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 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.

How two Nobel Prizes about the circadian rhythm made me change my daily habits

Topic: Weekly and daily routines for optimal health and productivity in order to maximize your amount of life time fun

Nobel relevance: A series of Nobel Prizes has shed light on the adverse effects on metabolism (diabetes), heart disease, and cancer, that living out of synch with your circadian rhythm can have.

Summary: I have the luxury to schedule my days exactly how I like. Homeostatic and hedonistic tendencies could thus easily derail my long term capacity for joy and meaning (actually the same thing, as I explained here). It’s a good thing then that I let myself be inspired by science when I organize my days and weeks to get the most out of my time without limiting myself unnecessarily.

Conclusion: This is my way, but how do you organize your time in order to leave room for spontaneity while minimizing procrastination and time waste?

Book tip: Healthy routines are great, but breaking habits is a special kind of good. Explore that concept in Ludvig Sunström’s book Breaking Out Of Homeostasis (foreword by me here, and our podcast episode in Swedish about BOOH here).

On my way back home after a workout session (slightly hungover) — it’s dark but I have already had my two sessions of light therapy for the day

Tip #2: Sigma Nutrition Radio #209 on sleep

Tip #3: my recent short article on sleep


A steady daily drum beat of habits

…ensures a great quality of life, as well as top health and productivity

My weekly routine consists of lifting weights 4 days a week between 2-4 p.m., rounded off by a short sprint on the tread mill. The other three days I walk (5-10km/day with my dog — every day of course) and run (a couple of 5km runs a week).

Weekly schedule
Monday work, workout
Tuesday Think tank, long reading
Wednesday work, workout
Thursday work, workout
Friday Buffer
Saturday Free, experiences
Sunday work, workout

 

My daily routine is built around being in bed for 8 hours, between around 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., then walking an hour outside with my dog, then coffee around 9* while doing intellectual work (reading and writing) for about 4 hours, before having my first meal of the day and walking the dog again. Those 4 hours of “work” are scheduled on my Biological Prime Time for brain work. Fasting means I’ve got both more time and energy to do creative work. One possible explanation is that pre-historic man needed to become more active in order to find food after a period of fasting.

My 4-hour work day is more than enough to move my ten-twenty main projects forward.

* long story by me on coffee and adenosine here, and one on how to time your coffee intake and why here

Daily schedule
23-07:00 Bed
07:30-08:30 Dog walk = sun therapy
08:30-12:30 4 hours of writing, creative work, no meetings; my Bio Prime Time
12:30-13 Food (first meal), pre workout
13-13:45 Dog walk = sun therapy, still light in Sweden even in winter time
14-16:30 Lifting weights 4 days a week (running or whatever the other days)
17-18 Shower, food
18:00-19:30 1-2 hours of writing, creative work, scheduling
19:30-20:30 Dog walk
20:30-23 Last meal, downshifting, conversation, books, movies. Phone off at 21.

My workouts are not scheduled for optimal recovery (since I would need to go to the gym early in the morning for that, and I just can’t fit that comfortably into my sleep, dog walks and brain work schedule — something had to give).

Instead, pumping iron takes place in the afternoon, when my body temperature peaks, and I’m the most ready for peak physical performance (e.g., benchpressing 315 lbs, as I did in October 2017)

My early evenings are spent cooking and eating dinner with my girlfriend, then doing one extra hour of computer time around 6-8 p.m. I use that time for  finishing up, tying loose ends together and preparing for the next session and then I take the dog out one final time.

The last few hours (9-11 p.m.) before going to bed, we typically just relax and downshift together, sometimes just talking, sometimes watching a movie, TV-series or YouTube videos (book reviews, cosmology shows, philosophy lectures and so on — emphatically not cute cat videos and similar wastes of time — you can find examples of what I like here under YouTube Channels)


Take-aways from my daily schedule:

  • I sleep around 8 hours every night — this is the ultimate foundation for everything human
  • I don’t have coffee first thing in the morning; I wait at least an hour, usually two, between waking up and having my first cup. I’ve written an article before about why (less addiction, better effect) — also in line with taking care of my sleep first and foremost.
  • I fast (almost) every day between around 9 p.m. the day before and 1 p.m., i.e. 16 hours. (yes, I’m back to that schedule, thanks to re-shuffling my daily schedule, not least my workouts). TIP: consult Martin Berkhan at Leangains about the benefits of fasting (also supported by the latest Nobel Prize winner — Swedes should listen to these 19 minutes by Vetandets Värld about the circadian rhythm)
  • I am outside for 2×1 hours around 8 a.m. and 1.p.m. – not counting when going for runs or spending my “free” days outside – which gives me a healthy exposure to sunlight every day (good for Vitamin-D, for synching the circadian rhythm, for general well-being and more)
  • I do something physically exertive every day
  • I keep my phone in flight mode between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Take-aways from my weekly schedule

Two of my non-lifting days are scheduled for respectively “LONG READING” (Tuesdays) and “EXPLORING” (Saturdays). The third one, Friday, is marked as a “BUFFER” day for catching up, for partying, for doing more or less whatever I feel like (as if I didn’t do that on all the other days).

On my three non-workout days I want exposure to new people, new ideas and new experiences. On my workout days I want to exhaust my body as well as move all my ongoing projects forward.


Final words

I’m not saying you should copy my schedule.

I’m not even saying you should make a schedule at all.

What I am saying, however, is that you could benefit from at least checking what your current de facto schedule actually looks like — and if you’re getting the things done you aim to get done in the allotted slots – if not, perhaps you should do some reshuffling.

When doing, do. When not doing, do not.


P.S. Order Ludvig’s book Breaking Out Of Homeostasis on Amazon before Christmas 2017 and get it for 9.99 USD

P.P.S. Don’t forget to write a review, no matter how short. Why? Why not? Share!


Relevant Nobel Prizes:

Nobel Prize 2017: Circadian rhythm

Nobel Prize 2016: Autophagy

Nobel Prize 2015: DNA repair