Why Entrepreneurs Matter?

By Eric T. Wagner, Forbes Contributor

My friend and former business partner died a couple weeks ago.  32 days after he was told he would.  The doc had told him his body was wracked with cancer.  So in a New York minute, it was done.   He was gone.

As I thought about him over the past month of his life, I wondered what he was thinking as he lay there knowing he was dying.

Did he look over his life with any regrets?  If so, what were they?  What did he wish he wouldn’t have done?  What did he wish he would have tried?  If it were me in his shoes — basically just waiting around to die — what would I regret about my own life?  And more to the point, what would you?

Yes, I tell you this story for a reason…

If you’re reading this, then you’re alive.  You still have a chance to make a difference.  As entrepreneurs, you and I have the opportunity to change the world.

Now does that mean we have to go off and build the next Google or Apple?  Or solve poverty and world hunger?  No.

But should we at least try?


Bill Gates is an entrepreneur trying to change the world.  Now, I’m not going to debate whether you like Microsoft or not.  Yes, I know — I’ve pushed that darn reboot button more times than I can count too.  But that’s not the point.

The point is Bill is an unshakable entrepreneur driven to make a difference in this world.  Whether he is founding a behemoth software company or radically changing an entire culture by saving the lives of children.  This guy is a rock star entrepreneur building an unbelievable legacy.   Not only as a business guy — but also as a husband, father and philanthropist.

Now, I know you may not have all the skill sets or resources of Bill Gates.  But that doesn’t matter.

You’re alive.  You’re an entrepreneur.  You still have a chance.

You can build your own legacy.  You can change the world.  Even if it’s just the world of your own family, friends and customers.

It’s up to us my friend.  So let’s stop being afraid of stepping out.  Let’s start being bold in taking chances on our ideas and dreams.  Let’s not reach the end and look back with regrets.

So what’s my friend’s legacy?  I don’t know…  and that’s what scares me.

Are you an entrepreneur?

If you don’t know me, I’m Eric.

Husband, father & life-long entrepreneur…

If you’re an entrepreneur, let’s connect.

You can find me at Mighty Wise Media and my email is: eric at mightywisemedia dot com.  You can shoot me yours right here so we can chat, okay?

And remember, don’t be afraid to step out and make a difference.  🙂

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Qing Ming Festival

Chinese families throng cemeteries to pray to departed souls during Qing Ming Festival

GEORGE TOWN: Thousands flocked to Chinese cemeteries in Penang over the weekend to perform their filial duties during the Qing Ming festival.

The main roads leading to cemeteries in Batu Lancang, Batu Gantong, Mount Erskine and Paya Terubong saw a bumper-to-bumper crawl.

Despite the hot weather yesterday, families were seen cleaning tombstones, burning paper replicas of various items and offering food to their ancestors.

In rememberance: Family members offering food and prayer items to their ancestors at the Batu Gantong columbarium Sunday.

Qing Ming, also known as the Tomb Sweeping Festival, falls on April 4 this year. It is a traditional Chinese festival which is usually observed on April 5 except during a leap year when it falls on April 4, and is commemorated from 10 days before to 10 days after the actual date.

Salesman Lee Tuck Ming, 75, said that besides paying homage to ancestors, Qing Ming was an opportunity to reunite with his big family of 30.

“Our parents used to like merriment, so all my 10 siblings and their families come back from Singapore, Klang and Butterworth, no matter how busy they are,” he said at the Mount Erskine columbarium yesterday.

Lee said the family had bought two paper lazy chairs as offerings for his parents for the first time.

“We believe that after burning the lazy chairs, my parents would use them in the netherworld,” he said.

At the Kwangtung and Tengchow Association Crematorium in Mount Erskine, businessman Cheng Ooi Hwa, 47, said he had prepared a paper bungalow and a car for his father who passed away 20 years ago.

“This is an annual affair in my family and it’s important to pass this traditional practice from generation to generation,” he said.


Old political habits die hard

With the floodgates of rebellion wide open, the revolting masses easily deviate from the rosy promises of change.

APART from legal and ethical issues, a problem with foreign intervention against any national polity is that conditions often worsen rather than improve for all concerned.

That is clearly a given with military intervention, even if the bitter lessons are seldom learned. The US invasion of Vietnam and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan produced catastrophic results, until the unspoken consensus became withdrawal as the best or only option.

Still, the US remained a serial military interventionist with Afghanistan and then Iraq. It exposed as mere bluster Madeleine Albright’s warning to an uncooperative foreign leader that Washington had a “long memory.”

But while the various problems of military intervention are habitually obscured by the perceived imperatives of state, however fleeting, self-seeking or illusory, the challenges of non-military intervention are as serious without being well-discerned.

Theocratic autocracy: The demands of an Islamic state suggest that Tunisians want something other than what is available through the ballot box. — AP

Non-military intervention takes several, less conspicuous forms, from Congressional funding of dissident groups to covert financing, arming and training of insurgents, agents provocateurs, NGOs and opposition figures, to outsourced ad hoc assassinations of foreign leaders. But as with overt military action, its goal is foreign regime change.

The current trend is to combine the work of contracted NGOs or agents provocateurs with official diplomatic pressure at UN level. The military option comes only as a last resort, for reasons of public image, moral high ground, cost and “deniability”.

However, the resulting problems of a non-military option are just as unavoidable even if they are more easily concealed. The consequences of all efforts at regime change can be just as intractable, with the costs being as prohibitive.

As the so-called Arab Spring continues to unwind unremittingly, whether or not accompanied by bombing sorties against government positions, it is generally heading from corrupt autocracies to the absolutism of an Islamist theocracy.

However, it would be wrong to characterise the revolts as failures, much less betrayals. Undemocratic forms of regime change tend to produce unpredictable and unsavoury outcomes as a natural consequence.

In Tunisia during the week, where it all began in December 2010, a crowd gathered in central Tunis demanding an Islamic state. Police on duty estimated the demonstrators as up to 10,000.

Demonstrators also turned their anger towards perceived offences against Islam. Ethnic strife is on the way, with signs of Salafi-Jewish conflict in the capital since last weekend.

If the Arab Spring means democratic governance where a sizeable majority had freely and knowingly opted for an Islamic state, then the country deserves what it gets as a result. But the demands of street demonstrations suggest that the demonstrators want something other than what is available through the ballot box.

Western supporters of these revolts have begun to be disappointed, if not also soon to be shocked and appalled. After investing in these “revolutions” through money and weapons, the foreign sponsors are finding that the supposed objective has veered from a liberal democracy to something approaching theocratic autocracy.

It was plain naivety from the start to assume or expect that any street revolt would go according to “plan”. Neither the rebel nor the rabble exists to service any foreign interventionist’s wet dream.

Egypt also began the week with similar propensities. From last Sunday, it emerged that 60% of Islamists had come to dominate the 100-member panel assigned to draft the country’s new Constitution.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) now effectively lead mainstream public opinion, with representation for liberals, Christians and other minorities shrinking to a new low. The only visible bulwark against creeping religious extremism is the interim army-backed administration, which the FJP accuses of dragging its feet on the transition.

The scheduled presidential election is in May for a new government to take power by July 1. Meanwhile the FJP, which has just under 50% of parliamentary seats, has been grooming its presidential candidate while attacking the military council and the Cabinet over a variety of alleged failures.

It is not insignificant that the military council is being targeted by its chief political opponents for alleged sins of omission rather than of commission. For those with fewer vested interests, the ruling council is merely doing a difficult job in difficult times.

The FJP itself remains strategically vague about its intentions, particularly in relation to making new laws. Coupled with the announcement last weekend that Islamists had won a majority in the Constitution-drafting body, this has begun to worry liberals and minorities.

The hardline Salafi presence in particular has heightened anxieties about Egypt’s political future. Salafis are now pressing for tough new laws to “reflect properly” Egypt’s new status as an Islamic state.

The military council itself is not helping to balance the equation by unwittingly aiding the FJP in sidelining liberals and secularists. In the medium and long terms, the military and all its permutations will not even amount to a counterweight to a theocracy.

On present form, the military would readily morph into an appendage of a full-on Islamic state. The alternative of being marginalised politically simply as dispensable ballast helps to make the military more pliable.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has criticised Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri’s Cabinet as being worse than ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s. For demonstrators, this in effect means that the interim government itself deserves to be toppled even before the May election.

Analysts see the MB as trying to pressure the military to stage a coup to replace Ganzouri’s government with the FJP’s line-up. Impatience and the lust for power have combined to erase any earlier commitment to democratic change.

Liberals have cause for concern on other fronts. An MP’s proposal to ban online porn has now become a priority for the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology.

What usually starts out as a virtuous-sounding effort can easily lead to other forms of censorship and surveillance, particularly of political dissent. Tunisia earlier considered a similar ban but abandoned the idea out of concerns about political abuse.

However, that has apparently not bothered Indonesia, which has asked BlackBerry to help censor Internet porn. And for the first time, BlackBerry’s Research in Motion has in recent days agreed to the request.

Now the Indonesian government is trying to monitor the online use of BlackBerry owners by seeking to access and track the information they send. Whatever the language used, whether “Arab Spring” or “reformasi”, there is a pervasive deja vu after much initial noise and action.

The resulting reality seldom matches the early promise of the idealism expressed on the streets. But have the clamorous crowds in Cairo, Tunis, Tripoli or Jakarta learned anything from recent experience?

Indonesia today is unlikely to drift towards any theocracy. But deepening government controls amid widening corruption can only encourage a return to the bad old days and ways.

Theocratic and secular regimes differ little when both subscribe to stringent state controls, intolerance for social and political diversity, and an overpowering sense of self-righteousness. They also share a similar fate of decline and demise, but not before inflicting widespread hardship.

Among the lessons still to be absorbed is that some political habits like autocracy can be hard to break. And why would any new theocratic or other state born at street level be more liberal or liberating than anything before it?

– Behind The Headlines By Bunn Nagara

China’s Dragon Still Breathing Fire

Frank Holmes Frank Holmes, Forbes Contributor

China’s manufacturing grew at the fastest pace in a year. We follow the government’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) closely, as we believe it is a better indicator of China’s domestic demand than the separate HSBC PMI. Whereas HSBC PMI surveys 400 small and mid-sized companies, which are typically exporTAIYUAN, CHINA - JANUARY 12:   A 126 metre lon...t-oriented, the government’s PMI surveys 820 mostly large, state-owned enterprises across 20 industries.

(Image credit: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images via @daylife)

Though manufacturing activity exceeded analysts’ estimates, some China bears focused on the fact that the March 2012 number is lower than the average during the third month from 2005 through 2011. What’s important for investors to consider is that the trend is your friend: It is the fourth month in a row where the PMI landed above the three-month PMI, and shows the economy is on the right path.

Below are three additional constructive trends we see in China.

1. China Returns Poised to Revert to the Mean

Over the past few years, Chinese stocks have lagged compared to their emerging market peers.  Just pull up a chart of the FXI, EEM, EWZ and EWW. However, the Periodic Table of Emerging Markets perfectly illustrates how last year’s loser can be this year’s winner. Historically, every emerging country has experienced wide price fluctuations from year to year. Over time, though, each country tends to revert to the mean.

In the visual below, we highlighted China’s performance pattern over the past 10 years. Chinese stocks landed in the top half four out of 10 years-2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. In 2003, China climbed an astounding 163 percent; in 2007, it was the top emerging market again, returning nearly 60 percent.

Since then, the country has fallen to the bottom half of the chart. If you apply the principle of mean reversion, history appears to favor China landing in the top half during this Year of the Dragon.


2. Liquidity Cycle Could Benefit Stocks

Yet China leaders won’t leave its success to pure luck. If the Dragon doesn’t breathe fire into markets, it may be a shot of liquidity injected by policy easing that could drive stock prices higher. Macroeconomic theory states that when a country’s money supply exceeds economic growth, the excess liquidity tends to drive up asset prices, including stocks.

BCA Research documented this trend in China over the past eight years. The research firm compared the difference between the change in money supply growth and nominal GDP growth and Chinese stock prices. In both instances when the change in excess liquidity fell to a low, so did stocks. Conversely, the rise of money supply growth compared to GDP growth “coincided with major rallies” for China’s stock market, according to BCA.

Global Liquidity

Today, it appears that the change in excess liquidity is just beginning to bounce off another low, as are stocks, indicating another potential inflection point.

3. Incentive to Maintain Growth

BCA hedges China’s possible stock advancement in the short-term if signs of economic improvement continue because they “reduce the odds of aggressive policy easing.” A few weeks ago, I discussed how investors seemed to overlook China’s focused macro policy strategy, with its actions deliberate and purposeful. This year, the government has extra incentive to sustain meaningful growth as it transitions to a new leadership by the end of the year. As President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao depart, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang are expected to take over.

China Leaders

Looking at historical GDP growth per year since 1978, Deutsche Bank finds there’s precedence for this idea. During the fifth year of the leadership transition cycle, “high or stable” GDP growth was maintained, with the exception being the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997.

China Historical GDP Growth

When I was in Singapore at the Asia Mining Congress last week, I was fortunate to be among a group of sharp and intelligent experts across the financial and mining industries. A China bull presenting an excellent case for the country was Jing Ulrich, JPMorgan Chase’s managing director and chairman of China equities and commodities group. She’s the Oprah Winfrey of the investment world, as for the past three years, Forbes has ranked her among the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business.

Ulrich expressed similar views toward China and its political will in a recent “Hands-On China Report” following her attendance at the China Development Forum in Beijing. She said that the government ministers emphasized their commitment to rebalancing the economy toward consumption.

While “fundamentals are currently sound, the nation must modify its ‘imbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable’ course of development,” says Ulrich. What investors should remember is that the government had the financial resources to effect this change and considered it important to maintain sustainable growth.

U.S. Global Investors, Inc. is an investment management firm specializing in gold, natural resources, emerging markets and global infrastructure opportunities around the world.  Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/USFunds or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/USFunds.

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