Audio books and meditating

Topic: meditation without meditation

Conclusion: using audiobooks for altering your state of consciousness is meditative

Length: very short; 1-2 minutes

Market relevance: Very high, use this method to consider important variables and correlations, problems, errors and remedies to improve your investment method

TIPS (in Swedish): Testa 30 dagars gratis ljudböcker hos Nextory med koden “25minuter”


Meditation means mindful thinking

Meditation isn’t about incense, weird positions, mantras, non-thinking or any such nonsense.

Meditation is about just being. Being you, not a reflection of others and a mindless reaction to stimulus.

Forget gurus, forget transcendence, forget most of what you have heard about meditation, except one thing:

 

Meditation is a valuable tool

 

I created this series (Perspective, Meaning, Exertion) of articles on perspective and the meaning of life from a 5 minute meditation session, and this one, about applying the scientific method, from an audio book meditative session of focused listening and thinking.


Meditation is way too valuable and important to be left to professionals

Personally, I like mindful breathing, sometimes just one deep breath, sometimes five, sometimes as many as a hundred, sometimes very slow, sometimes forcefully and fast. But there are so many other ways to harness the power of your brain.


Meditative thinking

I also like meditative thinking — sitting still with my eyes closed, concentrating on a specific word or question or topic for five minutes, doing mind maps in my mind, going over wider and wider connections between words, concepts, logical conclusions, potential actions and consequences. When I’m done I write it all, or just the conclusion, down in a physical mind map.

When I say “I’ll think about it”, that’s what I do. Deep work on tap. I really think about it in a focused way, both structured and unstructured at the same time. During such a thinking session of 3-10 minutes I want complete silence and solitude. That’s where value is created, that’s where the neocortex really goes to work.

So, I like to sit and meditate, or “think” as I like to call it not to scare non-meditaters away. But you can meditate in so many other ways (I’ve written about some of those before, such as touching interesting surfaces, watching everyday objects from new perspectives, doing body scans before going to sleep etc.); why not during massage, or a walk in nature, or listening to an engaging audiobook?


Audiobook state of mind

Yes, that’s right, audiobooks. If you can’t come up with good seeds for your own thinking, books like Sapiens, Principles or The Beginning Of Infinity can be the perfect starting points for what to think about. Walk in an effortless pace, somewhere you won’t get disturbed and lose your train of thought, preferably with sound cancelling headphones (I love my Bose in-ear) and let yourself become immersed in the ideas and narrative, pondering every statement as deep as you have capacity for.

Do not let anything get by you without understanding it, without coming up with your own conclusions and implications.

Do this for at least half an hour with no notifications, no phone calls, no irrelevant sounds. It’s like a SPA weekend for your brain; you’ll feel at peace, blissfull, and refreshed when you change your state of consciousness back to take in the physical world again.


Conclusion – think about it

Think about it.

I.e., meditate on it.

If you don’t have 5 minutes and definitely is too weak for ten minutes, try just one minute of fully aware and directed and mindful, albeit unstructured, thinking. If your mind wanders and your thoughts stray, try another minute some other day until you are able to actually create thoughts and knowledge deliberately, instead of spending all your waking hours reacting to other peoples whims and wishes.

Think about this post and whether you agree, how you can adapt the methods, when you could schedule daily meditative moments and so on. Then follow through.

Remember where you read this: mikaelsyding.com/meditation


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The covfefe lemma: How to choose between Time and Money

Topic: The covfefe choice between time and money

Summary: no 25-year old would trade places with Warren Buffet, but where does one draw the line?


Inspired by an interview in Framgångspodden, and several articles and tweets by Wall Street Playboys, here are some of my thoughts regarding time, money, retirement and the meaning of life.

I was 42* when I retired with an 8-figure net worth in US dollars. 42. By then I had read the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy more or less once a year since I was 18. So, 24 times, give or take. 42 backwards**.

*actually I said the magic words a few days before my 42nd birthday, but I stayed on a while longer as just the Managing Director without any portfolio management responsibilities, thus retiring at the age of 42.

**”42″ referring to Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy as The Answer


Time isn’t money; time is covfefe everything

Life Utility Function: Optimize your amount of quality time

Quality time: Time spent doing what you want, what’s rewarding, what’s meaningful, what doesn’t subtract too much from your health account, or -if possible- what adds to your life span without being too tedious.


There are a few minor snags here. For one, I don’t know when my life will end (accidents, genetics, technological breakthroughs, lifestyle). Second, I don’t know what my current wealth will afford me in the future (return on capital, money paradigm, war, disrupted status quo).

Did I say “minor” snags? I meant major. In effect, it’s impossible to make any useful predictions so any solution will be highly subjective. Here is mine:

Choose something interesting to do; the most interesting and worthwhile undertaking you can think of for both you and others. If chosen wisely you will optimize your income, while still enjoying yourself and feeling relevant.

If your line of work is weighted more toward making money than being truly rewarding, quit (at the latest, but typically sooner) when you have 5-10x the amount you think would sustain your lifestyle for the rest of your life given a status quo economic system.

Why 5-10x?

Because once you have 1-2x, increasing that by 2-4x  only means keeping your momentum going for another 5-10 years or so (less time left means you don’t need 5-10x the 1x amount from 10 years earlier), and that extra buffer can make all the difference once you get off the machine (in case it proves difficult to get back on).

With 1x you have no disaster buffer. With 2x you can support one other person if needed, but still no buffer. With 4x you can diversify your assets between, e.g., stocks, bonds, gold etc., and still be okay even if war strikes, stocks crash, the money paradigm changes, or similar non-linear changes take place. With 8x you can do the same for one more person that lacks funds.

I’m not at all advocating aiming for 5-10x the wealth you need, I’m saying any sane person should stop making money at that point, unless it’s the most meaningful use of their time they can think of.


It’s my time now

When I was studying or working I had basically no time of my own. It all went to following orders or templates, going to meetings and doing things for others… for money. I didn’t read a single piece of fiction for years during that time. At first I did it because everybody did it. Then I did it for the money and to prove something. Eventually I did it out of loyalty (and maybe, by the very end, a little greed and/or homeostasis). Owing to growing tired of my Ferrari and Lamborghini, as well as a very disappointing test drive of an Itama 55, I realized I didn’t care for stuff. I realized sleep, health and my time (which are all facets of the same underlying concept) were what I valued the most.

I’m not interested in clothes, cars, watches, boats or conspicuous real estate. I simply enjoy making my time meaningful, which for me entails reading books, listening to podcasts, talking to interesting people, learning, writing, playing with my dog, and occasionally using my body for something breathtaking, for exercise, for partying our dining out with friends.

That’s basically it.

I really don’t need more than 30k USD a year (including the condominium fee), or let’s say 1m USD at 3% yearly interest, to sustain my lifestyle. Thus 10m is plenty — in particular assuming I can get more than a 3% return on average over a very long time, not to mention slowly chipping away at the capital.

However, if you can’t reasonably quickly get to several times the wealth you would need for your desired lifestyle, you should focus on optimizing your quality time right away.


The College-Buffett covfefe equation

Unless you’re mentally ill, are afflicted by an extremely expensive disease, covfefe, or very, very poor, if you’re in your college years you would never trade places with Warren Buffet, despite his 100 billion dollars to his name (74bn, according to Forbes). The reason for that of course is that he’s turning 87 this year and most likely doesn’t have more than a few years left to live.

Where do you draw the line?

Would you trade being 25 with 10k, 100k, 1m to your name for being 45 with 2m, 5m, 10m? How much are your 20s worth? Your 30s? Your 40s? Your 50s? What if you were 90 years old and about to die; how much would just 1 more day of quality life (as if you were 25 again) be worth? 1 million, 1 billion? The answer is, I hope: all the money you could ever scrape together no matter the amount.

I’m fully aware we all have different utility functions, and some are hopelessly stuck in a kind of competitive KUWTJ mode (Keeping Up With The Joneses, i.e., trying to outdo your peers for no other reason than outdoing them). It doesn’t necessarily make their lives less enjoyable and meaningful. They might get just as much serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin as I do (though I doubt it). What’s important is to think about it, really think about it, and optimize along the right parameters, rather than merely living reactively and driven by homeostasis.

Is it really worth it, slaving away with something you don’t care for, in order to fit in, in order to buy better suits (for the work you don’t like anyway), a better car (to show off for “friends”, neighbors and clients) etc.? Have you thought it through? Have you compared the years you’re giving away to others for the (few) years you leave for yourself later on when you’re older and less agile?


An eye for an eye, a year for a year

Who’s that extra year for? Who’s that extra wealth for? If you’re proving something (like I did), or seeking revenge for a poor or unjust upbringing, for whom are you doing it?

I’m not saying “skip college”, “drop out”, “quit your day job” to hitchhike around the globe, living hand to mouth. I’m asking you to make an informed choice between spending one more year doing what you’re doing (mostly for others rather than for yourself), and using that year for something you really like, and would do without having to tell others about it.

I had the luxury to come into enough wealth reasonably young without even thinking about it. I also had the luck of understanding the choice outlined above and quit in time. I understand the lure of riches, luxury and conspicuous consumption, and how difficult it is to fathom their uselessness unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Thus, I urge you to try it if you think you want it, but I’m also asking you to make an effort to back out quickly once you realize time, action and community are more important than stuff and theatricals. In the coming era of automation and cheap energy, material wealth could soon become moot anyway, as Peter Diamandis alluded to here:

“The son or daughter of a billionaire in New York, or the son or daughter of the poorest farmer in Kenya, is going to have access to the same level of education delivered by an AI, the same level of healthcare delivered by an AI, or intervention delivered by a robot. So, we’re going to start to demonetize all the things we think of as the higher stakes of living,” he said.


Summary: the covfefe lemma

So, at what extra unit of material wealth vs. one less unit of time do you draw the line? Where is your so called covfefe point, where you wouldn’t trade more time for the amount of dollars you can add per unit of time?

Would you trade going from 35 to 40 years old for going from 5 million to 12 million? From 40 to 60 years for going from 12m to a billion? Try making a chart with your NWE vs. age for all ages 15 to 100. The amounts should be such that you on balance wouldn’t, or just barely would, want to skip forward 5 years to get to the new Net Worth level.

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How grit, time and practice leads to creativity

Topic: Creativity

Summary: Creative insights take years and decades of experiences to get, so you’d better engage your grit yesterday already


We are down on the month with just two days left. Get me something good NOW. Nobody leaves until we’ve fixed this. Be creative!

-Bobby Axelrod in Billions being his typical unreasonable and incredulous larger than life self

Be creative. Now.


Wanting to be creative just doesn’t work

Sometimes I want to be creative.

Sometimes I feel as if I haven’t produced anything of value for some time, and just want to make something worthwhile, be it an investment, a blog post or just a witty or insightful tweet.

Blank

That’s exactly what I typically come up with. Regarding investments, that’s probably a good thing.


The silent YouTuber

The same goes for my YouTube series in Swedish: Listening to several hours of scientific and economic podcasts every day usually triggers shareable thoughts by the handful. However, if I don’t write them down the insights are often gone just like that. OK, to be honest, I can keep a few fresh in my mind for several hours if I really want to. The problem is that forcing my memory that way severely limits the amount of new information I can digest.

What’s sometimes frustrating is that despite churning hundreds of ideas through my mind and commonplace each and every month, if you (or I) put a video camera to my face and request I pull even one out of my theoretically shock-full hat of ideas…

Blank

It’s not stage fright. I mean I can say something. I can whip up some old wisdom about patience, or whether to aim high or low. I can even be a bit witty, talking about investor mistakes (mostly my own), or gym stereotypes. What I can’t do is create something new, connect some dots, do what some people seemingly effortlessly do all day long in social media. (oh, I know most of them only do it when they have those automatic strokes of insight, when they’re hit by that strange type of boson called inspiratons, just like I am every now and then)

I have no problem accepting this, not least as I know I’ll have new ideas tomorrow.


Inspiratons hit those heavy in experience

That’s the message here really, that you’ll get your inspiration when you get it. That there are no short cuts to creativity, that it’s not like lifting weights or some other performance activity. That your moments if insight are the product of everything else you have done over days, weeks, months and years. When you hear something new, creativity is the automatic process of connecting dots from that to the sum total of your experiences.

At least that’s my perception of creativity. All the books I’ve read, all the podcasts I’ve contemplated, all the deep conversations I’ve had, all the projects I’ve struggled with, it has all taught me something and given me a platform from which to interpret everything else I come across today. Trying to force creativity in the moment just blocks it for me, but constantly seeking out interesting and rewarding experiences means I will get strokes of insight in the future.

 

So, you want to be creative?

You think you’re entitled to?

You want the truth?

You can’t handle the truth!

 

My apologies… I couldn’t help myself. Perhaps it’s some lingering effects from the creative brainstorming activity from last week.


Anyway, to be creative you need 1) experience & knowledge, and 2) curiosity to find and identify inputs.

I suggest you start experiencing as much as you can: reading, listening, conversing, doing, experimenting, all the while keeping structured and interlinked notes of what you’re doing and why. Creative insights will come “for free” once you’ve had enough exposure.

However, “for free” doesn’t mean you can be lazy about it. Including in “experience” is working for it, working through tough projects, reading and understanding complicated articles and books, engaging in and losing arguments etc.

Failure is the mother of creativity. Sweat its father.

The dark part of this message is that if you’ve already spent the better part of your life watching action comedies and soap operas, scrolling on your phone during your commute to and from work, you won’t become creative overnight. Because creativity can’t be plucked from thin air. The inspiratons are only attracted to bodies heavy in thoughtful, gritty experience – sometimes referred to as deliberate practice.


Summary

Nevermind trying to be creative.

Focus on learning and experiencing.

Your insights will come later, once you know enough, understand enough. Put your mind to connecting dots whenever you can – keep flexing that muscle – but don’t expect true creativity until you truly understand a topic.

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