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?

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18 Comments

  1. I vote for including the clarifications. If you worry that it’s a bit repetetitive, I’d say that’s actually a strength. Repeating a concept with different examples and wordings makes it more likely that the reader will get it. As I recall Sunström has complained about “one idea books” that just repeat the same concept over and over for hundreds of pages. But I would rather have that than a book that doesn’t explain the concepts clearly because the author is worried about being too verbose.

  2. What do you think of the market this week? Is the longest bull market in history finally ending?

  3. Another vote for the ‘long winded clarifications’. And another vote for your thoughts on the market :). Enjoy the final steps of creating the book!

  4. Explanations and anecdotes are always a bonus – especially when drawn from your well structured mind, Mike.
    Thanks for sharing your experience and keep up the good work!

  5. “Trying to spurt will only make you miserable.” Check with Dr. Ruth about that…

    I think the clarification is good. Without concrete examples, the excerpt seems like a vague platitude. Everyone will agree and no one will grok your full meaning.

    Someone (you or Ludvig?) said that one should strive for goals that are realizable in about five years. I think this is good for *long term* goals – five years is not a tragic waste if you want to change course. Short and intermediate term goals are essential for the reasons you describe. A 200 lb. bench is fine if you don’t burn yourself out trying to reach it, but if you kill five years getting there only to realize that you’re a weakling and have to bench 300, it’s time to stop barking up that tree.

    I think you know how I feel about “retirement” – as a goal in itself, it’s a kind of living death.

  6. The first and greatest passion for investing came with a search for solutions on whether I will survive and how this will go. The passion for others as well as my survival is thus based on finding practical science that can implement solutions to overcome old notions that this is impossible …

  7. The market is always efficient as long as you find the right underlying values. It’s just about how long you have time to wait. To wait a few more years, to get a profit, and then continue to lock their money endlessly. So why not continue investing in gold for a few more years.

  8. Kina investerar kraftigt i guld vilket skulle kunna innebära en rädsla för västlig konkurrens. USA kommer således inte köpa guld från Kina vilket innebär att guldet kommer sjunka. Ett sista desperat försök för Syding och Kinas framtid gällande guld. Allt guld bygger på USA:s skulder samt monopol på guld genom NATO:s kontroll för global säkerhet oavsett värdet på guld.

  9. Erik Townsends argument bygger på så många felaktigheter att det måste vara en medveten motsats han försöker förklara. Det finns ingenting som underbygger hans argument. USA står starka samtidigt som EU håller på att gå under samtidigt som Kina köper guld, kryptovalutorna är övervakade utan någon som helst säkerhet för enskilda individer. All säkerhet i Europa och övriga världen bygger på Nato som styrs från USA. Om det inte finns arbetskraft i USA så är det troligtvis nu som argumenten om ökade krav på global säkerhet kommer med utökade krav från USA genom att sätta ytterligare tryck på EU, Kina samt Ryssland.

  10. Ur ett miljöperspektiv, hur mycket kostade det att byta ut förra valutan till dagens valuta, d.v.s att bryta ned alla mynt och papperspengar till den nya svenska valutan. Varför premieras inte de som faktiskt har varit försiktiga med sin (ex.vis tusenlapp, eller 50 öring) förvaring av sedlar och mynt på ett sätt som gynnar vår miljö. Det borde finnas regler för hur man beter sig gällande återvinning. Återvinning skapar koldioxid vilket innebär att de som faktiskt tar hand om sina ekonomiska tillgångar (ex.vis mynt och sedlar, bilar, hus med mer) bör skapa sin egna valuta som gynnar personer som bevarar miljön, istället för att elda upp allt. Att investera i guld kräver att du måste börja omvandla och bryta upp mer guld… Varför ser vi inte möjligheterna i att ta hand om det vi redan har? Jag förstår inte varför ingen handlar med äldre valutor i stället för att låta staten reglera när det är dags att elda upp eller smälta ned allt som förvaltas av försiktiga individer som värnar om miljön? Min idé kanske inte är så ny, men det kanske är dags att ta tillvara på sedlar och mynt (som staten definierar som värdelösa) och handla med dessa tills det faktiskt finns en anledning att gör något annat. Att skapa en egen valuta så kallat utgånget datum är energibesparande samt mer tillförlitlighet än kryptovalutorna. Så varför gräva efter guld eller valuta när det redan finns mängder av det. Bara för att någon eller några säger att det är värdelöst behöver det inte betyda att det faktiskt är så. Hör av Er (mejladress finns pfrick999@outlook.com) om Ni tycker det låtet som en bra idé annars finns det ingen anledning.

    Med vänlig hälsning

    Patrik Frick

  11. Sluta varna om Tesla. Ingen förutom galningar behöver informationen. Ge upp Teslas info eftersom du blir en Tesla varje gång du nämner det

  12. Jag har nu skrivit på din hemsida ett antal gånger. och kan inte hitta något svar. Det jag dock lärt mig är att du är väldigt intelligent samt att du har en podcast samt en intelligent medarbetare på en podcast. Jag har lärt mig att man skall investera I guld! Det är det säkraste man kan investera i.. Tack

  13. Elva miljarder ton av guld ligger på ett säkert ställe.. Jag jobbar som influencer för en möjlig ägare… Tack för senaste avsnittet av Outsiders! Puss på Er

  14. Nothing written for over 3 months. Guess this blog is dead. He probably lost everything on a tesla short???

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