From Sports to Politics to Aristotle to Teenagers, Highlights from Today’s Wall Street Journal

The Weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal is always my favorite. It’s not all business, and with its Review and Off Duty sections, there’s sure to be sure a story or two that captures the reader’s interest.

Since today’s paper was no exception (even though there was no column from Dan Ariely), I thought I’d share brief summaries of some of the stories I found particularly intriguing, and perhaps you may as well.

Behavioral Economics May Make Champs of the Cleveland Browns

Even though they did not make the playoff, the Cleveland Browns had an impressive season, with a record of 7-8-1 after finishing 0-16 a year earlier. It’s one of the biggest single-season improvements in National Football League history, and the Browns owe it in large part to behavioral economics. The turnaround was orchestrated by a small team of analytics wonks in the front office, led by chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta, who was Billy Beane’s assistant general manager at baseball’s Oakland A’s during the early 2000s. They based their strategy on an academic paper published in 2013 by Wharton’s Cade Massey and Nobel laureate Richard Thaler, “The Loser’s Curse: Decision Making and Market Efficiency in the National Football League Draft.” The basic idea is that a team could exploit other teams’ impatience by systematically trading higher-round picks for more lower-round ones and the current year’s picks for higher-value ones in future years. Such an approach could lead to longer-term success.

Microsoft’s Resurgence Under Satya Nadella

When Satya Nadella became just Microsoft’s third CEO after Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, he began making cloud computing the heart of Microsoft’s business. On his watch, revenues from its Azure cloud-computing business have surged and the company’s share price has nearly tripled, allowing Microsoft to reclaim the title of the world’s most valuable company late last year for the first time since 2003. Mr. Nadella has also made moves to change Microsoft’s culture and make it a more vocal corporate citizen, especially as the tech industry faces greater government and public scrutiny. He and other Microsoft executives have been outspoken in their calls for the responsible use of artificial intelligence. Last year, the company became the first tech giant to call for regulation of facial-recognition technology.

Raising Your Own Rates Even if the Fed Won’t

In a few minutes and with a few clicks of a mouse, you can crank up the yield on your cash by two percentage points, often adding hundreds—even thousands—of dollars to your investment income annually. The only hard part is overcoming your own inertia. The nearly $8 trillion of cash in savings deposits at commercial banks is earning interest at an average rate of 0.09%. Meanwhile, savings accounts at online banks and short-term U.S. Treasury securities are yielding 2% to 2.5%. Savings accounts are federally insured against loss, generally up to $250,000; U.S. Treasurys are considered risk free. Capturing such higher rates on your cash is “the only place in the whole investment world where you can get additional return without bearing additional risk,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.

Aristotle’s Pursuit of Happiness

Aristotle’s ethical system—as described in his major treatises, the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics—revolves around the idea that the goal of human life is happiness, which he called eudaimonia. (In Greek, the root eu means “well” or “good,” and daimonia suggests a guardian spirit or one’s lot in life.) Aristotle didn’t equate happiness with wealth, pleasure or fame. For him, happiness was an internal state of mind—a felicity or contentment that we can acquire only by living life in the best way possible. Real happiness, Aristotle believed, comes from a continuous effort to become the best possible version of yourself. Like his teacher Plato and Plato’s own teacher Socrates, he subscribed to the ancient proverb engraved over the oracle at Delphi: Know thyself.

Don’t Think the Worst About Your Teenager

Parents fear that adolescents are prone to rebellion and moodiness, but research shows that expecting bad behavior can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Though the teen years can be a turbulent time, decades of research show that these stereotypes aren’t inevitable or biological, and they certainly don’t apply to the overwhelming majority of teens, says Richard Lerner, director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University. Christy Buchanan, a professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, found that while, on average, adolescents do engage in more risk-taking, experience more negative moods, and are more likely to fight with parents than younger children, parents need to know that the absolute levels of those things still remain quite low during the teenage years. In a 2016 review of decades of adolescent research published in the Encyclopedia of Adolescence, Dr. Buchanan and Johna Hughes Bruton found that contrary to popular belief, the majority of adolescents don’t experience debilitating or disruptive emotional problems or have a distanced, difficult relationship with parents.

Tom Brady Really Is Bad for Your Portfolio

The Super Bowl Indicator is meant to offer some evidence of how the stock market will perform for that year. If an original NFC team wins, it bodes well for the stock market that year. If the AFC wins, not so much. It’s been correct 77% of the time overall but has been wrong for the past three years. While it’s purely a coincidental observation, it may be reason enough to root for the Rams. Since the Eagles aren’t in the game this year, I have no vested interest in who wins. But if a Rams victory means my stock portfolio will increase in value this year, well then, go Rams!

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey Launches Presidential Campaign

At this point, he’s got my vote…

 

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