FH Summer 2020

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2020 ECONOMIC OUTLOOK Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev



Economic Outlook - Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev


Business Briefs


6 Secrets of Highly Motivated People


Developing mental toughness using ancient stoic customs


Your Expectations for Exercise are stressful


1 Minute Self Care to Reduce Stress


Meet the team


Range of services


to the Summer 2020 edition of our newsletter.

As always this issue contains a variety of articles which we hope will be of interest to you and your business. If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our highly experienced team will be happy to assist you.

Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev

WHERE TO, MR. MARKET? COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a flood of mon-and-pop day traders and long-only investors into the markets. This process began in late April and continued through May. Stuck at home, and overwhelmed by the news flows of the rapid bounce in the financial markets, the punters have rushed to buy up everything and anything they can get their hands on, from advanced economies core markets ETFs to bankruptcy-declaring airlines and car rental companies’ stocks. Meanwhile, institutional investors are awash with liquidity at extremely low cost, thanks to the Fed and all other Central Bank pumping trillions of dollars into the global financial system.

Driven by the combination of the expected positive fundamentals (namely, forecasts for a robust V-shaped recovery in the U.S. followed by fast-paced recoveries in the emerging markets) and by unprecedented monetary policy developments through 2022, global equities have entered a new bull market phase. Left unperturbed, investors’ expectations are likely to drive markets higher in the medium term, irrespective of the underlying individual assets’ fundamentals. Put differently, we are in the hype period of asset markets valuations, when corporate finance, as a discipline, matters none to the bullish buyers.

The caution of February-March has been thrown to the wind.


BOOMING RETURNS AND THE NEW BULL MARKET S&P 500 total return index is up 11.27% in the last 3 months, while the broader S&P 900 index has gained 11.19%. More narrowly-based larger companies S&P100 has returned 12.85%. Year-on-year, the three indices are up 12.72%, 11.84% and 17.07%, respectively.

CHART 1: S&P 100 and S&P 500 gap to S&P 900 Total Return Indices Source: Author own calculations based on data from S&P 40

As these numbers confirm, and the chart below illustrates, we are witnessing increasing concentration in returns at the top of the equities distribution by company size. Larger corporates are being priced up more aggressively than smaller, more growth-oriented firms. Which indicates that investors are neither looking for value, nor for future growth potential, despite the markets being driven by a massive drop in risk aversion. This goes against the dominant asset valuation theories and practice of finance, collapsing risk premium in the higher growth ranges, and increasing returns in lower growth assets.


S&P100 vs S&P900 TR gap


S&P500 vs S&P900 TR gap

25 20 15 10 5 0 31.03.2010 30.06.2010 30.09.2010 31.12.2010 31.03.2011 30.06.2011 30.09.2011 31.12.2011 31.03.2012 30.06.2012 30.09.2012 31.12.2012 31.03.2013 30.06.2013 30.09.2013 31.12.2013 31.03.2014 30.06.2014 30.09.2014 31.12.2014 31.03.2015 30.06.2015 30.09.2015 31.12.2015 31.03.2016 30.06.2016 30.09.2016 31.12.2016 31.03.2017 30.06.2017 30.09.2017 31.12.2017 31.03.2018 30.06.2018 30.09.2018 31.12.2018 31.03.2019 30.06.2019 30.09.2019 31.12.2019 31.03.2020



CHART 2: S&P Buybacks Index premium over S&P 500 Index, percent

Related to this phenomena is another notable feature of the new bull market: the rebound in investors’ willingness to take on leverage risk. Expectations of future buybacks, debt gearing and dividends payouts - the factors that commanded a massive discount on the downside of the markets back in March are all back in favour. Chart 2 next shows that the premium on S&P Buybacks Index has swung from severely negative (-2.4% average for mid-March through mid-May), to positive (averaging 3.83% since the start of June).

Source: Author own calculations based on data from S&P 25 20 15 18% premium 10


In other words, investors are reverting to the pre-COVID-19 modus operandi. In the age of lower long-term economic growth expectations underpinned by the secular stagnation hypothesis of ageing demographics, cheap debt and ample liquidity being supplied by the Central Banks take precedence over prudent management of company balance sheet and cash flows.


20% discount


07.05.2010 22.07.2010 05.10.2010 17.12.2010 04.03.2011 18.05.2011 02.08.2011 14.10.2011 29.12.2011 15.03.2012 30.05.2012 13.08.2012 25.10.2012 14.01.2013 01.04.2013 13.06.2013 27.08.2013 08.11.2013 27.01.2014 10.04.2014 25.06.2014 09.09.2014 20.11.2014 06.02.2015 23.04.2015 08.07.2015 21.09.2015 03.12.2015 19.02.2016 04.05.2016 19.07.2016 30.09.2016 14.12.2016 02.03.2017 16.05.2017 31.07.2017 12.10.2017 27.12.2017 14.03.2018 29.05.2018 10.08.2018 24.10.2018 10.01.2019 27.03.2019 11.06.2019 23.08.2019 06.11.2019 23.01.2020 07.04.2020

31.03.2010 15.06.2010 27.08.2010 10.11.2010 26.01.2011 11.04.2011 24.06.2011 08.09.2011 21.11.2011 07.02.2012 23.04.2012 06.07.2012 19.09.2012 05.12.2012 21.02.2013 07.05.2013 22.07.2013 03.10.2013 17.12.2013 05.03.2014 19.05.2014 01.08.2014 15.10.2014 30.12.2014 17.03.2015 01.06.2015 13.08.2015 27.10.2015 12.01.2016 29.03.2016 10.06.2016 24.08.2016 07.11.2016 24.01.2017 07.04.2017 22.06.2017 06.09.2017 17.11.2017 05.02.2018 20.04.2018 05.07.2018 18.09.2018 30.11.2018 19.02.2019 03.05.2019 18.07.2019 01.10.2019 13.12..2019 02.03.2020 14.05.2020


This willingness of investors to take on higher liquidity, leverage and concentration risks and carry long equites with weaker financial fundamentals is further exemplified by the recent developments in the corporate credit markets. Chart 3 below shows the recovery, from recent COVID-19 driven lows, in the corporate bond indices for prime investment grade (AAA) rated debt, investment grade bonds (BBB) and junk bonds (CCC and lower ratings).

CHART 3: Corporate Bond Indices, Total Returns Source: Date from FRED database 1000


CCC and lower (High Yield)


900 800 700



Off-March 2020 lows, AAA-rated debt is up 12.17%, BBB-rated debt is up 14.89% and junk bonds are up 18.09%. Given that corporate bankruptcies have increased 48% in May 2020, compared to May 2019, having previously risen 27% in April, investors bidding up junk-rated debt clearly signals the lack of markets concern for solvency and prevailing optimism that current excess liquidity conditions in the markets will persist into the medium term future.

500 400 300 200 100 07.01.2007 07.04.2007 07.07.2007 07.10.2007 07.01.2008 07.04.2008 07.07.2008 07.10.2008 07.01.2009 07.04.2009 07.07.2009 07.10.2009 07.01.2010 07.04.2010 07.07.2010 07.10.2010 07.01.2011 07.04.2011 07.07.2011 07.10.2011 07.01.2012 07.04.2012 07.07.2012 07.10.2012 07.01.2013 07.04.2013 07.07.2013 07.10.2013 07.01.2014 07.04.2014 07.07.2014 07.10.2014 07.01.2015 07.04.2015 07.07.2015 07.10.2015 07.01.2016 07.04.2016 07.07.2016 07.10.2016 07.01.2017 07.04.2017 07.07.2017 07.10.2017 07.01.2018 07.04.2018 07.07.2018 07.10.2018 07.01.2019 07.04.2019 07.07.2019 07.10.2019 07.01.2020 07.04.2020



FOLLOWING THE MONEY This pivot is rational in the short run.

Global monetary policy interventions have been unprecedented, not only in volume terms, but also in breadth of their reach. Interest rates and asset purchases policy responses have been swift (from early March through May), coordinated globally (with 93 Central Banks worldwide having engaged in monetary easing of one type or the other), and closely coordinated with fiscal policy stimuli. They also targeted idiosyncratic cashflow and liquidity bottlenecks created by the COVID-19 crisis, providing support for companies cashflows and banks’ balance sheets and capital buffers. Equally important, all major Central Banks dramatically expanded the mix of traditional and nontraditional policy tools. Last, but not least, the Central Banks most recent guidance - from Bank of Japan to Peoples Bank of China, from the ECB to the U.S. Fed, from the Bank of Canada to the Bank of England - references 2022 as the first potential stop for the monetary policy revision.

U.S. Federal Reserve has been injecting liquidity into fiscal and financial assets at a maddening pace since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of March through the end of May, Fed has pumped USD1.06 trillion into M1 money supply and USD2.52 trillion into M2 money supply. M1 includes funds that are readily accessible for spending, such as currency held outside the monetary-financial system and demand deposits. M2 includes a broader set of financial assets held principally by households, namely M1 plus savings deposits, small-denomination time deposits, and balances in retail money market mutual funds. However, over the same period of time, MZM - Money Zero Maturity - stock went up by USD 3.69 trillion. MZM is defined as M2 less small time deposits plus institutional money funds, and the gap between M1 and MZM effectively measures the amount of money available to institutional investors, or the Wall Street. This amount rose USD2.63 trillion during the COVID-19 pandemic and USD3.52 trillion year-on-year.

In other words, the financial markets party unleashed by COVID-19 is likely to persist in the medium term (the next 12 months or longer).

CHART 4: Fed Total Assets less Eleminations from Consolidation, billions of US Dollars

The key transmission channels from the monetary policy to the Wall Street valuations are forward-looking and tailwindsupported. On the tail winds, BOJ, ECB and Fed alone have injected some USD 5 trillion worth of funds into financial assets, ranging from sovereign bonds to mortgages-backed securities (MBS). This translates to an average monthly money supply increases of more than USD 600 billion. Prior to COVID-19 pandemic onset and October 2019 money markets panic, the same central banks were cutting global supply of liquidity by ca USD 200 billion per month.

Source: Data from the Federal Reserve FRED database 8,0 7,0 6,0

12 years of the Greatest Economy in History: Wall Stree and Banks: $ 5.1 trillion Main Street: $ 1.5 trillion

5,0 4,0 3,0 2,0 1,0

Rescuing the Wall Street $1.1 trillion + The Main Street $0.6 trillion Rescuing the Banks & the Wall Street $1.7 trillion

Rescuing the Wall Street & the Banks $2 trillion + The Main Street $0.9 trillion

Rescuing the Wall Street (money market) $0.35 trillion

01.01.2003 01.06.2003 01.11.2003 01.04.2004 01.09.2004 01.02.2005 01.07.2005 01.12.2005 01.05.2006 01.10.2006 01.03.2007 01.08.2007 01.01.2008 01.06.2008 01.11.2008 01.04.2009 01.09.2009 01.02.2010 01.07.2010 01.12.2010 01.05.2011 01.10.2011 01.03.2012 01.08.2012 01.01.2013 01.06.2013 01.11.2013 01.04.2014 01.09.2014 01.02.2015 01.07.2015 01.12.2015 01.05.2016 01.10.2016 01.03.2017 01.08.2017 01.01.2018 01.06.2018 01.11.2018 01.04.2019 01.09.2019 01.02.2020


Chart 4 above highlights the amount of funding pumped by the U.S. Fed into the financial system in the U.S. since the start of the current crisis, as well as liquidity supplied in the Global Financial Crisis and during smaller money markets blowout of 2019. Not surprisingly, Fed policies, aided and supported by other Central Banks, are spilling into a bull market run globally. As of the time of writing, three quarters of countries tracked in the MSCI World index are up more than 20 percent on their COVID-19 lows. This is the highest level since early 2010. MSCI All Countries World Index itself is up 40% off the March 23 lows.


MEDIUM TERM VS THE LONG RUN In the longer run, however, the issue of what exactly the investors buying and at what valuations will have to be addressed, once the monetary policy starts shifting from aggressive intervention to neutral. As the friends of mine at the GlobalMacroMonitor (GMM: https://global-macro-monitor. com/2020/06/10/why-so-few-bears-own-park-avenue-apartments/) wrote in a recent research note: “There is a rapidly growing group of people who think the laws of economics have been suspended. That is there are no constraints on financial resources.” The GMM folks calculated that the average starting point for each historical bull market between 1974 and 2009 was at the U.S. equity market capitalization just over 53 percent of the country GDP. On March 23, 2020, the date of the launch of the new bull market, that ratio was 105.3 percent and by end of last week, it was heading toward 170 percent mark, or 25 percentage points above the peak of the dot.com bubble.

Most likely, the earliest when the head winds of the future monetary policy reversals should start appearing on the horizon will be Q2 2021. At this stage, investors should start unwinding their long-only positions and shifting into safe haven and tail risk hedging assets, such as counter-cyclical and high quality corporate stocks, select Government bonds, gold and cash. The trigger for the forthcoming markets sell-offs, most likely will be emerging markets’ assets and secondary quality-rated Government bonds in the Eurozone. However, a spike in the U.S Treasuries can predate these and complicate traditional hedging strategies. Safe sailing, until then.

Which brings us to the point of advice: investors will do well to carefully take profits off the table and maintain current equities exposures at a fixed level as the current medium-term bull run progresses through the rest of 2020.

Prof. Constantin Gurdgiev is the Associate Professor of Finance with Middlebury Institute of International Studies (California, USA) and an Adjunct Professor of Finance with Trinity College Dublin (Ireland). His research is concentrated in the fields of investment, geopolitical and macroeconomic risk and uncertainty analysis. Prof. Gurdgiev serves an adviser with a number of fintech start ups, and a co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, and a co-Founder of iCare Housing Solutions, two non-profit organizations working with the issues of financial empowerment. In the past, Prof. Gurdgiev served as the Head of Macroeconomics with the Institute for Business Value, IBM, the Director of Research with NCB Stockbrokers, Ltd, and the Editor and Director of the Business & Finance magazine.




European Union leaders plan to meet physically in Brussels for the first time in months in a bid to break deadlock over a recovery plan intended to counter the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic. The European Commission has proposed a €750 billion recovery fund of grants and loans and a generous new seven-year budget, but member states disagree on the size of the package and how to split it between member states. A group of so-called “frugal” states led by the Netherlands also oppose giving out grants that member states would not need to repay, while countries such as France insist this is essential to avoid burdening weaker economies with additional debt. To break the deadlock, a summit will be held in mid-July, ending months in which leaders of the member states have conferred only remotely due to the health restrictions of the pandemic.

The majority of Irish office workers want to see more automation in their workplace, with almost half saying they would change jobs for a company embracing it more, a new survey claims. The research, which was carried out by Censuswide for digital transformation specialist OpenSky and involved 1,000 people across Ireland, found 62 per cent would like to see their organisation embrace more automation, such as robotic process automation (RPA) which reduces time-consuming, repetitive tasks. That was more pronounced in Carlow, Dublin and Cork. Just over a quarter believed automation would results in a four day work week, and 35 per cent said they thought automation would allow them to do their work more effectively.



Over half of Ireland’s young people have concerns about losing their job as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey commissioned by Bank of Ireland (BoI). The survey, carried out by Ipsos MRBI, of 1,000 consumers aged 16 and over took place over the first half of May. It found that 53pc of people under the age of 30, who were only coming into the jobs market at the time of, or since, the last recession, are most concerned about losing their job, compared with 38pc for the population. BoI found that those most impacted by the health aspect of the virus, such as those over 60, were the least affected financially, as they typically are mortgage-free with lower regular bills. Conversely, the least affected health-wise, mainly those under 30, are some of the most affected by the economic and financial aspects of Covid-19.

Construction output in Ireland is expected to suffer a contraction that would surpass any single-year decline during the financial crisis, according to figures from industry forecaster Euroconstruct. New figures show output in the sector is expected to fall by 37.7pc this year. According to stockbroker Davy, this would be worse than the most significant fall during the financial crisis of 33.6pc in 2009. Expectations regarding the fall are the worst in Europe, though reflect the UK figures, where a fall in output of 33.4pc is expected. Annette Hughes, a director at EY-DKM Economic Advisory, which compiled the figures for Ireland and is a member of Euroconstruct, said the drop in output is expected due to the shutdown of construction sites after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic here. She believes onsite health guidelines may also affect productivity.



HIGHLY MOTIVATED PEOPLE Build the right habits and motivation will find you Most of us have met people who are always passionate and full of life. It seems that they have a secret stash of motivation. Well it turns out that motivated people do have an undisclosed font of enthusiasm and energy. Many highly motivated people don’t think about the source of their energy because they have developed habits that ensure that they remain motivated and enthusiastic at all times. All of us are motivated from time to time but people who are constantly motivated have found methods that help them to constantly create more vigour. Enthusiastic and energised people craft a life that ensures that they have a constant source of additional motivation by surrounding themselves with activities that create energy. I’ve singled out six habits that we can learn from people who never lose their zest for life.




Manage your energy rather than your time Energy is what drives motivation.

Most of the efficiency and self-help advice that we get is all about improving our time management. The sage advice makes all kinds of suggestions on how to use our time more effectively so that you get more out of the day. They miss one point. Motivation has nothing to do with time. Motivation is all about energy. No matter how much time you have, if you spend that time on energy sapping activities, you’ll never find your motivation. Fortunately, the opposite is also true, no matter how little time you have, you can get a lot done if you have loads of energy and passion.


The difference between one man and another is not mere ability . . . it is energy. ― Thomas Arnold This suggests that you should concentrate on how to improve your energy rather on how much time you have. Here are some suggestions to get you going: Begin each day with the most stimulating activities. This is the best way to kick start your day. It ensures that you have something worth getting out of bed for. Completing an exciting task will stimulate you to continue onto the next task of the day. Find someone else to do the energy sapping activities. Find someone to delegate the energy sapping tasks to. Opportunities to outsource abound and there is always someone out there who is more than willing to do the tasks that leave us drained. Do all the energy sapping tasks at once. If there are draining tasks that you just can’t give away, batch them all together and do them all at once. That way you can at least clear away all of the draining activities and then get on with doing those things that motivate you most. In setting up your daily routine, centre your plans around the energy requirements and not the time taken. When you plan your days, make energy, not time, your guiding principle.


The people we mix with have a huge impact on our own emotions and attitudes. Enthusiastic people know that and they use the knowledge to their benefit. You’ve no doubt noticed in your daily interaction with others how their attitudes to life can affect your own enthusiasm and energy. • Happy positive collaboration with motivated and energetic people can leave you feeling almost instantly motivated and full of the joys of life • In the same way a negative person can leave you feeling drained and devoid of any motivation. The people that you spend a lot of time with have the power to affect the way you feel most of the time.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. ― Jim Rohn If you are constantly in the company of people that sap your energy, you can hardly expect to come out of those interactions feeling motivated and raring to go. On the other hand, if you seek the company of motivated and enthusiastic people you will find that their enthusiasm will have a positive effect on your own feelings. So, think carefully about who you spend your time with. • If you’re seeking a new position, take a careful look at how much energy the people in the office have. • If you’re looking for a business partner make sure that you find one with loads of energy. • If you’re looking for a nerd romantic partner make sure that they don’t drain you of energy. To feel more enthusiastic and motivated in your own life, you have to keep company with the people who create energy rather than draining it.




Celebrate even your smallest achievements. You’ll find that it will empower you to greater motivation. It’s simple enough to do and it’s worth the effort.

So, here’s the lesson in this.

It’s all about rewarding yourself for the behaviour that you want to perpetuate. Humans like recognition and reward, and so it has a positive impact on future behaviour.

Celebrating your own accomplishments costs nothing. You don’t have to splash out on luxury gifts or throw a huge bash. The timing of the reward is more important than the size. when it comes to building motivation, immediate reward pips a delayed one to the post every time.

When you run your first half marathon and your friends and family celebrate your achievement with you, wishing you well and congratulating you, you are much more likely to sign up for the next one.

There are plenty of small celebrations that will motivate you to achieve more:

If you’re willing to share your problems and concerns with your partner and they offer you sympathy and approbation for sharing you’ll be willing and even enthusiastic to speak to them about your concerns in the future.


Learning to regularly celebrate your own accomplishments will lead you to create a motivation that will help you to achieve your ambitions in the future.

• Take yourself out for your favourite lunch when you’ve finished a masterly presentation at work. • Congratulate yourself when you achieve an A on a test. • Buy yourself your favourite coffee as a reward for starting an exercise routine. It makes psychological sense to reward yourself for a job well done.

Failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.


It’s not the end of the world if you fail. The only people who never fail are those who have never tried. If you’re too harsh on yourself in the face of failure, you’ll slay your motivation. People with low self-esteem tend to criticise themselves harshly and look judgmentally upon the errors that they have made. • They consider themselves unworthy. • They indulge in negative self-talk. • They castigate themselves, believing, incorrectly, that it will motivate them to do better in the future. Beating yourself up and mistreating yourself will not improve your motivation, quite the opposite. It will lead to further mistreatment and unhappiness. Fortunately, the opposite also applies.

― Winston Churchill

Being compassionate with yourself will help you to recuperate from a setback. Enthusiastic people not only stay motivated and invigorated – they are also accomplished at growing their motivation and vitality even when they suffer setbacks. The most effective way to ensure that your motivation and energy remain intact after suffering a setback is to forgive yourself and treat yourself with compassion. • Speak to yourself with kindness as you would to a friend who is unhappy. • Empathise with yourself. You are, after all, more than the sum total of your errors. • Making mistakes and feeling terrible about them is no reflection of your own skills or talents. Treat yourself gently and you’ll stay motivated even when the going gets tough.



Every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.


― Benjamin Franklin

As much as the people that you interact with can sap your energy, so too, can the environment.

The design of your environment can help you to stay motivated

We all like to think that we are in control and have the solution to everything, that with enough positive energy we can overcome all the odds.

It isn’t always possible to change your environment, but you may find that it isn’t as difficult as you think. And redesigning your work or living space can have a major impact on your energy and motivation levels.

This is not true

• Make time to discuss your problems with your partner in a relaxed environment over coffee on the weekend.

Your environment is vitally important to how you feel and how much energy and motivation you manage to drum up on a daily basis.

• Make sure that your desk is properly arranged and sorted before you leave in the afternoon so that you can walk right in in the morning and get stuck in.

• Getting into an important discussion with your partner as you climb into bed at the end of an exhausting day is unlikely to end well.

• If you plan to take up running make sure that you have suitable gear before you start.

• Working in a disorganised work environment is likely to suck the energy from you and lead to procrastination and distraction.

The resolution to motivation problems is not just about exerting more self-control, it is possible to create an environment that supports your objectives rather then making their attainment more difficult to achieve

• Taking a run on an icy morning with inappropriate gear will quickly put you off any further exercise.



If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. ― Greg McKeown Make sure that you’re spending your motivation on the things that matter rather than squandering it on trivia.

Accepting every task despite conflicting motivations has a way of draining your motivation and energy

Prioritise the important things and you’ll find that you have plenty of motivation:

When you run out of energy, your motivation will disappear along with it. How can you expect to find the energy and motivation to complete important activities when you’re using all your energy on unimportant and trivial ones?

• If your relationship is important to you, you won’t spend every night in the pub • If health is important to you, you’ll get out of bed early and go off to the gym

• How can you find the time to pursue vital tasks at work if you are always taking on other people’s tasks?

• If the success of your business is really important, you’ll give up your weekend sports plans to spend with your business partner making plans for the future.

• How can you pursue a great new hobby if you have already committed to spending your evenings at the movies?

Everyone has a finite level of energy. If you drain yours on the things that aren’t important, you’ll have no energy left for the things that matter most.

• How can you spend time with your family if your always out and about?

In summary You can remain constantly motivated by developing habits that ensure that you spend your energy on the things that matter and surround yourself with people and environments that feed your energy rather than draining it. By changing the way that you do things you can ensure that you have more than enough energy to do the things that matter.




TOUGHNESS using Ancient Stoic CUSTOMS

LEARNING FROM MICHAEL JORDAN AND MARCUS AURELIUS As a child I was huge Michael Jordan fan, as were many other sports fans. For me he is the absolute epitome of mental toughness. Right now, I am part way through a series that documents Michael Jordan’s last basketball season with the Chicago Bulls. The Last Dance is a great documentary even for those who are not basketball fans. The series offers you a view into the life of one of the world’s greatest competitive sportsmen ever. Many believe that Michael Jordan is the best player of basketball in the history of the game. He won every one of the 6 NBA finals that played in. Other basketball icons like Magic Johnson, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Larry Bird have all lost at least one championship game. Many people see Michael Jordan as the epitome of mental toughness. There was no stopping him. He was a legend. One great story that lives on is the 1997 NBA Finals where he played a major role in the game despite having a stomach bug. If you’ve ever had a stomach bug, you’ll know that it lays you low. Despite being ill Jordan showed up and during the course of the game managed to score 38 points. There are few healthy players have can boast even one game where they scored as many points. Michael Jordan’s life was beset by challenges and distraction which would have set back a lesser sportsman. And he was not just physically talented, what set him apart was his mental toughness.


Understanding Mental Toughness? The concept of mental toughness has not been around for long and has origins in professional sports. Around twenty years ago the concept started to draw the interest of the scientists.

confident, and in control under pressure.” Mental toughness defines how well you can perform in a pressurised situation. The construct has recently drawn more interest because the pressure we face in every aspect of our daily lives is steadily increasing. Many people refer to mental toughness using words such as determination, persistence and resilience.

In a paper published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology in 2002, Graham Jones, Sheldon Hanton, and Declan Connaughton defined mental toughness as: “Having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused,

The references to mental toughness maybe new, but the concept has been around for more than 2000 years and goes all the way back to the Stoic Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Indifference to Indifferent Things Equals Mental Toughness The concept of mental toughness originated from the world of sports. Michael Jordan was a perfect example of an athlete who could perform well even when he was pressured. No matter the circumstances, he was never distracted and did what he had to do. This becomes abundantly clear in the documentary.

what he did was very similar to the Stoic concept of “indifference to indifferent things.” Jordan’s talk brought to mind the words of the Stoic Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. He kept a journal called Meditations in which he wrote: “To live one’s life in the best way: the power to do this resides within our soul, if we are capable of being indifferent to indifferent things.”

So how does the man in the street develop the type of mental toughness demonstrated by Michael Jordan. The ability to perform well in a pressurised environment is something that all of us can do with.

This is the first law of Stoicism. According to the Stoics you should worry only about those things that are important to you. Remain indifferent to the feelings and circumstances that are obstacles to achieving your dreams. These are just noise and should not detract you from your mission.

This year has not been easy, living though lock down brought on by the pandemic has resulted in a fast-changing global environment with uncertain outcomes that all of us must deal with. Mental toughness can ensure that we perform consistently when the going gets tough.

Marcus Aurelius as a Stoic had as his life’s objective the moral good that the Stoics pursued. Michael Jordan would not be distracted from anything that got in the way of winning the championship.

In watching Michael Jordan in the documentary, I realised that

Indifference in Practice The works of the Stoics Seneca, Epictetus and Aurelius are instructive on how to practice indifference. They highlight the importance of repetition and practice. If you want to develop mental toughness you have to start to practice indifference in your everyday life.

It’s easy to practice. If something is important you pay attention and do what has to be done. If it is unimportant get on with your life. Since all of this revolves around what is important and what is not, you can only start to practice this if you understand your priorities. Personal goals are a prerequisite for mental toughness.

• When things happen that upset your equilibrium, get over it

You must have a set of core values. This presumes that you understand yourself allowing you to focus on the things that are important and ignore the rest.

• Understand what your highest objective is and pursue it indifferently • Make sure that everything is centred around your life’s goals

Right now, all of us face daily challenges so it should be easy to find ways to practice the ancient art of indifference. Keep practicing and you should soon start to see a change in the way that you think. You’ll know when you are starting to develop mental toughness when your actions become predictable and consistent.

• Don’t be indifferent to everything • This is how I have started practicing indifference in my life • I dropped my expensive smart phone in the pool - Indifferent. • Someone who had read an article of mine left constructive criticism of the article - Not indifferent. • Someone in the office spread rumours about me - Indifferent • My child fell and hurt herself badly - Not indifferent.


YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR EXERCISE ARE STRESSING YOU OUT The secret component of an effective workout plan through the eyes of a personal trainer.

Richard had been a high school sporting hero, but as time passed, he found a job, got married and had a family and suddenly eight years had passed in which he had not once visited a gym. I’ve been a personal trainer for a number of years. Over that period each of my clients has approached me with the same problem. Their experiences may all sound very different. But after careful consideration it becomes clear that all are pretty similar despite the fact that their fitness training has followed very different paths.

Here are the stories of some of my clients.

Sue had managed to lose a couple of stone. She ran regularly and went to

aerobics classes three times a week. As time progressed, she was finding that she had to do a lot more exercise just to maintain her weight. To make matters worse, she didn’t feel well, battling daily with fatigue.

Ken had managed his own daily workout routine. He would take a long run every day. Do an hour of High Intensity Interval Training after work each evening and maintained a strict diet. Despite this, he didn’t feel well and suffered with fatigue and a general disinterest in life. Sharon had never done much exercise. She realised that she needed

to get into shape but hesitated for months before contacting me. This is because she felt a little embarrassed to contact a professional trainer in her poor shape. She feared that she wouldn’t be in any condition to manage the exercise plan that I would put her on. Exercise, she felt, must wait until she was fitter.

It may not sound as though these stories have anything in common. But, in fact, there is one common theme. Not one of these people is enjoying their exercise. Two of them chose not to exercise at all and two just drove themselves harder and harder. All of them felt that the exercise was out of their control. It was not making them feel good and was tiring them out rather than improving their health. If you want exercise to inspire and revitalise you, relieving stress and making you feel good, you have to use your exercise sessions to make a connection with yourself.


Let’s change our attitude to exercise Many people seem to think that the more they exercise, the healthier they will become. But if you just keep adding to the exercise burden, the amount of exercise can become exhausting and too much to manage. When you start to stress out about the amount of exercise that you have to do rather than allowing it to relieve your stress, you’ll find that it becomes too much to handle over the longer term. I believe that this misconception happens because of societal expectations. Society has idolised the svelte and healthy form and rejected less than perfect chubbier shapes. The current belief appears to be that the unhealthier you are the more exercise you need.

Richard’s training, for example, became unmanageable when he became an adult with all the stresses and responsibilities of daily adult life. Sue just added more and more exercise to her routine in her quest to stay ahead of the weight gain. Ken kept running an extra mile as he sought to stay fit. Sharon kept putting off the exercise in the belief that she had to start with a higher fitness level than was her current truth. Like most things in life, if you are to stay motivated and gain vitality from your workout routine, it must add value. If it’s not adding value, you’ll quickly sop enjoying it and your workout will become a chore.

This belief consigns exercise to the realms of punishment. It’s become a penance for the sin of being unfit. The belief is that you can earn your place amongst the fit and healthy by breaking your back on the treadmill or undertaking hours of high impact exercise every week.

It is my experience that people make their workout routines far more stressful than they need to be. They also believe that they need do more exercise and use more energy than they do to stay fit. So, exercise becomes a load rather than a revitalising stress relieving process.

Exercise is seen as the punishment for the evil of becoming unfit and unhealthy. It is the price that we have to pay for daring to allow ourselves to lose form and deviate from the glorified body shape of the 21st Century. With this attitude it’s little wonder that we find exercise so stressful.

Using exercise as the means to an objective

It can happen that as you start to regard exercise as a way to attain an objective, rather than an enjoyable pastime that keeps you in tune with your body, the exercise become unmanageable. If exercise is a means to overcome your shortcomings or your feelings of not quite making it, you’re missing the point of the exercise and you’re failing to see the power that you have in this place and time. If, like many, you exercise to lose weight, you may be tempted to speed things up by vastly increasing the amount of exercise that you do each week. This is counterproductive and will lead to exhaustion, making it more difficult to lose weight. If your workouts are ongoing attempts to chase that illusive dream, you will keep giving more and more until you have exhausted all your strength.

Choose the exercise plan that celebrates who you are and you will have found that plan which will leave you happier and healthier.

Exercise to celebrate your life

When you change the way that you think about exercise, when it’s no longer about pursuing an external objective, you’ll find that illusive strength and the vitality. You’ll find that your workout does relieve the stress and it will leave you feeling full of life and re-invigorated. Before you embark on a punishing workout that leaves you feeling tired and rundown, consider how you can create an exercise plan that celebrates your life.


THE 1-MINUTE SELF CARE PRACTICE TO REDUCE STRESS EFFECTIVELY Take full control of your life in just 60 seconds Stress is a dual problem. It refers both to the mental awareness of tension and the physical response to that tension. There are times when stress is essential to our well-being. It is the means by which we recognise and react to confrontations Stress happens when you believe you are at risk or facing hazards. As soon as you face a perceived threat your body reacts by triggering hormones which put you on high alert. This is what triggers, in turn, the fight or flight response.

Stress occurrences can include all kinds of events including relationship problems, work related stresses such as retrenchments or physical danger such as when you happen upon a spider along your hiking path. When such events occur your body releases cortisol along with a rush of other hormones. Even though this rush of hormones may save your life in the event of a dangerous encounter in the wild, it does little to solve ongoing problems such as relationship problems or a life-threatening illness.


Stress is not good for you, so it is essential to find a way to effectively manage it. You need to find that reset button to get on with your daily activities, stress-free. I’ve recently started using a system called STOP. It’s a self-care practice that takes just one minute, and it works. I have found it to be one of the most effective means to stop stress in its tracks.

How to use STOP


STOP is an acronym for Get Still, Think, Observe and Pivot. STOP offers you a method of taking a quick look at your health. It is about living in the moment, helping you to evade the mix of feelings, thoughts and a lack of energy that can result in stress build-up.

When you are faced with a stressful event, try to relax or get still. This should help to overcome your natural fight or flight response, your immediate reaction to run or defend yourself against the threat. If you can calm yourself down under such circumstances, you will have control over the situation. Your mental strength is greater than the power of your body. Knowing this you can use the power of the brain to take control of your body. Calm yourself down, inhale through your nose while you count to five and take control.

STOP can help you to do a self-assessment offering you a means to overcome stress and a way to identify what it is that triggers your stress. STOP consists of four easy steps as detailed below. Each step will take you 15 seconds

THINK Once you have regained your equilibrium, try thinking about the circumstances unemotionally. Consider what it is about the event that activates your stress trigger. It will help if you allocate a word to the situation. Perhaps someone cut you off in the traffic and that triggered your response. The word traffic would adequately describe the stress trigger. Having identified what upset you, you can start to objectively consider your thoughts and reactions to the event. Doing this allows you to reduce the triggers into smaller more manageable parts.

OBSERVE Once you know what triggered your stressful event, try to stand outside yourself as an objective observer. Consider what caused you to react as you did to the trigger. Understand what triggered the intense emotional reaction to the situation. Observing yourself from a distance can help you to understand the situation better. It is an essential part of caring for yourself.

PIVOT Having calmed yourself down, named your stress trigger and seen yourself through the eyes of a neutral observer, you are now ready to pivot the way that you think. This is a formidable tool that can help you escape from the spiral of your thoughts. The aim of the pivot is to take you to the place that makes you happiest. Go to the place of your dreams. Keep a mental picture of your happy space, let yourself escape to that place and it will draw you right out of your stressful situation.

The fifteen second intervals that I have suggested for the process works for me, but you may take longer. If you need a minute for each step, then take your time. The whole point of the process is to draw you into the now when you’re stressed and need some respite.


Creating a STOP habit A habit is something that is difficult to give up. It is a routine part of our lives. We can access habits when the going gets tough. This is why it is important to make a STOP one of life’s habits. You may be called upon to use the process even when you don’t feel inclined to. You must, therefore, make the process a regular daily part of your life.

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I suggest that you set up a regular self-care schedule much like the one below:

On arising each day, consider your waking thoughts. Take time out in the first five minutes of the day to take a hard look at yourself and what’s going through your mind. Observing yourself as an outsider would will get easier as you practice. It will also help you to improve your STOP efforts.

Find your happy place and take some time to enjoy it, wherever it may be from your favourite hiking trail to sunny beach or a tranquil riverbank. Choose your place, real or imaginary, and try to visit it every day.

Make sure that you schedule meetings, appointments and other activities with a 15-minute gap in between so that you have time to STOP and to rejuvenate yourself. Think of the breaks as a breather that you can use to calm yourself and find internal peace.

Try to express situations and emotions with a single word. Thus “I am happy today.”, “My hobbies are interesting”, “Public transport is frustrating”. When you can express your feelings or circumstances in single words, you’ll have a better handle on how to manage them.

2 4 Practice STOP and you’ll soon find that you can encounter and manage stressful situations more easily. This system has worked for others. You can make it work too.


Meet The Team Frances Hegarty

Orla Sorensen

B.B.S, A.C.A., A.I.T.I., Dip. I.F.R.S, Dip. In Forensic Accounting, Dip. In Insolvency

B.A. Fin, HDip IT, ACMA



Frances is a highly qualified Chartered Accountant who has been operating her own practice since 2009. Prior to this she was a partner in a busy Cork City based firm where she gained a wealth of experience. Frances has a very pragmatic approach to business which clients appreciate and for which she is very well respected for with a phenomenal client retention rate. From the outset Frances has always had a hands-on approach with her clients, partnering with them closely with the goal of seeing their business reach its full potential. With a comprehensive and up to date knowledge on all things tax related Frances specialises in providing her clients with expert advice on taxation matters. In her spare time Frances enjoys travelling & spending time with her family.

Orla is a CIMA qualified accountant with 12 years post qualified experience, initially in Industry accounting and more recent years in Practice accounting. Orla joined the team in 2018 having previously worked in a city-based Accountancy Practice. Orla prepares small enterprise annual financial statements, monthly management accounts, client tax returns and deals with a variety of client queries. In her spare time Orla enjoys singing, basketball, yoga and spending time with her family.


Nicole joined the team in 2011 having previously worked in another practice in a similar role where she gained a wealth of valuable knowledge and experience. Originally coming from the ladies fashions industry Nicole has over 20 years experience in administration. Along with her administrative role within the practice Nicole also uses her book-keeping skills to prepare client VAT returns, payroll and bank reconciliations. Nicole co-ordinates the day to day running of the office ensuring that all clients needs are met and Revenue deadlines are met in a timely manner. In her spare time Nicole enjoys lifting heavy weights and competes in the sport of Powerlifting. She represented Ireland on the IPF Masters team in 2019 where she brought home a silver medal.


Aíne is a CIMA qualified Accountant with over 14 years experience working in both manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies. During that time she has worked in different roles gaining excellent experience in costing, month end reporting & budgeting. Aíne looks after the weekly upkeep of our clients bookkeeping requirements along with preparation and submission of client VAT returns.

Jurgita Janceviciute

Maria McGrath



Our payroll specialist, Jurgita, looks after the payroll requirements for our clients. With her Payroll Fetac Level 5 qualification, she has an excellent knowledge in this area. Jurgita is currently working towards her Accounting Technician qualification in CIT. Jurgita joined the team in 2019 having previously worked as Office Manager/Bookkeeper in an Auctioneers office. She also works in our accounting department assisting in the preparation of end of year accounts plus preparation and submission of VAT returns. In her spare time Jurgita enjoys travelling and also loves to bake, creating amazing works of art for her friends and family!

Maria has over twenty years experience with the Company Secretarial aspect of practice, having begun working in the Company Secretarial department of a city-based Accountancy Firm in 1997. Maria has been with the practice since its initial opening in 2009. Maria looks after the Company Secretarial requirements for all our clients working closely with them to ensure deadlines are met and are up to date with all Company Secretarial requirements. Maria is also involved in the preparation of client end of year accounts.


6a Crestfield Centre, Riverstown, Glanmire, Co. Cork, T45 PY09 (021) 455 6960 info@fhegarty.com