How to become the richest man on the planet

Topic: What wealth is actually for, how to avoid wasting wealth to acquire money

TIP: Sleep, exercise and eat well – and the rest will follow. Start working on any one of the three magic pillars of true wealth and the others will rise with it.

Conclusion: Strive for real wealth; don’t be fooled by the money illusion. Nobody actually wants money, fame and status. Those are at best tools, and at worst unintended side effects.

Reading time: 10 minutes (times the 4x obligatory re-reads)

Rich but not happy…, then what does ‘rich’ really mean?

The super wealthy have a problem.

They have no reason not to be happy, content, fulfilled satisfied… (I’ll use “happy” as shorthand for whatever state it is you are ultimately trying to attain). With extreme wealth comes the potential to buy, to give, to experience, to research, to explore, to learn, and not least to feel accomplished, happy… “rich”.

Anecdotally, however, despite all the resources in the world, it seems many of the money-fat fail at being 100 per cent fulfilled.

In contrast, there are a lot of people that struggle to put food on the table, but nevertheless are happy, thankful and, somewhat paradoxically, feel richer than many millionaires.

Yours truly actually seem to be one of very few wealthy people that feel truly happy, not to mention rich. I’ve come across several articles and surveys, where objectively wealthy people still put “being rich” at somewhere between 2-5 times their current net worth. I’m the anomaly here, in considering the “rich” bar being set somewhere below half my current level. So, I don’t have the most money in the world, but I am definitely rich (point being: after having enough to live comfortably, the rest is all in your head).

For all I know, I may well be the richest (read: happiest and most rich-aware*) wealthy person on the planet.

* I think I am, but feel free to challenge me. Nothing would make me happier than to learn about somebody with an even better experience and appreciation for their station in life

The richness formula explained

So, how did I get here? Is it my humble beginnings, genetics, physical and mental health, friends, or what? Most important, is it replicable? Could you feel rich? Yes, “feel”, since being rich apparently isn’t strongly dependent on your financial resources (again, after a point where you can eat, sleep and live safely and comfortably enough).

The following eight or so magic pills, that all fit in nicely with each other in a joyful and synergistic bundle, taken together is all you need to become very, very rich. How rich? As rich as you have the capacity to experience.

My 8 magic happiness pills that could (should) work for you too

I use my body, I work out; I push myself to the limit when lifting weights four times a week. I started out doing it chiefly to stay physically capable, but every year there’s more research showing how essential exercise is for a fully functional brain as well. In addition, my regular “wins”, in terms of personal bests or just pushing through some plateau, fill my life with small spikes of justified joy. TIP: exercise

I’m healthy. I had a sore throat back in 2006 and then again in 2017, but apart from that, at worst I become tired after a late night out a few times a year. Nota bene, health is tightly connected to the other magic pills of exercise, nutrition, environmental factors, and not least mental and psychological health. And vice versa, every pill is synergistically connected to the other pills. I strive to constantly level up on any one of those parameters, knowing that increasing one will lift the others as well. TIP: stay healthy (take care of your sleep, eat real food at least 80% of the time, avoid toxins, stretch those psoases). Side tip: eat fatty fish or drink natural fish oil, but try to avoid most other supplements, in particular in actual pill or capsule form (natural berry powder is a whole different story, though)

I’m outside a lot. I see sunlight a lot. Having a dog helps, since it means there are no excuses not to be outside, seeing nature, feeling nature, meeting people, meeting other dogs. But with a little determination you too could make taking a walk outside a few times every day an absolute rule. TIP: put up reminders to move around, and to do it outside. Side tip: Get a dog. Side tip 2: No matter my advice to stay off the pills, consider eating Vitamin D during the dark half of the year, at least if you live in Sweden or work indoors.

I have friends, challenging friends, intelligent friends, interesting friends. They inspire me, push me, lift me up, and in general ‘bother’ me in a good way. They help me break out of homeostatic behavior if I turn complacent and stuck in my ways. Friends come to you based on who you are and what you do. If you represent what you would like to see in a friend, you will attract company with similar values, and you will all be better of for it. TIP: be a role model and hang out with good people.

I pay attention. I live now, not far into the future or way back in the past. TIP: feel; do at least one mindfulness exercise every day, a few seconds would suffice (breathing, touching, feeling, body-scanning, watching, listening, smelling, thoughtfully experiencing). In addition, you should try a full minute of meditation every now and then, once mindfulness has established itself as a natural habit of yours. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to remember and learn from the past, as well as occasionally adjust your general direction into the future, lest you won’t survive. It’s a question of striking the right balance between appreciating and accepting what is, while still being smart about making sure there is enough to appreciate tomorrow too.
Failure is trying, and trying is growing
I’m appreciative, which comes easily and naturally from paying attention (as well as framing my situation as extremely favorable compared to [your choice: the past, other people, you in a parallel world]). I’m always waking up happy to see a new day in this wonderful world of mine, but if you don’t you might need to work on it. If you don’t feel appreciative, try imagining how things could be worse, much worse. That technique is called “framing”: If you’re standing in line, at least you’re not at the office, right? TIP: notice good things; do what every life coach in the world instruct their clients; keep a journal in which you everyday write down the best thing with that day, or a failure you avoided.

I Take risks. Live! (which sometimes means flirting ever so little with death, or fear of death). I do something almost every day that scares me, surprises me or makes me laugh. I try to do things I don’t actively want to do either – small things, like taking a cold shower or listening to a suggested podcast on a topic I wouldn’t have chosen myself. TIP: Seek out surprise, and strong emotions like joy and fear. Regularly break out of your homeostasis and make sure you experience new things, stretching those neurons and learn as much as you can. Not only will it make you healthier and happier but it will make you a capable and interesting person to hang out with. TIP 2: Fail. Make it a daily or weekly habit to write down what you have failed at recently. If you don’t fail every now and then, youre not trying, and if you’re not trying you’re not growing. Your failure journal can double as your “framing repository” to look back at on days you’re not failing. Seeing past failures can put your present actions in a better light.
I focused on real wealth
-financial wealth followed as a side effect
I have a lot of money. I ascribe my financial success not to any particular monetary ambition, but to all the suggestions above. I focused on real wealth and just got financial wealth as a bonus. TIP: get a lot of money by doing something meaningful, but don’t waste your life trying to impress others with a huge bank account. It’s nice to be rich, and it’s an important part of feeling relaxed, safe, free and independent; the opposite of slaving away as a mindless drone or compromising your moral for sustenance. But it’s not worth it if getting it means sentencing yourself to decades of prison in meaningless toil during your most physically cabable years.

Once you have the money, you’ll still just want to get back to my list above, now decades older than before. By all means, enjoy creating things and changing the world. Bask in the feeling of accomplishment that the scoring system of making money entails. But be wary of the time spent focusing on amassing money when you could be living. It might help considering if there is something else you’d rather do if the income was the same. Why spend 20 years as an accountant to afford a house with a sea view and lobster for lunch once you retire; when you could dive straight into said sea and catch the lobster yourself today?

Yeah, I know, I’m simplifying way too much in order to make you question what money and wealth actually is. What you need to do is think about what makes you happy when nobody’s watching and make more of that while you still appreciate it. You change as you grow older and the material riches you pile up when you’re young just might not buy the things you crave the most when you’re older.

Conclusion: money is for the poor
This is how I think it is: You want do be happy as much and for as long as possible. Hence, invest in health, good company and experiences. Pay attention to what you’re doing and frame occurences in the best way possible. In that way, life is like a dream, a lucid dream where you’re in control of your happiness (as long as you have access to basic necessities like food and shelter), and that control makes you truly wealthy. In addition, financial wealth isn’t unlikely to follow as well, although at that point you hardly couldn’t care less about the money. After a certain point, its only the poor mind that strives for money in itself, and will forever stay poor. As long as you hesitate to call yourself rich, or think that 2x is just what it takes to get there, you’re still poor and probably always will be.

Things you can buy for money isn’t the answer, no matter how much society tells you it is. How much living space, food and transportation can you enjoy in a lifetime? That’s really all money can buy. That which gives life meaning you still have to create yourself every day.

Begin with your sleep
If you sleep well you get less cravings for junk food and candy. Eating and sleeping better give you more energy which makes it easier to exercise. Exercise makes you hungry for nutritious food, as well as makes it easier to sleep. Exercising outside…, well, gets you outside in the sunlight; and nature provides plenty of opportunity for mindfulness, for moderate risk taking and meeting people.

So, start with taking care of your sleep, which incidentally (not really) often means exposing yourself to sunlight in the first half of the day. Thus a good old fashioned daily walk outside both improves your health in a number of ways, as well as sets you up for sleeping better which in turn is the foundation for all other magic pills of happiness.

Read more of my thoughts on the importance of SLEEP here, and my theory of meaning here, and a short thought on perspective here, and finally this one about striking a balance between exertion and rest here, about the cycle of sow and harvest.

Now, how about that walk outside? Take ten minutes and listen to the first episode of my podcast Future Skills here. If you don’t have iOS you should still be able to find the show on most other podcast apps. Read more about it on the show’s homepage.

BONUS: Keep a lookout for my new podcast in English together with Ludvig Sunström. It’s called “Future Skills”. We’ve kicked off with an amazing interview with hedge fund billionaire, Fourth Turning philosopher, crypto critic and gold bug Martin Sandquist. You can find it here. Don’t forget to leave a review to help new listeners find the show.

Gold, God, Quantum physics – are you buying this?

INTRO Per Gessle, the Swede who composed the song “It Must Have Been Love” that was featured in the Julia Roberts movie “Pretty Woman” has said that he only writes when he’s inspired. I’m mostly like that too, all other comparisons aside. This post formed in my head over the course of less than a minute, not unlike this one on The Meaning Of Life.

THEME Contemplating and discussing the true nature of reality over the last six months seem to have led to me being hit by and interacting with a stray inspiraton* five minutes ago, incidentally right after re-watching the amazingly entertaining movie “The Wolf Of Wall Street” during a long and late Saturday brunch.

* a very rare elementary particle

CONCLUSION Cutting straight to the chase, my conclusion is that what matters on the stock market is how consistently and predictably you can earn “money” that can be used for manipulating reality into subjective experiences with certain desired properties (I hint at what those properties might be in my Perspectives article series. Start here).

IN SHORT: DO WHAT WORKS, and take a good hard look at Gran Colombia Gold Corp

This morning Mike Cernovich referenced a quantum physics article in Scientific American that discussed a new slant on how to interpret the problems of wave collapse, observer dependency, matter duality and more. It got me thinking. By the way, if you’re interested, here is my immediate reaction to the article:


God and reality

Winter came, and with it late night discussions about the existence and nature of God. Yes, “God”, as in some kind of power or presence outside the laws of nature, or as the very laws of nature (whatever that’s supposed to mean; I mean are they laws, or aren’t they).

For me the word “God” is too tainted by culture and tradition to possibly serve as the basis of an open minded conversation about existence. As much as I try to suppress images of a potent and aware entity, and replace them with “anything or everything” or “purpose” or some other temporary placeholder, I keep failing.

In parallel with discussing the God delusion we have talked at lenght about reality, not least whether it’s objective or not, i.e., whether reality exists or not.*

(* I’ll just add here that reality does exist. This, here that we experience is reality. In my view, that holds water whether reality actually exists or not, since I think the word ‘reality’ is defined as “this, here” that I experience and I have good reason to assume you experience too)

Solipsism and pragmatism

The conversations have ranged from pure solipsism* to self-referential unusable tautologies such as “the universe is the universe”, “God is all and all is God”, “purpose is the purpose”, and much more.

(* solipsism = I am the only thing that exists and everything else is just a dream – quite a complex dream with billions of dreamed up personalities, trillions of other seemingly independent living things, quadrillions of celestial bodies scattered over trillions of cube light years, evolving over billions of years, including Darwinistic trajectories and thousands av brilliant scientists climbing atop each others’ shoulders to scout ever further. Imagine all that in just one entity, i.e., me, not to mention I have forgotten it all and am lost in my thoughts slowly rediscovering minuscule fractions of it all before imagining dying)

I am a practical person. And, as much as I’m a fan of basic research, understanding that we can’t know when and for what that knowledge might come in handy, pure philosophical word play that doesn’t even aim for practical use, but rather aims for self-containment and non-practicality quickly loses its appeal to me.

By the way, if this post triggers a strong need in you to explain to me all the ways I have misunderstood solipsism or any other branch of philosophy, or quantum physics for that matter, please don’t. This article is not about that at all. Quite the opposite. It’s about doing what works.

The universe is all mental

The quantum physics article Mike linked to builds up to an idea about thoughts being the ultimate building blocks of nature, perhaps a little like the illusive inspiratons I jokingly mentioned above.

These ubiquitous “thoughts”, which I assume are pretty dissimilar from the everyday brain thoughts with which we humans are familiar, interfere with each other as well as with organical thoughts; thus giving rise to the physical reality.

With “thoughts” everywhere, from the empty voids of space to the cores of stars and brains of humans I’m guessing brains acts as a kind of amplifying antenna that can focus inanimate thoughts into living thoughts.

Alright, as much as I try to keep an open mind – on a theory stating that brains and thoughts are not the product of billions of years of evolution, pattern recognition and survival of the most adaptable – trying to comprehend a theory of substrate-free “thoughts” as the ultimate building block is just as difficult as stripping the word “God” of all its religious baggage.

Please explain

Why “thoughts”, I ask? Why not just super strings? They are equally mystical, ethereal, versatile and infalsifiable. Whether you decide to build a world view with turtles all the way down, hyperdimensional strings, gods behind gods in Russian dolls, or thoughts all the way down, doesn’t really matter. You’re still not explaining anything. And you’re not adding anything to the toolbox of improving your own subjective experience (except for the fun it might be to play a meaningless game for a while).

Experience, prediction, manipulation

For me, my experience is all that matters. My reality is my reality, but it’d better be pretty well attuned to the more or less predictable laws of nature for my subjective experience to be sustainably pleasurable.

Experience is all, since non-experience is non-experience. Per definition.

If you want to define these words any differently, be my guest, but I won’t understand you. Hint: if you want to be understood, strive to use unambigous words that people (can) understand.

What interests me are reliable predictions in as much as they allow me to manipulate and control my experiences.

The actual and ultimate truth might be something altogether different and incomprehensible. But that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is what I (can) experience.

I can’t remember anything before my birth, and there are no believable recounts of post-death experiences. This, here, this stream of consciousness began some time around the birth of this body, and it seems destined to end with this body (not yet fully counting on uploading or immortality).

So, I can experience what I can experience, and that is what appears to be a physical world of things, including electrochemical patterns in brains. Humans now understand a great deal of what can and does affect us (cause experiences), and of what can be manipulated by us. That’s just another way of saying science has laid out a pretty good map of reliable laws of nature; laws that I consider when making decisions I hope will lead to as meaningful a life as possible.

That which might “exist” but can’t be manipulated or affect us is simply irrelevant. Per definition. The world may be a dream, or nothing at all. Maybe I’m alone, maybe not. Maybe I’m a simulation… Maybe there is a “God”, even though it has left no trace of its existence since the Big Bang.

In any case, my actual personal experiences are more or less limited to sleep, food, love and a few other “experiences”. My aim is to optimize those over the course of my life, by designing as solid and consistent a foundation of predictions and manipulations as I can.

Pragmatism and investing

And, that is also exactly how I would, in the best of worlds, go about my investments. I don’t care whether the world ‘really’ exists (though it should be clear by now, that to me “exists” means whatever this experience is. Per definition), or if a country’s or company’s operational fundamentals exist objectively. I don’t care if “valutions” are real or not.

What I do care about is how to predictably and as consistently as possible make decisions that enhances my potential for manipulating reality into better subjective experiences. That might include maximizing dollar amounts on the stock exchange, or units of gold, or analysing historical metrics patterns. In doing so, I like to rely on consistent laws of nature, rather than fickle gods and “it’s all a dream” fantasies.

What matters isn’t if valuations, profits, money or even the universe is real. What matters is how I feel about it, and not least what I can do to improve on that situation.

P.S: Please, let’s keep “free will” out of today’s discussion.

Gran Colombia Gold Corp

-when did you last see a Price Earnings ratio of 1?

By the way, have you seen this Price/Earnings = 1 company in Canada? Gran Colombia Gold Corp. Disclaimer: this is not an investment recommendation and any losses incurred are your own. In addition, PER=1 might be significantly misleading due to dilution, but I’ll leave that to you. I personally, however, would be surprised if the stock didn’t reach 6 dollars per share by the end of 2018.

Never take broker recommendations at face value

Topic: learning about learning in a stock market context

Conclusion: Think through your investment strategy seriously; exactly what is it, that is supposed to make you outperform some of the smartest and most driven people in the world?

The magic formula of outperformance

Do you want to know how to outperform the stock market? Not only that, do you want to know how to both avoid negative years, and outperform the market?

For the benefit of new readers, I was a hedge fund manager for 15 years. Our fund won the to date only HFR reward for “The European Hedge Fund Of The Decade” (2000-2009). Between our inception in October 1999 and our peak in April 2011 the fund returned, net of fees, around 600 per cent to investors while the stock market was flat. With no down years. Our best years were 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2008. In about that order, if I remember correctly.

There exists a concept of an ideal investment method in my mind. I, however, have never been able to follow it. You can read about those Platonesque investment best practices in my TAOS series (and upcoming pamphlet) or in my old (still) give-away e-book.

This article deals with how we in practice used third party research, i.e. brokers, to produce those returns, not what we in theory should have done.

Futuris (the fund) received research reports from around 20 different brokers (Citigroup, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Deutsche Bank, Nomura, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas, Cheuvreux…, you know the names). Every day a few phone books’ worth of research reports landed on my desk (conveniently, I had people that opened the envelopes for me — during vacation times some of the envelopes remained unopened and went straight to the paper recycling bin).

This is important:

I never took a recommendation at face value.

Many private investors these days buy stocks when their bank or broker issues a buy recommendation. Some might buy just to ride the wave of greater fools buying, but many actually buy just because “an analyst said so”. Some even do it only based on public news, that some random research firm or journalist has put the word “Buy” in print.

What I did was collect and compare the underlying data and reasoning supplied in the reports (as well as in IRL meetings with some of the analysts, and client-only conferences). I wanted to triangulate an asymptotic “truth”, the real world signal that – distorted through management hyperbole, analyst preconceptions, biases, misunderstandings and muddled reasoning – gave rise to the wide range of reports available to me.

I used all this information and my bird’s eye view, to form my own view of a company’s position and development, including its 3-12 month finances, and compared that to my assessment of what the important market players were likely thinking. If the discrepancy were large enough, and if the margin of safety in terms of absolute valuation was palatable I put money to work*.

* Putting money to work in a hedge fund with three partners isn’t all that straight forward, even if Futuris wasn’t big on bureaucracy. Actually, the research part was made as a collaboration effort between me and my in-house analyst (portfolio manager to be, really). Once the idea was more or less fully formed, I pitched it to my two partners, and we discussed whether it was good enough on absolute terms, as well as if it warranted replacing one of the existing forty positions in the fund, i.e., the position’s relative merits).

Perhaps the most important lesson to draw from this post is that a professional investor does not follow broker recommendations, so why should you?

About learning, memory and connecting with reality

Initially I set out to write about how to learn, and not least why to learn. When you hear about a “learning machine”, ask yourself “what for?”. I ask that about God (if he can’t ‘kick back’ as David Deutsch says, what is he good for?). I ask that about the limited number of people I can have a serious relation with (which ones and why: comfort, companionship, learning, challenge…).

A while ago I listened to an episode of The Brain Science Podcast about “affordances” – how the brain perceives objects foremost in terms of what you can do with them = their “affordance”. Today, episode #141 of the same podcast series dealt with a similar idea: “concept neurons” and how our memories are mainly based on a few salient key concepts stored in particular single neurons in the hippocampus. These “concept neurons” are connected to a limited amount of facts stored in the cortex and together they form the basis for a made up narrative that the brain decides makes sense for the moment.

Just as we don’t see the world, we don’t remember it either. The brain makes it all up, and that is why we need notes and commonplaces, and to constantly battle our desire to be right by exposing ourselves to opposing views and as wide a range as possible of “facts”, if we want to be able to kick reality harder than it kicks back.

Talking of kicking back, do you really want to compete in the worst conceivable environment, i.e., the stock market? It features the best and most driven competitors, and the market can be characterized as an ever-changing complex beast, where correlations are tentative at best, not to mention highly variable.

Hmm, it seems I need to expand on these last ideas about memory formation, learning and purpose in a separate post later on.

Conclusion: Does it work?

Just take this with you if nothing else: Why do you learn; what do you want to accomplish and why? Why is it supposed to work; what is your theoretical foundation? How do you learn? Is it working? Are you hitting reality, or does it keep hitting you while you punch holes in the air?