October 01, 2012 at 16:31 PM EDT
Market Wrap-Up for Oct.1 (GS, KFT, IBM, MMM, LLY, more)

The market got off to a fairly good start today, although we did close well off the day’s earlier highs. Better-than-expected economic data was the main catalyst for today’s push up for several of the indices.

Taking a closer look at individual names, 3M (MMM) shares gained as the company announced an acquisition of Ceradyne (CRDN) this morning for nearly $900 million in cash. Wall Street analyst upgrades also had shares like IBM Corp (IBM) and Eli Lilly (LLY) finishing in the green. Goldman Sachs (GS) shares pushed higher following this weekend’s Barron’s cover story on the broker and why the stock could be undervalued. Kraft Foods (KFT) was up on active volume as the company’s near-term slpit-up nears.

Give Me Something to Work With

It’s been a tough Fall Ball season for my son’s baseball team, as each game tends to end in a blow-out (with us on the losing end). I have been participating as one of the coaches, and it’s never easy being part of a situation where losing becomes a pattern. Of course, there are bright spots within the mix, as the kids are indeed improving as time goes on. The teams are chosen randomly, so there’s no telling how much or how little talent will land on your team. Regardless, we do the best we can with what we have.

One thing you begin to see with any sort of organized sports league is that as kids get older, the number of kids coming out to play each year slowly begins to decrease. Some kids realize a particular sport may not suit their personal skills, and maybe move on to a different sport or other non-sports interests they have. Some parents realize they can’t find the extra time to cart their kids around to various practices and games, or maybe don’t have the financial resources to pay for the various sports equipment. Whatever the exact case may be, the pool of players continues to fall.

The talent level tends to rise as the filtering process takes place, but at 10-12 years old, we still get newer players taking a shot at playing baseball for the first time. I’ve been coaching a bit for the past two years now, and my message to kids with little or no playing experience is to at least give me 100% effort. The toughest ones to deal with are when the talent isn’t there, the attitude isn’t there, and the effort isn’t there. This combo makes up the proverbial “3 strikes and you’re out” for most coaches.

Now it certainly isn’t life and death when you are talking about youth baseball. As the years go by, however, I ge concerned when kids’ “3 strikes” problem carries over to the academic (and eventually career) front. Having been an owner of several businesses in my life, and having worked for others within various work environments, the key ingredient to success often times boils down to effort as much as talent. Talented individuals who have deeper ambition eventually attempt to succeed at bigger and better things. When the most talented individuals leave or call in sick at key times, that’s when you see the true capabilities of those who have to work a little harder. This concept holds true whether you’re talking sports or business.

It is not surprising to find out some individuals will take advantage of those moments to showcase their ability, whereas others decide it may be a lost cause and do little to exert themselves. These moments can sometimes shape our destiny and be the foundation for achieving much greater things in life.

Again, having been on both sides of the desk (employee and employer), I can tell you that effort is what the “powers that be” want to see more than anything else. Losing at anything in life is tough, but its much worse if you don’t learn or improve because of it.

The Desire to Learn

Constantly learning will benefit you in many areas of your life. You’ll uncover new investment opportunities, such as dividend stocks that are attractive for new money. Or, you can acquire new skills that open the door to bigger promotions in the workplace. You could even pick up enough expertise that you can then venture out on your own as an entrepreneur. As you continue to learn, you can routinely tweak your strategies to accommodate changing market conditions. Heck, you may even want to explore new areas you’d never imagined you would. Looking at my example, I went from being an entrepreneur in the retail space (at age 24) to becoming a full-time trader six years later, only to hone my craft even more, then build a successful investment research business read by tens of thousands of people a day!

Make a promise to yourself to never stop learning. Learn about what makes other people successful. The clock is ticking but it’s never too late! Remember, the older people get, the less likely they are to seize opportunities that come their way. Be proactive, not reactive. Build up your skill-set now to secure a brighter tomorrow.

Bottom line: when you’re always learning, you’re never fearful of the future!

Year-to-Date Results Just Posted

Be sure to check out the year-to-date watchlist posts up on the site today. You can see how well many of the dividend stocks we are tracking have done through the first nine months of 2012. As always, you can find these and other members-only articles on Dividend.com Premium Articles Page.

I hope everyone had a chance to check out our Dividend.com Premium members-only weekend articles , including new features that highlight some of the biggest winners and losers from the week that was, such as analyst upgrades/downgrades and earnings/story stocks. These articles are a great way to catch up on the week that was in the markets. We also have a rundown of how various Dividend ETFs performed on the week.

Be sure to visit our complete recommended list of the Best Dividend Stocks, as well as a detailed explanation of our ratings system here.

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