Regretting decisions and frettings over losses and past events at best doubles the pain

“I’ve never experienced adversity”

That’s what I spontaneously say when asked

How about you, has your life experience been a total joy ride?

Topic: personal growth

Conclusion: counting your blessings and learning from your lossses

Teaser: My failures

Length: 5 minutes

Sure, I was bullied in school on account of my accent, of my poor family, small house, garden and single car garage (!), the wrong clothes, Asperger’s (before it was a thing) and so on. Oh, yeah, right, I’ve had 8 concussions, two torn ACLs, a few broken bones, heartbreaking break-ups etc., but I’ve never considered any of it facing adversity. Those are just facts and stories of the past. Experiences. They hurt in the moment of course, but real adversity should entail substantial and permanent loss, without compensation, shouldn’t it?

I can continue: my big brother drowned before my eyes when I was 8, which triggered my parents’ pretty ugly divorce shortly after; but how is that my problem? Hasn’t everybody divorced or dead family members? Don’t they, if you just extend your search a little? to be clear, right there and then, seeing my parents’ reaction to their first born son taken away so unexpectedly, shook me to my core.

Living my pre-teen, formative years in the tragic vacuum he left behind, and the tension between my parents, may ex plain my reluctance to commit to meaningful relations and awkward social competence. Maybe it has some bearing on my flat interactions with my father and somewhat sporadic and disengaged socializing with my siblings. I can definitely be perceived as cold and distant, so maybe I am “damaged”. The thing is I don’t feel damaged. On the contrary, Ola’s death probably contributed to my obsession with coding, which in turn gave me intense training in logic, English, perseverence, patience, responsibility (for bugs and finding them) and grit.

Most of all grit.

– – – – – – – trigger warning, sentimental stuff

When you’re 10, 11, 12, 13 years old, frequently physically bullied in school, your parents are arguing and involved in jealous and toxic scheming and monitoring new acquaintances, you’re the smallest and youngest kid in class, the new kid on the block, with Asperger’s on top and the only one in your neighborhood coding; imagine the required grit to code, debug, test and come up with solutions all alone. Need I remind you this was in 1982-1985; there was no internet, no one to ask. Was it difficult? Yes. Was it frustrating? Definitely. Did I want to smash my 22″ cathod ray tube TV set? Oh, yes! Was I devastated when the computer crashed mid-debugging? No, I just wanted to kill myself and burn everything around me down to the ground. I don’t know what drove me; perhaps I fled from facing my brothers demise or dealing with my and my family’s loss. In any case, my new core programming, manifested as indestructible neuron highways in my brain, regarding grit, will power, logic, algebra and optimization have proven invaluable.

I used to be a troubled child, but after my brother’s passing, and the second coming (the computer), I turned into an effective, and eventually immensely appreciative, serene and happy, pattern recognizer. I can’t see how I could ever have become a better person than I am — well, according to my preferences. Consequently, none of this can be considered a bad thing.

– – – – – – – – end of croc tear rant

Professionally, I’ve had to live with a few disastrous recommendations to clients (e.g., Prosolvia went bankrupt, the stock to zero, when I had a Buy recommendation on it), not to mention loss-making investments when I was a portfolio manager (shorting bank stocks en masse in the second half of 2013 was not my smartest move; actually it was my worst ever, I think). I’ve lent out money that I never got back. I’ve invested in several start-ups that all went belly-up.

To summarize: yes, I’ve lost friends, family members, girlfriends, limbs, money and honor. I just never think of that as adversity. It just is. Later in life I’ve learned that some people keep thinking about past events and past decisions, just as some people believe all their thoughts and cede control to them. Meditation seems to help center people in the present, but for me accepting my thoughts or stilling my mind or controlling my emotions have never posed a challenge.

I’ve heard somewhere that you don’t know how strong you are until it’s your only choice. A bit dark, don’t you think? Or, is it? It’s pretty hopeful to know there probably are hidden resources that appear right when you need them, should you ever.

You only get challenges you can (barely) handle“, goes another saying. I can’t say I agree with that one. Neither do, I imagine, many victims of violence, war and worse (murder). There’s still, however, some truth to the cliché. For moderately unwanted experiences you can choose how you frame them (it could have been worse) and how you choose to remember and deal with them and not least what you learn from them.

Today I’m exactly who I want to be.

Consequently, I wouldn’t change a single thing of my past if I could. I actually can’t see I’ve ever truly suffered, taken a real hit (street fights don’t count), or lost anything I didn’t learn more from than I paid.

What’s the worst thing I can remember that even in retrospect seems unnecessary? Maybe when my girlfriend’s old dog died. That was excruciating. No matter, it emphasized the importance of appreciating every day you get to experience with your loved ones, rather than telling me life hurts.

Why do we fall Bruce?

Once, I crashed my motorcycle in the woods and hurt my knee badly. I could say that I tore some ligaments, my right knee ACL and ruptured my meniscus and still had to walk the bike back to base, but my physician told me all that damage was already done some 8 years earlier. Actually his exact words were “13 years”, since I waited another 5 years before checking up on my increasingly unreliable knee. Anyway, lying there around April or May 2000, alone in the woods, screaming my lungs out, not even daring to look at or touch my leg, I thought “The good news is, whatever the damage, nanomedicine will sooner or later make my knee even better than the original”. Sunny disposition much?

Takeaway: love your losses — and yourself

Have you really had a tough life? Have you really experienced adversity, or are you just dwelling on the past, regretting decisions and events you had no control over?

Aren’t you a better person for all your experiences?

If not, perhaps now is the time to think about how you handle life’s little misfortunes. Why don’t you choose to learn, rather than just complain?

No investor on the stock market would blame bad luck or fret over losses in the past. They would just update their best practices list and strategy and make sure they do better next time. Life is no different, it’s an eternal cycle of trials, investing, losses, analysis, learning and improvement. Losses and “adverse” experiences are a natural and important part of the process — and the sooner the better. Logically you should love losses, since they are much more effective teachers than wins, in particular lucky windfall gains.

Man in the mirror

Aren’t you who and where you want to be?

WHY NOT? And…,

…who’s responsible for that? Either you change, or you change your mind (alternatively stay unhappy and hope for your miserable life to end as soon as possible)

CTA: By the way, how long has it been since you wrote an entry in your appreciation diary? What do you love? Who do you love? What are you doing to love life and yourself even more?

P.S. Actually, that hangover when I woke up, covered in blood, in a 3x3x3 ft (1 cubic meter) box at a gas station 15 miles from home might have been my low point.

P.P.S. No, come to think of it, when the Spanish police chased me with dogs and threatened to rip my “passaporte” to shreds unless I left the country might top the gas station incident

P.P.P.S. I almost forgot, the sleepover when I was 17, in a “house” in Amsterdam’s outskirts, built from driftwood, populated by drug addicts, that turned into a slow motion knife kerfuffle, could have ended in tears. No matter, that wasn’t even close to adversity, just an exciting experience.

Tell me again, how did I ever become a hedge fund manager? Oh, that’s right, I almost got fired even before I started on account of an interview I made between jobs back in April 2000.

How 1 random act can create 4 times as many rainbows

Topic: Paying it forward, randominity, addiction and satisfaction

Length:  30 seconds

Random rewards are more addictive than predictable constant “pay”. That’s why casinos and lotteries are more exciting than work (for some people).

All sorts of companies and governments exploit this human trait. You can too, but in a good way.

More fart!

Similarly to gambling, random acts of kindness have disproportionally positive effects compared to equal acts with a higher regularity. The kicker is that you will probably feel good in proportion to the impact you’re having on the recipient. Thus, your +1n amount of random action will have +2n impact on the recipient which in turn will render you +2n happier, for a total of 4n of unicorn rainbow fart created from just 1n of sweat investment. With a little luck you can both use those 4n units as basis for future action, causing an explosive chain reaction

The challenge, however, isn’t daring to flash a creepy smile to strangers, or bothering to offer help to older people struggling with heavy bags of groceries, but to do it without making them secure their wallet & watch, and call for the police.

As a bonus you get to practice your social skills in order to be able to spontaneously approach strangers and start multiplying the farts. So, what will be your first attempt at creating rainbows?


Always be investing. Try to find and use patterns that enable compounding rewards over time, be it incentivizing your kids to take care of their spirits, bodies and minds, or just to crassly amass piles of material wealth.


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.