A giant leap for happiness

My book is almost finished. Actually it is finished, and I’m just touching it up, pruning and clarifying certain ideas. Here’s a short excerpt, just one single sentence from the book, to get a taste:

Small, consistent steps, taken with awareness, celebration, feedback, analysis and course correcting, will always get you further than occasional and mindless spurts, not to mention being more enjoyable than a single marathon for some pie in the sky moonshot you might never complete, and might not even want if you ever get there.

That’s the excerpt. Here’s the interpretation:

Today I was interviewed on the topic of saving for retirement: when to start, how much to put away, when to start reducing risk, what to forego in terms of consumption, what to plan for etc. Saving and investing money is much like investing in your own life. It comes down to getting the small things right – and the earlier the better.

But small and early, the wu wei concept, isn’t enough. What you do small and early is utterly crucial. Hence you need to pay close attention to who you are, what you truly like, and what effect your chosen small steps actually have, as opposed to what you meant them to cause. That’s what I mean by taking your steps with awareness.

Celebrate your successes. Better yet, celebrate your learning experiences, good or bad. Then reinforce your habits or course correct. Every completed small step is reason to reflect about what you did, why you did it, what effect it had. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the fact that you did something, that you had an experience, that you learned something, and that you’re still around to improve on your decision making process. Analyze what happened, and feed your conclusions back into your habits, targets and life direction.

Do it continuously. Acknowledge that the process is a success in and of itself. Sticking to a good habit is more of a success than actually reaching a long term goal. Sure, keep tweaking and updating your desired direction, and possibly ultimate endgame, with the outcome of your taken small steps. But avoid staking years of toil and effort on long term goals and potentially empty hopes of grand celebrations at the finish line. You’re most likely somebody else when you get there. In addition, with the goal behind you, you have nothing, not even a process. In effect when you reach your long term goal you have nothing to celebrate. The risk is you establish another, equally arbitrary and long term goal just to fill the void.

Striving for a million dollars or a 200 lbs bench press are such useless goals, with nothing but emptiness waiting for you. Using your body every day, or managing your savings a little better every day, are processes you can be happy about every day.

Life and finances work much the same way, and should be considered in context of each other. You can’t predict, but you can prepare. Establish good habits that resonance with your personality and every day will be reason to celebrate sticking to and improving on your habits and best practices. The inevitable setbacks will be nothing more than temporary and largely inconsequential stumbles.

You don’t need to finish the marathon under 3 hours, there’s no defeat in falling and missing the magic number. The joy lies in every step along the way. If marathon runners were only in it for winning or beating a certain time, there would be very few marathon runners around. No, it’s the small steps, the habits, the joy of the process that drive them. The same idea applies to your life and your finances.

Trying to spurt will only make you miserable. Aiming for the moon might or might not get you there; and maybe, just maybe you’ll get to celebrate once. And then what?

Becoming strong, fast, rich, accomplished or successful isn’t about reaching a final goal, it’s about the becoming in itself, i.e., enjoying and celebrating the process. If you save, invest, socialize and exercise in a way that’s sound, ever improving, and not least enjoyable – taking small steps in full awareness and with an effective feedback process – chances are you’ll appreciate your life so much more, than even if you did succeed in a one in a billion moonshot effort to become rich, famous or achieve some other form of externally validated status.

Robert Sapolsky says that your subjective status is at least as important as your objective status, and after a certain threshold level of living standards, what group you choose to compare yourself to is the main deciding factor of how good you feel about yourself. I choose to rank myself in the serenity and happiness group, and there I come out on top, which also means I actually come out on top in therms of how I feel. Win-win-win.

More excerpts are coming up. The question, however, is whether I should include these long winded clarifications in the book or not. What do you think?

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)