Take a real break — not just a pause

The biggest risk is being invested at all times

When I was a hedge fund manager, we took two full breaks of a month each. We sold all our positions and just sat on the cash. During the hiatus we honed our pitches for our old and potantially new positions, as well as our arguments for why some of the other managers’ positions shouldn’t be let back in. Then we re-invested from scratch with fresh minds.

This process cost a few tens of a per cent per break in terms of spreads and commission, and possibly theoretically half a per cent in lost returns. Let’s say we left a full per cent of returns on the table per year due to the roundabout. However, I dare say we gained much more in perspective and fresh analysis.

Okay, I’ll come clean. We actually only discussed implenting hard breaks like outlined above, but never had the guts to do it. I still think we should have, but I think two things stopped us:

  1. convention – what would clients say, in particular if prices moved favorably for the portfolio we just sold
  2. fear – we were afraid we would either become lazy and just use the breaks for leisure, or that we would be afraid to put on our positions again, in particular the best ones if they had become more expensive

No matter, breaks are a part of the human condition. We aren’t designed for going full throttle all the time. There’s a reason we sleep.

However, “take a break” does not mean being passive, it means shaking things up, doing other things rather than nothing. At the gym, supersetting could be a break from old habits. Personally, travel is a way of taking a break from my ususal surroundings — just note that it probably shouldn’t mean lying on the beach or by the pool all week. See something new, talk to a stranger, try new food, read a book instead of computer screens.

Take stock

What’s your current situation? Perhaps you trade the stock market all day, go to the gym three times a week and hit the bar 1-2 times a week. Perhaps a good non-fiction book would be the perfect break for you, i.e.,  a slow, long focus activity as opposed to all the adrenaline you usually get.

I’ll tell you a trick that keeps surprising me: Take a walk.

No matter how you’re feeling or what you’re doing, if you just get outside and start walking round the block, you’ll suddenly feel much much better. I know this, and I practice it a lot (thankfully I have a dog, so I get out at least 3 times a day). Nevertheless, I’m often struck by how clear and relieved I feel after just 20 seconds outside.

Sometimes, I might be procrastinating over buying groceries, posting the mail, running an errand, or just going downtown to buy new underwear. Somehow I think it’s a hassle, until I just do it, and realize (again!) how everyting becomes brighter and easier as soon as my feet hit the sidewalk. It definitely beats watching TV in the sofa (even if that feels more tempting right before). Even vacuuming the apartment is refreshing once I muster the strength to just start the damn thing :D

Alright, walks are good, you get it. But the real message here is to take breaks, to go against your habits, to stop the homeostasis. The message is to take active breaks where you do something different, rather than taking a break to do nothing.

  • Do you read a lot? Then write!
  • Do you write a lot? The talk!
  • Do you run a lot? Then lift heavy things!
  • Do you have a lot of indoor sitting meetings? Then take walking meetings outside!

I’m a bit of a loner, so my breaks often entail meeting people. I can’t say it charges me, quite the opposite in the short term. But I appreciate my normal activities all the more, and I gain perspective from it.

When it comes to investing, these days I definitely take complete breaks from considering public companies’ financials. That way, I can start over completely fresh from psychological anchoring points. What I do during my breaks from stocks? I read books I didn’t think I would, and I try new podcasts or podcast episodes that I’m not sure I’ll like (my habit is to only listen to topics and people I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy and learn useful things from).

In particular regarding investing on the stock market, the most important rule there is is “never rush“. Investing is a game of several decades. In that perspective a month here or there is completely inconsequential, whereas the gained insight can prove invulauable.

When did you last take a constructive break? And from what to what?

Here is a tip: plan a strategic getaway, where you alone, or you and your life partner, or you and your business partner travel to a quiet location. Leave all electronics behind and spend, e.g., 2-6 full days planning your life from a several months to several years perspective. Try to take everything into account: personal development, financial goals, realtionships, health etc.

If that isn’t a REAL, ACTIVE BREAK, I don’t know what is. As a bonus, you’ll get to practice mindfulness, deep work, and loosen social media’s addictive grip on you.


If you like my writing you really should check out my podcast Future Skills, which discusses habits, tools and role models that keep you relevant in a future of accelerating technological and societal change.

The show has three kinds of episodes: 1) short, one-idea regular episodes, 2) longer format interviews with authors, researchers, investors etc., 3) medium-length expert episodes and a specific theme.

Check it out, and please leave a rating or review on iTunes to help others find the show.

How can you change the powerful loop that is your habitual life

Topic: You are a product of your friends, co-workers, family, furniture, architecture, restaurants, shops and streets

Discussion: You start out shaping your environment, but soon it’s shaping you, until you form a stable, self-reinforcing loop.

Tip: Try to identify malign loops everywhere you can think of (investing, macroeconomics, relationships, health)

Conclusion: If you’re not happy with your life you probably need to make bigger changes than you might think


Trauma induced psychopatic behavior is inheritable

Psychopaths can be identified through a brain scan. The trait is inheritable and their brain patterns are highly specific. Jordan Harbinger found out as much when he studied psychopaths. Later, when researching Alzheimer’s in his own family he found out he himself had the brain of one of the worst psychos he had ever come across. And yet, he wasn’t behaving like a psychopath, e.g., he never harmed anybody. More about that a little later…


Looping behavior and post traumatic growth

Recent research shows people often react positively to intense stress and shocks. They are beneficiaries of adverse circumstances. Other people develop PTSD from severe stress. Some people turn into raging psychopaths if exposed to a certain kind of trauma, as if the organism says “Apparently, I can’t trust other people, so instead I’m going to use them”. The good news is that they need to carry the psychopathy genes for that. What’s worse, however, is that once the genes are triggered they can be inherited in their triggered state to up to two generations.

Think about that for a while: the genes for psychopathy can be carried but silent forever, but once triggered by a traumatic experience, epigenetic changes occur that means the children and grandchildren of a psychopath can become active psychopaths themselves without the need for triggers. The pattern for inherited antisocial behavior could have significant implications for societies when observed over very long cycles. Strauss and Howe call those cycles “Saeculums” which are about 90 years long, or the span of a long-lived human. More about that in a little while.

Humans move in stable loops. We conform to our environment, move or change it until we fit in. The people we see, the establishments we frequent, what we eat, the shops we go to, the way our living quarters are arranged shape us. Once set, the context decides most of your life for you, just as you become part of other peoples’ life shaping context. If you’re  not careful you’ll live your life as a domesticated animal with hardly any active choices or enriching experiences at all.

In any case, our environment and experiences shape us, and there is good reason to take control of that process, lest we spend our lives as zombies or psychopaths.


Breaking the loop

With some effort you can change your context and break out of your homeostasis. However, unless you actually move, change jobs, spend most of your time with other people and so on, you’re likely to slip right back into your old habits.

By all means, start small: just take different routes to and from work, walk your dog in unfamiliar areas and visit new shops and restaurants. That way you might meet new people which is key. You’ve probably heard that you are a blend of the five people you spend most of your time with. Are you? And do they represent your values and ideals? If not you need to change them or dilute their influence. For that you may need to make bigger changes such as moving and getting another job. Recent research in psychology and psychedelics have shown that certain intense psychotherapy can break a decade of, e.g., depression looping in one single sitting.

Ideally, you want your environment to be like bicycling downhill rather than uphill, that your environment pushes you forward as opposed to hampering your efforts. You could compare the right technological, cultural and social context to always having homemade food in the freezer and your gymbag at the ready, as opposed to candy and cookies at the house.


Two topics fascinate me regarding this interplay between surroundings and choices: does it explain the Fourth Turning theory, and what can be done to prevent too much perosnal looping?


Could transgenerational epigenetic triggers of pychopathy explain The Fourth Turning?

  1. Big traumatic experiences that affect a whole generation of young people can trigger an entire generation of more or less antisocial behavior. Such a psychopathic generation would share certain memories, feelings and behavioral traits that make them prone to certain kinds of decisions in certain kinds of situations and lines of work
  2. Due to the mechanics of transgenerational epigenetics a certain number of their children are affected as well, and a number of their children. Then, for the fourth generation the bad blood (epigenetically pre-triggered psychopathy) is finally cleaned out, creating a generation that is quite different from the other generations.
  3. Unfortunately, when the Social generation and their children are still young, the Psychopaths are in charge of society’s most important institutions and risk causing a new cycle of trauma and psychopaths. Maybe, just maybe, this is part of the mechanics underlying Strauss and Howe’s theory of generational cycles in The Fourth Turning. Well, I’ll leave that to Howe, whom I’ve recently contacted regarding his updated edition of the book.

What can be done to counter your own laziness, homeostasis and looping behavior?

  1. Humans have a very limited agency as it is, i.e., room for voluntary action that is not immediately and deterministically triggered by circumstances. Some would say we have no free will at all. Be that as it may, but at least we feel we can change our behavior just a little.
  2. Thus it’s crucial to tweak and design one’s surroundings as thoughtfully as possible, to make them conducive to… well, whatever it is you want to achieve.
  3. The following might help: Feng Shui furniture, dark bedrooms, TV placement, computer and phone screen habits, refrigerator contents, shopping habits (I recommend shopping groceries online, right after having eaten and using fixed lists).
  4. Learn to be aware of, recognize and break non productive loops and ineffective coping behavior. Try to guide your coping behavior to loop-breaking rather than loop-reinforcing, e.g., by letting thoughts of “staying the course”, “choosing laziness” trigger the opposite. Drop to the floor right now and make 10 push-ups. Don’t feel like it? You’ll do it later? But there are people around? Those are the exact triggers you want to make you do it without delay. Now!

Conclusion and summary

Never mind the Fourth Turning, that’s for another day and another author, no matter how fascinating.

Take charge of your context. What do you want to achieve? What do you need to achieve that? What kind of traits would help? Where do people with those traits live and hang out? Seek them out. What traits are in the way? Stop seeing people with those characteristics. Design your life around people, activities, companies etc. that  on average are what you want to be. Make a plan on how to get from here to there and take the consequent action, be it moving, resigning, take a course, break up and so on.

Just be careful what you wish for; you need a very good grasp of who you truly are and what you really want, before taking drastic action.

Final thoughts: If you’re not happy with your life something is seriously wrong. I know people who are retired and pretty well off who have planned for reading books and making oil paintings but find themselves constantly renovating the house, just as constantly complaining they never have the time to relax, read and paint. They are stuck in a loop, unhappily so. Are you happy with your job, your activities after work, the level of meaningfulness in your social life, your overall level of belonging and self-actualization etc? If not, no New Year’s resolution about going to the gym or joining a book club is going to change that.

You need to put yourself in a whole new context.


P.S. If this resonated with you here are two suggestions: 1) bookmark my website, 2) check out Start Gaining Momentum and his book Breaking Out Of Homeostasis.

Ekonomi i en parrelation på Börshajens event på Hovet i Stockholm

Summary: this post is in Swedish

Slutsats: framtiden kanske inte alltid blir som man förväntar sig, men inte heller det förflutna är vad man minns att det var

Investeringar: Investera i din person, hälsa, dina relationer och din ekonomi idag och skörda imorgon, men skjut inte upp livet för det levs i nuet

   


För några dagar sedan pratade jag och Anna Svahn (bilden – jag är också med där någonstans men i svart kostym) om hur man kan hantera hushållsekonomiska frågor i en parrelation. Jag tror det ska gå att hitta våra 12 minuter någonstans på svtplay eller på Börshajens websajt. I korthet hade vi tre idéer:

  1. prata om ekonomin tidigt (och det man ska prata om är vad man ska sköta tillsammans och vad man ska hantera separat — om något). Observera att det inte handlar om att upprätta någon slags millimeterrättvisa, utan om att komma överens om hur man ska sköta ekonomin, att bli överens tidigt för att slippa prata om det sen.
  2. ha alltid möjlighet och beredskap att ta ansvar för dina egna utgifter (även så små saker som en glass eller utekaffe, annars riskerar det att successivt byggas upp till ett allt värre irritationsmoment i onödan
  3. planera gemensamma aktiviteter och inköp — spara tillsammans och dröm tillsammans. Det är lättare att hålla igen på vardagslyxen om man vet att ens partner också gör det och vad belöningen längre fram består i

Vi spelade även in ett avsnitt (nummer 12) av min och Annas gemensamma podcast Outsiders samma kväll efter eventet på Hovet. Podden tar upp frågor om ekonomi, sparande och aktier på ett lättsamt sätt med ett lite filosofiskt anslag snarare än massa siffror. Avsnitt 11 handlade t.ex. om flockbeteende på börsen, och avsnitt 10 om råvaror. Avsnitt 12 hanterar frågor om just ekonomin i en parrelation, dvs det vi pratade om på Börshajens event den 5 maj 2018.

På eventet pratade även Kavastu. Han hade ett pedagogiskt sätt att inspirera till ökat sparande, nämligen att tänka att en utgift på 100kr idag egentligen är en utgift på 500kr, eftersom det är vad den är värd i en lagom avlägsen framtid om den investeras rätt. Det är bra tänkt och gäller definitivt onödiga utgifter (*host* Ferrarin jag köpte av Zlatan *host* och *host* Lambocabben jag uppgraderade till efter Ferrarin för över 10 år sen *host*).

Men, det gäller att inte glömma värdet av att leva nu jämfört med sen. Visst är det skönt att ha de pengar man behöver på ålderns höst, men kom ihåg att man också blir mindre aktiv och uppskattar andra saker när man är 78 år jämfört med 28 år. Många gånger kan en hundralapp spenderad idag vara värd 1000 kr i minnen i framtiden. Alternativt kan den aktivitet som ska framkalla en viss personlig nytta kosta 1000 kr när du är 78 år men bara 100kr när du är 28. Och då har vi inte ens tagit med risken att du inte ens blir 78 år och Kavastus femhunka blir värdelös!

Så för att knyta ihop säcken: jag och Anna pratade om att prata om och planera den gemensamma ekonomin tidigt för att undvika konflikter och problem i framtiden. Kavastu föreslog kreativ bokföring för att lura sig själv att spara mer och konsumera mindre, och Elin Helander (Hjärnkoll på pengarna) pratade om hur man kan kringgå våra evolutionära felmatchningar för att ge upp belöningar idag för att uppnå mer i framtiden. Evolutionen har gjort oss kortsiktiga, men effektivt sparande kräver långsiktighet. DET var det bärande temat för våra framföranden.

 

Tidigare idag läste jag även den här korta artikeln om att ge sig själv gåvor i framtiden genom att ta rätt beslut idag. I artikeln pratar Stephen om att uppskatta dagen och undvika att bortse från nuet för se fram emot någon obestämd framtida tidpunkt då det är tänkt att du verkligen ska leva.

“You know how you sometimes look forward to things?

Careful!

I’m guilty of this too, but when you begin looking forward

to an exciting event in your future,

in doing so, you devalue today”

Observera att det är en svår balansgång mellan att njuta av minnen av svunna dagar, att uppskatta nuet, och att planera för att ge sitt framtida jag bästa tänkbara förutsättningar. Ingen kan säga vad just din balans ska vara – en marshmallow nu eller två sen – men det är värt att aktivt tänka på att det finns en balansgång så du kan anpassa valen till just dina preferenser.

Stephen sa även följande:

To me, maximizing my choices today means paying attention to my physical health, mental health, relationships, and productivity

Jag håller med mer eller mindre ordagrant, men jag vill lägga till att jag njuter när jag tränar, när jag skriver, när jag lär mig eller mediterar — så jag njuter lika mycket i nuet av de aktiviteter som ger mig gåvor i framtiden. Det om något är en superkraft jag är glad över. Däremot är sparande inte så kul, så som tur är ägnar jag mig mest åt att leva upp mina tidigare ihopsparade tillgångar. Om du är intresserad pratar jag mer om meningen med livet här.

Just det ja, jag glömde nästan podcasten med Barry Ritholtz om teknikinvesteringar jag lyssnade på idag på gymmet. Den fick mig att tänka på hur svårt de flesta har för att tänka mer än en period framåt. Det är t.ex. lätt att tro att biltillverkaren Tesla ska ta över marknaden för elbilar bara för att de var tidigt ute med en uppskattad prestigemodell. Det är t.o.m. lätt hänt att tro att man därmed är en visionär investerare som “förstår elbilar”. I själva verket har man emellertid missat att i period två kommer alla andra biltillverkare upp på banan och ökar konkurrensen enormt. Jag har sett alltför många exempel på investerare som bränt sig på case som t.ex. Fingerprint, där en tidig branschledning inom ett visst teknikområde obarmhärtigt raderas ut när de etablerade spelarna börjar springa i samma riktning.

Så är det i Tesla nu. Alla som ser mer en en period framåt, förbi århundradets short squeeze, förbi den initiala branschledningen, förbi utspel om gigafabriker och påhitt som bilar i omloppsbana runt Mars, märker nu hur Tesla ligger hopplöst efter inom alla teknikområden och dessutom snart tappar relativförsprånget inom både elbilssubventioner och utsläppsrätter. Läs mer om min syn på Tesla här (sammanfattning: kursen ska till 50 från 300 och sen kanske ner till 0).

Om man inte förstår ränta-på-ränta-effekten, eller “tool by tool”-effekten där tekniken i en generation används för att designa bästa generations teknik och så vidare, så lurar tyvärr det linjära tänkande evolutionen försett oss med att dra helt fel slutsatser om vart vi är på väg.

Här är några grejer du kan ta med dig från dagens artikel:

  1. Investera för framtiden — i dig själv, din hälsa, dina relationer och din ekonomi
  2. Glöm inte att leva nu också, tänk på att balansera sådd och skörd med inte alltför långt mellan investering och konsumtion
  3. Lyssna på min och Annas podcast Outsiders — du hittar oss t.ex. här på Soundcloud men vi finns överallt
  4. Om du inte vågar dig in på börsen finns alltid Lendifys (som också var på plats på eventet) peer-to-peer lending där du lånar ut direkt till utvalda kreditvärdiga privatpersoner. Sätter du in 10 000kr får du en välkomstbonus på 500kr med den här länken. Du kan läsa mer om mina erfarenheter av P2P och Lendify här.