Ignore the power of distilled wisdom at your peril

A collection of 16 profound, important and useful quotes that actually mean something

I should add though, that purely philosophically, not least from a phenomenological perspective, I’m not entirely sure quotes and introspection really are better than, e.g., watching a soccer game. That, however, is topic for a whole different article.

Reading time: 5 minutes (it is possible)

  • Bonus quote: “if you think investing is easy you are stupid“; risk is perverse
    • high quality assets can be risky and low quality assets can be safe. It all depends on the price.
      • The higher the price for a given asset, the lower the expected return and the more time spent in negative territory, i.e. the more risk of loss.

Warning: male nudity


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What’s all the fuzz about quotes? Why should you care?

Quotes are distilled wisdom from entire lives of deep thought and hard-won experiences. 

Imagine taking just one single quote from your entire life. That’s what we often do with historical philosophers, writers, leaders etc. Imagine the wisdom collected in that person’s best quote.

The right quotes can be shortcuts that work

But sometimes quotes are just artificially crafted for public appeal, while lacking meaning or being outright paradoxical, or just shallow truisms.

 

Why should you read, memorize or collect quotes?

To benefit from other people’s endeavors, errors and success. To avoid mistakes and as a pair of steady shoulders to stand on when peering toward the future.

To be inspired to change, to improve, to grow.

And, maybe just maybe, to make yourself look a little better, wiser and more interesting.

 

What quotes should you shun?

The ones that are mass manufactured, lack meaning, are contradictory or made only to fit today’s media landscape of maximum 140 characters.

Almost all gym slogans, thinspiration pinterest posters and instagrams, as well as exercise tweets, belong to this category – even if many gym goers actually seem to draw energy from them.

How bad do you want it?

Avoid quotes that just sound good (in particular if it’s in another language). Avoid quotes where you’re really only interested in the person behind them, rather than the actual wisdom.

ceci n’est pas une pipe

(that’s actually a quite profound and versatile meme, while still sounding cool, and being in French)

 

Which quotes should you collect?

Quotes that make you think, question, change and grow.

Quotes that inspire change. Quotes that make you want to be better. Quotes that speak to your innermost and help you become more yourself.

Quotes that make you reflect, make you understand something new and useful – and take action.

 

16 quotes that actually mean something

(without reference, since I don’t care who said what; I only care about the meaning. Sometime a famous name or a foreign language can distort your perception of a quote)

  • Losses are in the past
    • period
    • Yup, that’s it. In the past. Can’t do anything at all about it. Learn your lesson, forget about the loss, and look forward. The loss is firmly in the past and there are no time machines.
    • Don’t waste time dwelling on past events, unless you’re actively trying to learn from them (Spitznagel’s Dao Of Capital: “a loss is but a lesson for future gains”)
    • By the way, brain science shows we adapt quickly to even life shattering events, if framing the event adequately and looking forward, focusing on what’s left

losses are in the past 2

 

  • Try pouring a ton of steel without rigid principles
    • whenever accused or ridiculed for being overly precise or “too logical” and stiff – without principles we could all just put our faith in some made-up god.
    • hold your horses when too eager; take a step back and establish the principles before rushing in – it’s fools who rush in

rigid principles of physics can save your life

 

  • When a man tells you that he knows the exact truth about anything, you are safe in inferring that he is an inexact man
    • trust no one, question all truths, be prepared to re-learn, accept the evidence of harsh reality, not the confidence of other men
    • never take action on a stock or investing tip – for one it’s unknowable, and two, the tipster won’t be around to tell you when it’s time to get out

exact information

 

  • Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity
    • few people are truly evil. Try to understand how they think they are being good, and then change their way – or yours
    • It’s not evil to broadcast your celebratory stock purchases at new all time highs; it’s just ignorantly misleading for newcomers to the game

misleading

 

  • The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it
    • remember that those in power will do anything to keep it; that’s how they got there in the first place, to powerfully administer their variety of good: “I’m from the government and I am here to help you”
    • read between the lines of every person in power, be it politicians, bosses or other authorities
    • this one works well for communities of stock fanatics as well
    • Oh, and if you deliver the wrong truth or message to a Spartan…

kill the messenger thruth sayer

 

  • When you come to a fork in the road, take it
    • be open minded, take a chance, don’t fret unnecessarily
    • equally weighted decisions are actually easy, not hard – flip a coin if you like if the decision is such a close call. I bought my first car (red BMW) on a coin flip.
    • research shows taking the active choice increases happiness
    • PS: may you live in interesting times
    • Take these forks in the road; try balancing two forks and a coin like this:

fork in the road

 

  • If you do not change direction you may end up where you are heading
    • be strategic, think long-term; a 100 million small steps add up over the years; you will end up where you are heading – unless you change direction in time
    • be careful what you aim wish for
    • it’s never too late to alter your course, you are not too old. You’ll never be younger than right now.
    • If you stay in a boring line of work, a dead end life, you end up in a boring, dead end life

rat race

 

  • Forecasting is difficult, especially about the future
    • forecasts are guesses.
    • some forecasts are more informed than others, but something else might still happen
    • here be black swans
    • NB that we can’t even know the precise causality of things that have already happened – like a stock price change; meaning forecasts are hard even regarding the past

forecasts

 

  • If the world was perfect it wouldn’t be
    • life isn’t exact, life isn’t comfortable and predictable, life is change, surprises, volatility, highs and lows
    • don’t shy away from life; embrace it, warts and all
    • Strive for a certain life topology, ups and downs, rather than hide. Some comfort at the end of the day is good, but keep exploring life’s uncomfortable end points too; Break Out Of Homeostasis

cindy imperfection

 

  • Be yourself, everyone else is already taken
    • live in a way that you always without hesitation can answer “me” when asked who you would be if you could choose
    • why on earth would you want to emulate somebody else, suppress your personality, keep up with the Joneses and all that?
    • In a socio-sexual hierarchical context you shouldn’t be alpha, beta, delta, gamma, omega or lambda. You shouldn’t care at all (not that you actually can choose), but still somehow end up being a sigma, the independent outsider who doesn’t even care about the game
cock in a sock

Sweden 2014: sorry, this 7-σ persona is already taken

Note: Sigmas usually acquired their outsider status the hard way; one seldom becomes immune to the social hierarchy by virtue of mass popularity in one’s childhood (source: alphagameplan)

  • Don’t postpone until tomorrow that which can wait until the day after tomorrow
    • don’t rush, don’t force, live now, if something can be put off without consequence, do it!
    • make a “not to do” list of things you might do some day, albeit not right now; then put it away and focus on whatever it is you prioritize today 
    • what is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important
    • Read slowly
    • Savor

Sprezzatura savoring

 

  • Arguing with morons is like playing chess with pigeons. No matter who wins, they will shit all over the board and strut around like winners
    • some fights aren’t worth taking, no matter how right you are. Why do you even care what the other guy does, says or thinks?
      • this happens in social media all the time; some people turn to trolls in the anonymity behind their screens. Just walk away.
    • On the internet nobody can hear you scream “SOMEBODY IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET”

walk away

 

  • Every man is an island
    • take responsibility for yourself
    • every person lives for himself. By accepting this truth instead of altruistic paradoxes and lies, the world becomes a better, fairer place to live
    • You should instinctively cover your ass and wallet when exposed to communist propaganda like “No man is an island”

Who is John Galt?

 

  • Character shines through with power, not adversity
    • Don’t take a poor man’s noble character for granted; wait until he becomes rich and powerful. Absolute power corrupts absolutely (Old Testament God: the meanest and most erratic torturer ruler ever conceived – check!)
    • With great power comes absolutely no responsibility, and that usually shows

omnipotent Thanos

 

  • Know yourself
    • does this count as a quote? And by whom? Thales? No matter, it’s still the best there is. It guides every aspect of my life and is the root of all (good). Knowing yourself is necessary for achieving personal growth and happiness
    • Break down and dissect your feelings, aspirations, talents and shortcomings, and behave accordingly
    • Knowing your surroundings, your obstacles etc. is also part of this story
      • The quote could be changed into “break it down” – break down everything into its components, its axioms, its fundamentals. Then build upward from there
reflection 2

Break it down

  • No, you don’t want money or to become rich
    • If you already were wealthy, what would you do? That is who you are, that is what you like.
    • Don’t put the horse before the cart and waste your life becoming rich, in order to lead a life of leisure when you are old
      • What I want is to learn and to share – no need to be rich for that. I also want to stay healthy and fit (good food doesn’t come cheap, but I don’t need millions)
  • Actionable? Watch yourself in the mirror every day. What does that guy want? Need?
reflection

Know Thyself

 

  • You can’t tell the quality of a decision from its outcome
    • Many well thought through, intelligent and logical decisions can lead to losses, due to the unknowable future, while ill-informed, overly risky and generally low quality decisions can have benign endings thanks to dumb luck.
    • Out of many potential futures only one materializes – and it’s far from always the most likely one
      • What’s the most likely sum of two thrown dice? It’s 7. How often does another sum turn up? 83% of the time.
        • So, were you wrong in betting on 7? Were you wrong in going short that story stock? [FING, AMZN]
    • If you think you can, think again

2 Red Dice on a green table in a spot

 

Which quote resonated the most with you?

Please share your view, or another favorite quote of yours, and its meaning, in the comments.

 

Take action

Choose one quote and think hard about it – and put it to use. Change course or reinforce your current one. Do something differently – or more intensely

Spread the quote, or share the entire article with your social networks.

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19 Comments

  1. “If you already were wealthy, what would you do? That is who you are, that is what you like.”
    – Mikael Syding

    I like to eat healthy, educate myself, exercise, socialize, play the guitar and travel. If I was rich that would be my daily schedule indefinitely. All of these things have an endless array of forks at an endless array of roads – so many options to a very select group of activities.

    I love your writing, it’s all over the place, erratic, ecstatic. In a parallel universe you would be the old me.

    • Maybe I am…

      -cue eerie Quantum mechanics music

      “erratic and ecstatic”: I just might steal that one, to describe myself and my writing

  2. Thanks for the quote’s. I particularly like this one:
    “If you do not change direction you may end up where you are heading”.

    I’ve been heading towards a dead end for quite some time now. And I’ve begun to feel an acute urgency to change direction. It’s slowly happening.

    Yeah that would be great themindovercomes!

    • I love the “direction” quote by Yogi Berra too. One of his best and deepest truisms. You can often tell you’re going nowhere or toward a dead-end, but still choose to be blind to it and keep going. Very human. Needs self-reflection and guts to break out of it, face the harsh reality (A is A and all that) and change, on step at a time.

  3. “Know Yourself”

    It sounds so simple, but I struggle with this everyday. I compare myself with the “me” that I want to be, so much so that I cannot find any strengths or skills in myself. It’s very likely that I may not have good skills, but this is also relative to my reference point. I’ve been thinking of this since I read WSPB’s post on finding your strengths.

    Do you have any strategies for self-reflection that can help me in this case?

    • Hmmm

      It’s not easy, I know.

      Some are almost haunted by a narrator, analyzing every move, every feeling, and have to actively quiet it down

      Others just do and act and never reflect over their own behavior, motivation, feelings, causes and effect etc.

      I am closer to the narrator end of the spectrum, and what I do is listen extra carefully and take notice, sometimes even writing down what the narrator says.

      E.g., when I’m experiencing a strong feeling, I sometimes step outside myself and the situation to pinpoint exactly what the cause and the context was. Why do I think she is so pretty? Why did I laugh so hard? Where did my tears really come from; what were my last thoughts leading up to the feeling or action?

      Perhaps once a day or once a week write down one strong feeling or action, something tasting good, laughing, feeling strong/good/content/serene and its causes. Analyze why you don’t have more of that in your life, and how you could more actively induce it in your day.

      • Wow, thank you for the introspective reply.

        I already have a habit of writing a daily journal. But it’s more about “what I’ve done and what I didn’t do” type of journal.

        I will add a new part into the daily entry, something like “What is one strong feeling I’ve had today.”

        Thank you

  4. Hey Mikael,

    You watching the price rise in bitcoin? Any new thoughts on bitcoin or cryptos in general?

    Love your blog, been reading since early 2015.

    • Hi

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

      No new thoughts.

      I think it’s an interesting substitute for speculating on the gold price, financial turmoil, unrest, capital control etc. Still have a hard time seeing BC specifically being a good long term investment, but think CCs in general will be a wide-spread unit of exchange in the future

  5. Really like the post, Micke.
    Not only because you provide numerous interesting quotes, but even more importantly, you provide advice on how to find quotes worth your time.
    Basically, not just giving somebody a fish, but teaching them how to fish.

    ”Try pouring a ton of steel without rigid principles”
    That’s a big one.
    Plenty of people, especially new agers, think that logic is rigid and that it somehow interferes with their ”natural” thinking.
    Not understanding that they all use logic irregardless, just really bad logic.
    There’s no escape from it.
    It’s just how the human brain is wired.
    And as you alluded to, once logic is out of the window, everything is equally ”reasonable”.
    You can make people believe anything afterwards.
    Beware of people who attack your logical thinking, they’re either brainwashed or want you to be brainwashed.
    That’s how cults operate.

    ”In a socio-sexual hierarchical context you shouldn’t be alpha, beta, delta, gamma, omega or lambda. You shouldn’t care at all (not that you actually can choose)”
    I do think that you can actually choose that to a certain extent.
    A beta can become alpha and vice versa.
    Happens all the time, look at relationships where the guy starts off as dominant and ends up being wuss.
    Women do have a superpower over men, it’s called nagging.
    The question should be, is the grass really greener on the other side?
    Sometimes it is in certain ways, other times it isn’t in other ways.

    ”Character shines through with power, not adversity”
    Lots of truth to that.
    See how people treat others whom they have power over.
    Nietzsche was right about that one, I think.
    People don’t take revenge or fight back, not because they’re above it, but because they can’t if the bully is stronger than them.
    But the nonsense advice people are given on bullying is another topic for another day.

    Finally, you get bonus points for using an image of the diving scene from ”Ghost”.
    Really memorable scene, very symbolic.
    Fit’s the theme of ”know thyself” perfectly well, because that’s why she’s actually doing the diving to begin with.
    Trying to figure out who and what she is.

    But I am sure that was just a coincidence, right? :)

    • Thanks for pointing me to “Ghost…”.

      I haven’t watched any movies on your list lately. I’ve been spending time on my podcast, on drinking and other life stuff. I’m sure I’ll want to “waste” time in the movie couch sometime soon again.

      Glad you liked the quotes. I wasn’t really sure about posting that article.

  6. “What’s the most likely sum of two thrown dice? It’s 7. How often does another sum turn up? 83% of the time.”

    That’s so important. And makes ‘rational’ look irrational all the time.

    It’s a ton of fun reading through these — I’m just pissed I can’t understand the podcast you and Ludvig do!

    (Congrats on #1!!)

    • Thanks a lot Kyle

      Happy to hear you manage to turn a blind eye to the poor design choices and enjoy my articles

  7. “If you already were wealthy, what would you do? That is who you are, that is what you like.”

    Har ställt mig den frågan regelbundet under senare hälften av mitt 40-åriga liv, och de senaste 14 åren har jag gjort exakt det jag skulle vilja göra om jag plötsligt ärvde några miljarder. Kom fram till att det finns två vägar att leva min dröm: antingen bli rik eller leva fattig som en kyrkråtta. Har valt fattig som en kyrkråtta, det är det snabbaste alternativet. Har hittills inte ångrat det. (Men nu har jag ärvt en mindre summa som jag inser att jag bör förvalta på något sätt (gaah!) och det var så jag hittade din blogg.)

    • Du fick mig att le med ditt “gaah!”.

      Ja, det är inte lätt det där med pengar – särskilt inte pengar som kommer från ingenstans. Faktum är att, och det här är nog enda gången jag säger det, att det var lättare att hantera såna pengar förr, dvs innan centralbankerna blev tokiga. Då fanns en rimlig marknadsränta och man kunde enkelt köpa en obligation eller ha pengarna på banken. Det går knappt längre pga Ingves, Kursoda, Yellen, Draghi mfl. Tyvärr.

      SOm jag brukar säga – om man vill äta skaldjur med havsutsikt så kan man antingen jobba stenhårt inlåst på kontor i decennier och sedan köpa hummern och havsremsan, eller så kan man omedelbart stega mot vattnet och placera sin hummertina själv.

  8. Very interesting quotes and great post!

    “Losses are in the past”

    I dwell too much of my various failures and misfortunes. This helps to put them where they belong.

    This one made me laugh:

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”

    I am very guilty of this, especially when driving! Looking at things this way should reduce my stress levels..

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