The Game of the Workplace

Whether you’ve been in the game for a while or are just entering the game, there’s some core concepts to truly understand in order to build a career to a place of satisfaction.  Having now been around the block a couple of times i.e. I’m old, I’d like to share a few more workplace truths to tack onto my 2012 piece about Perception Management.

Concept #1:  Your career advancement is not based solely on merit

In other words, just because you may be a high-performer, doesn’t mean you’re going to earn that snazzy title and a solo-office…or a corner office.  WHAT?!  Say it ain’t so!

Maybe you’re the fastest programmer with least bugs and consistent best end-user experience, maybe the top sales person, perhaps the highest performing middle manager, etc., whatever.  And yet, you’re still not getting promoted.  Why is that?  Have you considered your ability to manage-up?

Managing-up is simply managing the relationship with your superiors, in all facets.  This means you have to manage how you are perceived in addition to “Exceeding Expectations” in your performance.

If you’ve worked in any organization long enough, you’ll inevitably encounter upper management or executives and wonder how the heck they got there.  Managing-up is how.  Control the narrative around your career and you at least have a chance at controlling your advancement or stasis.

Combining the ability to positively manage others’ perception of you with your own ability to outperform to expectations is a great way to garner success.  Not the best way, but a great way.

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Concept #2:  You catch more flies with honey, and…

It is easier to win by cooperating and complementing your teammates’ skill-sets.  Even if that teammate is a competitor, by working together, you can both achieve more.

Cliche?  I know.  But why do you think this concept is constantly reiterated in sports and in the workplace?  Better to play nice and lift each other up than to look down  your nose, judge, plot, and scheme.  Leave the plotting and scheming to the talentless hacks who solely manage perceptions to cover for their absence of talent.

Concept #3:  Discipline!  Discipline is the key!

I said out-performance and perception management are great but not the best.  Combine those two notions with discipline and there’s the true formula for success.  Proven over and over; not statistically but visually, anecdotally, and through the countless commentaries of the successful.

How many stories have you yourself read about some successful person you admire where they comment on discipline?  It’s also known as the ability to outwork, to consistently apply the process, stay focused, etc.  Whatever you want to call it, discipline is about mental-toughness.  And combining discipline with concepts 1 and 2, my friends, is how you win in business.

Sure, this is a broad generalization.  There is nuance to all concepts, but the core concepts are the truth to success in the workplace.

image.pngNow all that being said, am I some successful, retired-early, self-made millionaire?  No.  I work for a living with the hopes of getting there one day soon.

But I’m just north of 40 years of age and I ignored those three concepts for the bulk of my multiple careers.  It cost me.  I have had a modicum of success and am just young enough to still apply these concepts and hopefully reach my business goals that much faster.

If you’re in your 20’s or 30’s or any age and have somehow come across this post, I implore you to please not ignore these simple lessons shared.  They seem like common sense but we all know how uncommon good sense can be.

If you consistently apply these three concepts in the workplace, then like the great coach Herman Boone says, “…like Novocain.  Just give it time, it always works.”

Speed, Glorious Speed!

If there is one thing that has been so dramatically impacted in the markets since 2008, it’s the speed of moves.  The causes are widely known.  Number one, high frequency trading (“HFT”).  Number two, massive amounts of money and capital backing HFT ops in conjunction with low-cost capital freely available to the “players” for any and all speculations.

A player is defined as bank trading desks, asset managers, hedge funds, pensions, university endowments, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds, and any other sufficiently large entity managing money or assets.  And let’s not forget corporations and their buybacks.

The sheer velocity with which trend changes initialize now is amazing.  Trend followers will continue to have their impact because of their late nature to a move and their “pore-on” effect once the action is deemed legitimate.

Which leads us to the current sentiment in the buck, treasuries, bank stocks, copper, and steel.

Trump wins.  Buck goes up.  Bank stocks go up because rates go up.  Copper and steel go up because Trump is going to build four regional towers with elevators that reach the moon.  He’ll also build hyperloops all around the US.  Additionally, he’s going to revamp every bridge, tunnel, and plain old road with $4 trillion worth of modernization.

That’s how those five assets are currently trading.

Says to me, a short looks pretty good here.  I may be a little early.  But I think profits will be taken as fast as they’ve been made if sentiment reverses and the fervor dies down around the president-elect.

Convoluted Copper Chart - Weekly (11-28-2016)

Take copper.  The chart’s a little convoluted, but everything on it are charting 101 tools.  So chartists will instantly see what’s appears to be logical retracement points on a potential reversal of this fast trend.

That green-red, support-resistance line terminates right at the 20-week EMA.  If we were to see a profit-taking event, $2.30/lb. is as good a spot as any to maybe lock in short-profits as the mega-breakout at $2.20 just may be legitimate.

The same analysis can be applied to the other four assets, especially steel.  Using US Steel as a proxy, a 20% correction wouldn’t be surprising in the least.  There’s also a monster gap up at $20.

Two things most traders love, gaps and stems.  Technically, the stems are called “wicks” or “tails.”  I call’em stems because once they begin to grow on the underside of a candle, long profits seem to blossom.

It sure looks like little piles of money are building over in the corner.  Even if you don’t have the guts to go short, keep your eyes on the US dollar, Treasury yields and T-bonds, bank stocks, copper, and steel.

Do You Really Think They Won’t Be Bailed Out?

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C’mon world of finance!  Get a grip.  Lehman comparisons.  End of world talk.  It’s all so laughable.  While Deustche Bank going down in flames within weeks would certainly step up the timetable on a global depression; ask yourself.  Does that seem logical?

No, of course not.  They will be bailed out.  Just because Merkel came out and said that a direct bailout of Europe’s largest public bank is untenable, doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.  Remember.  “When it becomes serious.  You have to lie.”  Period.  End of story.  Politics 101.

A backdoor bailout of Deustche Bank will occur.  It’s guaranteed.

Anybody remember this little document put out by the German central bank in July, just a couple of months ago?  It’s the inaugural listing by the Deutsche Bundesbank sharing their listings of investment grade bonds they purchased.  Who say’s they can not purchase junk bonds?  Equities are on the table.  When you’re pumping out that much stimulus via the ECB, it has to go into something as there simply isn’t enough supply of quality sovereign debt to purchase.

Enter the following:

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The bonds of the staples of the German business world and economy are on the German central bank’s balance sheet available for lending.  Which from my last post, you know what that means.

I suspect because the issue is so white hot, front and center to the world that the Bundesbank will not directly purchase a new bond issue or equity rights offering from Deutsche Bank.  However, that doesn’t mean that the ECB can’t put together a syndicate of Deutsche Bank counterparties to their insane derivative book and insure wholesale funding for purchases of dilutive financing or share issuances to support Deutsche Bank’s capital level.

I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to convince JPM, Citi, Goldman, BofA, HSBC, and let’s throw in Belgium too to come up with wholesale funding in order to buy newly issued debt and shares.  It’ll be perceived as the banking world trying to maintain the safety of the entire banking system and world economy.  Really, it’s just a grab for more time to stave off the inevitable market and economic collapse.

So relax.  Deustche Bank ain’t going down yet.  Go short those Deutsche Bank credit default swaps zipping up in value currently?  Close out your put strategies.  The music will continue to play and you must get up and dance.  DANCE PUPPETS!

Take a Break From the Markets and Enjoy Some Footage of MMA’s Potentially Next Big Thing at 135/145

Currencies are swinging with volatility. The S&P 500 continues to confound with its flat run for the year. Commodities are blowing apart everybody’s theory on hard asset alternative investments. So what to do? Have a short look at Boston Salmon

With a name like Boston Salmon, he’s just gotta be star. Right? If you’re a fight fan, then keep an eye on this young Hawaiian. He hasn’t been called up to the UFC yet as he’s still paying his dues in RFA, which is one of the minor-league feeders up to the main event. Their promotions usually air on AXS, which is generally offered as part of a basic package by local cable or satellite providers. It won’t be long before Dana comes’a calling for Mr. Salmon, though.

This youngster possesses super-crisp boxing, like many of the Hawaiian mixed martial artists. Shoots! But Salmon has extreme KO power to go with the boxing skills. He’s already one of the best combo throwers I’ve seen in a long time, but again, that’s not against the world’s best fighters yet. He’s also very skilled at takedown defense and the times I’ve witnessed a shot work on him, he just gets right back up ala The Iceman in his prime.

What really makes me love Boston Salmon’s skills though is his deadly-accurate, ultra-fast kick to the liver. Boston is a southpaw so he doesn’t have to utilize a switch before throwing it with power. The southpaw stance also allows him to whip the kick with more speed into the unsuspecting opponent’s liver. It easy to tell that this kid has practiced this kick tens of thousands of time in his life. It’s the best I’ve ever seen and I’ve been watching MMA fighting since it was only accessible on VHS back in 1995. Trust me when I tell you, I’ve seen my fair share of devastating liver kicks. Salmon uses his to perfection.

Against fellow stand-up bangers, he’ll soften them up with the left kick to the body and then it’s only a matter of time before the final outcome. What he’ll have to watch out for is when he’s up against the world-class ground guys who are superb at countering kicks with a shot or catch. It’ll be interesting to observe Boston Salmon’s progression. Impressive, athletic bangers aren’t always guaranteed stars. See Uriah Hall.

If you’re unfamiliar with Salmon, have a two-minute watch of 3 of his highlights.

Canada Be Ballin

I thought I’d take another sports break from the markets. Don’t worry it’s not more gambling advice but my calls may be just as implausible as those NCAA football picks from last fall.

Don’t look now but Canada is putting together an exceptionally talented basketball team to compete on the world stage. The battle is routinely just for second place behind the NBA’s traveling all-star team every two years, but with their youth and athleticism, Canada’s ready to really upend the international basketball hierarchy. Spain, Argentina, and France are aging and if the Canucks can put together the right type of offensive and defensive schemes from a chemistry standpoint, then Canada just may have a slim chance at the championship games at the Olympics next year and the World Cup in 18.

It may be hard to wrap your mind around right now considering that Steve Nash passed on even playing for them due to a total lack of competitive ability by the national team. Plus c’mon, Canada is the land of hockey and always will be. But consider, the last two #1 overall NBA draft picks were Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, both Canadian. To genuine fans of the sport of basketball, Canada’s potential rise in the world ranks should not come as a surprise. We’ve been watching top-level talent filter down into the NCAA programs for several years now.

Assuming contracts and obligations allow for participation, here’s the roster I’d like to see Canada field for the foreseeable future. The statistics are for the current NBA season, except for the 3 players at the bottom who do not play in the league.

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All of the players except for Sacre and Bachynski can play at least one position bigger or smaller, so the team is highly versatile from a size and capability standpoint. This current roster seriously lacks in international experience and the average age of the team is only 22 years old. However, that overall youthfulness may play in their favor if they have the sheer energy and stamina to outpace teams. That’s going to be tough going up against the seasoned countries previously listed whose ball control and championship experience may negate any favorable age difference that Canada brings to a game.

The only player that really jumps out for most fans is probably Andrew Wiggins as he’s the clear front runner for rookie of the year, but the world stage may be all that some of these other players really need to showcase their respective skill-sets. Wiggins is a proven commodity. Bennett wasn’t a number one overall pick for no reason. The kid was dominant in his single season of college as a freshman at UNLV. He’s dealt with some unusual injury issues and there are questions about his stamina at the pro level but this summer may provide a window into what he may finally be capable of in the NBA. Sometimes all it takes is a spark of confidence to build some momentum with a young talent.

I think Thompson may be the most unappreciated talent out of everybody. Half of his rebounds are offensive which is simply incredible. I hate to use hyperbole here but I haven’t seen a nose for the ball like Tristan Thompson’s since watching Dennis Rodman. I think Thompson has the athleticism and skills to lead the NBA in rebounding for several seasons. He just needs starter minutes and the confidence to go after that title as the best rebounder in the league. He’s beastly as a power forward and I really think he’s going to open a lot of eyes next year at the Olympics; maybe even in the playoffs this season.

Stauskas and Ennis have made virtually no impact in their very young NBA careers thus far, but that doesn’t mean anything as repping your country and having the confidence of the coach to really put your talents to use without fear of retribution can potentially help these two youngsters blossom. Stauskas was the Big Ten player of the year and he pretty much scored at will against some of the toughest teams in the NCAA. He’s a willing passer who can make savvy plays as a 6’6 sharpshooter. Ennis was unfortunately drafted onto a Suns team that already had 3 stud point guards which has appeared to have dampened his confidence. The player I watched as a freshman at Syracuse last year was the best freshman point guard in all of Division 1. He only averaged 12 points a game, but the poise and confidence that he played with belied his age and experience. It’s my hope we get that level of control on full display while representing Canada.

Cory Joseph really just started to hit his stride last season for the Spurs. When Patty Mills went down, that gave Joseph a ton of backup minutes to Tony Parker and you can tell that coach Popovich’s confidence in Joseph really helped him breakout. Joseph is having a nice season this year for the Spurs. That championship experience will be extraordinarily important as Joseph will most likely be the leader of this young Canadian roster. I am looking for him to be the key guard on this team and expect him to get a lot of looks as a scoring playmaker.

Olynyk is a nice stretch big man who should be the key “pick & pop” man for the team. I can see how he may be labeled a little soft as he’s only averaging 5 rebounds a game as a 7-footer, but the same could be said for a majority of Caucasian foreign-born big men playing in the NBA. He’s not a rim-guarder like Tyson Chandler but he has proven his serviceability on defense. This Canadian team will rely on Olynyk more for his scoring than defense as the other two 7-footers on the possible-roster are simply defensive additions for the sake of rotation. Dwight Powell has shown some decent potential. I like his size. I like how he played at Stanford. He’ll learn a lot this year with Dallas that will hopefully help him make a strong contribution to the Canadian team.

Even though Sacre makes a very minimal contribution to the Lakers and Bachynski is not even in the league, these offseason opportunities give these kinds of players the chance to really prove what their capable of and maybe relive some of their old college glory. It’s my hope that they step up to the high level of competition and play at the maximum that their talent levels afford. If they do that then Canada will have gotten all they need out of these two. As far as additional big men go, I could easily substitute Andrew Nicholson for Bachynski here but he’s been in the dog house and I worry his confidence may be shot. Plus, he’s a full five inches shorter than Bachynski, however, his athleticism and length could quite possibly make up for the height differential. With him being a former stud-college player and then falling into the dog house after a very solid rookie year, I just worried about how Nicholson would perceive his role on this roster. Bachynski has nothing to lose and should very well know exactly where he fits on this team especially since zone defense is common at the international level. How else are you gonna offset the size, strength, speed, and sheer athleticism of the US team?

There’s also the intriging potential of Kentucky freshman Trey Lyles. At 6’10 and 250 lbs. and one of the top contributors on that deep Wildcat team, he would make another fine young addition, but I’m not sure where Calipari stands or the school for that matter in allowing Nash to potentially add Lyles so again I’m sticking with Bachynski here…but I fully recognize Nicholson and Lyles as the much better talents. Undoubtedly, Lyles will be a big-man mainstay for the Canadian program for years to come; hopefully as early as 2016 but probably beginning in 2018.

Melvin Ejim and Phillip Scrubb are very interesting. Ejim played for a very tough Iowa State team last year that went 28 – 8. Ejim was part of a 3-headed attack alongside DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang that was very difficult to defend by any team in the NCAA let alone other Big 12 squads. He averaged 18 points a game and was the Big 12 player of the year. Unfortunately, he failed to get drafted and didn’t make enough of an impression as a free agent to stick with an NBA roster. He’s a tweener and he plays bigger than his height. He averaged 8 rebounds a game so he can bang the boards with anybody despite being only 6’6. The problem is that at that height, you have to be highly effective on the perimeter. Otherwise you might as well just go to Europe which is exactly where he is right now. I think he makes an interesting pairing with Tristan Thompson at SF and PF when they’re on the floor together. I watched a lot of Iowa St. games last year and Ejim can really play.

Scrubb is currently a senior at Carleton University in the CIS. In case you were unaware, the CIS stands for Canadian Interuniversity Sport and it’s the Canadian equivalent to the NCAA. There’s approximately 47 schools that are in the CIS. Carleton University is the Canadian equivalent to UCLA from the 1960’s and 1970’s. They’ve won 10 out of the last 12 CIS championships and Phillip Scrubb is the 3-time reigning CIS player of the year. The dude can straight-up ball with any kid down in the US. Why he skipped a higher profile position at a Division 1 school is anybody’s guess but here’s a sampling of some of the torchings he’s put on American universities over the last few years.

In 2012, Scrubb dropped 28 on Northeastern. Ok, so what. Northeastern sucks. But then he embarrassed Jay Wright’s Villanova guards for 32 points in a loss. In 2013 against a then 12th ranked Wisconsin Badger team, he threw down 30 points while dishing out 12 assists. That same year he had 14 points and six assists in an overtime loss to a very good Syracuse team. Last year he put up 24 against Illinois-Chicago and then back to back 30 point efforts against Memphis. There is no doubt about this kid’s skills but he continues to fly under the radar because of his choice to stay in Canada.

This year has been a little off for him. He’s only averaging 16 a game for Carleton and the rest of his numbers are a little lower, too. For some reason he’s only playing around 24 minutes per game despite the fact that he’s played in every game except 1 this year. For a back to back to back player of the year, you’d think he’d be clocking at least 32 minutes a game at a minimum as the CIS games consist of 2 twenty-minute halves just like the NCAA. So really I guess his reduced output is a matter of perspective as he’s putting up 16.5 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds despite only playing 24 minutes a game. The CIS 3-point line is the same as FIBA’s which is just a few inches shorter than the NCAA’s. Scrubb shoots 3’s at a 47% clip. He’s gotta stroke and if he plays with as much poise against some of the world’s best as he did against the D1 squads, then I think he’ll make a nice contribution as a 3-point bomber. This is assuming he gets enough minutes to make a solid contribution, again, he is the only non-pro on my preferred Canadian roster.

The Pan-American games are in Canada this summer and it will give the Canadian team a chance to garner some crucial time together against other internationals while in their own backyard. Steve Nash is the GM of this squad and I trust that him and his head coach, Jay Triano, will pair down the roster to the most talented and capable of winning. I think the roster I laid out can take out all comers at the Pan-AM’s. The US usually skips it, so Puerto Rico won the last one. I feel confident that the roster laid out above or one very close to it can easily take out any South American or Caribbean team for the gold as long as Argentina sends its B-squad, which it should. From the Pan-AM’s it will be the final qualifying FIBA tournament in Mexico in the later part of the summer. The two finalists in Mexico will earn a berth to the Olympics, which would be Canada’s first in 16 years.

There are some very big questions to consider here, of course. What if these players that have had a tougher time in the NBA or abroad don’t play up to the talent they displayed in college? What if each individual fails to understand their role within the team and instead jeopardize success by trying to show off what they can do as a tactic in contract negotiation? Team success takes sacrifice and the lack of experience by this squad means this roster is going to need to understand that in a hurry. Most importantly, will Canada ever reverse its stance on insuring its players against injuries when they’re representing the country. Most of the other top FIBA teams do and it would go a long way towards ensuring that the best talent available is able to represent Canadian basketball.

Currently, the Canadian team is ranked 25th in the world by FIBA. After the 2016 Olympics and the World Cup in 2018, I have no doubt this team will be ranked in the top 10. You never know. Depending on how things come together, we may just see this new golden era of Canadian basketball see the team play its way into a top 5 world ranking. Full disclosure, I do have dual citizenship in Canada and the US thanks to my pops, but I was born and raised in the US so you can’t exactly label me a homer. I just really like the potential of Canadian basketball to shake up the FIBA status quo and I look forward to what the future will bring for the team.

You didn’t really think I’d sign off without mentioning any markets, did you? Be sure to maintain a close-eye on 10-year Treasury yields, TLT, XLU, and the US dollar. With the strength of the finish in equity markets this past month, I suspect those 4 categories will tell a very strong story of where equity markets are headed going into the spring. Volatility has really tapered off and there are many indications that the smart money is sniffing something around the corner. Nothing huge, but something none the less. Trade intelligently. Currencies and fixed income are singing a tune worth listening to…and GO CANADA BASKETBALL!