s intellectual or physical competition, it will push you to build your capacity.”

My view is that embracing competition isn’t right for everyone. It’s good for people that shy away from competing. But for those that enjoy it, I advise them to embrace cooperation instead.

 

Build Your Emotional Capacity

 Relationships matter, Glazer says. And he’s right. Countless studies say so. Relationships are one of the main factors that affect mental health, physical health, and even longevity.

He recommends creating two lists: a list of five of your “good” relationships, and a list of five of your “bad” relationships. “Make sure to include close friends and family,” he says. “No one gets a free pass.”

Glazer correctly defines good relationships as those that add value to your life. But he defines bad relationships as those that are “problematic or drain your energy” – and that’s not always true. My relationship with my trainer, for example, can be problematic at times, and it certainly drains my energy. But it unquestionably adds value to my life.

That objection notwithstanding, I like what he says here:

“Reach out and connect with or make plans this week with everyone on the first list and take a small step back from the other five. There is no need to actively ‘break up’ with these people; you need to just remove some of your limited but valuable energy from these relationships. Push back returning a call or email by a few days, and don’t ask someone to make plans you don’t really want to make. Stop saying, ‘We should catch up,’ if you don’t mean it!”

Bottom line: How to Elevate Your Life is a good and helpful book. But if you’ve been a long-time reader of what I’ve been writing for the past 20 years, you already know a lot more about self-improvement than what you’ll learn from Robert Glazer.

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