01 December 2021

The Challenge of Cognitive Dissonance

Reflections of my Life The Challenge of Cognitive Dissonance: Reflections of My Life Vernon Chalmers Photography
"One of the hardest things to do in life, is letting go of what you thought was real." — me.me

During the past year I referred to Cognitive Dissonance in several of my articles and Facebook comments. 

Now, in the final stretch and conclusion of my own ‘healing journey’, herewith an explanation, own interpretation and personal experience on how Cognitive Dissonance can sometimes cause incessant confusion, uncertainty and disparity in our minds.

Many of us may suffer from a degree of Cognitive Dissonance at some time in our lives - meaning we are challenged by a mental discomfort and / or mental conflict when dealing with toxic people (or habits) in our minds, but struggle to let them go.

Powerful 'positive' thoughts of what 'could be' overwhelms the mind as we are challenged by the paradoxical thinking of them being, perhaps, just misunderstood or needing more time rather to accept them as abusive and toxic (towards us). For many of us this is difficult to comprehend - that someone in our lives that was once so charming and nice can become so abusive and evil. 

We know they are not good for us, they function different from our own beliefs, personal values and / or expectations, but we still maintain contact with them - or worse-case scenario, stay committed in an abusive relationship. We don't really want to let them go, but at the same time live in fear of their dysfunctional behaviour. Even while experiencing continuous abuse we try and hang on to the mirage at any (emotional / physical) cost - in the hope that their toxic behaviour towards us will change. The sad reality is that abusive behaviour without any significant psychiatric and / or psychoanalytical intervention won't change, can't change.

The continuous cognitive disparity between the positive belief in someone and the conflicting negative thoughts / disappointment with regard to their antisocial behaviour can have a significant impact on our own mental health.

I have experienced cognitive dissonance during an intimate relationship - although subjected to perpetual emotional, physical and verbal abuse I still believed in the relationship and wanted it to succeed.

01 November 2021

Trading JSE CFDs in Turbulent Times

Chart Image Credit: PPC Cement Daily Chart View by TradingView (Standard Online IRESS ViewPoint Software)
“Trading doesn't just reveal your character, it also builds it if you stay in the game long enough.” ― Yvan Byeajee

I've been a stock market investor and share trader on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) for the past 30 years. I became interested in share trading as a junior lecturer in Economics and Business Economics during the early 1990's. The first JSE listed company I invested in was Rainbow Chicken.

This was just before electronic share trading became available to individual investors / traders and for a while I still had to phone through my orders and drive to the broker with a cheque to settle my share transactions. 

When online trading became mainstream I could access, purchase and sell shares directly via the Standard Bank Online Share Trading website. I increased the frequency of buying and selling of shares and steadily developed my JSE share portfolio (and my knowledge). My trading objectives at that stage was not long-term investment and / or a growth portfolio, but rather the buying and selling of shares for cash flow and for learning stock market fundamentals, applications and associated risks.

Through the Standard Bank trading platform I quickly became aware of a range of financial derivates offered to their online share trading clients. For a few years I mainly traded a selection of shares from the JSE-listed Top 40 Companies and financial instruments such as Single Stock Futures (SSFs) and Contract For Difference (CFDs) derivatives. Over the last five years I've only traded CFDs due to my trading / cash flow objectives, associated leverage and a more in-depth understanding of CFD trading risks.

JSE Shares / Derivatives  (SFFs and CFDs) / ETFs Traded up to 2019
Absa / Advtech / Afrox / Anglo American / Aspen / BHP Billiton / Capitec / City Lodge Hotels / Clicks / Dis-Chem / Distillers / Gold Fields / Harmony Gold / MTN Group / MR Price / Merafe / MultiChoice Group / Naspers / Old Mutual / PPC Cement / Pick & Pay / Purple Group / Rainbow Chicken / Remgro / Richemont / Sasol / SA Breweries / Sappi / Sanlam / Spar / Sun International / Sygnia / Standard Bank / Spur Holdings / Vodacom / Woolworths / Currency Futures / Satrix ETFs (various) / Standard Bank Copper ETF / Standard Bank Platinum ETF / Sygnia ETFs (various)

Off and Back on the JSE
In late 2019 I took a break from my Standard Bank Online Share Trading due to other business and personal commitments. This was a time with no daily trading stress and it provided an opportunity for reflecting on my share trading system, trading strategies and for possible re-entering the stock market at a later stage.

When COVID-19 arrived in South Africa (April / May 2020) and we were forced into Lockdown 5 I suddenly found myself without any income. My photography training and my accommodation renting business dried up immediately and I had to make a sustainable plan for generating income and cash flow for these uncertain times. I immediately turned my attention (and time) to the JSE and started my market and company research for purchasing CFDs.

With the sudden drop in global commodity and oil prices Sasol's (JSE Code: SOL) share price was hard hit and dropped significantly in a very short period it definitely peaked my interest. I started buying SOL CFDs at +- R30 per share (currently trading at +- R250 per share - Sept 2021) and very quickly with the upward bounce started buying additional SOL CFDs and slowly but surely developed a CFD portfolio as I gained more market knowledge of the COVID pandemic impact (as a possible Black Swan event) on the local and global financial markets. 

Vernon Chalmers 2020 / 2021 CFD Portfolio : Acquisition Date May 2020
Over the next few months I generated substantial income and cash flow from the SOL CFDs and added many other JSE CFDs to my portfolio (with local and global market exposure). Through meticulous Fundamental and Technical Analysis during 2020 / 2021 I developed a diversified CFD portfolio from 14 JSE Sectors with at least one company in each Sector (with JSE Share Code):  
  • Apparel Retailers: Mr Price (MRP)
  • Asset Managers and Custodians: Zeder (ZED)
  • Banks: Capitec (CPI) / FirstRand (FSR)
  • Cement: PPC (PPC)
  • Chemicals Diversified: Sasol (SOL)
  • Consumer Digital Services: Naspers (NPN) / Prosus (PRX)
  • Diversified Financial Services: Remgro (REM)
  • Drug Retailers: Dis-Chem (DCP)
  • Food Retailers and Wholesalers: Spar (SPP)
  • General Mining: Anglo American (AGL)
  • Hotels and Motels: City Lodge (CLH)
  • Luxury Items: Richemont (CFR)
  • Pharmaceuticals: Aspen (APN)
  • Telecommunications Services: MTN Holdings (MTN) / Vodacom (VOD)

13 of the above CFDs (the listed companies) are constituents of the SATRIX TOP 40 ETF (which tracks the performance of the FTSE/JSE Top 40 Index).

Please Note: The listing of above Companies / CFDs are not recommendations to purchase and / or to hold in any CFD or Share Trading portfolio. This selection is based on my own research (fundamental and technical analysis) for my own (current) individual purpose and may change on short notice. See below section on CFD Trading Risk.

That first share... Rainbow Chicken
I still hold Rainbow Chicken indirectly in my portfolio. Today they are incorporated into JSE-listed RCL Foods. Although I don't own shares in RCL Foods, I trade and own CFDs in Remgro. As one of South Africa's top Diversified Financial Services companies, Remgro owns 77% of RCL Foods.

CFD Trading Risk
Contract For Difference (CFD) trading is a high risk derivative trading decision and / or strategy. CFDs are geared financial instruments that could have a significant profit and / or loss impact on a daily basis. Anyone trading CFDs (or any shares / derivatives) should have substantial stock market / stock trading knowledge and experience with preferably an in-depth understanding of the impact of daily price fluctuations and any volatility affecting the share / sector / economy / global markets. It is extremely high risk trading and it not uncommon for an entire CFD portfolio to be wiped out within a couple of days. 

Developing an Investment / Trading System
As long as I have been investing and trading I've been developing and fine-tuning a system in which I am comfortable with the individual shares, derivatives, leverage, margins and risks. I've learned not just to look at the overall portfolio, but also to each and every share / derivative in my portfolio. Proper analysis, research and decision-making is time-consuming, but its important to assess various criteria via both fundamental and technical analysis. Having an in-depth understanding of the trading / investment platform (in my case - Standard Bank Online Share Trading) is paramount for a successful strategy, operational efficiency and risk management practices.
Although I have a much larger portfolio currently, I'm trading more risk-averse than 30 years ago - mainly due to more trading experience, improved risk management skills, patience, availability of more real-time data and an overall better understanding / interpretation of specific market and economic conditions. Over the years I also traded towards a larger JSE-sector diversification (with global exposure) and selecting companies with relatively large market capitalisations that should provide improved balance, leverage and return on trading capital to my CFD portfolio(s).

JSE CFD Trading Disclaimer
I only manage my own JSE CFD / Global Share / Unit Trust Portfolios and under no circumstances make recommendations on the Purchase / Selling of any JSE / Global Shares / CFDs / Other Derivatives to anyone.

Chart Image Credit: PPC Cement Daily Chart View by TradingView (Standard Online IRESS ViewPoint Software)

01 October 2021

Moving from Left Brain to Right Brain Education...

When I was a young first-year student I made a promise, if ever given the opportunity, I will educate / train others for the rest of my life.” ― Vernon Chalmers

Vernon Chalmers Labour Relations Training SAS Simonsberg Simon's Town Photo Credit: SA Navy
Labour Relations Training SAS Simonsberg Simon's Town, Cape Town Photo Credit: SA Navy

Image 1: South African Navy
 Students and me (I’m back row on the left) from my first ever self-designed training course (on Labour Relations) - as a young training officer / labour relations consultant (responsible for Military Leadership / Military Management / Labour Relations Strategy and Consulting) for the SA Navy at the Military Training School, SAS Simonsberg, Simon’s Town and the SA Naval Staff College (for Naval Officer Training) in Muizenberg during the early 1990’s.

Moving from left brain to right brain education / training…
In-between Image 1 and Image 2 was quite a journey. During these years I had the privilege of lecturing (and designing many training courses) at various business schools, universities and private training institutions in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban in subjects such as Strategic Management, Financial Management, Human Resource Management, Training Management, Marketing Management, Industrial Psychology, Corporate Communications, Economics, Accountancy, Project Management, Information Systems Integration, E-Commerce Strategy, Internet Marketing and Social Media Strategy & Marketing.

I never had a favourite or preferred subject. The privilege to contribute to so many careers and lives came with an enormous sense of responsibility and motivation during the entire left brain lecturing / facilitation period. I have very fond memories of lecturing at the SA Navy's Military Training School / Naval Staff College. I enjoyed the discipline, military organisational structure and the close-knit social environment. One thing I did not really enjoy after leaving the SA Navy was the endless driving between university campuses during the week and many Saturday mornings, but always with the same objectives of being prepared and never to be a minute late (albeit with the same privilege and motivation).

Since 2010 I started with a complete paradigm shift, transitioning from the above to photography. I transformed my photography hobby into an educational, training and support system by first educating myself with a thorough academic understanding of the art and science of photography, followed by application through the research, design, development and facilitation of various Canon EOS Camera & Photography Workshops and currently, one-on-one Training Programmes (Birds in Flight / Landscape / Macro / Speedlite Flash / Lightroom Post-Processing) at my training studio apartment (opposite Woodbridge Island).

My friend and former business partner, Joseph Inns, played an extraordinary role in assisting me with my transition into photography. He's knowledge, experience and personal qualities guided me in more ways he would ever know. Joseph unfortunately passed away in 2021. I dearly miss my friend, but will never forget the impact he has made on my career and life. Grieving the loss of my friend, Joseph Inns

Delegates during a Vernon Chalmers Landscape Practical Session on Milnerton Beach
Delegates during a Landscape Practical Session Milnerton Beach, Cape Town : Photo Credit: Steve Williams

Image 2: Vernon Chalmers Photography Students during a recent Landscape / Seascape Photography Workshop at Milnerton Beach. Theory (settings / composition) was presented at Intaka Island and practical sessions for Canon and Nikon photographers were facilitated around Woodbridge Island and Milnerton Beach.  About everything during the years stayed the same (although I have completely changed subjects). I have the same intensity and interest in the development and training of people. 

Photography is probably more creative than any of the left brain subjects I facilitated, but the personal responsibility, research, preparation, support and ultimately the privilege is the same (for me).

Hybrid Mode: CFD Trading on the JSE
What I did retain form my more analytical 'left brain days' is my Contract for Difference (CFD) trading on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). This is an effective way of keeping my mind sharp and it provides for my only 'set' daily schedule - the JSE is open Monday to Friday between 09:00 - 17:00. I live every week day with these 'office hours' in the back of my mind. Even if I don't trade and walk around Woodbridge Island or Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden doing my photography, I'm always aware of the JSE trading schedule. I trade only for myself therefore the research, decision-making and management of my own portfolio is a challenging 'strategy, application and risk management exercise' for stimulating the left brain. 

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