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Depression, speculative stocks, & welfare

By: Michael Blankenship |

“If anyone can prove and show to me that I think and act in error, I will gladly change it — for I seek the truth, by which no one has ever been harmed. The one who is harmed is the one who abides in deceit and ignorance.”
~Marcus Aurelius

Greetings from LA and Hawaii.

This week we watched Andrew Solomon’s TED Talk about depression, re-read To Kill a Mockingbird, learned about how welfare programs impact its recipients, cast shade on speculative stocks, and wondered about whether it’s productive to listen to music while working. Our challenge is to start journaling five minutes per day.

A Slow Way of Being Dead

We rediscovered this 2013 TED Talk where Andrew Solomon articulates the personal and societal reality and repercussions of depression. He shares his own story, describes depression as “a slow way of being dead”, and muses that “the opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.” Whether you yourself have struggled with depression or you know someone who does, this 30-minute talk will give you a remarkable amount of insight into this chronic illness.

To Kill a Mockingbird

We finished revisiting the 1961 Pulitzer Price winner, To Kill a Mockingbird, this week. The story is of a lawyer who defends a black man in court and is persecuted by townspeople for doing so. It’s told from the perspective of his daughter, Jean Louise (“Scout”), who’s between 6 and 9 years old. Here’s our favorite excerpt from this timeless story…

Atticus: “This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience—Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.”

Scout: “Atticus, you must be wrong…”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong…”

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions, but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Welfare Wellness

Does welfare help people or enable people?

NPR reports on a study in Stockton that found an improvement in people’s mental health, sense of security, and employment when, in 2019, SEED (the Stockton Economic Empowerment Distribution) gave 125 individuals $500 a month for two years.

“One said before receiving the money, ‘I had regular panic attacks and anxiety. I was at the point where I had to take a pill for it.’ Since receiving the checks, the recipient said, ‘I haven’t even touched [the pills] in a while. I used to carry them on me all the time.’”

The Stockton study found that families who received the money were most likely to spend it on essential items like food, home goods, utilities, and gas. As for the effect on job seeking, the study found that after one year, the percentage of recipients who had full-time employment grew from 28% to 40%. That was more than twice the rate for the control group, which rose by only 5%.

“The researchers noted that financial scarcity leads to time scarcity. ‘When you live in constant scarcity your entire day is taken up with battling poverty and trying to make ends meet. You literally don’t have the capacity, or the time to even breathe and reset and think about what a different goal might be,’ said Baker.”

$500 per month offset that pressure and made it easier for people to catch a breath, reorient themselves, and push toward new goals.

“One recipient described being able to finally take time off work to study and complete his real estate license and even pursue an associate degree: ‘I have more time and net worth to study… to achieve my goals.’”

Speculative Stocks

With the advent of Crypto, online stock trading, and r/wallstreetbets fiascos, many people are trading stocks speculatively, seeing it as a quick and easy way to get rich.

If I can only time the market correctly, then I’ll make it big.

But remember: something is speculative because the odds aren’t in your favor. On speculations, more people lose than gain, and assuming that you’re the exception is probably unwise. Here’s some tried-and-true advice from The Intelligent Investor to keep in mind…

“An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis, promises safety of principal and an adequate return. Operations not meeting these requirements are speculative.”

The stock investor is neither right or wrong because others agreed or disagreed with him; he is right because his facts and analysis are right.”

“People who invest make money for themselves; people who speculate make money for their brokers.”

To Music or Not to Music

Does whistling while you work make you more productive — or rather, pumping Hozier’s Take Me to Church in the background while tackling the day’s to-dos? Well, on episode 8 of Huberman Lab podcast, Andrew Huberman, professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine, explains that, as a rule of thumb, background music can be helpful for raising alertness and action-taking while a silent environment will usually promote calmness and creativity.

So it all depends on what you need to be productive (alertness or calmness) and how alert you already feel.

Extra Stuff

Here are some articles that caught our attention this week.

NFTs and a Thousand True Fans by Andreessen Horowitz

5 Common Mental Errors That Sway You From Making Good Decisions by Pocket

When Everyone’s a Genius (A Few Thoughts on Speculation) by Collaborative Fund

Endurance Exercise May Be a Speed Bump That Slows Down Alzheimer’s by Bicycling

What happens if your mind lives forever on the internet? by The Guardian

The Weekly Challenge

This week buy yourself a journal if you don’t already have one and commit to writing in it for 5 minutes per day. This is a great way to organize jumbled thoughts, make yourself more grateful, and even guide yourself through bouts of anxiety or depression. It’s sort of like self-therapy. If you want a guided journaling experience, then consider getting The Five Minute Journal.

Until next week!

Mike & Alec

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