Category Archives: Quarterly

Topley’s Top 10 – May 03, 2022

1. Since 1976…First Time Ever Both Stocks and Bonds -10%

@Charlie Bilello-With data going back to 1976, this is the first time ever that both stocks and bonds are in a >10% drawdown at the same time. The S&P 500 is in a 13% drawdown while bonds are 11% below their 2020 high. (note: using monthly total return data)

2. 50/50 Portfolio Drawdown Almost Equal to 2008

3. Since 2000 S&P Only Outperformed 60/40 by 60 Basis Points….Since 2010 S&P has Outperformed 60/40 by 120%

Since The beginning of 2010, the DWA 60/40 Bond Index (DWA.TR) has underperformed the total return of the S&P 500 (TR.SPXX by more than 120% or 4% per year on an annualized basis (through 4/28). However, from the beginning of 2000, there’s a much smaller spread – with the S&P leading the 60/40 portfolio by a little under 60 basis points on an annualized basis – the point being that the picture can change a lot depending on the time periods. www,

Blackrock 60/40

4. Money Market Funds See Biggest Inflows Since Covid.

Money Market Inflows Logged a massive +$60B inflows last week, which was the largest weekly inflow since Covid 2020 (and typically another fear gauge).

From Zerohedge Buyback Blackout Period Is Over, And 10 More Reasons Why Goldman Calls The End Of The Market Carnage | ZeroHedge

5. What Happens After Historic Bad Months?

Bespoke Investment Group-Historic End to a Down Month-It was a rough finish to the month of April. Not only did the S&P 500 (SPY) finish the month with an 8.78% decline month to date, the biggest one-month decline since March 2020, but the last trading day of the month was one for the record books. Since SPY began trading in 1993, the only bigger drop on the final trading day of the month was in August 1998. Back then it was a much larger 7.13% decline.

In the table below, we show all months since 1993 that SPY declined at least 2% on the last trading day of a month. Behind April, the next worst final day of a month and the only other month with an over 3% decline was September 1998, but back then, SPY had still managed to finish up MTD.  Finishing up MTD has been the exception rather than the rule of these occurrences, though, as November 1998 and October 2011 were the only other times that SPY fell over 2% on the last trading day of the month but still finished with a MTD gain.

As for where the S&P 500 has typically gone from there, the first trading day of the new month has only seen a move higher 46% of the time as the index has averaged a 30 bps decline. For the full month, though, performance is generally more positive with an average gain of 2.75% and positive returns almost 70% of the time.

6. Yuan to U.S. Dollar Chart

Judging by this chart Yuan is not a candidate to overcome dollar as reserve currency

7. NYSE Defense Index Falling Back Toward Pre-Ukraine Invasion Levels.

8. Employment Cost Index Well Above Forecasts.

The United States: The employment cost index came in well above forecasts, spooking the markets. The concern has been a wage-price spiral.

Source: Daily Shot

9. Americans Opinion on Grades and Standardized Test Scores-Pew Research

Grades and test scores seen as top factors for college admissions in U.S. | Pew Research Center

10. Study finds seven hours of sleep to be optimal from middle-age onwards

By Nick Lavars


We know sleep to be an essential ingredient for a healthy brain, but scientists continue to explore what a good night’s rest looks like at different stages of life, and how it can impact on our vulnerability to cognitive decline. A wide-ranging new study involving almost half a million subjects has provided compelling new insights, suggesting seven hours of sleep per night to be best for brain health during middle and old age.

While good sleeping habits are known to be beneficial for everything from reducing our risk of cancer and heart failure to maintaining a healthy body weight, recently we’ve seen scientists shine a light on its relationship with Alzheimer’s and dementia.This includes studies finding an increased risk through disruptions to key sleep phases, short sleep durations and excessive daytime napping. On the more positive side of things, scientists have identified genes in “elite sleepers” that may lead to treatments for these types of neurodegenerative diseases.

This new research, carried out by scientists at the University of Cambridge and China’s Fudan University, involved the analysis of almost 500,000 adults between the ages of 38 and 73. This included survey data on sleeping patterns, mental health and wellbeing, along with cognitive testing. Brain imaging and genetic data was available for almost 40,000 subjects.

This enabled the scientists to tease out new insights around sleeping habits in middle and old age, and brain health. Building on findings from one 2018 study, the analysis found that both too little and too much sleep had negative effects, affecting visual attention, memory, problem-solving and processing speed. This also increased symptoms of depression, anxiety and worse overall wellbeing.

Seven hours of sleep was the amount the scientists concluded to be optimal for brain health, saying that sleeping too much or too little may be a risk factor for age-related cognitive decline. The findings also add further weight to an idea we saw explored through an interesting 2020 study that linked disturbances to slow-wave “deep” sleep and Alzheimer’s.

Previous research in animals and humans has shown that this type of fragmented sleep can can increase the accumulation of toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Further, slow-wave deep sleep is an important brain function that clears away waste products and toxic proteins. That 2020 research suggested that fragmented sleep could be an effective way to predict those at risk of developing neurodegenerative disease.

“Getting a good night’s sleep is important at all stages of life, but particularly as we age,” said Professor Barbara Sahakian from the University of Cambridge. “Finding ways to improve sleep for older people could be crucial to helping them maintain good mental health and wellbeing and avoiding cognitive decline, particularly for patients with psychiatric disorders and dementias.”

The research was published in the journal Nature Aging

Source: University of Cambridge

Found at Abnormal Returns

Topley’s Top 10 – May 02, 2022

1. In 35 Years…Investor Sentiment has Only Gotten this Low 5 Other Times.


-Four during the 1990 Recession trough / Inflation peak.

-One at the exact bottom in March 2009.”

From Real Vision Newsletter

2. Percentage of Stocks Beating the S&P Hitting 2000 Bubble Low Levels.

From Kailash Concepts

3. Commodities Chart Forming a Technical Triangle….Increased Probability of Violent Break One Way or the Other.

4. Semiconductors ETF -27% Correction from Highs

5. Covid Superstar Stock Dominos Pizza -40% Correction from Highs

DPZ Closes below its 200 day moving average on long-term weekly chart

6. FAANG stocks just reported 0% real revenue growth for the first time in 20 years

Otavio (Tavi) Costa


7. Jet Fuel Prices +140% Year Over Year

IATA Jet Fuel Monitor

8. Reversion to the Mean in Real World Retail?

Real world retail-Few companies benefited from the pandemic as much as Amazon. Online sales soared and many wondered whether brick and mortar retail would recover.  Well, it has.For a company that’s been used to growing at 20%, 30% or even 40% over the last few years, yesterday’s update was something of a shock: Amazon’s e-commerce sales dropped by 3% and the company reported its first loss for 7 years.

Evidence from the UK

If you happen to have a keen eye on UK retail sales (who doesn’t?) you might have seen this phenomenon coming. The UK has monthly data on internet sales as a % of total retail — and it’s showed an interesting trend recently.

After years of gently trending higher, online sales shot to more than 35% of total UK retail sales during the pandemic, where many experts expected them to stay, as we adopted new habits permanently.

But in recent months online sales have pulled back. In fact, if you draw the trend line on the data pre-pandemic then online sales are not far off where they might have ended up anyway, had the pandemic never happened in a glorious alternative timeline. The quarterly data in the US shows a similar trend. Maybe we don’t want to buy everything online after all.

9. The U.S. Decreased Nuclear Warheads by 88% Since 1967


How many nuclear weapons does the US have? – USAFacts

10. Ray Dalio-Taking Criticism Well

Topley’s Top 10 – April 29, 2022

1. ARKK Fund -50% YTD…But $900m in Inflows???

Ben Johnson, CFA


I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that $ARKK is down ~50% YTD but has pulled in $908 million in net new money.

2. Amazon Operating Margin by Segment-Zerohedge Chart

North American and Europe Negative

3. 200day Moving Average on AMZN Long-Term Weekly Chart $2530

4. FANMAG Now Even with the S&P for Last 5 Years

Josh Brown Blog Reformed Broker

5. Heavy Trucks Sales -23%

6. CNBC-Elon Musk will be the most indebted CEO in America if the Twitter deal goes through

Robert Frank@ROBTFRANK


·         Two-thirds of Elon Musk’s financing for the $44 billion deal to take Twitter private will have to come out of his own pocket. He has a net worth of about $250 billion.

·         Yet because much of his wealth is tied up in Tesla stock, Musk will have to sell millions of his shares and pledge millions more to raise the necessary cash.

·         According to research firm Audit Analytics, Musk has more than $90 billion of shares pledged for loans.

·         That makes him the largest stock-debtor in dollar terms among executives and directors, far surpassing second-ranked Larry Ellison, according to ISS Corporate Solutions.

The world’s richest person could soon add another title to his name – America’s most leveraged CEO.

Two-thirds of Elon Musks financing for the $44 billion deal to take Twitter private will have to come out of his own pocket. That pocket is deep. He has a net worth of about $250 billion.

Yet because his wealth is tied up in Tesla stock, along with equity in his SpaceX and The Boring Co., Musk will have to sell millions of his shares and pledge millions more to raise the necessary cash.

Tesla closes below 200 day moving average for 3rd time since February

7. Another Covid Superstar Stock Close to Full Round Trip….CVNA-Carvana.

8. Metaverse ETFs Up to Six Overview Of Metaverse Themed ETFs In The US –Aniket Ullal

There are currently six ETFs that provide exposure to the Metaverse theme. There is also an ETF that focuses on console gaming (ETMG Video Game Tech ETF) as well as multiple decentralized finance (DeFi)- and blockchain-focused ETFs. Since those are more specialized or have a slightly different investment objective than the metaverse-themed ETFs, they have been excluded from this analysis.

The first metaverse ETF (METV) in the U.S. launched in mid-2021. Since then, five other similarly themed ETFs have launched in the U.S. They range in expense ratio from 0.39% to 0.75%. Table 1 summarizes these six metaverse-themed ETFs:

9. Loan to Value in Residential Housing is at Record Lows….The Opposite of 2008 Crisis

Looking towards the housing market, the current loan-to-value ratio is relatively low, unlike during the subprime housing crisis.

Source: BCA Research

The Daily Shot Blog

10. 13 Things the Most Confident People Don’t Do

Barbara Markway Ph.D.

Self-confident people know what they value and what they want. They share common habits and thought patterns that help them achieve their goals. Here are 13 things self-confident people don’t do, so you can be one of them.

1. They don’t believe they are worth less than others.

One of the fundamental beliefs underlying confidence is, “My worth as a person is equal to everyone else’s.” That doesn’t mean you don’t have to work for what you want, and it certainly doesn’t mean that life divides up its rewards evenly. But it does mean you have the same right as anyone else to stand up for yourself, pursue your dreams, enjoy your life, and make a difference in the way that’s most meaningful to you.

2. They don’t fear self-doubt.

Confident people realize that not all self-doubt is a bad thing. Sometimes fear is a signal that you haven’t prepared enough for the big presentation, the recital, or the interview. Practicing what you plan to say and do will give your mind something to fall back on when the pressure is high. The voice of self-doubt may also be saying you need to get more information, move in a different direction, or take a break.

3. They don’t hesitate too much.

The flip side of #2 is that once you’ve put in the hours of practice, you should be able to take action without obsessing over what might go wrong.

4. They don’t wait for the “big” move.

When you envision a confident person, you might think of someone who takes big, bold actions, like running for office or making a marriage proposal on the Jumbotron. But there can be boldness and bravery in small steps. Those incremental changes build on themselves, both through your own feelings of accomplishment and reinforcement from others.

5. They don’t confuse confidence with arrogance.

Some people fear confidence, because they don’t want to start stepping on other people’s toes, taking up too much space, or just plain being a jerk. But confidence isn’t the same as arrogance or narcissism. In fact, when you feel confident in yourself, you often become less self-absorbed. When you stop worrying so much about how you’re coming across, you can pay more attention to those around you.

6. They don’t fear feedback or conflict.

A confident person can accept helpful feedback and act on it without getting defensive. When your sense of self-worth is no longer on the table, you can handle criticism or even outright rejection without allowing it to break you. By the same token, confidence doesn’t mean you mow other people down when a conflict arises. It’s possible to speak your mind with conviction and still make room to listen to someone else’s point of view and even reach a compromise.

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7. They don’t fear failure.

Confidence doesn’t mean you won’t fail. It doesn’t mean you’re always smiling or that you never experience anxiety or self-doubt (see #2). Instead, it means you know you can handle those feelings and push through them to conquer the next challenge.

8. They don’t have to make things perfect.

Perfectionism is a form of faulty thinking that contributes to low self-confidence. If you believe you have to have something all figured out before you take action, those thoughts can keep you from doing the things you value.

9. They don’t believe everything they see in ads.

Many advertisements are designed to make you feel lacking. Companies that want to sell you products usually start by making you feel bad about yourself, often by introducing a “problem” with your body that you would never have noticed otherwise.

10. They don’t believe everything they see on social media.

This point is closely tied to #9. It’s easy to believe that everyone around you has the perfect marriage, a dream career, and supermodel looks to boot. But remember that what people post online is heavily curated and edited. Everyone has bad days, self-doubt, and physical imperfections. They just don’t trot them out on Facebook!

11. They don’t avoid trying new things.

As you keep pushing yourself to try new things, you’ll start to truly understand how failure and mistakes lead to growth. An acceptance that failure is part of life will start to take root. Paradoxically, by being more willing to fail, you’ll actually succeed more — because you’re not waiting for everything to be 100 percent perfect before you act. Taking more shots will mean making more of them.

12. They don’t focus on themselves.

It might seem counterintuitive, but when you have more self-confidence, you’re less focused on yourself. We’ve all been guilty of walking into a room and thinking, “They’re all looking at me. They all think I look dumpy and that every word I say is incredibly stupid!” The truth is, people are wrapped up in their own thoughts and worries. When you get out of your own head, you’ll be able to genuinely engage with others.

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13. They don’t let others determine their goals.

No one can tell you what is most important to you. Sure, our culture will say that having a better job, a bigger house, and a fancier car is what we need to make us happy. It takes a lot of strength and conviction to not just go along with societal expectations. Self-confidence doesn’t always look like the “big” move. It can be the confidence to say, “No, this opportunity is not right for me at this time.”

Adapted from The Self-Confidence Workbook: A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem. Copyright © 2018 by Barbara Markway and Celia Ampel.

Topley’s Top 10 – April 28, 2022

1. War, Stock Corrections, Bond Bear, Record U.S. Government Debt, Covid, etc. etc…..U.S. Dollar Still King Currency.

U.S. Dollar Approaching 2020 Pre-Covid Highs…..50day going thru 200day to upside

2. Diesal Fuel Futures Settle at Record High

Massive exports and strong domestic consumption are helping to drain distillate stockpiles in the U.S., which have fallen to the lowest level since 2008. The shortage is most acute on the East Coast, where inventories have dropped to the lowest level since 1996. Fuelmakers on the Gulf Coast have been operating at their highest rates for this time of year in more than a decade and are still unable to rebuild stockpiles. Rising shipments to Latin America and Europe have left the main fuel pipeline supplying the East Coast underused.

Shifting trading patterns also contributed to spiking prices. Liquidity has fallen in recent months in futures and physical markets, exacerbating volatility in both. While futures traders exited hedges, physical traders ditched storage tanks as holding onto products became a losing proposition, leaving a thinner cushion for supply crunches and price swings.

Chunzi Xu

3. 10 Year Treasury is 4 Standard Deviations Above 52 Week Moving Average

Lance Roberts, the chief investment strategist of RIA Advisors—Busy Chart but see the downtrend channel in middle….Technically speaking, he adds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury TMUBMUSD10Y, 2.794% is now 4 standard deviations above its 52-week moving average, and near the top of the long-term downtrend channel from 1980.

4. Another Mid-Term Election Chart

LPL Research..Strong Bounces Historically Off Lows

5. Apple Revenue Breakdown-Visual Capitalist

How Do Big Tech Giants Make Their Billions? (

6. Breaking Euro Reliance on Russian Gas Down by Country

From Dave Lutz at Jones Trading

Four European gas buyers have already paid for supplies in rubles as President Vladimir Putin demanded.

7. Mortgage Volume Trades Back to Mean…Higher Rates and No Inventory.

Wolf Street “The drop in purchase applications was evident across all loan types,” the MBA’s report said. “Prospective homebuyers have pulled back this spring, as they continue to face limited options of homes for sale along with higher costs from increasing mortgage rates and prices. The recent decrease in purchase applications is an indication of potential weakness in home sales in the coming months.”

8. 70% of Starbucks Employees at Company Less Than One Year

Huge growth in Starbucks employees but heavy turnover.


9. Don’t Forget Elon Musk’s Other Company Valued at $6B

Boring Company raises additional $675 million as investors chuck money into holes in the ground

Elon Musk’s tunnel company is now valued at nearly $6 billion

By James Vincent  Apr 21, 2022, 5:18am EDT

The Boring Company has raised a new round of funding worth $675 million, with Elon Musk’s grand plan to “solve traffic” with tunnels now valued at $5.675 billion.

In a blog post announcing the news, the company reiterated its goals and achievements so far, drawing particular attention to its “next generation” of Prufrock tunnel-boring machines (TBMs).

“Unlike traditional TBMs which require upwards of a dozen or more people to operate, Prufrock is designed to be capable of operating completely remotely and autonomously via computerized systems and requires zero people in the tunnel to operate,” said the company. “The current iteration of Prufrock, called Prufrock-2, is designed to mine at up to 1 mile/week, meaning a tunnel the length of the Las Vegas strip (approximately 4 miles) can be completed in a month.”

So far, The Boring Company has built just two operational 0.8-mile tunnels underneath the Las Vegas Convention Center, as well as 1.1-mile test tunnel in Hawthorne, California. The company has been pitching its services far and wide, and although many projects have run aground, authorities in Las Vegas last year approved the construction of a 29-mile tunnel system containing 51 stations.

The planned Las Vegas tunnel system, dubbed the Vegas Loop. Image: The Boring Company

The Boring Company describes its tunnels as a “public transportation system that resembles an underground highway” but — more succinctly and accurately — as “Teslas in tunnels.” Originally, Musk said the company’s tunnels would use autonomous sleds to carry cars and specially-designed pods at speeds of up 150mph to transport pedestrians and cyclists. So far, they’re currently limited to electric vehicles (Teslas) driven by human employees at around 50mph and carrying ticketed passengers.

The company’s Las Vegas tunnels have been open for a few years now, and first-hand impressions have been mixed to say the least. When everything goes to plan, the company’s tunnels let cars pass through them at sedate speeds. But when they’re busy they also create their own traffic jams — the very problem they’re intended to solve.

Investors, though, don’t necessarily care whether or not founders like Musk ultimately follow through on their hyperbole, only that the companies they run attract enough customers and revenue to pay back their own investments. And Musk has proved, time and time again, that’s he’s very good at pushing up share prices and valuations. For the meantime, that means The Boring Company has a lot of tunnels left to dig.

Boring Company raises additional $675 million as investors chuck money into holes in the ground – The Verge

10. Portfolio PAIN Isn’t A Four Letter Word

Posted April 20, 2022 by Anthony Isola

Pleasures are to be avoided if they result in greater pain, and pain is to be welcomed if it results in greater pleasure. –  Epicurus

Pleasurable investing is an oxymoron. Good luck adopting buying high and selling low into your investment policy.

The human body’s reactions to pain provide sound investing advice.

Our default state is Homeostasis. Balancing pleasure and pain is never-ending. After a Dopamine overdose, the body brings order to the crime scene. Examples include crashing after a sugar high and head-splitting hangovers after alcohol overindulgence.

We’re a Dopamine Nation.


This chart measures the percentage dopamine increase of a rat trapped in a box when exposed to various substances.

Anna Lembke drops knowledge in her ground-breaking book, Dopamine Nation. She compares food, sex, drug, and technology addiction to a pendulum. When the pendulum is overweight pleasure, pain gremlins jump onto the other side, throwing things back into balance. Pain overcompensates, leading to the need for more Dopamine to maintain Homeostasis. Addiction creates massive pain.

What happens if we reverse engineer pain and pleasure?

Dr. Lembke states: Pressing on the pain side of the balance can lead to its opposite – pleasure. Unlike pressing on the pleasure side, the Dopamine that comes from pain is indirect and potentially more enduring. 

Pleasure gremlins jump on after the initial pain creating longer-lasting pleasure; intermittent exposure to pain makes us less vulnerable.

Cold showers and baths are initially painful. Our bodies eventually numb themselves to the exposure.

According to Dr. Lembke: Dopamine rose gradually and steadily throughout the cold bath and remained elevated for an hour afterward. 

Exercise is the ultimate example.

Exercise is immediately toxic to cells, leading to increased temperature, noxious oxidants, and oxygen and glucose deprivation.

Then this happens.

Exercise increases many of the neurotransmitters involved in positive mood regulation: Dopamine, serotonin,…..Exercise contributes to the birth of new neurons and even reduces the likelihood of using and getting addicted to drugs.

Acupuncture falls under this category. Minor pain prevents larger doses from asserting their will.

What does this have to do with investing?

It scientifically backs the old saying regarding the markets; If it feels good, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Selling your stocks in a crisis creates a momentary dopamine rush. While temporarily pleasing, the long-term market gremlins hop onto the pain side of the pendulum. Your portfolio and wealth may never recover from the extended period of suffering they unleash on your wealth and psyche.

Balancing the agony and ecstasy of the markets isn’t easy.

Investors must embrace the pain when markets fall precipitously. Short-term torture eventually morphs into self-correcting market homeostasis producing sustainable pleasure.

Credit cards offer a dopamine rush. The temporary pleasure of purchasing disposable goods doesn’t compensate for the long-term destructive effects of minimum payments attached to a 20% interest rate. The momentary disappointment of walking out of the store empty-handed is justified if you don’t have the funds to pay in full.

Phil Pearlman more than gets it.

And we live in a world where comfort is so accessible that seduction is almost unfair.

We have air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, a fridge stocked with food and drink, and if we don’t, we can order anything from our couch and have it sent to us in minutes or overnight in dry ice via Federal Express.

I thought about this just this morning as I adjusted the heat function on my car seat.

All of this comfort is not good.

Regarding investing and life, PAIN isn’t a four-letter word.

Source: Dopamine Nation by Anna Lembke M.D.

From Abnormal Returns Blog

Topley’s Top 10 – April 27, 2022

1. Mid-Term Election Year Seasonality vs. Normal Seasonality

Callum Thomas Chart Storm

Source: @EquityClock via @HumbleStudent

2. Misery Index Inflation Plus Unemployment Hits Highest Levels Since 1970s

Fed’s “misery index,” given its similarity to the national misery index, which is simply the sum of inflation and unemployment.

3. 79% of Earnings Reports Beat So Far

Business Insider-Companies are raking in massive profits-The massive spending seen throughout the recovery has also buoyed the measure that Wall Street cares about the most: corporate earnings.

About a fifth of S&P 500 companies have reported first-quarter earnings so far, and the results show little sign of a weakening economy. Seventy-nine percent of companies that have reported their latest figures beat earnings-per-share forecasts, and 69% reported stronger-than-expected revenues, according to FactSet.

More broadly, companies are raking in much bigger profits than they did before the pandemic. S&P 500 earnings per share hit a record $204 at the end of 2021, up more than a third from pre-crisis levels. If first-quarter reports continue to beat forecasts, that figure will climb to even loftier all-time highs.

Ben Winck and Madison Hoff

4. Investment Grade Bonds…Percent of Bonds Rising on an Average Day 25 Year Low

Investment-grade bonds have hit a 17-year low, and are performing worse than even junk bonds. Normally this would signal a buying opportunity, but it’s not so simple, SentimentTrader notes. Bond traders will have less time to report transactions if Gary Gensler gets his way. The SEC chief wants to shrink the current 15-minute window, potentially to one minute, and let authorities investigate trading protocols, fees paid and the spread to Treasuries when the trade is agreed.

Abnormal Returns Blog

5. TBF Short Bonds ETF +19% vs. ARKK ETF -42%

6. Low Price to Cash Flow Stocks Huge Outperformance Since First Sell Off

Jeffrey Kleintop Short duration stocks (low price to cash flow) continue to outperform in markets around the world, as they have since interest rates began to rise in August 2020.

7. Volatility VIX Index Did Not Make New High Yet

8. FedEx and UPS both Make New Lows

Not sure if these are good economic indicators of slowdown but…..FDX lower highs and UPS lower highs

9. 2022 Best Cities to Start Business


Jason Kiernan 2022’s Best Large Cities to Start a Business (

10. The Mindful Seven with Tristan Ahumada

By Rae Fitzgerald | April 15, 2022 | 0

How do you inspire an unmotivated son? You send him on a treasure hunt, of course! In a special solo episode, Brilliant Thoughts’ host Tristan Ahumada recounts a parable that forever changed his perspective on life, teaching him seven powerful lessons in the process.

The story centers around a very wise man who, despite his efforts, can’t seem to motivate his son to take charge of his life. The father ends up sending his son on a faux treasure hunt that takes him far away from their village. After a two-year journey the son returns home, and instead of being upset with his father for lying about the treasure, he thanks him for the many lessons and life experiences he had along the way.

The son explains that as he traveled toward the treasure, he was thrown into many new situations, expanding his awareness; however, he missed a lot of opportunities for reflection. On the journey home, he was able to be more present, able to notice the changing seasons and fellow travelers around him in a way he hadn’t before.

There’s a lot to glean from this parable, but to Ahumada, it is essentially a story about mindfulness. After reflecting on the most important takeaways, he organized them into a list of helpful suggestions called “the mindful seven.”

1. Monitor your self-talk.

Self-talk is the conversation you have with yourself, your internal monologue. It’s an important voice to be aware of because it reflects your mindset. If you’re telling yourself things like “that was stupid,” “everyone’s against me,” or “I can’t take it anymore,” you will unconsciously act those realities out in order to prove yourself right.

“It’s that self-talk, whether it’s positive or negative, that determines how we live our life and how we show up on a daily basis,” explains Ahumada. “Because what we continually tell ourselves is what we project, what we focus on.”

Family, friends and colleagues tend to know when you’re experiencing inner turmoil; they instinctively stay away. That’s because we create our lives from the inside out, so when negativity bubbles up to the surface, it’s an indication that it runs much deeper. If you want to be more mindful in general, you have to start by noticing the way you talk to yourself.

2. Think about how you use the spoken word.

The words that you use, and the tonality in which you use them, matters. Even more than self-talk, the way we approach the spoken language has a tremendous impact on the people around us. It can be used to communicate and uplift or to tear down. To Ahumada, the key is to make a habit of talking about the good things going on in your life rather than complaining by default.

“Now I’m not saying hey, look at toxic positivity where everything looks amazing,” says Ahumada. “We’re talking about you deciding what to focus on in your day.”

We all experience fear, anger and sadness—it’s part of being human. We are all subject to situations outside of our control. However, Ahumada wants us to remember that we can control how we choose to respond to those situations, as well as the things we focus on. Choosing not to dwell on things outside of your control begins to encourage the mindset of abundance.

3. Make time for daily reflection.

Intentional contemplation is the key to becoming aware of what’s really happening in your life. Making time for daily reflection will allow you to shift from a fixed mindset, which is quick to accept defeat and reject criticism, into a growth mindset, which embraces challenges and sees effort as the path to mastery. You won’t know which one you’re using unless you take time to reflect on your day.

“All it takes is five minutes at the end of the day to look back and think, ‘How did I treat people?’” says Ahumada. “And that’s where you begin to change right through that reflection, that’s key; that’s where growth happens.”

4. Always be learning and unlearning.

If you want to grow, it’s not enough to just gather new information; you need to constantly be challenging your assumptions about what you know to be true or right. To Ahumada, exposure to more people, whether in person or on the internet, is the best way to do that.

“There are so many things like this podcast, YouTube videos, audio, books that create the environment that you want to live in,” he says. “Surround yourself with those people that can help your mindset grow.”

5. Practice the things you’re afraid to do.

If there’s something you’ve been wanting to do but are afraid to get started, that’s a pretty good sign you need to be working your way up to it. Growth doesn’t arise out of comfortable, certain situations; it happens when we test ourselves, challenge perspectives and conquer fear.

Working through something uncomfortable helps challenge the limiting beliefs that are holding you back. It doesn’t happen when you just do it once, though; it’s essential to be constantly practicing whatever you’re trying to improve, whether it’s self-talk, reflection or something totally different. Just like you should always be learning and unlearning, you should always be practicing the new lessons to solidify them into habit.

6. Prioritize the big three.

Especially in Western culture, people tend to think about the mind and body as separate, almost distinct entities. Ahumada says that it’s all you—your mind, body, spirit and emotions. These aspects of personhood are actually inextricably connected and constantly affecting each other. Together, they comprise the self, which should be everyone’s number one priority.

Number two of the big three is family, which Ahumada recognizes looks different to everyone. It could be your pets, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your partner or whoever else brings goodness into your life. Part of being human is having and maintaining relationships because other people have a profound effect on your well-being.

After self and family, Ahumada says you need to be taking care of your business, whatever that looks like. It could be a side hustle, writing a book or a steady job; the type of business isn’t important, only that you make it a priority.

7. Follow a routine.

You have the power to design and implement a routine for self-betterment. Following a routine is the practice of making mindfulness a habit, and it ties the previous six together seamlessly. A disciplined routine doesn’t just create freedom, but also greater awareness, which is ultimately what mindfulness is all about: noticing thoughts, actions, feelings and sensations.

“Scientists don’t fully understand the brain, it’s so complicated, and they’re not even close to figuring it out,” says Ahumada. “The one thing they do know, though, is that you can change habits, is that you can change yourself by changing what you input.”

At the end of the day, you’re the only person in charge of your growth. The good news is that you can do it—you are totally capable of navigating your own ship, especially when you embrace the mindful seven.

Rae Fitzgerald