The Future Skills Program

The most important thing in life is your health. Health starts with sleeping well. Actually, without it you’ll die (Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker).

Sleep, like food, is one of very few things evolution just can’t get rid of. Despite the huge downsides to lying unconscious and defenseless in nature among predators and parasites, humans on average do it one third of their lives.

The Health And Financial Freedom loop

In order to control your time enough to sleep the way you’re intended to, you need financial freedom, lest there will always be a boss or a client making demands on your time when optimally you’d be sleeping or playing.

Further, attaining economic independence through a specialist, entrepreneurial, leadership or investment career in a world of accelerating technological development means you need as agile a mind as possible.

Enter sleep and play:

Research done during mainly the last two decades (c.f. the amazing books “The Real Happy Pill” and “Why We Sleep”) increasingly show the importance of regular exercise and sleeping well for strenghtening our cognitive capabilities (coping with stress, anxiety and depression, increasing your focus, memory, creativity, and happiness; and combating and postponing dementia). Proper nutrition, not least for promoting a healthy and diverse microbiome, is also an important part of shaping a future proof and capable mind-body machine.

So you can see how you need sleep and exercise to boost your financial standing; and economic independence to optimize your sleeping habits and general health.

Creating the Future Skills Program

Since I left the finance industry (I was a portfolio manager at a very successful hedge fund for 15 years: Futuris – The European Hedge Fund Of The Decade), I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what made Futuris not just great, but the greatest money manager in Europe for a full decade.

From the Future Skills Program (Finance Module)

Over the last year, I’ve finally come around to distilling my investment insights into a series of videos, with accompanying detailed course notes and exercises.

Three decades of investing lessons and best practices distilled

In the Future Skills Program, I explain the investment methodology and practices I’ve honed during the last 30 years.

They include what I’ve picked up from business school (M.Sc. in Finance at SSE 1990-1994), as a financial analyst specializing in IT and investment companies (1994-2000), as a portfolio manager (2000-2015) with focus on software, services and finance, and finally as a private equity investor 2015-2019.

From the Future Skills Program (Finance Module)

A robust health, sound decision management practices and career planning are as integral to designing a good life as investing prowess. Therefore, I and my partners have put together a complete Future Skills Program, including chapters about networking and career advice, value investing and personal development. I’m in charge of the Advanced Career (6) and Finance videos (16).

Please note that I’ve hesitated to participate in creating this course. All the topics discussed are complex matters without simple answers. The course details what you need to work on and in what direction to focus your energy, but you’re still the one having to put in the dedication and work.

We can only show you the door, but it is you who have to walk through it.

If you’re ready to take real responsibility for your life, career, risk management and finances, check out the course program in detail here:


My 12 (ish) rules for life

Don’t  be a mechanical turk

“A mechanical fruit is no fruit at all. The anti-social and hyperviolent rapist in A Clockwork Orange is a despiccable human being, but still a real, live person. SPOILER ALERT: At the end of the movie he is broken down, his (evil) spirit killed, replaced by a well-behaved clockwork. The message is that clockwork predictability has no human value, even compared to diabolic freedom of action”


My shortest version possible for getting things done, and done well

Start with your why, your purpose
-Without a driving force, you’ll never put enough effort into the endeavor

Aim low, start early and small, Wu Wei
-Avoid apathy, fatigue, being overwhelmed, just take one small step at a time, maybe even telling yourself you’ll quit right after…

Just One more
… then take just one more small step

Systematic feedback
Record, analyze and improve


More detailed rules:

Celebrate every small win

Grit
Stick it out until the end; keep grinding

Fail
Pick yourself up and keep going. Successful people are the ones who got up one more time than they failed

Course correct, use feedback
Do, correct, do again. Don’t make just one single big plan. Start small, start early, try, fail, analyze, course correct and keep grinding

Be systematic, record all insights and important information
Use a commonplace system

Growth mindset, Deliberate Practice: Peak, mental models
Integrate the knowledge that we can change and grow, we’re not set from birth. It’s not you who are being judged, it’s your ability to pick yourself up that counts, not your innate nature

Use a coach or mentor
You can’t move outside the box without somebody guidning you from the outside, noticing what you can’t. You can never see your own blind spots

Ignore what other people think
Never mind criticism; who are they anyway?

Seek variation, novelty
Learn new things

Meditate
Know thyself, know your driving forces, motivations, purpose

Take care of your body at least as well as your mind
Sleep, food, exercise

Be quiet
Experience silence, boredom, let your mind wander

Socialize

Recent research shows people who socialize less die earlier on average

Reason

Use logic, not feelings — the latter are for experiencing, not creating

Mental models

Make mental tools to get to the next level, where you design ever more sophisticated models

Prioritize with Bubble sort

Compare two and two, not all at once when having trouble prioritizing

Intuition + verification = accountable Blink

Trust your intution to provide interesting starting points, but not for providing solutions

It’s a PROCESS

You’re never done, and be thankful for that

Debate religion, spirituality, the supernatural

Debate it, but don’t discard it out of hand. Debating impossibilities hones your logic and rhetoric

Disregard what you can’t change

Put it away and focus on what’s important

Break it down by the 5 why:s

Problems, obstacles and challenges usually consist of ridiculously easy steps, if you go deeply enough. Ask why five times.


Song of the week (electronic trance kind of, instrumental Robyn): An analog guy in a digital world (for work, focus, meditation, enjoyment). Thank me by leaving a rating or review for Future Skills on iTunes

P.S. Just for fun: check out my awesome, world record-breaking all electrical ESURFjetboards on Facebook (pictures, videos, and more)

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.