Practical analysis for investment professionals
27 February 2015

Weekend Reads for Finance Pros: Secular Sabbath, Fiduciary Standard, and Investing

Posted In: Weekend Reads

“Researchers in the new field of interruption science have found that it takes an average of twenty-five minutes to recover from a phone call. Yet such interruptions come every eleven minutes — which means we’re never caught up with our lives.”

Stop. Pause for a minute. And think about that.

And then ponder this statement by the seventeenth-century French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal:

“All the unhappiness of men arises from one simple fact: that they cannot sit quietly in their chamber.”

If you are like me, and just about everyone else I know in this “age of fetishistic connectivity,” you have trouble “switching off,” or “sitting quietly in your chamber.”

Perhaps that’s why I so enjoyed reading “Why We Need to Slow Down Our Lives” (and where I found these quotes). It’s a wonderful essay by one of my favorite writers, Pico Iyer, about a “secular sabbath,” or what some in Silicon Valley observe as an “Internet Sabbath,” when “they turn off most of their devices from, say, Friday night to Monday morning, if only to regather the sense of proportion and direction they’ll need for when they go back online.”

The article is an excerpt from Iyer’s new book, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere.

“The need for an empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones,” he writes. “It’s the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape. That’s the reason American football players prefer to go into a huddle rather than just race toward the line of scrimmage, the reason a certain kind of writer will include a lot of blank space on a page, so his sentences have room to breathe (and his readers, too). The one word for which the adjective ‘holy’ is used in the Ten Commandments is Sabbath.”

Take time to pause this weekend, even if it’s to read an article or two you didn’t get around to earlier in the week, or to carve out some time to just “be” and not “do.”

Fiduciary Standard

A lot of virtual ink was spilled this week after President Barack Obama announced a proposal to reduce conflicts of interest and “hidden fees” that cost Americans billions of dollars in retirement savings every year. The discussion also raised the issue of spelling and semantics. I had always thought of “adviser” and “advisor”as interchangeable (with the difference coming down to house style), but I learned otherwise.

  • What’s in a word?

Investing

  • Some investing advice:

Work/Productivity

A Sneak-Peak ahead of CFA Institute’s Annual Conference

And Now for Something Completely Different

  • The Secret Life of Passwords” (The New York Times Magazine)
  • Renowned author and neurologist Oliver Sacks learns he has terminal cancer and writes movingly about facing death in the essay “My Own Life.” (The New York Times)

In closing, I have (at least) three passions: food/cooking, photography, and travel. And so this week, I’m going to conclude with one of each:

  • Food/Cooking: Last week I was in Charleston, South Carolina, a culinary mecca, and was fortunate to have lunch at Husk. We were so impressed with Sean Brock’s version of Hoppin’ John, the quintessential South Carolina Lowcountry dish, that we bought his best-selling cookbook Heritage. Here are three points excerpted from his “manifesto”: “Respect ingredients and the people who produce them; Visit the farmers’ market at least once a week, and use most of your food budget at the market; and let the vegetables tell you what to do.”
  • Photography: This week the World Photography Organisation (WPO) announced the shortlist for the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards in three categories: Professional, Open, and Youth. (The Atlantic)
  • Travel: Pico Iyer, who is quoted at the outset of this post, has written one of the finest descriptions of “Why We Travel” in this essay, published in Salon in 2000. I’m going to quote the opening paragraph in its entirety:
  • “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, ‘The Philosophy of Travel.’ We ‘need sometimes,’ the Harvard philosopher wrote, ‘to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.'”

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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.

Photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/JLGutierrez

About the Author(s)
Lauren Foster

Lauren Foster is a content director on the professional learning team at CFA Institute and host of the Take 15 Podcast. She is the former managing editor of Enterprising Investor and co-lead of CFA Institute’s Women in Investment Management initiative. Lauren spent nearly a decade on staff at the Financial Times as a reporter and editor based in the New York bureau, followed by freelance writing for Barron’s and the FT. Lauren holds a BA in political science from the University of Cape Town, and an MS in journalism from Columbia University.

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