Insomnia!

Last night I couldn’t sleep. 
 
I went to bed around midnight.
 
I tossed and turned until about 2 a.m.
 
I willed myself to sleep.  No such luck.
 
By 3:30 a.m., I started to worry.
 
I knew by then I wasn’t going to get much sleep.
 
At 4:30 a.m., I gave up trying to sleep.
 
I almost got up, but thought better of it.
 
Around 5 a.m., I think I went to sleep.
 
At about 6:15 a.m., I looked at the clock again.
 
I got up at 7:10 a.m. this morning.
 
I was surprisingly awake and alert in spite of myself.
 
I was fine all day until this evening, when I was exhausted.
 
Have you ever had a night or nights like that?  I have them from time to time.  Sleepless nights are caused by a variety of factors.  Sometimes it’s chronic.  Sometimes it’s caused by young children.  Fortunately, in my case, it never lasts more than a night or two.  Usually my insomnia is brought on whenever I have a lot on my mind.  Last night, I believe that the combination of illness, muggy weather, and heavy activity just before bedtime caused me to have insomnia.  I felt much better last evening and really wanted to do something different for a change, so I worked out on our treadmill.  (Working out is one of the crazy aftermaths of my recent "Whole Life Model" blog entry.)  I told myself, Self, why do you spend so much time at the computer?  There’s so much more to life than blogging or staring at a computer model.  So I did something different for a change.  Unfortunately, I worked out much too late.  My body was much too awake and alert after working out.  I know what you’re thinkiing–Mike, what are you doing working out when you’re sick?   Oh, I don’t know why.  Maybe I just got carried away because I thought I’d finally conquered this infernal bug.  It’s too bad something good (working out) resulted in such dire consequences.  I am not a morning person and cannot work out in the morning.  I’ll have to figure out a way to work out without bringing on sleeplessness. 
 
After I finished working out, I wound down and talked to my wife for awhile, then I read a bit, and finally headed off to bed.  The lingering illness and workout must have raised my body temperature substantially.  The room was warm and muggy, leaving me very comfortable.  It didn’t help that I couldn’t turn on the air conditioning, because it would pump cold air into my son’s room.  I settled on using an electric fan, but the fan’s oscillations left me either too hot or too cold.  It was miserable lying in bed.  The more I thought about how uncomfortable it was, the less likely I was to sleep.  After awhile, worry took over.  Oh man, I’ll never get to sleep.  I’m not going to be able to keep my eyes open at work tomorrow, I thought.  Fortunately, for some strange reason I felt strangely awake this morning and had a fairly productive day at work.  Perhaps I slept more than I realized, albeit in short increments.  I did fine today in spite of myself.  Nevertheless, when I got home tonight, I crashed for a couple of hours and slept very well.  I hope that I can sleep tonight.  I have to, because I need to go to Pusan tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow, dear reader.

A Whole Lifestyle Model

I haven’t been well all weekend long.  On Friday I started feeling sick–a mild cold.  On Saturday morning I felt even worse, but by the afternoon I felt better and went with my family to a neighborhood barbeque and over to some friends’ for dinner.  Our dinner plans were on again, off again as my illness was touch and go (they have small children, and I ddin’t want pass it along).  We finally decided to go ahead, get together for dinner, and have a great time. I left early when I started feeling worse again.  This morning I again woke up with a stuffy nose and sore throat.  I thought I would finally be over my illness, but I was wrong.  I hope tomorrow I’ll feel better when I head back to work.  I’m planning on it, anyway.  I’m much too busy to stay away from the office if I can help it.
 
Thus, this weekend my thoughts have been on the subject of wellness.  Not just thoughts on getting better, but on how to live life in general.  So many obligations can pull you in many different directions.  Perhaps the siren sound of money causes you to focus on building wealth.  Perhaps you are spiritually devout and focus your time on spiritual growth, faith, and on religious activities.  Perhaps you’re a health nut who spends your time working out and staying in shape.  Perhaps you’re a workaholic who stays at the office for long periods of time, whether out of necessity or because you just like to work.  Perhaps you’re retired and love leisure pursuits–traveling, video games, golfing, shopping, you name it.  Maybe you’re in a difficult situation that preoccupies your time, such as caring full time for children or someone who is ill.  Perhaps you’re focused on a lifetime of learning.  Maybe you’re a career student working on your second Ph.D, or you’re going back for your master’s degree after leaving your job.  One of the unfortunate aspects of life is that there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 365 or 366 days a year (Leap Year).  Time moves on.  We can’t do it all.  We have to choose what to do and how long to do it.  We are prone to neglect things we need to do and sometimes focus too much on things we probably should focus on less.
 
I think most of us have a tendency to focus on a few aspects of life we enjoy or are obligated to do and tend to neglect other priorities.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  I focus a lot on work, obligations I have to my family, and building wealth (investing).  I tend to neglect other aspects of life that I know I should not neglect.  I should be out exercising more often.  I should focus more on spiritual growth.  I don’t though because I have to focus on family and work and because I tend to do the things that can easily brought to closure, such as buying a mutual fund or changing the oil in the car or mowing the grass.  Long-term activities such as exercising and spiritual growth tend to take a back seat, for better or for worse, because they never come to a close.  To stay in shape, you must always exercise, and to grow spiritually, you need to continually do what you must do to spiritually grow.  Some people have different priorities.  I have a colleague who exercises diligently every day and is in great shape.  However, they tend not to focus on financial security, which I believe is as important as exercise.  We could both do better by exercising and planning ahead financially.  I know others so focused on spiritual growth or having that they neglect exercise and planning ahead financially.
 
Last month I read about Steven Case, the former CEO of America Online, who was ousted when AOL’s merger with Time Warner failed.  Case, among others, was blamed for the botched merger.  He disappeared from the limelight for awhile, but recently he resurfaced with the announcement that he was launching Revolution LLC, an investment firm focused on investing in the healthful lifestyle market.  I have a lot of respect for Case.  Here is a man who had it all in 2001.  He had built the country’s largest Internet service provider, AOL, and was on top of the world when the FCC cleared the AOL Time Warner merger on January 11, 2001.  But his success was fleeting, and his career and personal life suffered tragic setbacks soon thereafter.  In 2002, his brother Dan, a successful investment banker in his own right, died of cancer prematurely at the age of 44.  Dan and Steve were good friends as well as brothers, and Steve subsequently used his celebrity and wealth to help find a cure for cancer.  In January 2003, Steve resigned in disgrace as chairman of AOL Time Warner, and he went into seclusion.  However, he has refocused and reemerged, focusing on another area he believes has high-growth potential, the healthful lifestyle market.  I really admired that he bounced back from such huge setbacks and has a fresh start.  It is really tough to come back from a situation as difficult as he had to endure.  He has combined his interest in business with something dear to him–health.  The healthful lifestyle market has already started to emerge and is visible in ventures such as Whole Foods, the fast-growing organic market chain. 
 
I think it’s time for a "Whole Lifestyle Model" that would encompass all the vital aspects of one’s life into a comprehensible roadmap to a better life.  I call it a "Whole Lifestyle Model" because it does not focus solely on physical wellness. Likewise, the word "holistic" is also commonly used to refer to health and wellness.  Financial planners help plan one’s financial security, pastors focus on one’s spiritual growth, guidance counselors help you make education decisions, headhunters and job placement agencies help you manage your career, personal training help you get in shape, and travel agencies and leisure-time companies help you have enjoy leisure.  Why can’t these all be combined into a single model that helps people manage and balance their lifestyle?  It should be a model that changes with time, because one’s priorities at the age of 20 are far different than what they are at age 50.  Spiritual leaders will tell you there is no greater calling than spiritual growth.  Health nuts will say that physical and mental exercise is paramount.  Financial planners will tell you that financial security is key.  Many will say that there is nothing more important than family.  Other will say, "Hang loose and have fun."  When one is torn in so many directions, it would help to have a model that helps one manage one’s own lifestyle, a flexible model that reminds you at age 25 that yes, you should save for retirement and exercise at the same time, play fewer video games, and not sacrificing sleep to cram an additional hour for that exam.  It should be a model that tells those at age 55 who go to church five times a week or are busy with grandchildren that they still need to start saving aggressively for retirement, because Social Security will not sustain their current lifestyle when they turn 65. 
 
Morningstar developed a famous matrix to help people decide which mutual funds to purchase.  The matrix is intended to help them diversify their portfolios.  The "Whole Lifestyle Model" would be something akin to this matrix.  The boxes would be determined by the individual’s age and priorities at the age.  The individual could work with a "Whole Lifestyle" planner to help them sort through the complexities of life.  The planner would not be a pastor or a physical trainer, but they could help the individual sort through their priorities to find the optimal mix to have a whole lifestyle.  I’m still thinking through how the model would work and whether it could be a viable business model, but I think it would be a useful way for many people to help balance their lifestyle at various stages of life.

Humdrums and Investing Strategies

I didn’t feel well today.  In fact, our whole family caught a bug brought home by our son last Sunday.  He was sick for a few days, but he’s been doing better since last Wednesday.  On Thursday both my wife and I came down hard with the same illness–probably the stomach flu.  I don’t know if it’s the same infamous flu related to the flu-shot shortage people have been panicking about.  We ate some canned soup that didn’t sit well with us, and we wondered whether we had come down with food poisoning.  It now appears to be a stomach flu because my mother-in-law is also experiencing the same symptoms, and she didn’t eat the soup.  I had an awful night last night and left work a bit early today.  Thank goodness I’m here in VA in training and not working full time in Korea.

I started doing some miscellaneous tasks this week to get ready for our move to Korea.  Just 2 1/2 months away!  I can’t believe how much there is to do.  Moving to another city is one thing; moving overseas is a completely different dynamic.  We set a date of February 11th.  Our pack out will be on the 9th and 10th, so I put in 60 days’ notice at our apartment and requested a furnished apartment on the night of the 9th and 10th.

November’s U.S. jobs report came out today much lower than expected.  The economy added 112,000 new jobs, much lower than expected by analysts, who forecast around 200,000 new jobs.  Still, the overalll U.S. unemployment rate decreased from 5.5% to 5.4%.  These mixed messages are a symptom of what’s really going on in the U.S. economy–the economy is doing fine but not outstanding.  Don’t believe the economic doomsayers or those who always wear rose-colored glasses.  For example, the dollar is now around 1 euro:$1:32, but the dollar is still up against 40 other basket currencies, making it harder for the U.S. to narrow the trade deficit by depreciating the currency.  The economy is improving but not where it should be.  Germany recently announced an unemployment figure of 11%, twice the U.S. figure.  Imagine if the U.S. jobless rate doubled.

The markets took it in stride buoyed by rosy forecasts from Intel, and stocks were up slightly to end the week.  I’ve been chasing a couple of good prospects but I just missed purchasing them on some downward trends.  I bought Blue Nile and Overstock.com, two Internet retailers, this week.  Why these two?  Blue Nile is niche, profitable, recently came down from the IPO stratosphere, and it has an average buy rating.  Overstock.com is a small Amazon.com competitor with a much lower P/E ratio, a strong buy consensus, and is on the cusp of profitability.  I’ve also had my eye on a couple of other tech outfits–InfoSpace and an upstart called eBay, but the price just isn’t right.  eBay is very pricey.  I think eBay is a must-have for any portfolio, but the run-up in the last couple of months has made it less attractive.  InfoSpace is a strong buy.  Its current price is around $47 with an analyst consensus price target of $63 and a strong buy average rating it appears to be a good buy.  I had a chunk of change to invest, and I thought about letting it ride on a single stock but ended up splitting it into four portions to invest in four promising tech stocks.  If you’re interested in investing, check out The Motley Fool for some good recommendations.  I didn’t take their advice on my purchase of Google at IPO or DreamWorks Animation, but I do think they have some great recommendations.