Everything happens for a reason in finance

Topic: There is no God

Summary: You are responsible for everything; you are your own god

Inspiration: Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Actually nothing does. Things just are. You, e.g., just are.

Conclusion:  in investing, you are the one throwing all the pitches at yourself. Any impossible financial curve ball coming your way was originated by you, no matter if it’s a Japanese Tsunami or a subprime meltdown. The core of the problem always lies with your own risk management.


Things affect other things, governed by mindless laws

Yes, things are connected, but not governed, not controlled or pre-ordained. I mean, if they were, by whom would that be, and more importantly why? What would be that force’s motivation and ultimate goal?

RANT BEGINS ON GOD’S LACK OF ACTIVITY

Who that is mighty enough to be worthy of the “God” title (presumably creator and governor of all matter and energy in all time and space, and everything outside the time and space we humans think we understand) would go through the trouble of spending time in the infinitesimally limited light cone that includes the fate of humans on little insignificant Earth on the outskirts of just one unremarkable galaxy out of hundreds of billions, if not trillions of galaxies in just the universe we humans can observe?

OK, if said being could circumvent the lightspeed limit, bend time and so on, maybe governing Earth might make sense. But then think about everything else to govern. Can a single “mind” do that, given the laws of the universe as we understand them? Sure, if nothing we have mapped out with the scientific method holds any water whatsoever… If we assume anything goes, then anything goes. But then again, what’s the matter of pure unscientific speculation about something we can’t measure, have never seen a single shred of evidence of, that apparently couldn’t care less about our existence, that for billions of years and billions of lightyears has been content with letting a few simple constants control everything without a single identifiable instance of interference?

RANT ENDS

OK, so nothing happens for a reason. However, you can take any situation and make the best of it, make it “yours” — as if it were meant for you.

For example, you didn’t miss the bus in order to meet that old friend. But you did miss the buss, and as a consequence you did meet that friend you otherwise wouldn’t have. It had a lot of other less tangible consequences too (all without governance or externally imposed purpose), but you get to choose which unexpected and “new” events to focus on — good or bad:

If you always focus on good outcomes and opportunities from chance; to you it’s as if everything has a purpose. In reality as we know it, however, and the one that God has never interfered with in any outside-the-system-way (laws of nature), you are the one deciding to experience purpose (and thus it’s you who create the purpose).

If you’re well prepared, skill-wise and psychologically, you can make use of unexpected and random events. But if you just think things are laid out for you with a plan in mind, you risk not making the most of them.


God – what’s the utility?

What is God? Here is one way to think about it that has been suggested to me:

Everything; as if humans were the neurons of a galactic-sized brain — we are God and God is us; just like our brain is us and we are our brains. Everything is everything, and that is God. In other words we are God, we are the decentralized hubs of the all-encompassing being that is God: We created all this from nothing, and our objective is to understand ourselves and become whole again.

Oh, baloney!

Sure, there was a big bang, everything came into being from nothing. All matter and energy stem from a single dimensionless point, where notions like space, time and matter aren’t even applicable. 14 billion years later humans appeared on Earth, and according to Einstein most of the Universe can’t reach or affect us and we can’t affect it. Even if everything has the same origin, almost nothing is causally connected anymore.

[Insert ad hoc reasoning about quantum entanglement, wormholes in space-time, the simulation hypothesis, and AI-sophons (3-body problem) here; to try to save the idea of a single, all powerful, God, that can and does take action with a purpose directed at humans who occupy one single planet of hundreds of billions in a galaxy that is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies — and that’s just in our visible universe. And then stop to see if you’re really adhering to the God you started out believing in (God is a data nerd? God is the Universe? God listens to our prayers through wormholes and entangled quantum particles?)]


Back to the one God – no equals, no parts

Let’s get back to some sort of external, system-outside God with a mind of its own, and the power to change the laws of nature.

What could such an idea be used for? Where is there room for such a super entity? In what form, energy or dimension can it exist; since our current day instruments can’t detect God?

Well, there is a huge amount of dark matter in the universe. Could that be considered “God”? It still sure doesn’t seem to do anything — not for billions of years, let alone the mere tens or hundreds of years humans would care about.

What criteria should we require for something to be considered the “God”?

  • That God started it all? That he started just this universe? Or does the God title require starting all the other universes too?
  • That God can and does work outside the laws of nature as we have mapped them?
  • Would it be enough if there were lightcone local, super powerful AIs or aliens, that don’t care to show themselves, since we are so far beneath them — either because we are boring, or they don’t want to scare us, confuse us, or disturb our evolutionary trajectory. My guess is they just wouldn’t care at all. Such beings would be busy trying to understand and control the fate of the universe.

It seems to me, the lightspeed speed limit, lightcones and all that, would make it very hard for any kind of within-laws entity to be interestingly and meaningfully powerful. Oh, and then there’s that thing again; that it at least hasn’t exercised such powers in any identifiable way for all of time.

If God is local, it’s not powerful enough to be the God, he’s just a community sheriff. If on the other hand God is all encompassing, he has no way of knowing or governing (not to mention reason to) — it would take tens of billions of years just to hear some prayers and at least as much additional time to do something about them.


What’s the meaning of all this?

I just want you to use the same type of reasoning, as I did above, in all aspects of life: relationships, work, investing, love. Is your view logically consistent? If you assume A, what does that say about B; are A and B compatible?

Try to see the whole picture; try to understand what can be known and what can’t; what matters and what doesn’t; and perhaps most important of all; what you can influence and what you can’t. If you ignore everything you can’t change and focus on the things you can, your daily life will become much more enjoyable.

When you see platitudes and clichés like “Everything happens for a reason” or “You only get challenges you can handle“, as if there were somebody orchestrating your life; call bullshit! Things just happen. And you just happened to be there.

The challenges you “get”, i.e., that happen to you, they can kill you too. They can damage you for life — irreparably. They aren’t tailor made in order to make you grow as a person.

However, that doesn’t mean you don’t owe it to yourself to rise up as best you can to all events; or to grab opportunities that come your way by chance. Just know that no supernatural being threw them at you with a purpose in mind, or fine tuned them perfectly to something they knew for sure you could handle.

In life that is. In investing it can be a bit different.


Conclusions: Investing implictions of the No God Hypothesis

Come to think of it, in particularly in investing, you are the one throwing all the pitches at yourself. Any impossible financial curve ball coming your way was originated by you, no matter if it’s a Japanese Tsunami or a subprime meltdown. The core of the problem always lies with your own risk management.

You shouldn’t give yourself tougher challenges (when it comes to investments) than you can handle. In that respect, you actually never do get challenges you can’t handle (unless you are stupid enough to wade neck-deep into cow dung by your own volition).

No, wait for the right opportunity. Size correctly. Never go all in. Do the math and take all the responsibility yourself for your actions. Adapt and improve your strategy over time, using your hits and misses wisely. Try to understand and strike preemptively at your human biases. Create systems of habits and checklists to check your emotions, and prevent easy mistakes. And most of all, stop both blaming and praising supernatural beings for what is ultimately your own doing.


God is dead! Long live God!

Please note I don’t have anything against being spiritual, mindful, and searching for context or meaning.

Believing in some kind of personal or consequential God is ill-informed and illogical, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be comforting to some.

God doesn’t hear your prayers, but you do.

In that respect you are your own God; by putting words to your thoughts, by making room for silent contemplation, for appreciation, for making plans, for preparing for future action; if done thoughtfully you are setting yourself up for reaching your goals. Football players praying to God to make them score and win against another team full of players doing the same are of course not really asking God to indulge their crass wishes. They are praying to themselves, reinforcing the idea that their training will be enough, visualizing the shot and goal. After the score they raise the index finger as if emphasizing “I am the one God, my prayer to myself was heard“.


You do the math

Just to be clear, the one single message of this post is that I am God you have to take full responsibility for your own actions, for your success, for your happiness, for your investment risk management.

In short: You. Do. The. Math (do the math, devise/revise your strategy, wait, implement it unemotionally, repeat)

I see a pattern: Consciousness, depression and AI

Topic: A series of tweets regarding (artificial) consciousness and depression

Length: Tweetishly short


Find something you love and do it with focus and abandon

This website is about the joy of exploration and knowledge — sometimes for practical use (enabling increased personal comfort and expanding degrees of freedom), sometimes for the sheer pleasure of enhanced perspective. It’s all about making you resilient in your pursuit of happiness in a world of accelerating change and an increasing divide between human biological instincts and our artificial environment.


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.